Loft Full of Curves

Loft: Section 1 towards stairs

See the work:

The loft full of curves is the result of our Design Project I course. The goal was a from-the-bare-concrete renovation for a Westboro loft apartment. The client was John Spencer, a senior designer at William McDonough + Partners. As a single man in his 40s, he needed space to live, work, and entertain, but wanted to avoid walls. He insisted on at least 30% sustainable materials, enjoyed transparent materials, and hoped for minimal use of colour, and space to display his art collection.

We began by researching the history of the loft and the client’s favourite designers, brainstorming three different possible layouts that satisfied the program, and selected one to develop further. The design development and selection process is recorded in the preliminary work file for the project. To arrive at the final design, I took elements from several of the preliminary designs and added some new ones. Because the mezzanine, stairs, and other elements are curves and spirals, I started calling the project “loft full of curves”.

Final plans for Loft Full of Curves, in AutoCAD
Mezzanine and main floor plans.

Now that the floorplan was finalized, we selected and specified materials. I wanted the loft to have a timeless, natural feel that was beautiful without relying on opulent materials. I didn’t want it to belong strongly to a specific era or culture, but to be subtly global, to make a reference or two to the Industrial Revolution, and to complement Norval Morrisseau’s Artist and Shaman Between Two Worlds, on loan to the client. To me that meant wooden furniture with simple but not excessively modern lines, and minimal use of metal. Floors are generally red oak or cork, walls covered in rice paper or paint. As many materials as I could find were vintage, reused, recycled, salvaged, low-VOC, and local.1 Closet doors are shoji doors, since those are translucent, simple, traditional, modern, and global all at once, and they went nicely with the window grids without overwhelming the space.

Loft: Vignette of pixellated glass wall
Vignette of entry and pixellated glass wall above

I did want to use plenty of glass, but not in the typical modern slab. Instead I used sintered glass (like a sheet of crushed and fused jewels) and glass mosaic tile, both recycled. The bathroom is clad inside and out in glass. Inside, it is entirely covered in clear and aqua glass mosaic tile, and all the surfaces curved where they join, so that the bathroom is a single continuous surface except for its chrome, glass, and white porcelain fixtures, and curved glass shower surround. The solid wall comes only to six feet. Above that, translucent aqua sintered glass sheet attached to the exterior side of the wall is both a window and privacy barrier. The view from the outside shows the aqua glass gradually pixellating out into white plaster through a transition of glass mosaic tile, and continuing over the half-wall to the stairs. This art wall is visible from the living and dining space below, and forms part of their palette — a soft but pleasant contrast with the warm woods, unbleached rice paper, and opal glass lights below.

There are also murals by a local artist, Mark Seabrook, in the same style as Artist and Shaman Between Two Worlds, but in cafe-au-lait and cream to co-ordinate without upstaging. The pillar murals are visible from everywhere in the first floor, and another group surrounds the built-in buffet under the serving counter.

Finally, there are the quarter-circle stairs of red oak and black iron. Red oak stringers and balusters, with black iron openwork steps and railings, so as not to block the light streaming in from the window. Black iron is a strong and beautiful material with so much history, recalling both Victorian cogwheels and curlicues, the plenty and ruin industry can give us.

Our final submissions for the project were the final plans and sections, and the client booklet with rendered vignettes, plans, sections, and digital sample boards.

  1. At least half of them were at least one of these things, and many were several. I tried to keep within a hundred-mile radius, but couldn’t for everything, but I don’t recall anything having to be imported from another continent.