Art/history: Ivy Depot embodies eclecticism

ADDRESS: 0 Ivy Depot Lane

ASKING: $679,000

SIZE: 5,165 fin. sq. ft.

YEAR BUILT: 1830, addition 1850


CURB APPEAL: 8 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Susan Stowe Reppert, Roy Wheeler Realty Co. 951-5161

Over the years, this column has featured Purvis's Store in Esmont, Page's Store in Batesville, and an outbuilding that was once a store beside a house in Trevilians. Those three buildings demonstrate how the transition from commercial establishment to home allows an owner to give creativity and imagination free rein. That's one of the charms of adaptive use the chance to take something functional (and often beautiful) and create a comfortable, manageable living space that's up to today's standards.

The owners of the place known as the old Ivy Depot have risen uniquely to that challenge. Both artists, they have turned an old store into a sort of work of art. However, just as much contemporary art is not to every art lover's taste, so the changes and adaptations here will not appeal to an ordinary house shopper. It will take a particular sort of sensibility to appreciate this place.

The physical arrangement defies comprehension in a simple walk-through. What began as a two-over-two house turned into a feed and grain emporium about 20 years later with the addition of an enormous second structure, built to store huge quantities of grain and other commodities. The current owners have added sections of their own as well.

The first of the original four rooms now exists as an entrance sunroom, with a slate floor and windows looking out to a tranquil back yard. Two or three stairs lead to a study/den with open fireplace between the two rooms. Descriptions of all the rooms with the exception of obvious-use spaces like the kitchen and bathrooms are approximate since only three bedrooms are now what they're likely to remain with new owners. Everything else is up for grabs.

For instance, the front door opens into a large (at least 25' x 30') room that's currently a sort of gallery space, and the room itself is part of the art: A huge oval area of the ceiling is actually the remnant of a renovation, abandoned and shellacked over– it looks like views of earth from all those spacecraft. On the other side of these two rooms (entered from a second front door off the porch) is a separate two-bedroom apartment, currently rented.

Also on the first floor are rooms carved out of the granary: a comfortable room with fireplace and lots of light being used as the living room, a dining room, and a large weirdly shaped kitchen, one of the most interesting rooms in the house, which is saying a lot here. These three rooms (and a small full bath off the kitchen) have exceptionally tall tin tray ceilings (as do the rooms over these), and the kitchen has bead-board walls.

Two stairways lead to the second level. The one from the little den room leads directly into what the agent calls a "bath/spa" because that sounds a little better than "enormous bathroom with no doors right at the top of the stairs." The shower and WC are hidden away, but two sinks, a claw-foot tub, and a huge hot tub are positioned around the room the way furniture would be arranged in a living room.

Off this is a large master bedroom which leads to a tiny room of indeterminate use, another large bedroom with dressing area, and beyond that, a huge "studio" currently used for dancing lessons. A few of the floors are carpeted while in most of the other rooms the wide-pine planks have been painted white.

There's a second bath up here a wonderful little thing as neat in its way as the big bath "room," with glass bricks and an "English soaking tub" and another bedroom. Just how all these rooms are configured is difficult to say after only one visit. It's not hard to imagine new owners taking at least six months to figure out what's what and what's where.

Incidentals include a tin roof, three furnaces (all oil-fired hot air), a balcony/deck off the bathroom, a large laundry room with kitchen facilities on the second floor (a remnant of the time when the house was four rental units), and, oh yes, train tracks about 100 yards from the front door.

If you're thinking right now, "what a nightmare," you probably don't like modern art either. But if you're thinking "Let me at that place!" you'll undoubtedly have modern masterpieces of your own to complement this 18-room example of art/history.