Sunday, October 12, 2014

2015 New River Gorge Winter Writer Residency Selection Announced

Novelist Eric Shonkwiler has been awarded the New River Gorge Winter Writer’s Residency for 2015. As Writer-in-Residence, Shonkwiler will live at Lafayette Flats, a luxury vacation rental in downtown Fayetteville, from January through March. During the three month residency Shonkwiler will be working on his own writing as well as contributing to the Lafayette Flats blog.

Shonkwiler is the author of Above All Men, a novel that was published earlier this year by Midwestern Gothic. He has been on tour promoting the book for much of the summer and fall. The book, set sometime in the future during a long slow economic collapse of America, tells the story of war veteran David Parrish as he fights to keep his family and farm together amid the decay and strife. Shonkwiler has received much critical praise for his book; one reviewer writes “Shonkwiler lands somewhere between a soberer Hemingway, a more linear Faulkner, a heavy rotation of Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads, a couple’a shots of Bulleit, an infected snakebite, and Cormac McCarthy.”

“We feel honored to have such a fine, young talent as our first Writer-in-Residence,” says Lafayette Flats co-owner Shawn Means, who with wife Amy McLaughlin, came up with the idea of hosting the residency in their vacation rental, a recently renovated 110 year old former bank building in the Fayetteville Historic District. “I know that Eric is going to benefit from the experience, and that his writing will be even better because of the time he will spend in Fayetteville,” Means continued.

Shonkwiler, upon learning of his selection remarked, "I'm excited and thankful to be the first New River Gorge Winter Writer-in-Residence. I'm very much looking forward to exploring the community, the area, and getting a chance to incorporate what I learn into my writing."

In addition to providing chic, contemporary lodging to New River Gorge travelers, Lafayette Flats seeks to provide guests with an alternative narrative about the culture of West Virginia through the art and design choices for the space: to present a view of the state and its people that doesn't follow the tired old stereotypes that are so prevalent in literature and art. The Writer’s Residency is another way the owners have chosen to help create this “alternative narrative” about West Virginia. “We hope that Eric’s future writing will be informed by what he experiences here in the Gorge, and that he will help us tell the real story of West Virginia and its people,” says Means.

To contact Eric Shonkwiler

Friday, October 10, 2014

New River Gorge Winter Writer Residency

When we pondered what the Lafayette Flats' first ever off-season is going to be like we pictured it to be quiet. People certainly come to the Gorge in the winter, but in far fewer numbers. We remembered last winter, when we were still working on the building every weekend, the streets were mostly empty in the evenings and the license plates on the few cars that were in town mostly were WV instead of the typical in-season mixed offerings of PA, VA, NY, NJ, OH and Ontario. Thinking through the ways that we could take advantage of the solitude that the winter offers we landed on the thought of a Writer in Residence program where we would select a writer and afford he or she with the opportunity to live and work in one of our flats during the slow season.

We researched other writer residency programs and talked to our neighbor, Colleen Anderson, who is a writer that has taken part in such programs. We were encouraged by Colleen's enthusiastic support for the idea, and took it to heart when she said that such experiences are very meaningful to writers. It began to feel like a natural extension of the support for the arts that we always intended for Lafayette Flats, but instead of patronizing visual artists we would be supporting the literary arts.

The first thing we had to decide is the time frame for the residency. We chose January 1 through March 31 and reserved Flat #2 Corten for that time period. Of course, since this is the first winter that Lafayette Flats will be open, we really have no way to judge whether removing the flat from the market for three months will cause us to miss out on rental opportunities, but if so then we'll consider the lost income as our gift to the arts.

We quickly realized that, other than this possible lost income, there was going to be very little downside to hosting the residency. We already have to keep the building heated and it would actually be a nice thing to have someone stay at the building in the coldest months making sure the water is flowing and systems are working. We began to think of the residency as "why not?' proposition and wondered if we had missed any obvious downsides. As of this writing, we still have not thought of any.

We announced the residency program in September and accepted applications through October 1st. We had some very good applications and the choice was not easy to make, but in the end one writer stood out.

And very soon, in the next few days, we will be announcing who that writer is. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Our Mascot - The Green Falcon

Here is a picture of Lafayette Flats' mascot, a green Peregrine Falcon. How it came to be our mascot is a bit of a long story, but we think it's amusing.
Our Mascot, the Peregrine Falcon
(or is it a "Pear Green Falcon"?)

First, you might ask, why do we need a mascot? The simple answer is that we got the idea from our favorite hotel: 21c Museum Hotel. 

