BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO
Dee Muma heads upstairs to an apartment in her commercial building at the corner of Peconic Avenue and Main Street.
Some might say 1929 was not the most auspicious date on which to complete construction of a commercial real estate venture.
Nevertheless, the three-story building at One East Main Street in Riverhead has housed innumerable businesses over the last 80 years, some with more staying power than others. Just three of those that came and went were Amman’s Hardware, a World War II-era chop suey parlor on the second floor and a clock shop.
Understandably then, by the time the indefatigable Dee Muma got her hands on the building it was definitely showing its teeth.
“We took off seven roofs,” she said in wonderment, “and cleared out 240 tons of trash.”
“Urbanism reinvented” is the way Ms. Muma likes to describe the multi-purpose commercial/residential project she’s been overseeing at One East Main. Oh, and urbanism Ms. Muma’s way also includes the use of sustainable materials along with a healthy dose of reusing and repurposing.
“Look at these bar tables,” she said. “These are recycled long-leaf yellow pine beams.”
The bar tables in question will soon grace the jewel of the project, the Dark Horse Brasserie, which will occupy the space on the ground floor of the building that wraps around the corner of East Main and Peconic Avenue.
The brasserie, which Ms. Muma says is a natural extension of her long-established Dark Horse catering business, will seat around 60 people on long, low black banquettes as well as the aforementioned bar stools.
The bar itself is a set of recycled bowling lanes originally constructed of maple and pine. Ms. Muma found them as they were about to be destroyed.
“They came from the old Club 91, which was once a bowling alley,” she said. “Can you believe they were going to the dump?”
The brasserie is painted (using a low VOC product, of course) a traditional French brasserie custard yellow that cheerfully contrasts with the black ceiling, which Ms. Muma calls “an upside-down cityscape” with its pipes and ductwork, and a fireplace jokily inserted in the wall close to the ceiling “so everyone can see it but no one can complain about being too close to the heat.”
Another whimsical touch is the chandelier composed of martini glasses that Ms. Muma found in the Bowery’s lighting district.
But if the Dark Horse, with its state-of-the-art kitchen and pocket handkerchief-sized retail space, is the jewel of the project, the crown it adorns is the totally original concept for the second and third floor of the building.
Here, Ms. Muma and contractor Ray Dickhoff have created five duplex live/work apartments.
“The lower floor can function as an office,” said Ms. Muma. “The upper floor is a studio apartment with a full kitchen, all-in-one washer/dryer and full bathroom.”
Each duplex has a different layout, taking full advantage of the building’s quirky angles and generous windows. But while the granite countertops, high-end cabinetry and stainless-steel appliances are spanking new, in one apartment Ms. Muma has indulged her passion for recycling and reusing by installing a huge bathtub “we found in the woods in Hampton Bays. All we had to do was have it re-glazed.”
Ms. Muma believes that their location makes the live/work units very rentable.
“We’re close to the courts. Up-island law firms could use one as a local pied-a-terre. These would be good for a one-person accounting firm as well,” she said.
Continuing upward, after removing seven layers of roofing, Ms. Muma believes her plan for a planted roof will place no strain on the venerable building.
“It will be very little weight. I’m putting in various kinds of sedum that can take a tough urban environment,” she said.
But Ms. Muma is not finished yet. She has acquired number 10 Peconic Avenue next door to One East Main. “It gives me a good back entrance to the restaurant,” she said.
Ms. Muma also has plans to remodel that building into small apartments and artist studios. And as she describes the project, she clarifies what she really means by reinventing urbanism.
“When you can live, work and play in the same building, this is truly affordable urban housing,” she beamed.