A hidden apartment building brings a little Zen downtown.


➼ When Morgantown native Michael Sodomick taught English in Japan in the early 1990s, he was struck by the efficient use of space in homes and apartments. Only the size of Montana, the island nation has almost half the population of the U.S., so space is at a high premium.

Back in Morgantown, Sodomick wanted to create living spaces with a similar feel. He owns the Morgantown Beauty College and Appalachian Gallery buildings on Walnut Street and, behind the Appalachian Gallery, a cement block building it’s easy to overlook. It used to house the Fraternal Order of Eagles but was eventually vacated. He hired BuildingLAB of Fairmont to design new apartments for that building and Pennsylvania building contractor Lou Davis to build them. The project was completed in 2011.

The six apartments in Livingzone270 are just 535 square feet each. But because of the way the space is managed, along with elements like high, open ceilings and recessed and pendant lighting, their layout feels compact but not tiny.

Space is maximized through the use of built-in furniture, countertops, and storage: everything fits perfectly in its place. Walls of finished plywood in two tones and floors and countertops of polished concrete unify the spaces with earthy tones and textures. The few pieces of furniture that aren’t built in are supplied in a spare and modern style, and each apartment has a combined washer and dryer unit.

Livingzone270 is based on an environmentally conscious design. Rainwater is collected for use in the toilets and laundry. Large windows on the south side of the building collect heat in winter, and light-blocking curtains deflect the heat in summer. The use of materials more durable than the carpets and painted walls that are typical in apartments means fewer cleaning, repainting, and replacement costs between tenants.

photographed by Pam Kasey

Sodomick’s idea found a receptive community: The apartments, which rent for $875 and $975, have a waiting list through December 2019. To get on the list, email livingzone270@gmail.com.

 

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