by Allison Walsh
photography by Carter Tippins

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Downsizing and fleeing the suburbs after kids fly the coop is not a new tale.Converting former industrial spaces into chic urban homes is also a familiar concept, particularly in cities on the rise like Greenville, but visitors to one such downtown condo should be prepared to check their expectations at the door of this building’s second chapter.

It sits on Main Street in downtown Greenville and was once home to Ballew & Scott Clothiers, with retail on the street level and storage and office space upstairs. Just over five years ago the building on the interior was stripped down to its bones to make way for something new. A floor plan was sketched out and an architect friend called in to help with the logistics of converting a long, narrow commercial shell into a comfortable, livable space. Rather than the open loft concept one might expect, the owner wanted rooms and walls and sheet rock and wood doors-reversing the trend of making new houses look old by softening the industrial vibe with some of the comforts of more traditional residential construction.

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The floors on the main level are quarter sawn walnut whereas upstairs reclaimed red oak was installed, milled in Zirconia, NC. Both added immediate warmth to former retail space.The design work was handed over to Karan Marsh of Intentional Design and Mark Barrett of Barrett Merrell Construction took the lead as general contractor. “Mark’s hands-on approach and attention to detail was critical in keeping everyone on track and successful,”Marsh says. The job was a big one.

The demolition alone filled nearly 40 dumpsters. An inch thick layer of white stucco and plaster was painstakingly chiseled-and sandblasted and power washed-away to reveal handsome red brick walls. After all the work that was done to expose the brick, Marsh opted to let it take center stage in the design and left it untouched wherever possible, including the wall of the shower of the guest bath. Here the brick is matched with tile that has the look of white paint over red brick from a series called Grunge by Tesoro, sourced locally at Clayton Tile.

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>”I didn’t want to try to match the brick or get too far away from it or too jolting, ”Marsh says. “So, I went with a brick shape that had some of the colors in the brick that would pull through.” The same Grunge tile is used in the kitchen, but this time in the aqua colorway that cleverly complements the metallic hue of the zinc counter tops and the grey veining in the Fusion Red granite island top. When Marsh found the striking red granite top at Slabco in Travelers Rest she knew it was the perfect choice, but her client required a bit of convincing.“ When I first saw it I said,‘this is your counter top,’and he said,‘it’s pink.” Marsh was right, of course, just as she was when she suggested zinc for the counter tops in response to the client’s request for an out of the ordinary material befitting its unique surroundings.

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“The beauty of zinc is that it will patina with age,” Marsh says. “It’s a living finish. Every time you set a glass on it or put your hand on it or lay a vegetable or anything on it, it’s going to leave some kind of mark and eventually the counter top will get a little bit darker gray and start to look old.” Marsh pegged the local talent of Mike Fastzkie of Twisted Root Woodworking to craft the cabinetry and open shelving. Fastzkie also built the walnut stair treads that lead from the street level entrance up a gas lantern lit staircase to the main living area.

The lanterns, along with all the other carefully chosen fixtures in the home,were sourced from Gallery of Lighting. At the top of this staircase is the most delightfully lush surprise, and what Marsh refers to as the crown jewel of the home. Her client is a self-described“plant guy”and didn’t want to sacrifice his love of all things green to live in an urban setting,so he started researching interior gardens. He found a company in New Jersey that builds hydroponic living green walls. These botanical masterpieces are fully automated, timed LED grow lights provide 12 hours of full sun and a closed loop feeding system delivers hydration and nutrients twice a day.

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A second garden wall greets entrants from the back staircase and a third installation keeps things green in the master bath, which also happens to be home to what Marsh says is the biggest rain shower head on the market. “It can come down like a monsoon,” she says. The master bedroom boasts an unusual wood stove which utilizes an existing chimney from an original coal-burning furnace to vent out. An overhead door was installed to create privacy, when desired, but the juxtaposition of the space creates some dimensional whimsy that the owner likes and often leaves it open.
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A third story was added to the building to create a rooftop man cave of sorts,inspired by the owner’s childhood memories of time spent upstairs at his father’s firehouse in Upstate New York. This space is equipped with every game one might want to play with a cold beverage in hand, from billiards and shuffleboard to Jenga. A back deck is home to a vegetable garden, and the front one overlooks Main Street, with a door that disappears into the wall to open an interior bar area to the great outdoors. Pedestrians take note: that wide open doorway has also been known to facilitate a few serious games of rooftop cornhole.