New York loft living – in Clayton

Eclectic blend of new and old design spells ‘unique and unexpected’

Candles and a Russian Impressionist painting line the walls and shelves of a Clayton loft. Photo by Amanda Morrison.

North Country towns have wonderful historic commercial buildings, often in good condition with beautifully crafted details. In Clayton, the downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The community offers the added bonus of being set on the shore of the St. Lawrence River. So, it is little wonder that the community reflects a national trend of reclaiming downtown buildings as live-work spaces.

Around town, several commercial buildings have been renovated to include comfortable, stylish apartments. For the past eight years, I’ve worked to create a personal live-work space in Clayton. Today, the project is mostly complete. The reality is that a century-old building is always a work in progress. It does, however, have a renovated retail space, design studio and apartment.

When I first toured the building, the previous owner guided me down to the old basement and I was sold. The basement revealed the true character of the building with limestone walls, shagbark hickory posts reinforcing crossbeams and joists set 12-inches on center. It was built to sturdy and it was built to last.

For many years, it was a car dealership, with Chevrolets displayed in its front window. For four decades, it was a clothing and shoe store. The showroom had been modernized 1960s-style, with a suspended ceiling, level loop carpeting and rows of florescent lighting and paneled walls.

Removing a century of improvements took three 30-foot Dumpsters and finally revealed a space with 12-foot high ceilings and plaster walls.

Maple floors had been covered with concrete by the automobile dealership, so we installed new wide-plank yellow pine flooring that after a few years’ traffic now look like heart pine. Period light fixtures, refinished wall details and a restored front facade completed the storefront.

Today, customers comment on how fortunate we were to find a store in its original condition. I accept the compliment quietly.

Additional renovations to the building have been made to the second floor “loft.” The space has a back apartment with a river view porch and a front retail space that is now an interior design studio.

In the studio, the style takes on a new urban loft look. Walls are painted a soft gray with white woodwork accented in yellow and cobalt blue art and accessories. Wood pieces are made of reclaimed and recycled wood. Style is simple and uncluttered.

Working on client’s projects, the room becomes a quiet background. Walnut brackets are salvaged antiques and give the open space some definition.

The design studio is a great place to show clients a different approach to interior design in historic buildings. It features a color palette and furnishings that are very different, but still complimentary to those featured in the Porch and Paddle store below. I enjoy the eclectic blend of the new with the old; making the interior design unique and unexpected.

It is great to be part of a national trend right here in the north country. Historic renovation is contagious.

By Peggy DeYoung is the owner and interior designer for Porch and Paddle Cottage Shop, Clayton.