The High Life at Ironworks: Home of the Month

A couple that loves to relocate to the hottest addresses in town settles into a super-sized suite at Ironworks.

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“Try it! You might like it!” If you’ve ever come across Deborah Dorman, you probably know she says this a lot. But for the Realtor, who has sold more than $100 million in property over two decades, it’s more than just a catchphrase; it’s a way of life. Which explains why Dorman and her husband, Stockholm native P. A. Nilhagen, director of tennis at Five Seasons, have moved five times within Indianapolis in six years—including a stint at the Conrad hotel’s residences downtown. (“I was Eloise at the Plaza,” Dorman says.)

Ironworks
The residence is the largest at Ironworks, combining a pair of apartments. The homeowners live in this side, and a barn door behind the dining table leads to the guest wing.

Photo by Tony Valainis

These days, Dorman and Nilhagen call the Ironworks building at 86th and Keystone home. “We were the first ones here,” says Dorman of the hot new address, a five-story brick edifice that features 120 loft-style apartments, with rent starting around $900 for a studio. Because Dorman and Nilhagen regularly host friends and family who visit from out of town, a single unit would not suffice. The couple leased two adjoining apartments on the top floor and convinced the building management to add a door between them. The resulting space, the only one of its kind at Ironworks, is nearly 3,000 square feet and spreads across four bedrooms, four baths, two living areas, and two full kitchens, finished with dark cherry cabinets, commercial-grade stainless-steel appliances, granite countertops, and flooring glazed in copper and gray hues for the look of slate.

Ironworks
Zebra print enlivens the contemporary monochromatic decorating scheme, channeling owner Deborah Dorman’s flair for expressive fashion. Dining set from Kittles.

Photo by Tony Valainis

The couple lives on one side of the home and uses the other as a guest suite and for storage. Cathy Clark of White Lily Interiors helped tie the spaces together. Zebra print pops against a streamlined, silver-and-white backdrop throughout, and each side features a white leather sectional: an L-shaped version from Kittle’s in the couple’s quarters, and in the other, a curved piece from Houseworks configured as a pair of loveseats. Dorman’s adoration of Hollywood comes through in photos of Marilyn Monroe and Lana Turner.

The panoramic views aren't quite 360 degrees but the leather bed from Z Gallerie is. Apartment living calls for space efficiency, like integrated nightstands.
The panoramic views aren’t quite 360 degrees but the leather bed from Z Gallerie is. Apartment living calls for space efficiency, like integrated nightstands.

Photo by Tony Valainis

While the modern decor is striking, it’s hard to compete with the floor-to-ceiling windows that dominate every room (save the bathrooms). For an even better view, Dorman and Nilhagen step outside onto either of their two balconies, one of which stretches some 30 feet across. This larger balcony, situated just below the luminous Ironworks marquee, overlooks The Fashion Mall, which is practically within punting distance (well, if the punter were Pat McAfee). “We might not have the mountains, but we have the mall!” observes Dorman, a self-described fashionista who makes frequent appearances on Design Your Life Style with Barry and Joni on WNDY-23 and WISH-TV 8. Nilhagen prefers the outdoor spaces. “I go out at night when I get home”—usually with a glass of wine—“and just breathe air,” he says. Live music floats up from the patio of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, located on street level.

A home office and sitting room bridges the two sides of the four-bedroom apartment (the guest suite is seen through the doorway) and visually extends the sleek, white-on-white decor form one half to the other. The mirrored pedestal table and chrome-base chairs are from Z Gallerie.
A home office and sitting room bridges the two sides of the four-bedroom apartment (the guest suite is seen through the doorway) and visually extends the sleek, white-on-white decor form one half to the other. The mirrored pedestal table and chrome-base chairs are from Z Gallerie.

Photo by Tony Valainis

There are other restaurants in the building just a few floors down, one of the perks of Ironworks living. Elevator-ride access to trendy businesses such as B Spot Burgers (owned by celebrity chef Michael Symon) and Orangetheory Fitness (where exercisers wear heart monitors that project each person’s real-time performance onto a large screen) give the Ironworks lifestyle a semblance of urban convenience.

Who needs two conjoined apartments? Hospitable grandparents. The couple's family in Cincinnati spends summers in Indianapolis to play tennis with Nilhagen, a teaching pro, and a grandson attending college in town has his own place, including a living room and balcony, when he visits.
Who needs two conjoined apartments? Hospitable grandparents. The couple’s family in Cincinnati spends summers in Indianapolis to play tennis with Nilhagen, a teaching pro, and a grandson attending college in town has his own place, including a living room and balcony, when he visits.

Photo by Tony Valainis

The building also has a residents-only gym and yoga studio, though the best amenity is the clubhouse rec room, outfitted in the latest materials. Large leather couches face a super-sized TV, and the open concept includes a full kitchen and communal dining table of reclaimed wood. Residents can hang out with each other here or reserve the space, which functions like the lower level of a large family home. Last year, Dorman served Thanksgiving dinner for 16 in the clubhouse instead of upstairs, where space would have been tight. Res-idents also have access to conference rooms, handy if they work from home. All these common areas feature a modern mix of exposed brick, steel pillars and stairs, and industrial fixtures. Even the elevators are paneled in reclaimed wood.

Portrait of Madame Allan Botte by tamara de Lempicka, a Polish artist known for her work during Paris's Roaring twenties, hang above a family-heirloom table.
Portrait of Madame Allan Botte by tamara de Lempicka, a Polish artist known for her work during Paris’s Roaring twenties, hang above a family-heirloom table.

Photo by Tony Valainis

Dorman and Nilhagen love their new home’s comfortable interior, broad views, aloft outdoor spaces, and convenient location. But it’s the amenities that really check their boxes. Dorman was admittedly spoiled living at the Conrad, and she considers the perks at Ironworks comparable. Traveling the world (the couple has visited more than 100 countries) and living in hotels has shown them the importance of “having people to help us, to take care of us, to be there for us, to meet our needs”—something she believes will become even more important as she and Nilhagen, both in their 60s, grow older.

With five seats on each side, the clubhouse's communal table can be reserved for dinner parties.
With five seats on each side, the clubhouse’s communal table can be reserved for dinner parties.

Photo by Tony Valainis

Given the couple’s penchant for home-hopping, there’s one obvious question: Will they move again? Nilhagen says no. “As long as we live in Indianapolis,” he says, “I don’t see any reason to leave this.”

The clubhouse balcony overlooks the building's hotspot restaurants and shops.
The clubhouse balcony overlooks the building’s hotspot restaurants and shops.

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