Flexible, transmutable elements can shape a new space


Loft living is all about open space, and this renovation honors that quality while also making intimacy an option. The owners lived for 10 years in a compartmentalized warehouse loft in Boston’s Leather District before hiring Studio Luz Architects to rethink the space. Principals Hansy Better Barraza, AIA, LEED AP, and Anthony Piermarini, AIA, gutted the apartment and then set about improving the room proportions and reinventing the drywall partitions with something more flexible and diffuse.

The 1,200-square-foot loft is organized as a simple rectangular box with the “wet” areas stationed against the long wall that houses the plumbing core. An open kitchen, dining, and living area are naturally lit by three arched windows at one end of the loft, while the adjacent private rooms—a small office/guest room, master bedroom, and bathroom—operate on the scale of large furniture pieces. Each room is fitted with a combination of translucent sliders and storage walls that stop short of the ceiling, preserving a sense of the entire loft. To give the bedroom a bit more separation, the architects raised it on a platform, with bookshelves nested beneath that face the living room.

“We did almost the opposite of the typical all-open loft floor plan, but with movable, translucent materials so the clients can choose different levels of openness depending on whether they’re entertaining, hosting overnight guests and wanting their own privacy, or alone and letting the dogs have optimal space,” Barraza says.

Nearly every new wall surface is embedded with custom storage, and the material palette mixes hard and soft surfaces. Damaged Douglas fir flooring was swapped out for new Douglas fir, which is fairly soft and will feel lived–in as it ages. “The owners wanted the character of the loft’s materials to come through—heavy timber beams, brick walls, wood floors—and a minimal intervention that would create a backdrop to their life, not impose itself,” Piermarini says. The bedroom’s deep red closet is made of MDF with a pigmented conversion varnish similar to the spray finish used on cars. The closet’s center bay on the opposite side, facing the entry hall, is used as a coat closet. Its doors pull out and slide sideways, almost like a DeLorean, to conserve hallway space; oversize drawers on the bottom store linens and seasonal goods. Clad in fiberglass with an epoxy resin, the bedroom platform and steps read as a monolithic slab.

Barraza and Piermarini characterize the Leather District Loft as an experiment in adding function with minimal fuss. Panels that glide vertically or horizontally factor into the open living area too. In addition to the concealed television cabinet and wine collection, the dining table is a 7-foot cantilever that can seat the couple, host a party of six, or completely disappear into the island when not needed. “We incorporated stops for different settings so the table can be locked into place,” Barraza says.

“The clients had a specific vision they wanted to achieve,” Piermarini says. “We were constantly inspiring each other to make this place better.”