A Waterford revival
A dated, two-story penthouse gains a modern edge.
A two-sided fireplace in this Waterford penthouse mimics one the homeowner admired at the MGM Grand Detroit. Sparkling glass crystals reflect the fire's lights.
Michael A. Foley/MAF Photography
A downtown businessman recently transformed a highly ornate penthouse at the Waterford into a sleek contemporary home.
“It looked like a castle,” says the owner regarding the original space. Built-in bookcases lined stone walls trimmed with ornate columns. Marble surrounded the fireplace and covered floors in a parquet pattern. Fancy leaded glass windows and heavy draperies masked skyline views.
Twenty-five years ago, the Waterford Tower was considered the “boldest housing project ever undertaken in downtown,” according to then-Mayor Buck Rinehart, who believed that the building would “contribute to the rebirth of the city’s center.” Perhaps it has.
Back then, the 19-story high-rise set a new standard for downtown living with its full-time concierge, enclosed parking, guest suite, heated pool, fitness center and spectacular views. From its opening gala to blowout Red, White and Boom parties, the Waterford—for a time—became the address for prestigious galas and luxurious living along the riverfront.
As newer residential high-rises were added to the city’s skyline, first Miranova and then others, some worried the tower would become antiquated. But today the crystal chandelier from the luxury ocean liner S.S. Normandie still hangs in the lobby and a full-time concierge still welcomes guests at the front desk.
New residents have done myriad updates, and recently that included the building’s penthouse suite. Despite its archaic décor, the new homeowner says he could easily visualize a loft style apartment, similar to those he had admired during his business travels to New York City. Certainly, he says, a two-story living room design and sweeping views of the city were definite attractions.
The former suburbanite had no trouble being convinced of the perks of the Waterford’s location—now just steps away from the recently opened Scioto Mile and its restaurant, Milestone 229. The homeowner spent weekends living downtown starting in 2004 and enjoyed biking, running and local restaurants back then. Eventually, he decided to give up his 45-minute daily commute and reside downtown full-time. “As I’ve gotten older, I realize you can’t get back your time,” he says. Today, he works 60-hour weeks, but with the commute now gone he has more time to exercise, explore and even return home for lunch.
To begin the transformation of his new home, though, he had the existing penthouse gutted and then called on interior designer Dee Hodgkiss of Creative Interiors to design the space.
“I knew I wanted black and white contemporary styling,” he recalls. Hodgkiss says she recommended a complimentary palette of blacks, browns and grays to create a cosmopolitan look throughout the open penthouse.
Starting with the kitchen, they chose a flashy charcoal metallic granite counter with a bold silver vein as the inspiration material. From there, they selected more subdued black cabinets from Ellis Kitchen & Bath Studio. Satin nickel pulls add a sophisticated accent to the cabinets’ Shaker-style doors. To emphasize the metallic granite counters, Jan Cahill of Classico Tile & Marble recommended a glass backsplash with foil silver leaf situated behind it. Oversized, 12-by-24-inch glass tiles were selected to minimize grout lines and achieve a clean, modern look.
Hodgkiss says the key to creating such wow factors like the glitzy counters and the backsplash is to balance them with quiet spaces such as understated cabinets and neutrally colored floors and walls. Throughout the open first level, the penthouse’s floors are Brazilian Chestnut wood planks and the walls are painted stone gray.
The kitchen was finished with under cabinet lights, honeycomb-shaped glass pendants over the bar, stainless steel Electrolux ICON appliances and a Blanco sink and faucet. The adjoining breakfast nook is furnished with a round black table, gray upholstered chairs, a pendant lamp with a large drum shade and a painting by his artist son—a colorful twist on Picasso’s “Three Musicians” done for his music-loving father.
A two-sided, see-through fireplace is situated between the breakfast nook and living room, replacing a more traditional one. Now, the 68-inch stainless steel version is similar to a fireplace the owner admired at the MGM Grand hotel in Detroit. “This fireplace creates a much more urban look,” says Cahill. The fireplace pit was filled with sparkling glass crystals that reflect the gas light and an oversized flat-screen television was installed above it on the living room side.
The homeowner’s black-and-white color scheme continues in the living room with a modular gray velour sofa by Roche Bobois, a short shag rug in black, round accent tables and black-and-white photos of familiar cityscapes. Now unadorned, the 18-foot floor-to-ceiling windows provide views of the city below—a stunning backdrop to the space, especially at night.
Leading to the penthouse’s second floor, the stairway’s brass and glass handrail was replaced by a custom-created stainless steel railing by Elegant Iron Studios of West Alexandria, Ohio.
The second-floor master suite features a dark mocha color on the walls, a platform bed and a luxurious bath. Three sets of leaded glass French doors were updated, now fitted with simple glass and sleek hardware. The new doors better suit the loft styling as they open to the living room below and share light and views offered by the space’s two-story windows.
In the adjoining bathroom, the homeowner eliminated the Jacuzzi tub and incorporated another Manhattan aesthetic, a large walk-in shower featuring glass walls, a rain shower head and hand-cut Italian stone tiles. Cahill says the homeowner selected the stone for its lightly brushed finish and smooth leather-like texture. Two wall mosaics were designed with the stone tiles and then framed with a cream-colored stone braid that was hand carved from African limestone. Gray tones are repeated in the charcoal cabinets, slate Cambria counters, polished chrome faucets and aluminum cabinet pulls. A pencil drawing of the Beatles done by his son finishes the space.
“I wanted it to be highly personalized and not a cookie-cutter condo,” says the homeowner upon the project’s completion. Indeed, this modern loft space now ideally suits his urban lifestyle.
Teresa Woodard is a freelance writer.