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Air Force veteran tackles MidTown renovation project

Tech. Sgt. Robert Lewis turns a two-story brick deli at the corner of Hudson and NW 6 into an urban retreat.
BY TIM FALL Published: June 15, 2013

In 2008, you couldn't help but feel excited by the economic activity just waiting to erupt in MidTown.

A pub, a bakery, chic apartments — MidTown was being tapped by entrepreneurs and visionaries. But MidTown, like almost everybody else, had to wait out the recession.

It was 2011 before investors stepped forward again, including a 12-year Air Force veteran, Tech. Sgt. Robert Lewis, who arrived with fresh eyes and a vision for transforming an eyesore into an urban retreat.

The building, at the corner of Hudson and NW 6, was a two-story brick deli that had housed previous eateries.

“I knew I could do something with it,” Lewis said.

So, working with architect Walter Antin III, his cousin, Lewis designed a living environment inspired by his travels around the world, “especially by hotels I've stayed in.”

Lewis said he's “always been attracted to minimalism.”

Antin, based in New Orleans, said that he finds commercial-to-residential conversions “inherently interesting” in that “they result in spaces very unlike what we are accustomed to.”

Although Lewis bought the building at 711 N Hudson crammed with industrial kitchen equipment and outmoded dining furniture, his vision was for bare-brick walls, sleek surfaces and light, uncluttered living space.

Antin agreed that his intention was to maintain “the character and rawness of the building” while “providing an interior that is comfortable to live in.”

The first step in renovating, Lewis said: “We cleaned out years' worth of grease.”

The hub of the 1,500-square foot home is the kitchen and living room, essentially one space divided by a massive island-prep surface-dining counter covered with a glossy “rain forest” granite counter top. The island surrounds a gas range and has storage built in underneath.

Wall-mounted “butterfly” cabinets in a bamboo veneer add extra storage, with a garage-door style enclosure for stowing appliances.

The living room looks out onto Hudson Avenue through floor-to-ceiling picture windows. The furnishings, which include a hammock, aim for comfort and simplicity.

An old bank vault — with a full-length steel door and combo lock, just like in a bank heist movie — has been retained from the days the building housed a title company. Lewis uses it as a catchall utility closet and as a storm shelter.

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