Anita Kealey's Sioux Falls loft once was the historic R.F. Pettigrew Building's top-floor ballroom, where Anita took ballet lessons as a teen and where her father's orchestra played in the 1940s and '50s. Built in 1889 by Sen. R.F. Pettigrew, the building originally had a third-floor assembly hall for the Odd Fellows with offices and apartments below.
In the early 1980s, Anita moved back to Sioux Falls from New York, where she attended design school. As a 25-year-old interior designer, she inquired about the three-story quartzite building and bought it. "I just thought this building was so cool, especially since I had this history with it," she says.
At first, Anita had no plans to turn the building into a home. Her new company, The Design Studio Inc., moved in and transformed the first two floors into retail/commercial space. A buyer for the top floor backed out, so Anita considered renovating the space as condos. "We finally thought, why not take the best views for ourselves?" she says.
A tiled fireplace wall divides the living room from the den. Built-in shelves display pottery from local artisans and Anita's own glass pieces.
Anita's loft was the result of months of often frustrating work. In addition to restoring the building's windows and quartzite facade, Anita had to deal with ancient or nonexistent plumbing and mechanical systems; crumbling paint, plaster and mortar; and layers of past remodels.
Workers removed four levels of ceilings to uncover the arched windows in the great-room and realized there was space for a lofted office/workroom. "We tried to salvage everything we could," Anita says. "You don't want to be wasteful if you can help it."
Cubist artwork by Romanian artist Constantin Tanasache complements the contemporary dark brown leather dining room furniture from Emporio Beraldin.
Anita decorated the loft to have a classic look that incorporates modern aesthetics. She chose warm, neutral background colors and earthy textures in tile, flooring and furnishings. On top of that, she layered colorful artwork and accents.
"I think the biggest mistake is trying to mix too many things. It's better to have consistency in things like the woodwork, the use of stainless steel and color -- things that are understated, but carry a consistent theme all the way through. I didn't want it to look like a patchwork quilt," Anita says.
Emporio Beraldin 
Anita wanted to enjoy both the wide-open loft feel as well as have cozy gathering places. At one end of the kitchen peninsula, curved Italian oak bar stools overlook a fireplace wall and plasma TV with a comfortable seating area.
The kitchen integrates stainless steel appliances with clean-lined, quarter-sawn oak cabinetry. Because Anita and her husband, John, like to entertain, a long, galley-style kitchen was a priority.
Dacor (appliances) 
Bosch (dishwasher) 
StarMark Cabinetry 
Top Knobs (hardware) 
Kohler (trough sink) 
Reeded-glass French doors open to the library. Anita repurposed the original cornice to the Pettigrew bank vault as the fireplace mantel in the library. The cornice looks seamless with the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired tile fireplace surround, yet highlights a piece of the building's history and exemplifies what Anita wanted to achieve in her loft.
"I feel that it's timeless, yet very urban, with a lot of warmth," she says. "I don't like to create cookie-cutter designs, so this is kind of an eclectic mix of Craftsman meets modern classic."
In her free time, Anita designs her own line of couture evening gowns in her lofted workspace.
A leather headboard from Emporio Beraldin spans almost an entire wall in the sunny master bedroom. A bonus during renovation: When workers removed the orchestra stage (now the master bedroom and back hall), they discovered pristine wood floors underneath.
In designing the loft, Anita roughly divided the 5,000-square-foot rectangle to take advantage of the views. Living areas face the large street-side windows, and bedrooms and baths sit at the rear of the building.
Elaborate tin ceilings; high, arched windows; and other details help make the space not only Anita's home but also part of her history. And whenever she wants to step back into her childhood, she still has the same maple ballroom floors -- now restored -- for dancing.
(A version of this story appeared in Midwest Living® January/February 2009.)
M-Boss Tin Ceilings 
Desco Windows