Urban Living, Part 2

Lofty Intentions

The Property: Throughout Harrisburg are former storefronts, their glass-fronted facades recalling the heyday of mom-and-pop shops. Along a downtown alley, WCI Partners has converted three storefronts into loft apartments, part of its portfolio of vintage spaces adapted to contemporary living (wcipartners.com).

Design Features: From the outside, this 1,000-square-foot apartment still looks like a store. Step between the bump-out display windows, and open the door into a multi-purpose space. A wire-railed staircase rises to the loft bedroom. The kitchen’s back wall is a divider, discretely concealing the bathroom and handy dressing area. Exposed pipes and hanging light pendants – with Edison bulbs installed by the tenant – afford an industrial feel. Natural light streams in through original leaded-glass panes above the storefront.

The Resident: Hershey native Matthew Green worked for 15 years in Philadelphia. When he returned to Central Pennsylvania, he struggled to find a home with the same architectural interest and contemporary chic that was abundant in the City of Brotherly Love.

The Find: When Green’s search led to this apartment, the space was compelling even when empty. He hesitated about its “ground-floorness,” and the feeling that the storefront windows wouldn’t be safe, but he couldn’t get the apartment out of his head. “It’s like when you fall in love with anything,” he said. “All those objections go out the window, and all of a sudden, you’re signing on the dotted line.”

Cook’s Corner: Green, a graduate of Millersville University, also has a degree in culinary arts from The Restaurant School in Philadelphia. Today, he is a foods manager for The Hershey Company. “I’ve been in food and beverage my whole life,” he said. “Cooking is my world.” This open-concept apartment offered a key item on his must-have list: space for a dining table where he and friends can sit down to eat.

Cook’s Corner II: For Green, the five-burner, stainless-steel gas range was a deciding factor. “You can get a huge wok on here, which I have done,” he said. “You can use a huge paella pan, and the center burner is brilliant for that.”

Cook’s Corner III: An island with sink is the border for the official kitchen area, but Green extends the kitchen vibe, decorating the adjoining wall with a pot rack hanging over a floor shelf that holds canisters and dish-ware. “You don’t want to extend an area you don’t love into a space, but for someone like me, I would love it if the whole place were a kitchen with a couch in the corner. It will continue to sneak over, probably, in all directions.”

The Windows: In Philadelphia, Green often joked that vacant storefronts would make great apartments. Here, “you’re not looking out at the best views,” he admitted, but he wanted to retain the natural light. So, the avowed plant-lover filled the bump-outs with plants, plus such decorative touches as Tibetan meditation bells and rustic orchard ladders found at an estate sale. At evening’s end, he gets nighttime privacy by pulling curtains that separate the storefront windows from the living space inside.

Anthropologie-Art Deco-Rustic: Green has no name for his eclectic design aesthetic. “I just kind of collect things along the way, and they all seem to mesh together, in this space particularly.” His fascination with African culture shows in a safari’s worth of animal heads – all papier mâché – above the sofa. An Arts and Crafts-style rug defines the living-room area. Casually displayed logs recall wood stoves from childhood but have no use in Green’s electric fireplace. “It’s all about texture. It makes it feel very comfortable and homey to have the wood there.”

It’s Your Thing: Green wanted to buy two Restoration Hardware coffee tables, imposing in reclaimed wood and industrial iron, but the salesperson said they weren’t meant to be paired. He complied, until the realization that he “didn’t need to follow any designer rules.” He told himself, “It’s your house, Matt. It’s your life. You’re not getting graded.” Today, he loves his paired coffee tables, perfectly arrayed in front of the leather sofa.

The Heart of Downtown: When he returned to the area, Green felt desperate to recreate his Philadelphia urban vibe. Fortunately, his return coincided with Harrisburg’s apartment renaissance. While he “still can’t go out at 2 o’clock in the morning and get really great Chinese food,” he’s getting his urban fix. The space is architecturally interesting. He can walk to favorite restaurants. He even declined WCI’s offer to frost the storefront windows, because “then I lose the texture of all of the people walking back and forth, and it becomes too sanitized for me. It’s not real and gritty.” Like many Central Pennsylvania expatriates, Green never expected he’d be back. Now, he says, “Once I found this place, and I found my place working at Hershey, I thought I could really see myself living here.”