Tour a Layered Loft Fit for a Family
A 100-year-old tobacco warehouse hardly sounds like the type of place to raise a family, but Durham, North Carolina–based designer and artist Heather Garrett is doing just that. Formally a drying facility for Liggett Myers and built in the 1920s, Garrett’s three-bedroom loft is among the units converted into condos after the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. “I'm so lucky that the developers left the original maple floors untouched, and the large exterior openings (formerly vents for releasing the heat drying the tobacco leaves) provide us with amazing 12-foot-high windows,” says the designer. After spearheading a major renovation, Garrett transformed the space into a family-friendly abode for her and her two teenage children. Keep scrolling for a look inside the personal home!
In the home’s foyer, wallpaper from Garrett’s own line sets the tone for the eclectic and romantic space. “I hung the Repose wallpaper from my own collection in the entry,” the designer shares. “It features life-drawing figures I did in charcoal but had printed in metallic gold. It’s like a little piece of my heart that you see as you enter my home.”
Twenty-one-foot-high ceilings and the aforementioned 12-foot windows flood the living space with light but also present design challenges when it comes to making the space feel cozy and warm. Seeking to create a feeling that was at once spacious and homey, Garrett called upon her design experience. “I've learned in my work that if you don't force the eye to look up, it’s likely to settle at the height of the objects within range,” the designer says. “I knew that if I didn't carry the room's decoration up to ceiling height, in a meaningful way, the feeling of spaciousness I fought to keep in that room would be lost.”
To emphasize the room’s height while simultaneously making it feel approachable, the designer installed an antique French mirror scored at a clothing boutique and a vintage ladder once used at an apple orchard.
While soaring ceilings certainly work in the living area, their lofty height presented a challenge in other ways. “The ceiling height throughout was so beautiful, but it seriously limited available floor space,” Garrett says. “So in 2013 I dove into a yearlong remodel to essentially slice the apartment horizontally in half (save for the main living area) to create a full second floor for the kids.”
Though Garrett had previously worked in New York City, after 15 years living in North Carolina, the designer has developed her aesthetic into one she feels is fit for the modern South. “Antique and vintage French design will probably always be my first love,” she says. “But I’m now generally combining loose natural elements, and often Southern traditional architecture, with modern shapes and patterns.” Case in point, the contemporary floating staircase Garrett had built from vintage tobacco wood (a nod to the home’s origins) combined with the collected antiques and French-influenced pieces seen in the main living area.
A painting by Garrett’s college roommate anchors an eclectic and textural vignette in the main living room.
In the kitchen, polished pearl plaster adds subtle glimmer to the ceiling and walls while upper shelving in lieu of cabinetry echoes the adjacent living room’s openness. “The Calacatta Gold honed marble countertops were a dream come true for me,” Garrett tells us. “Many people are anxious about its vulnerability to staining (mine’s stained) and scratching (mine’s scratched), but to me, the markings of life just add to its real-life quality!” Counters that are beautiful, livable, and well loved, just like the rest of the space.