Recycling The Past

Brittney Melton has long been fascinated by how things work, so it’s no wonder her downtown Oklahoma City loft reflects her abiding interest in everything from old graphs and clock gears to farm implements and bug collections.

If Melton has a favorite word, it must be “eclectic.” That is how she has cleverly furnished her 1,000-square-foot loft, which is only two blocks from Plenty Mercantile, which she and her mother, Tracy J. Lofton, own with their partner, Chris England.

Melton knows loft living is not for everyone. It might be inconvenient for young families with children or older people who prefer ground floor living to walking three flights of stairs to the front door.

But Melton is a young college graduate, enthusiastic about her decorating style and loves her retail work.

The loft was a blank slate, ready for Melton’s inventive design style. The 10-foot ceilings begged for loft living drama with whimsical touches. The open space includes the living, dining, kitchen and sleeping areas. There is ample room for Melton’s unusual furnishings, accessories and wall art.

The entry gives a glimpse of the living area. To the right is a full bath; the shower curtain features Boy Scout badge emblems. Brittney streamlined a closet, using her organizational skills. The washer-dryer hides behind double doors near the kitchen.

The Pullman-style kitchen is eye-catching. Although compact, its blonde wood and white trim is a crisp design touch, overlooking the main living area. A high shelf shows a sign spelling “Brit,” her nickname. For seating at the kitchen counter, Melton used bar stools with old plow seats. Nearby, an antique tea cart holds beverage serving items.

Melton defined the living area with an L-shaped overstuffed sofa, comfortable lounge chair and ottoman and a coffee table that was once a cable spool. Open bulbs hang from the ceiling. Exposed pipes and peeling paint add vintage character.

A custom-made teak sofa table was recently replaced with a 10-by-one-foot steel conveyor belt track, which has been raised into a long table by “found” pieces. With this addition, Melton has given new life to an industrial workhorse.

An antique white iron bed anchors the sleeping area, and an old graph chart accents the headboard.

One of Melton’s most dramatic finds is an oversized gilt mirror of unusual shape and design. It adds class to what was once a bare wall.

A spacious paned window provides an expansive downtown vista. Under the window, a 16-foot work bench rests on old sawhorses, serving triple roles: a library, office and gallery for varied treasures, some from Plenty Mercantile.

Don’t call the goods at PM antiques or junk. Much of the inventory has a colorful history from other eras, which have found new uses in today’s “anything goes” decorating climate.

A first impression of the mercantile includes its red trademark pickup and suggests a warehouse with a sense of humor. The merchandise is surprising: children’s items, funky gift choices for all occasions and dining accessories in paper, linen, glass, plastic and stoneware, showing how even a novice can be inventive and entertain with a flair.

There’s also hardware, doors, windows, decorative iron and wood and metal furnishings fashioned from old utility items. Like Melton’s loft, the Mercantile is a place to reinvent a lifestyle and give any home a fresh, slightly quirky take on interior design.

The key to Melton’s style of decorating is to look at functional items – like those plow seats that became bar stools –  and find new definitions for things that had other uses in a previous life.

“I steer away from vintage and antique items,” Melton says. “They are vague and hard to relate to. Experienced or authentic seem to me words that keep the integrity of pieces. Each has a history of its own. It seems that’s what draws the soul.”