Lofty minimalist ideals of youth can mellow with age

August 01, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer

During the '70s and '80s, a good many loft-type spaces once used for manufacturing were converted into fashionable urban apartments. These trendy living quarters usually featured an abundance of square footage, huge windows and a hard, industrial-inspired interior design.

Many of the loft-dwellers, however, have proved no exception to the rule that creature comforts take precedence over stylishness as youth gives way to middle age. In a number of these spaces, minimalist seating slabs have been replaced by soft and curvy sofas. Bedroom carpeting has been installed over rubber flooring. And room partitions have been added and decorated in a -- dare it be said? -- traditional manner

As a guest in more than a couple of downtown living lofts, I certainly welcome the introduction of such bourgeois luxuries. I also value the visual comfort derived from seeing familiar furnishings and finishes.

A loft actually affords some very exciting design opportunities, even when the objective is to soften its appearance by adding some of the same elements found in suburban homes. As the photo illustrates, many built-in features in a loft, such as painted duct work, exposed brick walls and large windows and skylights, can act as a stunning background for a major alteration -- in this case, a polished marble floor. The entire surround may then be seen as a visually pleasing foil for soft fabrics and cushions and mellowed woods.

This kind of treatment strikes me as an appropriate and highly tasteful response to the human need for comfort and convenience. I also think it represents an admirable adaptation to contemporary needs, since the architectural integrity of the space has been carefully preserved.

Note that in this particular bath environment, an insert of wooden planking has been placed atop the richly veined marble tiles in the area in front of the sink. The partial wall serves as a divider between the toilet and bathing spaces. It also forms the backdrop for the single-basin pedestal sink, which is part of a vanity that includes a mirror, lighting and storage cabinets.

These simple yet sophisticated lines are carried through in all the plumbing fixtures shown here -- the bath whirlpool, curved-glass shower enclosure, toilet and bidet. Together, these units make up the "Trocadero Suite" from Kohler. That's a good choice of name, by the way, since the Trocadero area was associated with all that was fashionably modern in the Paris of the 1930s.

I chose this illustration to show that the bare bones of almost any room can be fleshed out in a comfortable and elegant manner. One needn't be living in a loft in order to introduce similarly creative variations in textures, lighting and materials.

+ Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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