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Literary Loft

Gwenyfar Rohler readies to open book-themed B&B

Writer, arts enthusiast, and Old Books on Front Street managing partner GWENYFAR ROHLER invites you to take a step into her habitable homage to North Carolina literature. To visit Rohler’s bed and breakfast above her bookstore, cleverly dubbed The Top Shelf, is sort of like reading a good story.

Let’s start at the beginning. Quite literally, the steps to her second-floor B&B replicate the spines of books by authors who have had some relationship with our Southern state – whether born, lived, researched, or visited. Pass by Wiley Cash’s A Land More Kind Than Home, just above Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and five stair steps below Steven Martin’s Shopgirl. Some of the names may surprise you, but that’s part of Rohler’s mission.

“My goal is to continue celebrating those authors who have already been celebrated, but to also give recognition to those who deserve it,” Rohler says.

Now that she’s got you hooked, enter the kitchen, featuring a giant North Carolina map mural painted by local artist Jill Webb, which identifies the precise areas to which 175 writers can be linked. On the lower southeastern corner, I spot a list that includes Karen Bender, Robert Siegel, and Rebecca Lee.

Turn the page to the bedroom, where the poetry and erotica books are appropriately housed. Writers who feel inspired may choose to engage with the well-functioning antique typewriter, which practically begs to be touched on the desk next to the brass bed frame. Most notably, light from the common area seeps into the bedroom walls through custom-made stained glass windows with, of course, bookish themes.

“The hardest part was choosing which windows would go where,” Rohler says, while I point to and admire the one featuring a writer’s quill and inkwell. Others may feel especially charmed by the glass image of a tabby cat sitting on a stack of books.

Outside the bedroom setting and around the corner, we finally approach the centerpiece of it all – the oversized Scrabble board painted on the floor.

“On a Sunday morning two years ago in October, I distinctly remember thinking of it,” Rohler says. “That’s when I knew we’re going to have a Scrabble board.”

Coincidentally, almost two years after her Scrabble premonition, Rohler is nearly ready to open the doors to The Top Shelf. She will host an opening party on September 28, and they’re already taking reservations for October 1 onward.

Rohler still needs to check a couple things off the literary loft list, like hanging pictures including artwork by local author Clyde Edgerton – and making Scrabble board tile pieces.

Other features include a brand new Murphy bed, mid-century modern futon, and red velvet drapes from the 1920s. The loft can sleep five adults or four adults and two children.

“What I want for us is to be the like the West Coast’s Powell’s and City Lights,” Rohler says. “When you think about the East Coast, I want people to know the Strand and that funky bookstore in Wilmington, which is why we’re doing things like the loft.”

For more information about The Top Shelf, 249 North Front Street, call the bookstore at 762-6657 or go to thetopshelfaliteraryloft.com.


To view more of photographer Chris Brehmer's work, go to www.chrisbrehmerphotography.com


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