A Loft For The Loft
Tim McKeough -- Interior Design, 9/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Raising a young family in New York often requires a little ingenuity—as a couple of creative parents found out. He's a photographer, she's a graphic designer, and, with two growing boys, the family's 1,100-square-foot SoHo loft was starting to feel like it was shrinking. Looking to carve out a little more breathing room, the couple recruited Leeser Architecture.
"There was already a small loft in place above the bathroom. Once you got up there, though, you had to crouch," says project designer Joseph Haberl, who developed renovation plans with principal Thomas Leeser. Given the apartment's 13-foot ceiling, there was no way to lower the loft entirely, and that's where the pair's ingenuity came into play.
The new loft does dip down to 6 feet—but only for a 2-foot-wide stretch along the apartment's sidewall. This creates a front-to-back walkway that allows even the tallest family member to move comfortably without stealing precious headroom from most of the kitchen. To one side of this circulation path, the designers divided the higher part of the loft in three sections: two sleeping areas in a row, followed by a lounge at the rear.
The sections are separated by polypropylene bookcases placed back to back, sandwiching a sheet of translucent acrylic. The young family is already accustomed to tight quarters, so this arrangement provides enough privacy while allowing natural light to filter through. Because the three areas are so connected, the designers carried the same simple, colorful look from front to back, with geometric-patterned sheets and bright-orange chairs.
Early in the process, the designers had envisioned constructing the sweeping profile of the loft from a single sheet of aluminum. However, in the end, they turned to affordable MDF. For a glimmering finish, they used multiple coats of white spray paint, four coats of lacquer, and a final buff with Turtle Wax. "Even without the metal, we hoped to achieve the same aesthetic in the sense that the beauty of the project was in the openness and the interlocking forms," Haberl explains, pointing out how the loft rises to terminate at a row of columns.
Equally cost-conscious, the way down to the main floor is via what he calls a "hijacked prefabricated staircase": generic steel fitted with custom tread covers of smooth stainless. At the bottom of the stair, the living area delivers another hit of juicy orange in the form of squared-off credenzas and streamlined seating, custom designs, while a child's racetrack makes an artful loop on the white-stained floor.
Both the kitchen and dining area stick to simple lines and a palette of white with metal. In the kitchen, that entails stainless-steel appliances and the white MDF fronts of 6-foot-high pullout cabinets, inserted beneath the loft's sunken walkway, plus the island's base units in anodized-aluminum laminate and counter of white plastic laminate. The dining area's metal elements are the stainless-steel and chrome bases, respectively, of the table and the Karim Rashid chairs, with white represented by a lacquered tabletop and ABS plastic seats. The entire group is bathed in the cool white glow of a Jasper Morrison pendant globe.
Both the public areas below and the private ones above perform a balancing act, projecting glossy refinement while maintaining an airy playfulness. Functionally, the family gained 600 square feet of space, which is enough—for now. Should the need arise for more, there's a backup plan: Leeser Architecture has already designed a second platform for the living area.