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.
Lewis' home office continues the home's minimalist intentions: an antique metal desk, metal storage cabinet, a simple, sturdy bookcase.
The office adjoins a luxurious guest bathroom.
The master bedroom features exposed brick walls and spare, functional-yet-beautiful furnishings — like the sleek platform bed and a wall-mounted antique chalkboard.
The chalkboard works as a piece of art on its own or as a functional surface for chalk art — often the doodles of visiting friends' children.
An expansive walk-in closet and master bathroom that would be the envy of the world-class hotels that inspired it complete the owner's quarters.
Lewis, a Houston native, was stationed in Germany, Korea and Japan, but “Oklahoma City is the first place I knew I wanted to stay,” he said.
After a training stint here in 2009, it was two years before he returned as a full-time resident in his position as an inspection pilot with the Federal Aviation Administration's Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center.
Above Lewis' ground-floor home he has renovated the upstairs into a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment.
That unit, also 1,500 square feet, features hardwood floors and exposed brick walls throughout, with a private entrance and private patio on the ground floor.
After the May 20 tornado struck Moore, Lewis was never so glad to have the extra space upstairs. He was able to house his colleague Tech. Sgt. Dan Dashiell and his family when they lost their home that day.
“The philosophy of this place is to be connected to urban life,” Lewis said, explaining the bike in the living room and the fishbowl feel of the home's street-facing picture windows.
The fenced-in patio on the south side of the building is private according to Lewis, yet it feels open to traffic and passers-by on the street.
From the patio, Lewis surveyed his undeveloped property, a lot which extends south to NW 6.
“It was a fun process,” he said. “I'd definitely like to do it again.”