Flexible, transmutable elements can shape a new space


With floor-plan labels such as Shaker Box, Doghouse Elevator, and the Void, White Street Loft promises an entertaining experience, and it doesn’t disappoint. Occupying the ground floor of a converted Manhattan commercial building and parts of the two floors below, the “inverse triplex” stands convention on its head at every turn. Architects Dan Wood, AIA, LEED AP, and Amale Andraos credit their clients—a fashion designer, an investment banker, and their two children—with pushing the pedal to the metal on creativity. The architects responded with an urban residential tour de force that, even at its most whimsical, supports and enriches a thriving family life.

The fun starts on the ground level, where a succession of connected spaces—each with a distinct character and palette of materials—serve living, dining, kitchen, and hangout functions. A stark white living room with an epoxy-painted floor opens directly onto the sidewalk, a gridwork of metal–fabric panels overhead screening the lighting fixtures mounted on the 16-foot ceiling. Moving deeper into the apartment, one mounts two risers to enter the Shaker Box, a gift-to-be-simple bamboo-paneled tube whose floor lifts to become a Japanese-style dining table. Beyond the Box, a generous kitchen with a purple concrete floor adjoins a family room lined—top, bottom, and sides—with heavy gray felt. A ladder accesses the Cousin’s Loft, an elevated sleeping nook with a mattress for a floor.

A three-story open stairwell—the Void—mediates between these public spaces and the rear of the apartment, which Wood and Andraos reconfigured to yield three stories of approximately equal height. Steel-grate stairs with free-form plywood railings communicate between floors, while a doghouse-shaped lift provides a shortcut for children and the family pet. A second stair, enclosed with corrugated polycarbonate panels, spans the Void’s narrow dimension, linking the master bedroom to a clothes closet below the kitchen. Located at the rear of the building, the bedrooms share a system of skylights and light wells that, along with a narrow backyard at the subbasement, funnel daylight through all three levels.

The result of all this fresh thinking is a clubhouse experience for kids and—during the parents’ frequent soirees—for adults, too. At fashion-industry gatherings, removable panels join the apartment’s dining tables to create a catwalk for models. To signal mealtime, cables lower a glass panel from the living room ceiling, complete with place settings and lit candles, which links with the catwalk to form a 50-foot dining table. Later, those who tire of dancing in the Shaker Box can retire to the subbasement’s windowless, hexagonal Tequila Nook. “You go in there, and time basically stops,” says Wood, who evidently speaks from experience. “The project was fun from beginning to end,” he adds, “and it’s still fun, because we go over there for dinner sometimes. But what’s really fun is how much the family lives in it. They really live every inch of it, and every idea.”