Visit Fayetteville had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Mclaughlin, co-owner of Lafayette Flats, to learn more about how she and Shawn Means have preserved and transformed a historic landmark into one of the most unique places to stay in the state. The Flats are set in the heart of Fayetteville overlooking the historic downtown. The rooms are beautifully curated and filled with art, showcasing a diverse array of talented artists from West Virginia. The charm of the flats is found in the luxury accommodations and thoughtful details that abound in each flat. Guests can unwind and disconnect by soaking in a clawfoot tub and grabbing a book from their library of local authors. Amy and Shawn are dedicated to supporting local artists and have also created the New River Gorge Artist and Residency Program to help support West Virginia Arts and to continue their quest to cultivate a new narrative for our beautiful state.
Interview with Amy Mclaughlin of Lafayette Flats
1.What brought you to Fayetteville?
As West Virginia Master Naturalists and avid hikers, we often traveled from our home in Charleston, WV to the New River Gorge to explore and connect with nature. On any given weekend you might find us hiking, chasing waterfalls or foraging mushrooms in this beautiful Appalachian forest.
We’d finish an adventurous day with a delicious meal from one of Fayetteville’s wonderful restaurants and then we’d reluctantly make the hour-long drive back home.
We always wanted to stick around, relax after dinner and spend the night, but we’d grown accustomed to the creature comforts of home, not the creatures encountered while camping or the comfort available in cabins.
We thought about buying a house to use when we could and share when we couldn’t, but then we saw this big ol’ building right in the heart of Fayetteville and fell in love with its history, convenience, and beauty.
We spent the next year renovating it to create Lafayette Flats – four modern, apartment-style vacation rentals in one historic building.
So, it’s fair to say that our love of nature – but our unwillingness to sleep with it – brought us to Fayetteville.
2. What do you love about this place?
Fayetteville has an intoxicating mix of the calmness only nature can provide and the connectedness that comes from being around kind, happy people. The combination is hard to name. Our guests have called it Fayetteville magic, small-town charm, and “that Fayetteville vibe.” All we know for sure is that It brings out the best in people. Without a doubt, it brings out the best in us.
3. What are your favorite activities to do in the area, or what do you recommend for your guests to do while they are in town?
We love being walking distance to all of Fayetteville’s great restaurants, shops, bars and live music, but it’s the proximity to the New River Gorge that really gets us going. With miles of trails and countless awe-inspiring vistas, we spend as much time as possible exploring.
One of our favorite things to do is to drive down to Fayette Station and rock hop to the edge of the rapid. We love to watch the paddlers go by and experience the power and majesty of the river up close.
But there is just so much to do here. In an effort to help our guests understand all the activities available to them, we created three lists broken down into Nature, Adventure and Small Town Charm. Once they see the lists, they usually book an additional night or two.
4. What is your favorite feature of the Flats?
There is so much to love about this historic building. The fact that it is constructed of Nuttall sandstone from right here in the New River Gorge is especially precious to us since Shawn’s father was a stonemason. We understand and appreciate the hard work and artistry that went into crafting this building from such a strong material.
Inside, it’s the transoms we love the most. To comply with modern fire code, a lot of work went into preserving these small adjustable windows that were originally used for air and light flow. Today, the transoms above each of the four main doors contain a stained-glass interpretation of the flat name by West Virginia artist, Chris Dutch.
5. Why did you decide to take on a project like this and what was your inspiration?
Back in 2013 when we created Lafayette Flats Boutique Vacation Rentals, we just wanted a beautiful, comfortable and convenient place to stay, a place we could share with people like us so they could experience this paradise too. But as the blood, sweat, and tears of the remodel started flowing, our ambitions got a bit loftier.
We became obsessed with the idea of creating an alternative narrative for West Virginia by showcasing the natural beauty of the New River Gorge, the charm of Fayetteville, and the artistic talent of our fellow West Virginians. We started filling our space with original West Virginia art and literature, we set up an art fund to help add to the collection, and we developed plans to host the annual New River Gorge Creative Residency.
6. What differentiates the Flats from your typical vacation rental?
Our downtown location right across from the beautiful Fayette County Courthouse is unique; it allows our guests to park their car and relax. Lafayette Flats is close walking distance from all the great shops, restaurants and pubs Fayetteville has to offer, and many of the fun events – like the Bridge Day Chili Cookoff and the July 4th Festivities – happen right outside our front door.
But it’s the interior of Lafayette Flats that’s really special. Throughout all four of our boutique vacation rentals, we showcase more than 150 original pieces of contemporary art by over 100 West Virginia artists. Staying at Lafayette Flats is like sleeping in an art gallery, which as you already know, we find much more appealing than sleeping in the woods.
7. What is your favorite shop in town?
We love all the little shops throughout this charming small town, and we are so impressed by the diversity of goodies available, but there is one shop that we think completely embodies the Fayetteville vibe – Water Stone Outdoors.
It is such a treat to be located across the street from Water Stone and all the friendly people that work there. Our proximity to this long-time Fayetteville destination is a great amenity for our guests, too. They can simply cross the street to find high-quality outdoor gear, expert advice, and now, since Rangefinder opened inside, even delicious coffee!
8. What is your favorite place to eat and favorite dish?
There are so many great locally-owned restaurants in Fayetteville that sometimes it can be hard to choose. In fact, we got so many questions from our guests that we created a food guide to help them find the perfect place to suit their palate.
We both have enthusiastic palates and love all the outstanding restaurants in Fayetteville. A few of our favorite dishes include Brussel sprouts from Secret Sandwich Society, homemade granola from Wood Iron Eatery, black bean with pork pizza from Pies and Pint, the pub burger from The Station and carrot cake from Cathedral Café.