Downtown loft living a perfectly artistic place

Published 8:02 pm Thursday, August 23, 2018

Walk down West Main Street and the eye is immediately drawn to the merchandise in street-level store windows, not necessarily to the stories above.

But there are plenty of stories above: the people who live in condominiums and apartments that have been carved out of historic buildings; buildings that came to life for a different purpose, as department stores and warehouses, offices and more.

One of those stories is about Liz Reed. She’s a designer — in fact, she designed this page and every other page of the Washington Daily News. She designs the Washington Magazine and many other special publications. She’s also an artist, who stumbled into an apartment that made the perfect frame for her passion.

LETTERPRESS: Reed’s father, Ron, crafted these end tables using letterpress drawers Reed found in an antique shop.

Reed may have graduated from East Carolina University in May of 2017, but she’d hired on at the Daily News before she’d even received a diploma. She came to Washington on an apartment-finding mission, and wound up, through word of mouth and some help from Coldwell Banker Coastal Rivers Realty, finding an apartment smack in the middle of the downtown arts scene.

There are nine apartments on the second and third floors of 151 W. Main St., in the building that also houses Ribeyes Steakhouse. The windows of Reed’s third-floor apartment look out onto the street and the Turnage Theatre marquee.

When she first saw the apartment, she knew she was home.

“I was so surprised. I was in awe. I love the brick and the feel of it. It feels like you’re living in history,” Reed said.

SEEN THE LIGHT: Part of Reed’s senior exhibit at East Carolina University, this light installation creates a focal point for the bedroom.

SOFT LIGHT: Reed slip-casted 100 of these porcelain boxes, each of which fronts a single soft-light bulb — each also dispersing the light uniquely.

With ceilings that stretch to nearly 20-feet tall on the Main Street wall and the original brick walls studded with oversized windows, it’s 1,100 square feet of downtown living. A large one-bedroom, a large full bath and a wide hallway open into the loft-like living space: a kitchen, dining area and living room — all of which feature original wide-plank wood floors. The décor is elegantly simple, much of it Reed’s work, or that of her parents. End tables crafted to include letter press drawers Reed discovered in an antiques shop were made by her father, Ron. His woodworking skills can also be found in tall shelves and benches designed to match the dining room table; Reed’s mother, Verna, pitched in to the effort by staining each piece.

A wall boasts a rack of coffee mugs Reed either made or were gifts from other artists. But Reed’s artistry is most readily apparent in a 8-foot by 8-foot light installation in the bedroom. Part of her senior exhibit at ECU, she built and painted its pressed-wood frame, then slip-casted 100 porcelain clay boxes — each fragile piece uniquely dispersing light from the bulb behind it.

WALL OF ART: A wall opposite the kitchen holds a rack of coffee mugs Reed either made or were gifts from other artists.

Her artistic life extends across the street to Arts of the Pamlico’s Turnage Theatre, where she taught pottery to children during two Art Camp sessions this summer. Backstage, Reed has set up a pottery studio, complete with a wheel, and a kiln coming soon.

With the studio across the street and work around the corner, Reed rarely drives her car anywhere anymore, unless she’s making a big trip to the grocery store or going out of town.

“I can walk to everything. I can walk to Rachel K’s in the morning and Coffee Caboose on Sundays. The waterfront is my backyard. If there’s any events going on, it’s right there at my leisure (to participate),” Reed said.

For this artist, the space — its history, its light and the arts that surround it — is perfect for Reed and Pax, the cat she rescued from the local animal shelter.

“It’s unique. I like seeing the Turnage light up at night,” she said. “It gives a creative atmosphere for me to work in.”

A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND: Pax, who Reed rescued from the Betsy Bailey Nelson Animal Control Facility, stands next to a bench Reed’s father, Ron, made, and her mother, Verna, stained to match the dining room table.