There are three 21c Hotels: Louisville Kentucky, Cincinnati Ohio and Bentonville Arkansas. We have visited two of the three and much of the inspiration for Lafayette Flats came from these hotels. Imagine a hotel that uses its common spaces as an art museum with everything from small paintings to large installations of kinetic sculptures; that is how 21c hotels are designed, and that is a large reason that Lafayette Flats is also filled with original art.

Shawn sharing the bathroom
with a friend at 21c Cincinnati
So one of the cool things about 21c hotels are its penguins. These four foot tall plastic penguins are everywhere in a 21c - the hallways, the lobby, in the restaurants and even in the guest rooms. Each location has its own color (Cincinnati's are yellow and Louisville's are red), but the size and shape are the same wherever you go. They add a great deal of quirky charm to the place.  (You can read more about 21c here, and more about the penguins here.)

A Pair of Green Falcons
So when we were developing plans for Lafayette Flats we decided that we would like to have our own mascot. We began brainstorming appropriate animals and colors and threw out things like blue squirrels, pink turtles and rainbow colored opossums. Nothing seemed quite right. So we got on the National Park Service website for the New River Gorge National River and found a list of wildlife that lived in the Gorge. When I came to the Peregrine Falcon on the list I shouted out "Peregrine Falcons!" which Amy heard as "A Pair of Green Falcons!" 

Well, that kind of stuck. 

So we went online and found some life like Falcon decoys that are sold in England - they use them to scare away pigeons and other nuisance birds like we do around here with fake owls.  After we got them we had to paint them green. To further the play on words, we chose "Pear Green" as the official color, so now even if they are alone, they are still phonetically correct. 

"A Pear of Green Falcons"
by Chris Dutch"
When we told this story to our artist friend Chris Dutch, he put yet another spin on it and sent us a hand drawn card with his interpretation: "A Pear of Green Falcons." We love it and it will soon be proudly on display somewhere in the building.

The Falcons will show up in random and unexpected places in Lafayette Flats to greet our guests, so don't be surprised if you run across one on your next stay!

You can find out more about Peregrine Falcons in the Gorge here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Elizabeth Grafton

We love art and we love Fayetteville, so we were doubly pleased when we learned of an influential stained glass artist who made her home here. Elizabeth Grafton died several years ago (at the age of 99) but left a legacy of influence far and wide; seemingly more well known elsewhere than in her home town.

It was our Charleston friend Gary Blake who first told us about Elizabeth: "I met her many years ago, her work still plays over in my mind. The mark of a true artist," wrote Gary.

We asked around town until some friends helped us find some of her art on display locally at United Bank in Fayetteville, and in Oak Hill at St. Andrews Episcopal Church and the Plateau Medical Center.

Elizabeth's technique of using a hammer to cut Blenko Dalles glass left each piece with many facets that played with the light. The thick blocks of glass were mounted in epoxy or cement to create a very unusual effect. See for yourself in the following photos:

One of the sanctuary windows at St. Andrews Episcopal Church. The repeated geometric pattern in this window is striking. 

Incredible depth and detail in this St. Andrews Episcopal Church window. 

In the lobby of the United Bank in Fayetteville.

The chapel window at the Plateau Medical Center in Oak Hill.

A close up shows how thick was the glass used to create this flower.

A closeup view in which you can see the veins that the artist etched into the leaves.

It's amazing to think that the "petals" of this rose were cut out with a hammer.
Here is a link to another web page that features some of Elizabeth's pieces that are installed in a hospital in Maryland.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Fayetteville Pork

If we are being really honest about it, it was probably the pork that caused us to buy the building and turn it into Lafayette Flats.

Really. There is something about Fayetteville pork. It's hard to explain exactly, but it impressed us when we first discovered it and it seems to continually impress our guests, to whom we never fail to recommend it.

"It doesn't matter where you go to dinner," we tell them, "but get the pork." They usually do and when they do, they always report back with glowing agreement.

It makes us wonder if Fayetteville folks understand how lucky they are.

Now it is impossible to try to relate in a blog post what makes it so good, but we can use this space to list three places in Fayetteville that have amazing pork offerings so you can try it for yourself:

Diogi's - It says on the menu that Diogi's Carnitas are "famous in Fayetteville," but we know folks in Charleston who smile whenever this meat is mentioned. Whether it is in a quesadilla, a chimichanga, or just by itself there is no denying that this stuff is amazing.

Pies and Pints - We are so thankful for the P&P insider who told us to try the Black Bean Pie with added pork topping that we now recommend it to everyone who says they are going there, but you can also not go wrong with the Cuban Pie.

Elliott's Whitewater Grill - We recently discovered the Hawg Wings at Elliott's. "Hogs have wings?" we asked. "Try them" we were told. We did. We loved them. Now we're telling you to try them.

