A Little Blues, a Lot of Soul

Real estate company 6th Ave Homes gets an office of its own, renovating an old house using materials from, well, an old house.

A full neighborhood once lined Bryan Avenue in the Near Southside, of which just two houses are left standing today. One of those houses, built in 1925, was condemned for demolition — with a shaky foundation and disconnected framing, the structure was in such bad shape that the owner sought to sell the property for the lot in anticipation of the house being torn down.

Then, 6th Ave Homes found it — and saw its potential. The real estate company, whose specialty is restoring old houses, discovered the home while developing The 4 Eleven, an event venue just a few blocks away on the burgeoning South Main Street. Yet, despite its reputation as a prominent player in the Near Southside, 6th Ave Homes never had an office, instead working out of Magnolia Avenue gastropub BREWED, WeWork and various coffee shops.

When 6th Ave Homes happened upon the Bryan Avenue house, “the foundation was horrible,” says co-founder Jamey Ice. He admits the renovation process wasn’t easy, as he and the crew dealt with everything from walls that couldn't stand straight to an odd, 3-foot slope from the front to the back of the house — and, of course, getting the building to meet city requirements. In fact, 6th Ave Homes ended up spending two years working on the house before moving in, in January. Today, the one-story, 2,200-square-foot home serves as the company’s headquarters, with a design defined by eclectic décor and all sorts of pieces reclaimed from the company’s previous projects.

“I love reusing old materials,” Ice says. “Any chance we get to take something that was neglected and give it a new purpose and life gets us excited.”

Naturally homey and unpretentious, the space is a bit reminiscent of BREWED (which Ice also co-owns) with its hodgepodge of personalities, brought together by a heavy use of wood and a color scheme of mostly cool blues and greens. Each room has its own distinct character: One has diagonal wood paneling; the other, patterned tile. Another room has exposed brick; and another, bold wallpaper. And, every room has a different chandelier, ranging from one built out of an old bottle-drying rack to another made with necklace-style beads.

But Ice says he’s especially proud of the space’s use of materials salvaged from 6th Ave Homes’ other projects: “Literally we just brought everything over from our storage unit and put it in the backyard.”

From that pile, 6th Ave Homes built pieces found all over the office. A table made with wood from a house in Fairmount. A sliding door from a house on Lipscomb Street. And the list goes on.

Ice’s personal office features a decorative piece made from wooden beams, chopped into pieces and assembled onto the wall. The space incorporates art, too, with abstract paintings by local artist Heather Essian hung throughout.

Another highlight of the office is one not readily seen. One room features a bookshelf stocked stylishly with vintage books, but give it a push, and the shelf turns out to be the doors to a hidden speakeasy, where Ice says he and friends have already hung out after hours and “drank wine till midnight.” The bar’s wooden countertop, made from the flooring of a 1950s boxcar, plays against patterned wallpaper and posh gold and white barstools — a testament to Ice’s affinity for contrast.

“I wanted to have almost as little sheetrock as we can possibly have, and have textures and materials,” he says. “Every room tells a different story.”

It’s a space that Ice says reflects 6th Ave Homes’ philosophy — to have a place that’s more than walls and fancy finishes.

A place that has soul.

“When something has soul, you feel it,” he says. “When you hear Leon Bridges, you’re like, ‘He has soul.’ It gives you goosebumps. With this, we just wanted to have a space that when you walked in, you felt like [you’re] hearing a great singer — this has soul.”