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But other ideas were all Nelson’s. He added the large windows in the front as a nod to the original showroom and created the back yard by ripping the roof off the back half of the building, which was warehouse space. The yard’s impenetrable brick “fence” is nothing more than the former walls of the warehouse. The outdoor shower and bathtub was a dream he first had growing up in Arizona. “I’m a desert rat. I just love tropical indoor-outdoor environments. This whole environment,” he says, pointing to the hidden garden tub, “really is just a fantasy thing.”
When the time came for interior decoration, Walsh and Nelson’s love of shopping kicked into high gear. The large sectional couches were eBay finds, as were the vintage swag lamps, barstools and even their bed. When they weren’t bidding on items, they were shopping at their favorite thrift shops. “St. Vincent de Paul has a shit-ton of crap in there, but you can find some gems,” Nelson says. “I don’t like new stuff, because I cringe when I see that people have what I have. I see it advertised in a magazine, mass-produced, and it makes me feel dirty. I think of vintage shopping more as curating.” Even their home’s name is vintage — it came from a sign the two found in the building’s rafters and eventually traced back to a 1918 Russian almshouse.
Originally, Nelson thought he’d use the space he’d created for six months and then sell it. “I had no idea what it was going to be. It became something different every month, maybe condos, maybe two separate spaces.” Problem was, Nelson soon realized he couldn’t live without Marvimon House — or Sherry. He got her to marry him and they moved in. “I didn’t even think we could afford to live here,” he says. At this point he’d paid $500,000 for the building and had put another $500,000 into it. But like many consumed with love and passion, he found a way. He and Walsh crunched some numbers and discovered that if they rented their space while they lived there, they could make their home work for them. The experiment became a lesson in what is private space and what is public.
They still toy with renting the lofted guest bedroom as an atelier for a designer or artist. “But we’re space pigs,” says Nelson. Walsh is starting a clothing line and already has plans for sample sales and fashion shows. Nelson has started making short films, so naturally movie screenings on his hi-def, surround-sound screen are in the works. They hope all of this will help them keep their beloved Marvimon.
Back at Secret Restaurant, I find a glass door that leads into a bedroom and try the knob. It’s locked, so I peek inside and am disappointed: There’s not an errant undergarment or sock in sight. It’s spotless, suspiciously like a movie set.?
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