There’s a neighborhood in Pittsburgh, PA where the rusting metal of an abandoned steel mill still stands, a symbol of both what the city was and the potential it has for reinvention. Like its mill, the area of Hazelwood seems rough around the edges, but if you meet a few residents, it’s all too easy to become smitten with the tight-knit neighborhood. This was the case for Dylan Rooke, who had heard of an available fixer-upper, met some neighbors, and fell for the passionate community.
He had also fallen head over heels for an unforgettable woman in Missouri. He was the touring musician, and Amber was the venue manager. Sparks and heart-eyes later, Amber and her trusty dog Emma traded the Bible Belt for the Rust Belt. Dylan and Amber married on a family farm near Pittsburgh, and the fixer-upper in Hazelwood is a result of the couple’s combination of design and building talents.
Old homes in Pittsburgh have their fair share of charms, but the utility bills are rarely one of them, so step one was to install a new, energy-efficient boiler system. The couple made enough cosmetic upgrades to move in and have been remodeling room by room for the last three years. The pair has a knack for salvaging and curb-picking, so most of the furniture has been reclaimed and upgraded. This also speaks to the Rookes’ commitment to sustainability and hands-on design. With each passing season their home becomes more of an urban homestead. Their big yard plays host to six raised garden beds, a chicken coop and a hive of bees.
The garden has not only provided fresh produce, but it has connected the Rookes to their neighbors, both young and old. The neighborhood kids are frequently found in the backyard learning to harvest greens or pronounce new vegetables. Amber is an inspired educator when it comes to healthy and sustainable living. She worked for years at a nonprofit organization and had the kids digging in the dirt, hiking and choosing garden-fresh veggies over sugary snacks.
The backyard also features their workshop, which will come in even handier as the two embark on their next chapter of collaboration. Dylan and Amber are combining their passions for design, building and sustainability in their new business, Rooke Creative, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store! —Quelcy