Don't judge a building by its cover -- the plumbing hall as living space

plumbing hall montage

By Akum Norder

It's an understatement to say that Will Vosecek has a vision for real estate. He sees a house through the lens of what it could become, with an eye for how to use a space to its best advantage.

As a realtor with Keller Williams in Delaware Plaza, he tries to bring that eye to helping clients find a space that fits their lives. And for his own residence? He turned a run-down Plumbers' Association hall into one of Albany's coolest homes.

The Outside

The building is the former home of the Albany Licensed Plumbers Association, which used the building for meetings and training. But it'd be just another brick street front, if not for the mural.

plumbing welder

The slightly surreal scene of welders, hardhats, pipes and '70s-era mustaches -- all in serene shades of blue -- is an Ontario Street landmark. The scene was painted in 1980, part of a public program under which the city, using federal money, hired "artists, recovering heroin addicts, local teenagers and others," according to the Times Union, to create murals. About 60 of these murals were completed, most of them in public interiors, but some on the outside of privately owned buildings.

Under the program, the owners agreed to maintain the outdoor murals for a decade. This one's past 30 now, and time and graffiti have done a lot to ravage it. But the welder should loom large on Ontario Street for a yet a while longer.

plumbing sign

The Inside

Will encountered the plumbing building about five years ago, when its real estate listing came across his desk at Keller Williams. He went down to check it out.

The space -- basically one large room -- was a wreck. "It was raw," Will said. "It was gross. Pecan plastic paneling and a drop ceiling." And yet, he said: "As soon as I walked in that door, I knew it." This was home -- or would be.

plumbing interior montage

Getting it there took a lot of work. He had the ceiling insulated and drywalled. He put in a few walls -- not many, just what was needed to create a bathroom and a kitchen. He put in a floor and a whole lot of lighting to supplement the existing skylights.

plumbing looking toward Z-Box

"It's not a large space," Will quips; "it's a big space." And seeing his house, his statement makes sense. It takes a few tricks to make a small house not feel small. Will knows every one of them.

plumbing house looking to door The large room is divided into separate spaces, giving it a more personal scale. There's a living room, a dining room, a foyer, even space that serves no function other than looking good.

Lots of storage gets the clutter out of sight. Cabinets stack all the way to the ceiling. Bicycles hang in the bathroom.

And then there's the Z-Box.

plumbing bedroom

Conceived by architect Dan Hisel as "furnecture," a Z-Box is a free-standing room that puts a private bedroom within the open-plan home. The bedroom, all industrial metal outside, has multi-panel doors that slide back completely into pockets, revealing a warm wood interior with a built-in bed, nightstands and shelves. The back and sides of the Z-Box are lined with closets.

Will's Z-Box bedroom is on wheels. It takes 5 or 6 people to push it, he says, but it allows him to customize the house -- it can be moved to accommodate a large party or change the shape of his living room.

Echoing the nearby bedroom, Will's coffee table, too, is on wheels: It's an antique wooden factory dolly that can roll back and forth between the two white couches. His home's depth of texture and design makes me wonder if Will should be decorating houses instead of selling them. Inside and out, the space plays with contrasts: fading plumbers with vibrant living spaces, metal with textiles, industrial with organic, intimacy with openness. The thoughtfulness of the d├ęcor helps create a big home out of a small space.

The one constant: The element of the unexpected. And in that sense, the interior of Will's home matches the plumbing mural perfectly.

Find It

The Plumbing Hall
326 Ontario St.
Albany, NY 12208

Comments

Very nice.

The place was rented out for parties in the 80's. If any your readers were there my guess is they would describe some fanny kickin' good times.

id rather die than willingly live somewhere without windows

I've always wondered about that mural! I thought it was still a plumber's association.....actually kind of sad it isn't.

Wonder how much it cost -- in money and in time -- to renovate the space...

Wow! What a great space. I've been past that building many time. Who knew?

Wow!

Wow! I grew up driving past that place and always wondered what it looked like inside. It also has the added bonus of being right near Capital Q. Badass.

Although this isn't my personal taste, I love what Will has done with the building! It's too bad more people (companies, stores, etc.) don't adapt old spaces and make them into unique places!

Kudos to Will. The article does not do as much justice compared to what you experience if privileged enough to go inside. I just love being invited over. Each season, Will's place evolves.

And who needs windows anyway?

This home is truly amazing and a joy to be in. I, too, have been privileged to visit this warm, cozy space. Will and Raj have made it so bright and cheerful, the absence of windows isn't even noticed. Plants, wonderful artwork, perfect lighting, and skylights make it spacious and welcoming.

This house looks amazing! Another article where I wish AOA would link to larger photos :D What's going on in that room with one red wall and a chandelier?

this post was great, thanks aoa! have been a neighbor for years and never knew anything about what it was

He is so talented! Is he an interior designer, or architect?Can't believe what imaginative things he has done in my neighborhood!

Seeing as it's such a cool reuse of the building, how did the city ever allow it with all their rules, regs, paperwork, certificates of occupancy etc.? I guess it helps to be in the real estate business to navigate your way around it.
The city could certainly benefit from more creative reuse of abandoned commercial and industrial spaces - keep it up!

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