Revitalizing a storied structure in a small town, a historic train depot gets a new life as a colorful, dynamic dance studio.
In the small upstate New York town of Accord, a 1902 train depot remained a local landmark over the years, despite changing times and uses. The historic structure was one of several nearly identical depots dotted along the local train line, many of which remain today. The Accord Depot had many past lives – as a bed and breakfast, and most recently, a restaurant as a community arts center, an ice cream shop, and most recently, a brief stint as a restaurant – which meant it endured many numerous incomplete and uninspired renovations over the years, slowly falling into disrepair.
Falling in love with the charm and potential of the historic space, the clients – already part-time Accord residents – were captivated by the storied property, and acquired it with the dream of reviving the unique structure. An accomplished choreographer and composer, the artistic couple longed for a space that would reflect and inspire their creative passions. Adamantly determined to honor the history and charm of the period structure, while balancing an affinity for modern architecture, they excitedly connected with Studio MM to plan the depot’s next chapter.
In transforming the depot, the couple wanted the reimagined space to be more than a weekend getaway. They envisioned a dynamic home that would be an off-site studio for their dance company, a place to host others for professional retreats and sabbaticals, and an optional vacation rental when not otherwise in use. Aesthetically, the artistic couple was eager to inject color into the space to add vibrance, energy, and playfulness, while reflecting their creative spirits.
The home’s original façade was largely unchanged during the renovation process. The first floor bump-out was extended to align with the historic dormer above, providing greater visual cohesion and symmetry. Historically, many exterior doors existed, originally used to shuffle luggage from the baggage room to the train, and passengers from the ticket window to the waiting room to the train – a cumbersome circulation process that left the current structure with many doors, but no clear “main entry.” During the bump-out’s extension, a new, gracious, front door was added, becoming a singular entry point for the home. The dormer windows, originally smaller double hung openings with mullions, were tweaked in favor of slightly larger fixed pane windows – letting in more sunlight, and offering a subtle hint at the modern transformation within.
Once the front door was relocated, an internal reorganization of space closely followed. The old stairs, squarely in the middle of the home, broke up the central space and made circulation a challenge. Removing those original stairs opened up the space, improved flow, and allowed a clear sightline from the entry all the way to the back of the home. A modern, double height glass addition with punchy red trim seamlessly joins the historic structure at the back of the home, housing the new staircase – a folding volume of overlapping blue hues, with a colorful sitting area tucked beneath. While bold in design, the addition is modest in size, adding only about 100 square feet to the structure’s overall footprint.
Far from a conventional residence, the interior programming had to be strategically laid out to accommodate the many flexible live/work scenarios that the clients required. The old baggage room would become the dance studio, an open and airy place to move and create. The second floor “bunk” room has six individual sleeping pods, giving dancers a semi-private place to rest and recharge. Reminiscent of bunks in a sleeping car, the design is a subtle nod to the depot’s history, while playful pops of color add a lively and whimsical touch. The tricky ceiling slope created by the roof’s eaves made the main bedroom layout awkward tricky and challenging limiting. Though tempted to simply stick a bed in the room to complete the space, the under-designed nature of that proposition felt like a missed opportunity – especially compared with the one-of-a-kind bunk room. Instead, the team chose to build everything into the room, integrating custom bed, storage, and desk, in a way that was design-driven, thoughtful, and intentional.
In celebrating the spirit and history of the depot, the clients were intent on preserving, restoring, and repurposing original elements where possible. The charming ticket window was saved at the same location, harkening back to a bygone era. The station manager’s desk at the front bump-out was lowered and reused in place as an entry bench. The wall-to-wall bench that once prominently served the depot’s waiting room was salvaged and reconfigured on the opposite wall, becoming a cozy corner bench in the new living room. Old boards from the station manager’s room were discovered with hand-written names – some of which the clients recognized from their knowledge of Accord history. The boards were repurposed into a barn door which is used in the front foyer, sliding over part of the ticket window.
A counterpoint to the salvaged and restored period details, a custom kitchen table with seating benches was collaboratively designed and constructed by the Studio MM team. The quirky and contemporary slatted wood table features painted edges in vibrant blues, teals, purples, and greens. A focal point and gathering place for communal dining in the home, the lovingly crafted custom piece will help bring dancers, travelers, and guests together in the home.
Responsibly balancing the preservation of the depot’s special and original features, while injecting a unique voice and personality into the space, the thoughtful revitalization adaptive reuse of the cherished train depot was guided by an authentic reverence for the history of the place. Pushing boundaries far beyond what would be a replica of past times, the reimagined space exudes a newfound energy, life, and vibrancy – ensuring a beloved local landmark with a colorful past will have an even more colorful future.