West Main apartments, AirBnB a mix of past and present

Published 12:23 am Monday, June 17, 2019

Stuart and Marita Egli had a plan in March 2018, when they made their move cross-country to Washington: buy a building, build some apartments, rent them out. The couple had rentals in their prior home of Orange County, California, and when they visited Washington, they fell in love with the circa early-1900s West Main Street building that once housed J.K. Hoyt’s and Tassels.

A year and five luxury apartments later, the project is nearly complete — all that’s left is to build the sports bar on the street level of the building. More so than moving across the U.S. to take up residence in Stuart Egli’s mother’s hometown of Washington, restoring the building to its former glory is an adventure.

RESTORATION: Warm brick walls, once covered by a cement/plaster mix, were cleaned and sealed, part of the overall effort to reuse anything that could restored from the original building.

“We never owned anything this big or this old,” Stuart Egli said. “There were so many unexpected surprises.”

“We thought we had experience in real estate, but not with this type of thing,” Marita Egli laughed.

The goal was to create functional, roomy apartments and restore any pieces of the past that could be restored. The result is luxury steeped in history. In between, the couple, and their contractors, rose to the challenge of an old building getting new life.

“One of the biggest challenges we had is that it’s an old building — it’s not square. The construction people had a hard time making the floor and walls meet up,” Marita Egli said.

ROOM WITH A VIEW: This future Airbnb offers a view and a large balcony on which to enjoy it.

Dry rot had infected the original roof trusses, so those had to be rebuilt. Some of the second-story flooring was missing altogether, only subflooring remained, while the original heart of pine floors in other places were so unlevel they’d trip the inattentive walker. An odd, hard mix of plaster and cement once coated the brick walls, but was barely clinging to them now.

“It would just crumble when you touched it,” Marita Egli said. “We took down what was dangerous.”

Marita Egli worked with the architects to design each unit and as the months passed, the building was transformed. New windows were replaced in their original openings. The Historic Preservation Commission approved balconies on the two riverside units and new doorways with large, square transom windows were installed. A mezzanine with a clearance of about five and half feet was removed and its hardwood floors used to replace any missing pieces elsewhere.

“We eliminated that, and we were able to move those hardwood floors here,” Stuart Egli said. “That was a challenge; it was a lot of hand labor.”

FORM AND FUNCTION: Tucked into a recess, the kitchen is both separate and apart from the living space.

That crumbling plaster/cement was removed from the walls, and the warm brick beneath cleaned and sealed. The areas where the mix was still firmly attached were cleaned, painted and sealed, lending an urban feel to each unit.

“Our goal was to bring a little bit of California and modern design and mesh it with a little bit of history,” Stuart Egli said.

The Eglis met with success in five units: two duplexes on the West Main Street side of the building — 23-foot ceilings allowed for two stories in these two-bedroom, two-bath lofts — two units on the riverside of the building, and one in between.

LET THERE BE LIGHT: With a southern exposure and a glass door topped by a large transom window leading to the balcony, the apartment destined for Airbnb rentals is also destined to have plenty of natural light.

“One of the biggest things that drew us to this building is the fact that every unit from the front to here (the back), is on a light well,” Stuart Egli said, adding that the windows that run the length of the building on one side allowed for a middle unit that also has plenty of light. “That was a big selling point for us, and it worked out phenomenally.”

Four units are rented and the Eglis will be renting the remaining apartment through Airbnb. The 1,100-plus-square-foot apartment is a one bedroom/one bath with a large, walk-in closet, lofty, 11-foot ceilings and a spacious living/dining/kitchen area. It’s biggest draw, however, is the balcony overlooking the promenade on the Pamlico.

COASTAL CHARM: Decorated in cool blues, grays and whites, accented by flashes of silver, the apartment invites visitors to relax and watch the river.

“This has been in our mind — Airbnb — since day one,” Marita Egli said. “Since day one, we’ve had everybody’s support, and we’ve been very grateful. To do this was a lot of work, but I don’t think we would have been able to do it without all the help.”