I have called many types of dwellings home but at this stage of my life I would welcome the experience of living downtown above a retail establishment. When the Spy’s publisher suggested I visit today’s feature, it was the perfect opportunity to highlight urban loft living and to motivate me to find my own space downtown. This loft home has unique appeal for many reasons. It occupies the entire second floor of the building that housed Chestertown’s original Fire Station. This distinctive masonry structure with its bell tower is a downtown Chestertown landmark that dates from the first decade of the 20th century. Being a history lover, I learned from one of the firemen that all the bricks for the facades were made by the Firemen themselves and that the ladder truck ran on horsepower!
The building’s five bay façade at the second floor with its 2/2 windows is further broken down at the ground floor by the entry door to the left and the two wide bays that were the original doors for the Fire Department’s two trucks. The second floor housed a banquet hall that was also used by the Firemen for meetings. After the Fire Department moved to another location, the building contained commercial uses on the ground floor. The front part of the second floor was a hair salon and the back part was an apartment. The original five-panel transoms above the wide openings remain and the original pilasters between the bays enliven the façade. Currently the building contains the Massoni gallery and an office suite on the ground floor. The second floor is now transformed into one spacious apartment.
The front door to the apartment opens into the foyer. The long wall of millwork facing the foyer contains books and the short side facing the front corner studio space holds art supplies for the Owner, who is an artist. I admired how the walls above the millwork are a grid of framing and large panes of glass that filter light into the stairwell from the windows along the front exterior wall. The interior wall opposite the stairwell is level with the top of the millwork to continue the foyer’s transparency. Several items in the foyer caught my eye that were a harbinger of more visual delights to come. Wood craftsman furnishings, the Oriental rug and a mirror made by the Owner creates a welcoming entry. It was impossible to ignore a giant pencil resting against the notched corner of the millwork and the giant compass mounted between two of the front windows. I learned these pieces were the work of the wood artisan, Vicco von Voss, whose work has graced many of my past Houses of the Week. These creations were part of Vicco’s Washington College thesis show and now grace this apartment’s stylish interior.
The Owner had also commissioned Vicco to design the sinuous pea pod sculpture that adorns the low wall separating the studio space from the living/dining space. Above the studio floor is a grid containing track lights for better task lighting that also acts as a floating ceiling plane to define the art studio area in a room with 14 foot ceilings.
The corner sitting area is defined by a large rug over beautiful wood floors and the seating is arranged below the long windows at the front and one side of the exterior walls. I noticed how the top of an artist’s flat file cleverly does double duty as an end table and another end table is a former apothecary cabinet.
The open plan arrangement extends into the dining area with a focal point of two tall pilasters that encase HVAC and extend past the furred out wall that contains insulation for this exterior masonry wall. I admired the texture of the pressed tin pattern of the ceiling and the deep band of molding below the ceiling over the entire open plan area. I also liked the asymmetry of the two pilasters with the shorter one tucked under a structural beam and capped with a Corinthian column cap and the taller one being capped with egg and Greek key moldings at the underside of the decking above. The wood trestle table and wood Windsor chairs stand out against the off-white walls. In both the living and dining areas, clear glass globe pendant light fixtures unobtrusively provide light without blocking views.
As I rounded the corner of the dining room’s partial height wall, I was transfixed by the exquisite majestic door and frame that led to the kitchen. I turned to the Owner and inquired “Vicco?” and she nodded to confirm this masterpiece was indeed his work. The Gothic arched opening is framed in a giant’s “arms” of Knotty Pine branches that begin at a cornerstone in a darker wood and a cap of a slightly lighter wood then frame the opening with flared ends that meet the floor. The door itself was a revelation as it pivoted silently and gracefully as a ballerina with its mahogany body and its sinuous long handle that reminded me of a walking stick.
From the kitchen side, this stunning door in its closed position shows how the two door panels with irregular sides are joined at the top and bottom by stainless steel bands. This is the most extraordinary interior door I have ever seen! The cranberry color of the kitchen walls is the perfect backdrop for the door and the honey colored kitchen cabinetry is a warm contrast.
At the rear of the house are two bedrooms, one of which is now an office; two baths and a walk-in closet with a stack washer/dryer. I loved the simplicity of the Craftsman style bedframe in the bedroom and the artwork over the wall is by the Owner that becomes another “window” to a winter scene of trees beyond.
I reluctantly began to end my visit by slowly retracing my steps to the front door to take one last look at the imaginative interiors that reflect the Owner’s artistic talent. Every artist’s residence I have featured has had a unique personality and this home is no exception. Art, craft, furnishings, accessories and fixtures and the stunning creations of Vicco von Voss combine in this home to create a restful retreat in the heart of downtown- my compliments to the Owner!
Vicco von Voss, www.viccovonvoss.com -prepare to be amazed!
Photograph of the Fire Hall from the publication “Chestertown, Maryland, An Inventory of Historic Sites”, based upon a historic site survey conducted by Robert Neill, Michael Bourne and Kathleen B. White, with additional survey information by Marsha Fritz, Robert J.H. Janson-La-Palme, and Peter Newlin, A publication of the Town of Chestertown, Chestertown, MD 21620
Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.