A Loft Grows Up
Lessons from a couple who refined their former factory space with selective upgrades, street smarts, and a little help from TOH
A block-long abyss in the asphalt right outside the door. Forty-one steep, narrow, sloping steps up to the third floor. Sleeping four to a walled-off room while construction was in full swing.
Every remodel has its rough spots—and Sara Lopergolo and Ed Wood's downtown Manhattan loft redo was no exception. In fact, the crew ended up having to maneuver building materials through street repairs that exposed underground pipes all along the couple's block—ruling out convenient curbside delivery. Then there was the 19th-century building's lack of an elevator, which cost even more time and money as deliveries had to be lugged up and debris carted down. Add in typical renovation headaches like having to eat out every night at a local diner with kids Chiara, 9, and Bennett, 6, as the dusty construction work dragged on, and you've got a glimpse into the challenges of this urban loft renovation.
Luckily, the serene finished space bears no trace of the in-the-moment dramas. "I'd do it again, but I'd handle a lot of things differently," Lopergolo says of the lessons she learned. For starters, she'd follow the advice she gives her own clients: Never live in a space undergoing a major renovation.
But in the end, with TOH's help, the couple got the upgraded space they needed, with better bathrooms, more efficient insulation and windows, and tidy built-in options for beds, desks, and storage areas. "I love it now," she says. "I can cook comfortably, and everything is where it belongs."
Read on for the design principles that helped Lopergolo realize her vision for the loft redo.
Gaining a big space with an industrial flavor is the main reason the homeowners went to the trouble of converting a former eyeglass factory. So the goal was to enhance the original aluminum window casings, brick walls, terrazzo floor, beams—all on view in the living area—that recall the space's industrial past.
Of course, committing to existing elements meant some upgrades couldn't be the same as in a conventional house. To keep the ceiling beams exposed, for instance, the couple only installed insulation between the beams, which does reduce its efficiency in muffling noise. Meanwhile, to avoid breaking through the terrazzo floor, they abandoned plans to upgrade to a basement boiler and radiators. Instead, they bought a slimmer, updated version of the Empire gas furnace that stood near the front windows. Unlike the old one, this model has a covered pilot light so the flame doesn't blow out. The window casings went largely untouched, but a Corian-topped, 25-foot-long window seat was created specifically to cover up the badly rusted sills.
Besides the obvious notion of a rug, table, chairs, and credenza
to define a dining area, Lopergolo used the furniture's deep wood tones to distinguish it from the living area's all-gray seating on one side and the kitchen's white cabinets on the other.
In addition to a unified appearance from every angle, the high-gloss, one-wall white kitchen—open to the adjacent dining and living areas—also has a clean look thanks to some clever enclosed-storage ideas.
A European-style cupboard, for instance, holds two drying-rack inserts and a drip pan for keeping hand-washed dishes off the counters and out of sight.
Deep drawers, which Lopergolo likes for storing everything from bread to blenders, also organize cleaning products in a U-shaped under-sink pullout. The drawer below it holds trash and recycling bins. Lopergolo was
also able to squeeze in
6 extra inches of elbow room between the new island and the wall counter. "Before, 36 inches was too tight," she says. "But 42 inches allows two people
to work comfortably
back to back."
Adding even one additional source of natural light can make a big difference in the way long, narrow loft spaces look and feel. Removing a wall exposed one of three windows in back to channel light into the center of the loft and in the process created a homework nook for the kids. Two interior walls now separate the kids' side-by-side bedrooms. Trading up from a drafty factory window to
a better-insulated Andersen unit of the same size was a custom job, but worth it. With one desk under the window and another
in a niche along the adjoining wall, both
kids have a bright, comfortable work area they can linger in.
When open is the theme, even bathrooms can present a chance to break down some barriers. In this case, they were the only enclosed spaces without windows, so Lopergolo used a few tricks to make them as big and bright as possible. Unifying the old side-by-side half and full baths into one continuous 13-foot-wide wet room divided by a shower that opens into both sides made the spaces feel larger.
It also gained them 6 inches by eliminating the tub. Kohler frosted-glass shower walls spread light between the two sides while preserving some privacy. White wall tiles and marble floor tiles also reflect available light.
In the mudroom, which serves as the front vestibule, 10-inch-deep cubbies establish neatness. Painted a neutral gray, they almost disappear against the metal entry door—upgraded with a sleek Schlage keyless lock—and a patch of concrete floor.
Built-ins corral clutter and free up floor space—a big bonus in kids' rooms. The new hallway homework nook narrowed both bedrooms by 2 to 3 feet. "And with narrower spaces, it's best to make something like a ship's sleep cabins," Lopergolo says. The resulting double bunks (to be finished with upper safety rails) are clear-varnished maple with paneling that climbs the wall and wraps the ceiling. Six-inch-thick ledges of pine are bolted to walls on three sides to support the frames, leaving the area under the bottom one free
for storing toys and clothes."It's cozier now, and the kids love it," says Lopergolo.
While the basic layout remained unchanged, a new kitchen and bath, plus built-ins for beds, desks, and storage, refined the 1,900-square-foot loft into a
more comfortable, family-friendly home.