Carol Olivia February 27, 2021 Home Design
When Samantha and Jonah Arcade and their two daughters outgrew their previous Brooklyn, NY apartment of six years, they never imagined they’d find room to breathe in a brownstone that was just 12 feet wide on each floor. But with Tirzah, 8, and Delaney, 4, a 1,000-square-foot home “wasn’t cutting it,” Sam admits. So about nine months ago, the family of four took a chance on a 1901 landmarked brownstone in need of a full renovation — from top to bottom, all four floors.
Sarah and her husband Matthew Latkiewicz, a television host, writer, and producer, arrived in Oakland with only what they could squeeze into their Honda Fit. This included Sarah’s grandparents’ coffee table, Matthew’s two favorite chairs, some art, and their clothes. After weeks scouring Craigslist and thrift stores, Sarah realized the best place for reasonably priced home goods was estates sales. “That is how the best stuff gets into the bloodstream of the Bay Area. That and the Alameda Flea Market.” From her estate sale and flea market explorations she began assembling a collection of what she calls “soulful objects.” It took about three years before Sarah felt like she had made a cohesive and comfortable space of their 1920s Art Deco apartment.
On the process of building their home, Vivian said, “The construction only took about one and half years, but the house site and design decisions took much longer. In the meantime, we sold our [previous] home in Oxford, MS and renovated the basement of the home already on the property, into an apartment and lived onsite while we developed our ideas for our home. The gallery apartment now serves as guest quarters and an Airbnb location. We finally settled on the old homestead site, but first had to remove dilapidated tenant shacks… Near the house is an old well that was hand dug by the first family on this property. One of the previous homeowners visits on occasion, and recently we learned he was a 12-year-old boy when he helped his grandfather hand dig the 30-foot well.”
Image above: Matthew and Lauren’s second bedroom in their Chicago, IL home was given purpose with a daybed built by Lauren’s father and Matthew. The bed is styled with pillows for a faux backrest to make the room versatile between an extra living space and a place for overnight guests.
“Always interested in the arts, we had early careers in the restaurant and plumbing businesses,” Vivian shares. “We married and settled in Oxford, MS in 1999 where we began our art careers and business in earnest. We are developing a sort of arts compound where we live, work and promote regional artists. We have taken our time reclaiming the acreage we acquired and look forward to the coming additions/evolution, including a sculpture garden in the field outside our home.” The arts compound she’s referring to is the rural art gallery she and Walter opened three years ago, sitting off the ground in a treehouse-like setting, aptly named The Oxford Treehouse Gallery, just 200 yards from their home. The gallery, as well as their home, houses a lot of their own art, too. Walter is an artist/blacksmith and Vivian is a painter and block printer.
Nestled down a country road, past oak trees, off the road and out of view from anyone passing by, sits a home built from the ground up, for and by homeowners and artists, Vivian and Walter Neill. Also on the large, wooded property is the blacksmith studio of homeowner Walter, a full chicken coop, and the art gallery that the Neill’s run together, Oxford Treehouse Gallery.
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