As the crow flies, Dan and Wendy Rowland's move wasn't far. It's just a little more than a mile from their former home, a historic house on South Mill Street, to their current abode, a modern condo on North Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. But in terms of space, it's a world away.
Their old home, a two-story Greek Revival house dating to 1846, was theirs for more than 30 years. For the past four years, they have lived in a newly renovated one-floor penthouse condo in the Nunn Building, a circa 1917 structure that was renovated extensively and added on to in the past few years.
Although the buildings are very different, the couple's personal touches of colorful art — much of it by local artists including Bob Morgan — and antiques create the cozy feel of home.
Unlike many of the other condos in the Nunn Building, formerly a city-owned structure that was built for the Lexington Herald newspaper, there is no exposed brick or industrial feel to the Rowlands' space. The couple worked with architect Joan Chan to maximize the light and space and minimize necessary evils, including a load-bearing pillar. (That pillar is hidden behind one wall of the open fireplace that divides one room.)
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So close: The couple say they moved from downtown to the "center of downtown." The condo allows Wendy, a sculptor, a chance to be a quick walk away from two of her favorite haunts: The Kentucky Theatre and the Lexington Public Library. Dan, director emeritus of the University of Kentucky Gaines Center for the Humanities, is discovering the new neighborhood through frequent jogs, and he enjoys being within an easy bike ride of most places he needs to be.
Level living: Wendy was glad to be rid of the stairs in their two-story home on Mill Street. The penthouse is one level, but it has almost the same square footage as their old home: 2,400 square feet.
Dan — who has long been an advocate for historic preservation and who won an award from the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation for his work in his former South Hill neighborhood, said lots of his friends think that moving meant they downsized. Smiling, he counters that his family "side-sized."
No shortage of storage: Wendy said one thing that drove her crazy in the old house was a lack of storage. The remedy? The condo's design incorporates floor-to-ceiling cabinets in the kitchen and a two-level storage room just inside the front door.
A book nook: Taking advantage again of the tall space, the Rowlands have created an extensive library in what others might use as a third bedroom. Because of the way the old Nunn Building matches up with the new part that was added about 2007, there are no windows in much of the room. That makes it the perfect haven for old books and a flat-screen television that they use to watch favorites shows such as Deadwood.
Take in the views: Light floods through the nearly floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the home. The windows are the same shape and size as when it was an industrial building, Dan said, but they are designed now to keep noise to a minimum.
The light streams through the joint kitchen and living room space and spills into the two bedrooms. From the living room, there is a spectacular view of the Romanesque architecture of Central Christian Church. The small balcony outside the master suite offers a straight view down Short Street and, from the right angle, you can see the statue that tops Henry Clay's memorial peeking above the trees in Lexington Cemetery.
Dan said all the light and windows have yielded a surprise: He finds himself more often looking at the sky. With mostly unobstructed views from the penthouse, it's a clear shot to the clouds.