OK, so it probably wasn't the pork that made us create Lafayette Flats, but certainly the many great food offerings in town helped encourage us!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Welcome Adventures on the Gorge "Explore" Readers!

We are so excited that AOTG featured us in their beautiful magazine, and even more excited that you visited this blog because of it! You can find our main website here: or you can continue reading this blog to find out more about how the historic Malcolm Building because Lafayette Flats.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Getting Ready to Welcome Guests

On June 21 of last year, at 11:00 AM, we closed on our building. After a quick lunch we went back to the building, changed into work clothes and began the hard, dirty work of renovation that consumed virtually our every waking, non-vocational hour for the next nine and a half months.

Since our open house three weeks ago, our workload has changed. Now that the construction dust has (mostly) settled, we find ourselves working hard getting ready for the next phase of our adventure: Welcoming our guests.

Making construction plans and executing those plans is easy compared to trying to predict the many needs and wants of people we don't yet know. While we've been very thorough setting up the Flats the way we would like them to be, we have found the old adage "different strokes for different folks" to be abundantly true. Every time we get an inquiry from a prospective guest there seems to be some new question that we didn't expect. We're happy to have these questions to help us anticipate the things that our guest will value so we can make sure to provide as many as we can.

One of the things we have been working on is the building automation that will provide our guests with safety and convenience. Our Z-Wave systems will ensure that their flat's temperature will be comfortable when they arrive and give them secure access with a unique key code. As soon as one guest checks out, the technology will allow us to change the lock codes for the next guest to arrive even if we are away from Fayetteville.

Speaking of technology, we've not talked much yet about some of the tech features that we've built into Lafayette Flats: Large screen LED 1080p HD televisions, with expanded cable channels, are in every flat. WiFi is of course available for guests as well. Make sure you bring your mobile phone if you want to be reached by the outside world, though, because we very intentionally excluded land line telephones from all of our flats because it is after all, a vacation rental.

We're also very happy with the low-tech creature comforts we've bought. We are pleased with the bed linens we've found as well as the bath towels, and we hope our guests love the philosophy toiletries half as much as we do.

Kitchens have been challenging to equip. Since the kitchen spaces are small, we don't have a lot of extra space to store unnecessary items, and we opted for mostly open shelves and cabinetry since we didn't want to make our guests hunt around too much for that spatula they are looking for. We're sure that we'll get some welcome feedback on some items that folks would like to have in the kitchen and that will helps us improve as we go along. Of course, with the great restaurants we have within walking distance, who needs kitchens?

So now, finally, after all of the work we've done over the past many months, we will be meeting our first guests. We can't wait to hear what they think of the finished Lafayette Flats.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Welcome Charleston Gazette Readers!

A big thank you to Rick Steelhammer and the Charleston Gazette for featuring Lafayette Flats in this morning's paper! Here are a couple of quick links where you can find out more about us:

You can find information about booking, including rates and availability on Click here to go the one page that shows all four flats.

You can visit our Facebook page here.

Feel free to drop us a note at

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Open House - April 6

We had a great turnout for our open house last week! Thanks to everyone who came out, and to those who sent us well wishes.

We are busy working on our website where you can find out more about how you can stay at Lafayette Flats. Until it is finished you can go to our site here:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Finish Work

We're so glad to have put away all of the big, heavy and noisy tools in favor of paintbrushes and finishing nails. We have one more dust-creating task ahead of us: the installation of the laminate flooring in Corten scheduled for Friday. After that it, it is time to install fixtures, touch up paint and start the final decor installations.

It's been a long hard year, but as we are beginning to see the end it is starting to feel worth it.

We began this journey just about a year ago when we got our first look inside the building. We made our official pre-offer inspection on April 9 and four days later - on our first wedding anniversary - signed a contract on the building. Although we didn't close until June, we began working on plans as soon as our offer was accepted, so it's been almost a year that the creation of Lafayette Flats has been our single-minded obsession. Every moment we weren't sleeping or working at our real jobs has been spent in pursuit of the completion of this project. We have been working on the building each and every weekend between June 21 and now, and for the past couple of months we have been making the drive between Fayetteville and Charleston several times each week so we could work in the evenings.

And so, as we roll the paint on the final walls of the final flat this week, it feels very odd to know that we're winding down this phase of the project. When we open the doors to visitors on April 6 the interior of the building will be complete.

Of course, there is still some exterior work to be done once the weather finally breaks (if the weather ever breaks!) and there will be adjustments and trouble shooting that will go on for a while, but those things will bring with them a welcome change of pace and scenery.

We are so looking forward to being able to take some time off to explore the wonderful things about Fayetteville and the Gorge that our guests will soon be coming to enjoy, but alas that time is still a few weeks away and until then we'll be hard at work.

