Artistic, lofty studio is latest addition to Airbnb

Published 8:23 pm Thursday, March 28, 2019

It’s lofty, this narrow space where sunlight slides through walls of windows and dances along the hardwood floor. It’s peaceful, with West Main Street a floor below and no upstairs neighbors. It’s artistic, with contemporary art gracing its walls. It’s right in the heart of downtown Washington, next door to the Turnage Theatre, just steps away from downtown restaurants. And it’s the latest Airbnb to be listed in Washington.

The Loft on Main goes live today on Airbnb. It’s a studio apartment, right upstairs from Barbara Hardee and Bob Ray’s store, A Secret Garden. The two, along with son Kevin and daughter-in-law Laura Hardee, have turned the former apartment rental into a relaxing downtown abode for those visiting for a day, or a week. It was a natural combination of talents, according to Barbara Hardee.

“Kevin said, ‘I’d love to do it with you,’ and that was it, because he’s a jack of all trades,” Hardee said. “So I did the interior design, and he did all that. Bob’s the guy with the paintbrush and everything in between. Laura’s our tech person. So we had the skills, you know?”

AN ARTISTIC HAVEN: The Loft on Main is located above A Secret Garden next door the Turnage Theatre on West Main Street in Washington. The studio with high ceilings and ample windows on both the front and rear of the building will start taking reservations today on Airbnb. (Vail Stewart Rumley/Daily News)

They painted and changed some of the bathroom fixtures, installed the art and added track lighting.

“Our idea was kind of like the art hotels in Charleston, where the rooms are all furnished with contemporary art for sale,” Hardee said. “We kind of jokingly say, ‘We’re Soho and Charleston come to Washington.’”

Featured are works by both Hardee and Ray, who’ve exhibited their contemporary artwork together on many occasions. Freshly painted white walls show off vibrant pieces framed by the newly installed track lighting. A double bed tucks into the back wall, overseeing the quiet alley of the Turnage Theatre; a kitchenette and dining table divide the sleeping area from the living room. Here, a table and chairs, perched beneath the wall of windows over a sunny view of West Main Street, offer an ideal artistic setting.

CONTEMPORARY: With vibrant artworks and comfortable furniture, the Loft on Main provides all the comforts of a home, away from home. The contemporary work in the foreground was painted by the Loft on Main co-owner Barbara Hardee. (Vail Stewart Rumley/Daily News)

“We thought it was a perfect space for an artist coming into town to paint or a writer who wants a quite space,” Hardee said.

Hardee grew up in Washington, but recently returned to her native town from Ocracoke. When she was a child, The Loft on Main was a beauty parlor; downstairs, was a barber shop. She never thought she’d be renting an Airbnb and operating her own retail store in those same spaces.

“When we moved here from Ocracoke, we didn’t know what we were going to do. We bought 10 acres out in the country,” Hardee said. “How we ended up downtown, was because we were picking (the grandchildren) up from Art Camp and saw the ‘For Rent’ sign.”

LIVING: Soft lighting, a cushy couch, a touch of green with a cacti here or a peace lily there, the Loft on Main creates a tranquil space for a getaway. (Vail Stewart Rumley/Daily News)

They’ve since embraced downtown life.

“We want to be a part of city life,” Hardee said. “We think that people — like we want — want to walk our little Main Street and do a historic tour and not have to get into a car to drive to a hotel. This is kind of a glimpse of the soul of an old town — to get a glimpse of its old buildings.”

The Loft on Main is available through Airbnb or by contacting Barbara Hardee and Bob Ray, at 252-588-0067 or

LITTLE TOUCHES: From colorful orchids to cobalt blue stemware (background), the Loft on Main is awash in little, special details. (Vail Stewart Rumley/Daily News)

(Vail Stewart Rumley/Daily News)

(Vail Stewart Rumley/Daily News)

(Vail Stewart Rumley/Daily News)