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Two Harbors couple creates 'New York-style' loft

Christine and John McCarthy recently remodeled the top floor of the Two Harbors building they own to be a "New York-style" loft apartment. (Jamey Malcomb/News-Chronicle)1 / 2
The McCarthys have used a number of used and repurposed items from John's downstairs store, North Shore Architectural Antiques, to furnish their apartment. The prep table in the foreground is from Duluth Central High School, while the cabinets and stainless steel sink in the background are from other Duluth-area schools. (Jamey Malcomb/News-Chronicle)2 / 2

Two Harbors has its variety of home designs and architecture, but the first style to come to mind is not a urban loft apartment.

John and Christine McCarthy, however, recently designed and remodeled the top floor of the building they own in Two Harbors to be a "New York-style" loft and moved in in May.

The pair lived in the Larsmont area until March, when they sold their home and moved into a hotel for several weeks while John and their son, Sean, finished preparing the apartment, above John's store, North Shore Architectural Antiques, for the family to move in.

"I've got to give a lot of credit to John and Sean," Christine said. "They did more than I did."

The couple will soon be "empty nesters," according to John, with their older daughter, Olivia, in college and Sean, soon to be a junior at Two Harbors High School, leaving home in a few years. John and Christine, both in their early 50s, ultimately hope to retire to a cabin on a lake in a few years. Consolidating down to the apartment above the store was a good way to save money for that future.

"We were looking at what's the 10-year plan," John said.

About 20 years ago, John tried his hand at flipping houses and, while the business venture didn't work out, he learned a lot of the skills he needed to remodel the space to his family's needs.

The space was once the upper floor of a furniture store and features an open-concept living and dining area with 20-foot ceilings. The bedrooms are where the furniture store would stage model rooms.

The apartment is still a work in progress, and the process hasn't been without its hiccups. When the McCarthys moved in in mid-May, they had to live without a working shower for a little over a week, but John and Sean focused on functionality over decorative finishings. Still, after his experience flipping houses, this process has been a breath of fresh air.

"That's what happens when you do everything yourself," John said. "It's nice to do a remodel when you don't have a schedule or budget to meet — you just get it done when you get it done."

The McCarthys' new apartment has a dual purpose as well. John wants to use it to showcase some of the furniture and other finishings he picks up and resells at the store downstairs.

The kitchen counter is a prep table from Duluth Central High School and the cabinets were from another school auction. There is also a "deacon's bench" previously used by ministers and other clergy at Palisade Head Baptist Church in Silver Bay.

The McCarthys have also used doors, knobs and other repurposed items from the antiques store. They plan to add a French window between the kitchen and master bedroom.

Since moving in in May, the McCarthys have been getting used to life living in a town after residing in more rural Larsmont for more than 20 years. Christine can walk to work now, and every morning, she takes their dog, Bella, on a walk to the Two Harbors breakwall or along the Sonju Trail.

"City life is a little different experience," she said. "It's a little noisier in the city. We've been living in the woods since 1996, but Two Harbors is pretty mellow."

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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