Home Of The Month: Above And Beyond
When it comes to retirement plans, most people gravitate to golf courses and sunny shores. Not Jeff Laskowski. He wanted a project that would keep him busy, so he decided to buy a historic building and transform it into a home unlike anything on the market. An estimated 5,000 hours of physical labor later, the remodel was complete: an 8,500-square-foot condo with a rooftop terrace in the heart of downtown.
For years, Jeff and his wife, Diane, had lived on a 100-acre farm in a small community. They were ready for a more urban experience. Most listings they saw in the Mile Square, however, were too contemporary and could easily look dated in a few years. Their wish list included attached parking, security, and plenty of space to play with their grandchildren, but they couldn’t find a place that checked all the boxes. When they came upon the building for sale at 22 West Maryland, its potential and rich history wooed them immediately.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the striking four-story Italianate is known as Elliott’s Block, having been built in 1875 for Calvin Elliott—a wholesale liquor merchant who used the building for various shops and warehouse space. “It was up and open for business before Custer died in the Last Stand,” Jeff says. As it changed hands over the years, it housed a glass company, the L.S. Ayres warehouse, and Indiana News Co., but the name always stuck as Elliott’s Block. The commanding facade, with its mix of brick, ornate cast-iron detailing, arched windows, and Corinthian columns, has fared well over the years, thanks in part to the local historical society’s jurisdiction on the exterior. Even the kind of mortar used in between the bricks must be approved in order to preserve the property’s historical character.
Prior to the Laskowskis’ ownership, the top floors of the building had most recently been a boutique hotel. Two of the hotel suites remained intact throughout the construction process to provide respite from the dust and debris when Jeff was there five days a week, often clocking 10-hour days doing the work himself. Though it was a massive project, he never enlisted an architect or interior designer—Diane chose all the decor. “There’s a warmth and satisfaction we got from doing the work ourselves,” Jeff says. For a few of the larger-scale items, like adding a six-story elevator and private entrance on the west end of the building, he used Brandt Construction and Ratio Architects.
One challenge to overcome was parking. The Laskowskis wanted off-street parking that connected to the building. They signed a long-term lease with Simon Property Group next door and built block walls with garage doors around three spaces. “We can park the car, close the garage doors, and go straight to the elevator that goes only to the residence,” he says. “Essentially, it gives us an attached private garage.”
The top floor was completely gutted, as was half of the third floor. They cut a hole in the joists between them and built a staircase to connect the spaces. In doing so, it left an opening that required a large chandelier, but they couldn’t find one for sale that adequately filled the space. So Jeff built one himself, crafting an intricate, octagonal piece that he describes as an upside-down wedding cake. It took a month to complete—long hours up on a platform as he constructed it in place. Copper accents reflect light against smooth pieces of walnut, and the Edison bulbs provide a touch of historical charm. The massive fixture is arguably the home’s pièce de résistance.
Throughout the rest of the condo, understated decor lets the natural elements do most of the talking. “When it was a boutique hotel, there wasn’t one original brick face or beam that was left exposed,” Jeff says. “It could’ve just as easily been a brand-new high-rise. So when we bought it, I ripped every bit of everything off to get to the bare brick.” The result is a warm, comfortable space. Some brick walls are painted white to provide a bright contrast to the predominant red and brown hues.
Friends and family often visit for extended stays. Any time a major event is going on in Indy, the Laskowskis open their doors. Their unique layout contains two suites—bedroom and bathroom areas with their own kitchens, living areas, and laundry setups—so guests enjoy lush amenities and excellent views of the Wholesale District. The couple loves giving visitors tours of all the condo has to offer within a few blocks. Whether it’s taking their grandchildren to the Zoo, biking along the Canal, or walking the Cultural Trail, Jeff says they’re more active now than ever before. “We can go a week or longer without ever getting in the car,” he says.
Every project must come to an end eventually, of course, and the Laskowskis have decided to sell the condo and downsize. Their labor of love is on the market for $4.9 million. To those who express concern about living in a commercial area without traditional neighbors, Jeff insists they have never felt isolated. “You’re in this private little island of your own space, but you still hear the energy and pulse of the city,” he says.
When the weekend rolls around and the crowds often disperse, Jeff enjoys the tranquility their unique address affords. “On Sunday mornings, we walk out and own the city,” he says. “It’s as still and quiet as being in the country.”
Gallery (Courtesy of The Home Aesthetic):