But at least it is finish work.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


We have (finally!) set the date for our open house: Sunday April 6 from 1:00 until 5:00. We are so very hopeful that all of the folks who have followed us on this blog and on Facebook will join us that day to help us celebrate our project's completion.

Over the next few weeks we still have a lot of work to do. Here's where we stand right now:

Flat #1 - Nuttall

Amy has been busily designing and re-designing this flat and is closing in on the
The ancient tub - original to the building - has been
refinished since this photo was taken in October. 
final touches. After last minute repainting of the bedroom (the color just wasn't quite right!) and reordering of some finish items, it is starting to come together nicely. The kitchen is finished, as is 95% of the rest of the flat. In the bathroom, we finally got the 80 year old claw foot bathtub refinished and have received the new vintage-reproduction faucet in the mail. It's a few wrench turns away from being ready for someone to soak!

Flat #2 - Corten

We made a lot of progress on Corten last week:
  • Drywall is hung and finishing is in progress. 
  • We had to remove the old baseboards - because the paint on them defied all of our stripping efforts - and the new oak baseboards have now been installed. 
  • Electrical is 95% complete.
  • The bathroom is ready for the tile folks to come back and build the shower and install the floor tile.
  • We had to redesign the kitchen and have come up with what we think it a clever design. More about this later.
Flat #3 - Quinnimont

Quinnimont's living room

Flat # 4 - Eddy

We're waiting on a piece of glass for the bathroom door; otherwise
this flat is complete. 
Eddy's kitchen

Common Space

Some touch up painting is still required and a lot of art needs to be hung. The entryway floor needs attention but until the weather straightens up a little we're unable to do much there. For the most part, though, the common space is finished; except for the "Stair Problem." 

Guests will have their own unique
access code for their flat thanks to
Z-Wave technology. 
You see, the stairs in the building are very well-worn. A century of foot traffic, installation and removal of who knows how many different coverings and repeated attempts to secure squeaky steps have left the stairs in pretty bad shape. We're very preservation-minded and want very much to keep the old stair treads, but they are never going to look as nice as the rest of the building. So we are waiting until all of the other work is done and then decide how we can best finish the floors to make them durable and attractive without removing them. We'll have more about that later.


OMG, the dust. 

We have dust of every variety: 100 year old building dust, coal dust, saw dust, drywall dust and general street dust. Once construction is 100% complete we will be dusting for days and days; probably right up to the moment we open the doors on April 6. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Some photos for our non-Facebook friends

Since several people have told us lately that they aren't on Facebook, we thought we would post some of our photos here (you can click on most of these to see a larger version):

 Our building has sat on this corner of Fayetteville - right across from the courthouse - since 1904.

The first floor houses a law firm and we are turning the upper floors into vacation rental flats.

Downtown Fayetteville is on the National Register of Historic Places as is our building.

 We have strived to maintain the building's historic configuation, but we've made a lot of improvements to the plumbing, electrical and HVAC.

 This is the entrance to Flat # 3 - which we call "Quinnimont".

 Quinninmont's bedroom.
 Quinnimont's kitchen and living room.

The pictures below are all of Flat # 4 - "Eddy."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A few before and after photos

Construction is ongoing, but the third floor and major portions of the second floor are nearly done. Here are a few before and after photos of some of the areas where work is complete.

Before and after views of the 3rd floor hallway where the entry to Quinnimont (Flat 3) is now located.
Eddy's (Flat 4) kitchen occupies the same space as the old 3rd floor kitchen.
The 2nd floor public bathroom door has been turned into a bookcase, the wall
that formerly closed off the 3rd floor has been removed and the stair rail rebuilt.
There was much more work required to create Quinnimont's (Flat 3) living room and kitchen than this
photo implies; new plumbing, HVAC and complete refinishing of the baseboards for starters!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Shocking Photo!

Looking back at some of our "before" photos, we were struck at some of the major changes that have taken place over the past 6 months. This photo in particular evokes strong feelings for us. This old electrical system competed for room in the narrow stairwell that serves as Lafayette Flats main entrance. The former tenants called it "Old Sparky" because it did on a regular basis!

Of course, this old system was completely bypassed by the new service and the building now has 5 separate electrical systems - one for each flat and one for the offices downstairs. And the old hardware has long since been removed, leaving nothing but a bare wall.

On the opposite wall of this space will soon be a visitor's center where Lafayette Flats guests can get and leave messages and find out about all of the activities that await them in the NRG and beyond.

We're designing a tile floor for the entry way and just ordered a new mortise lock that will fit the hundred year-old front door and provide guests with keyless access to the building.