With their high ceilings, open spaces and big windows, urban lofts are the ultimate in cool. But go wrong with the design, and "cool" can quickly turn to "cold."
My client, Gerald, had just such a problem. Eager for loft living, he bought a unit in a beautiful historical building, but soon discovered it was cramped, uninviting and, aside from the concrete floor and a few uncovered pipes, had none of the detailing of an authentic loft.
Gerald longed for a warm and modern living space that would lend itself to lots of entertaining, and asked me to help. I had only 600 square feet of living space to work with, and into that space I had to address the kitchen, the living/dining areas -- and Gerald's prized piano. My big challenge was to give this small space maximum efficiency.
As an open space, the loft had four elevations that I needed to contend with. The kitchen took up one side of the living space. Due to its size, there was no room for a formal dining table, so I used a gorgeous black-quartz counter to create a spacious island and placed lots of seating around it. That way it can serve as both a kitchen prep area and as a perfect dining spot for guests.
A lack of storage was a big problem for Gerald. So, taking advantage of the great vertical space in the room, I used the wall adjacent to the kitchen as a place for all his stuff. First, I covered the wall in a warm gray faux brick for that truly authentic loft look, and then put up cabinetry that included a media unit and floating wooden shelves.
In the center of the room I created a floating furniture arrangement that included a long creamy sofa backed by a beautiful walnut credenza, two chairs and a few side tables. I also customized Gerald's existing storage bench with an upholstered velvet top, turning it into a luxurious, ottoman-style coffee table. I anchored all the furniture with an "area rug" of charcoal, brown, taupe and cream carpet tiles.
Gerald is an accomplished pianist and needed the perfect backdrop for his dazzling black piano. So on the third wall I used a sparkling glitz-and-glam treatment. First, I created three giant frames painted in a bronzy luxe finish. Then, for added bling, I filled the frames with antique mirrored panels and placed a shimmering polished chrome sconce inside each one.
I didn't want to cover up the floor-to-ceiling windows with drapes. Instead, I opted for gliding fabric panels in a light linen shade, hung from a ceiling-mounted track system. These panels will diffuse sunlight and provide some privacy -- and, best of all, they operate with a remote control!
To further brighten things up, I used a mix of gorgeous lighting fixtures that included a drum-pendant crystal chandelier over the living-room area, white pendant lights above the island and a variety of stunning floor and table lamps.
I decided to increase the sense of space inside Gerald's loft by carrying the design theme out into his small terrace. To visually connect the two spaces, I continued the carpet pattern outside using a weatherproof version of the interior tiles. Then I turned the exterior space into a casual lounge area by furnishing it with two love seats, a modern-day picnic table and two elegant benches -- all made of a handsome woven, weatherproof material.
Turning the boxy, cold space into an inviting elegant loft was not without its challenges. But, by mixing function with style, and by maximizing all the space at hand, I was able to give Gerald a stylish, modern home where he can relax, entertain -- and tickle the ivories way into the wee hours.
Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of HGTV's ''Candice Tells All.'' For more ideas, information and show times visit http://www.hgtv.com/candice-tells-all/show/index.html. Her column is syndicated by Scripps Howard News Service.