Nestled quietly amidst the red brick landscape of the Highland Mills Lofts in NoDa is the watchtower. It's not surprising that most people would see it more as a symbol of historic architecture than a place of residence. But it is Andre Araiz's home.
Araiz says he looked for a rental at Highland Mills more than once, only to be told that no units were available at the time. Finally, one day, the property managers very reluctantly looked at him and said, "Well, there is this one unit ..."
"As soon as I walked in, I said, 'Yes. I want it,'" Araiz says. "They didn't think anyone would want to have to deal with so much space, and the layout is not typical. But, that's why I love it."
Originally from Mexico City, Araiz grew up in a family of artists. A talented visual storyteller like his father, he dons the hat of producer/director/editor and much more for Araiz Condoy Produccionnes, a company that his father started several years ago and which Araiz and his sister now run. His one-of-a-kind home in the watchtower is like an escape into a Travel Channel show, with each room telling an international tale of its own.
But first, you have to find it.To get there, you must locate the driveway that leads you to it. The front door stands tall and wide, and would be easy to miss if not for its shiny metallic exterior. Resembling the grand, industrial entrances of a swanky TriBeca loft, the inside is even more palatial.
Standing in the foyer of what appears to be several levels of home, it's difficult not to be overwhelmed by the 20-foot-high ceilings. Looking around the old textile mill, the original architecture remains intact and blends well with the modern updates. The brick walls are painted white, and the matching ivory colored carpeted staircase to the left, leads to the second and third floor.
As you take your shoes off and cross the foyer into the kitchen, the shiny concrete floor cools your feet. The archway leading into the kitchen is accented by the home's most prominent piece of original architecture — a big metal fire door that slides open and closed.
On the way to the second floor, a colorful vase of fresh-cut flowers sits on the ledge of a very tall, arched window.
"Oh, Julia did that."
Although the thoughtful arrangement of each flower is a dead giveaway, Araiz's still proud to admit that his better half, Julia Allshouse, boasts the green thumb in the relationship. From cacti to bonsai to 20 different varieties of chili peppers and a six-foot-tall hibiscus plant, there is plush, beautiful greenery, large and small, in every corner.
The master bedroom is on the second floor, its textured walls painted rustic mustard. In the center is a bed straight out of an Arabian Nights fairytale that takes place on a beach. The king-sized canopy bed is draped on top with a silky, red fabric that Araiz picked up in Ibiza, Spain. Illuminating the ivory white bed is a colorful hanging lamp that he got in Playa del Carmen, south of Cancun. It's hard not to expect to see the ocean out the window.
Across the hall is the "zen room." The white brick walls and matching carpeting are calming yet cheerful. Here we find plants, family photographs, and priceless hanging ar, including Salvador Dali's The Labrynth.
To the left is Araiz's office/workspace, where videos are being rendered as we speak, and where he is currently getting all his gear together for a shoot later on this afternoon. Two vibrantly colored paper mâché animals sit on the window sill. One of them looks like a mix between a butterfly and a praying mantis.
"Those are Alebrijes," he says. "They come from the Huichol Indians of Mexico, who are known for hand-making these fantasy animals out of paper mâché."
Zig-zagging up the tall flight of stairs, we reach the third and final floor. The bright living room is nothing but windows — seven, to be exact. The plush white carpet continues, but the brick walls are now their original red. The ceilings are decorated with exposed wooden timber, and there's even a deck that gives way to an incredible view of the city skyline.
The large earth-toned hammock that occupies one entire corner of the room is hands down everyone's favorite feature of the whole space, and Araiz's favorite seat in the house. The state-of-the-art entertainment center and modern suede sofa balance evenly with the rustic wood furnishings and exotic collectibles arranged throughout the room.
"I've been away from Mexico for so long, all of these little things around me allow me to feel at home," he says. "Here, I can back from wherever I am, and introspectively become myself again."
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