Step inside Todd Belfield’s home, and you know you’re in a different place – possibly even a different time. Housed upstairs in a former 1850s gristmill north of Medina, the loft features 150-year-old wood floors, a mix of midcentury furniture and antiques and a high ceiling so unusual, it takes a hint from the host that it’s constructed from metal roofing.
The exterior walls are painted the color of golden wheat. The sole interior wall, a watery blue inspired by the nearby creek. Large windows expose the wooded lot.
“My nephews think I live in a tree house,” Belfield said.
There is no TV here. Or computer. Rather, the eye travels from the sculpture built from jumbo playing cards to the large display of artwork to what appears to be a collection of elongated bowling pins. Visitors soon learn they’re actually Indian clubs that were part of an exercise craze at the turn of the century.
Belfield’s shop, Jeddo Mill Antiques, is on the first floor of this unique property, but his second-story personal space is “part of the private collection,” said Belfield, who has lived here for eight years.
After growing up in Gasport and graduating in 1981 from Royalton-Hartland High School, Belfield majored in political science at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., with a minor in religion. He then worked as a convention and meeting planner and later as manager/buyer at an antiques store. After 25 years, he returned to Western New York.
“I needed sky. I needed clouds. I needed a Great Lake or two,” he said.
A house he had long admired was on the market, but it was this place in Jeddo he settled on. It was priced at $65,000 and being used as an antiques shop. His mother, Linda, a retired real estate agent, encouraged him to go for it. It needed work, especially the second floor. The transformation began with the help of Amish contractors and particularly his father, Kenneth, who has always enjoyed do-it-yourself remodeling projects.
Among the improvements: Insulation, drywall, new plumbing, electric and heating/central air, some new windows, metal roof, ceiling and repairs to the front porch.
Next came the furnishings and decor, a combination of auction purchases, castoffs, handmade pieces, salvaged architectural finds, playful collectibles, paintings, sculpture and books.
Belfield has taken the 30-by-40-foot space and creatively partitioned living areas, without blocking the view outdoors.
A handmade structure – 10 feet wide, 6 feet high and 4 feet deep – separates the study and dining areas yet also doubles as his closet. Its design makes the unit appear to float. The four door panels are covered with pages from an old philosophy book that was falling apart.
“This is my way of preserving it,” Belfield said.
Similarly, a painted dresser in front of an old garment rack on wheels, now holding framed artwork not clothing, helps define the main living area.
Belfield has long admired pieces with a past. He recalls how, when he was in elementary school, St. Mary’s Catholic Church behind his house burned and many of the salvaged items, including statuary and chairs, were temporarily stored in his parents’ basement.
“That was when I started appreciating old things,” he said.
A few of the home’s other highlights:
• Belfield and his father designed and built a three-step platform to create a study area with a leather chair, a desk and plenty of artwork. Todd made two open bookcases to border the space. On one side, he built 15 open-back plywood boxes, then stacked and trimmed them in wood to create the bookcase. The base opens to a pull-out bed that is stored under the platform during the day.
He created the other bookcase from 22 wooden triangular-shaped pieces, each lettered and originally designed as road markers for vehicles at a flea market.
• Old architectural elements are found throughout, including two columns, a section of decorative porch skirting from a Victorian house in Medina, wainscotting made from doors rescued from the trash and an old chalkboard railing now used to display artwork.
• The kitchen features maple cabinets from Kitchen World in Lockport topped with countertops from Vermont Green Mountain Soapstone. The appliances are stainless steel. The back splash is roof flashing from Home Depot.
“I wanted to keep the industrial feel. I wanted to maintain the integrity of the mill,” said Belfield, who couldn’t estimate a figure on how much he has put into the place through the years.
• Five hubcaps hang above the faux fireplace An old red child’s scooter is propped on the mantel.
“You can take the most ordinary object and, by placement, elevate it to art,” Belfield said.
• Many pieces come with a story. The dining table, surrounded by Herman Miller midcentury chairs, was crafted from wood that came to America from an old bridge in Holland. A side table in the study is a typewriter stand that once stood in the Larkin Building.
• Window treatments are hardly conventional. Some windows are bare. Shutters rest on the sills of two front windows, creating some privacy from the road.
“I’ll lean shutters against the glass and then hang pictures on the shutters. Totally whacked,” Belfield laughed.
The space has not gone unnoticed by others.
One of them is former Lockport resident Nathan Urbach, administrative director of the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
He and childhood friend Katie Merrill of Lockport had a chance to see the loft while visiting the shop this summer. Afterward, Urbach sent an email to The News.
Urbach was impressed by the use of space, the differentiation between public and private areas, the use of various antiques and the overall transformation, he said when reached this week by phone.
“Taking an old mill and that space and creating a very contemporary loft space with different sections I thought was really fantastic. I’ve been fortunate to see a number of amazing houses throughout my travels and I thought his was extremely memorable,” Urbach said.
HOME OF THE MONTH: THE BLUEPRINT
Here is a look inside Todd Belfield’s living quarters in Orleans County:
Layout: A 30-by-40-foot loft space with lots of windows and creatively partitioned areas. The only separate room is the bathroom.
Highlights: Metal ceiling; railings made from pig fencing from Tractor Supply Co. in Lockport; a platform built to house the study area and conceal a pull-out bed; a round concrete base under the wood-burning stove made by Belfield and his father to look like a mill stone.
Furniture: Antiques, midcentury modern pieces, hand-built pieces.
Accessories and artifacts: Books, paintings, photography, Indian clubs, miniature chairs, hubcaps, woodworkers’ old trim samples, old finials, croquet and bocce balls and more.
Lighting: Several large pendants, including a 1950s chandelier in the study that belonged to his grandparents – Belfield painted it red – and retro reading lamps.
Floors: Area rugs on wood floors – “the original wood with 150-year-old patina,” is how Belfield described it.