Turning converted loft into stylish individual space

Design Line

September 09, 2007|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Tribune Media Services

I live in a converted city loft with the usual factory wooden floors and poorly finished wooden ceiling. I think it must be new but made to look original. There are thousands of such apartments, and they all look industrially the same. Any ideas on how I can make the space more cheerful and not minimal? I like modern design.

The photo below can give you some ideas as far as the floor and ceiling and some color ideas. It was taken from Italian Designers at Home.

The floor is marble, which may not be affordable, but check out the price anyway. Then look at some large-scale ceramic pavers that look like stone or marble, as well as other possibilities such as low-pile carpet tiles. The wood on the ceiling could easily be the same color as the walls, spray-painted white to make it more cheerful and hopefully not like a machine shop.

The photo shows a very modern way to bring some interest and color into a space. It is a space in a renovated building adjoining a Palladian villa, where at one time the farmers lived and worked. It is now the home of Cleto Munari, who has produced objects in collaboration with some of the greatest designers in the world.

Even though furnishings are minimal, brilliant colors are used to good effect in furniture, wall panels and doors. It becomes a setting and an unusual design statement in an industrial space.

If such a minimal and avant-garde look doesn't suit your taste -- and I must admit it is not everyone's cup of tea -- such spaces can often be treated with a mix of traditionally designed furniture. For example, if the bones of your space, the furniture and color choice were as they are in the photo, it would be interesting to add a Regency- or even Victorian-style sofa with an area rug in a geometric Turkish design, along with some realistic, even academic, paintings.

As part of a planned renovation, we're considering converting an unused maid's room into a home office. Another option is to leave the space unchanged and use it as a catchall activities room.

That's my husband's preference, but I'm sure the clutter would quickly become unmanageable -- and unsightly, too. Help me argue in favor of the home-office alternative. Please offer some suggestions for an attractive design that I can then present to my husband.

I don't want to play the role of referee, but it's true that a home office can easily be made to function as a well-organized space -- which can never be the case, by definition, with a catchall activities room.

The first thing to consider is how many people will use a home office. The larger the number, the greater the need for storage units. Stowing stuff efficiently is the key to an attractive design for any home office.

The actual look of such a space is a matter of personal taste. You can furnish it in the style of a 19th-century library, for example, but the success of the design will ultimately depend on how you arrange the computer, the printer, the scanner and all the other electronic equipment and filing systems used in a 21st-century home office.

I recommend that you draw up a detailed layout showing where these items are to be situated. It should also take account of lighting concerns, which are often overlooked in home offices.

Be sure to include task lighting as well as ambient lighting that will help make working conditions pleasant both in the daytime and at night. The decision on where to position a computer should also be based in part on lighting factors. Guard the screen against glare from either indoor or outdoor sources.

The room should also be insulated from noise in adjacent spaces.

Combine all these considerations, add some flair, and the result may be a highly functional home office that's also good-looking.

Rita St. Clair is a Baltimore-based interior designer. Readers with general interior design questions can e-mail her at rsca@ritastclair.com.

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