By Candice Graham
Photography by Med Dement
This elementary school of yesteryear has been transformed from a place to learn into a place to live.
Contractor: Raines Brothers, Inc.
Architect: Thomas Johnson Architecture
Interior Design: Mona Ahmad
From the outside, the Park Place Condominiums look like any timeless, classic elementary school. Wide concrete stairs lead up to oak double doors of the old Park Place School, and banks of square windows outfit the façade. Stepping though the doors and into the lobby, it’s not hard to imagine the sounds of slamming lockers and ringing bells. But once you walk into the loft, expertly altered by builder Matt Brown, you’re worlds away from images of textbooks and teachers.
The chic, smart, and modern loft was built inside the school’s auditorium. “It was just a big open shell,” says Brown. “It still had the old auditorium soundboard where the sound tech would sit.” Transforming the shell into a home was a big undertaking, but one that Brown and his team were eager to take on.
First up was building six structural columns that run from the basement up through the ceiling. With them came the ability to build a second floor, which houses bedrooms, and the third floor, which features a mini kitchen and rooftop lounge area. “The rest of the work involved electrical and plumbing, which you have to tie into the existing building, and then the finishes,” Brown explains.
Smart features add to the contemporary look and feel of the loft. Aspects of the home, such as the shades, lights, and heat and air, can be controlled by an iPhone, iPad, and devices on the wall. Speakers throughout the loft allow music to fill each space.
In the living room, a dropdown TV screen can be concealed in the ceiling, eliminating the need for a table or stand and creating a more minimal design scheme. Even the living room’s wraparound couch can be adjusted, with headrests moving up or down, and seats extending to a lounge position. Travertine floors, which run throughout the entire building, are heated for added warmth in the open space.
Behind the living room, the wet bar space is defined by a flowing custom-made fixture that descends from the ceiling. Silver wires create a raindroplike illusion, and small dimmable lights give a customizable glow. A well-lit bar space created for entertainment purposes serves as a way to keep guests away from kitchen prep areas. Multiple windows let in floods of bright natural light. “Being a historical building, all the existing windows couldn’t change. They had all this natural light coming in, so we decided to utilize it,” explains Brown.
Beyond the wet bar, the kitchen features additional striking elements. Granite countertops have flecks of shimmering silver for an opulent touch. Modern wooden cabinetry features brushed nickel handles in an oversized, elongated silhouette. To the left, a built-in window seat provides a pop of color with a plush purple cushion and bright accent pillows. Extra storage underneath the window seat and a retractable vacuum concealed in the wall add stylish, hidden function.
The dining area is kept chic and clean with a sleek wooden dining table flanked by minimalist mid-century modern chairs. A light fixture drops from the ceiling, casting a clear, round burst of light. The existing exposed brick was covered with white walls, which keeps the design crisp when paired with the ceiling and woodwork. Can lighting in the ceiling provides extra glow when dining at night.
An iron and wooden staircase leads up to the second floor of the home. The stairwell walls feature cutout illuminated niches for small statues and artwork. On the second floor, a stylish use of space dominates each of the three bedrooms. “They moved from a big house to this, which is half the size. We wanted to make use of every bit of space, so on all the beds we created pullout drawers for storage underneath. The space was utilized unbelievably well,” Brown says. Each bedroom includes a built-in bookshelf, headboard, and desk built by Brown and his team. Pocket doors on closets help to maximize space and skylights in the bedrooms and bathrooms brighten each room during the day, but can be obscured by shades if needed.
The master bedroom is sanctioned off by damask curtains, printed in natural blue and green shades. White bedding is accented by a built-in gray headboard, which extends to the ceiling, and adjustable shaded lights are mounted to each side. French white oak floors with a pickle finish add just the right amount of panache to the master bedroom and other areas on the second floor. Gray hues characterize the master bathroom, from the marble floor and trim to the custom-built cabinetry. Modern features, like the white soaking tub and bowl sinks, add to the contemporary feel. A well-planned use of windows, skylights, and a glass shower cutout make each corner of the bathroom bright and airy.
Extending from the second floor is another staircase, which leads up to the outdoor space. A scaled-down version of the downstairs kitchen simplifies outdoor entertaining. Complete with a wine chiller, sink, dishwasher, and cabinetry for storage, its functionality and close access to the outside make it a favorite spot during sunny days. With views of Elder and Lookout Mountains, the private patio can be used year-round thanks to an outdoor heater. Metalwork, stamped concrete flooring, and mod swinging chairs provide an extra punch of visual appeal, without competing with the beauty of the natural surroundings. “It’s the most modern thing we’ve ever done,” Brown says. And while transforming an old, rustic school auditorium into a contemporary, yet very livable family home might be a daunting task, Brown says the biggest reward was in the details. “The best part was when we finally saw it with all the finishing touches.”
Appliances: Howard Payne Company
Cabinetry and custom furniture: Raines Brothers, Inc.
Concrete on patio: Increte Systems
Hardwood floors: Praters Flooring
Plumbing fixtures: Ferguson
Railings: Kalenborn Technologies
Painting: Wilson Painting
Tile and countertops: The Tile Store
Window shades and smart screens: Smarthomes Chattanooga