World traveler finds home base in loft

Anurita is a young, dynamic woman who is passionate about human rights. She traded in a successful career as a journalist to work in Africa as an international advocate for its most vulnerable citizens: children and those devastated by the HIV/AIDS crisis. While she spends a lot of time traveling for work, she decided to buy a loft in the city, a place in which she could unpack her suitcases and decompress after her long trips.

While the small loft is open and airy, its lack of charm made it feel like just another space to Anurita. Although she bought the loft two years ago, she just didn’t have time to devote to its design. So, she called me in to see if I could turn it into a stylish space in which she could entertain guests, house international visitors and display her beloved African artifacts.

The loft has great bones — wood flooring, exposed brick, high ceilings and big windows — so no structural work was needed. My challenge was to organize things spatially and make the small, empty loft both fashionable and cozy.

I sectioned off the area into three main zones: a dining area, a living area and an office area. In the dining room I designed two oversized cabinets in a dark finish to match the existing dining room table. The tall cabinets enhance the soaring height of the loft’s ceiling, and I designed them with open backs so they wouldn’t hide any of the room’s brickwork (which covers three out of four walls). The two wall units flank a paisley, armless sofa that functions as a seating bench at the table. Additional chairs — two upholstered in teal blue and two in a light cream — complete the look.

In the living area I put in comfortable and eclectic furniture and accents, including an exotic area rug, a beautiful bergere chair and a contemporary L-shaped sectional in a cream herringbone. One side of this sectional houses a pullout, inflatable mattress.

Behind the sectional was the one wall not covered in brick, so I decided to turn it into a feature wall. I painted it in a soft blue color, and then gathered some of Anurita’s favorite quotes and applied them in metallic tones via vinyl transfers.

I then cordoned off a section of living space that will function as an office. To separate it from the main living area, I put in a 9-foot long dark wood console table. I also put in one of the room’s coolest features: a metallic bead screen made of multiple chains hung from a track on the ceiling.

The room had a lot of natural light from its two large windows. On these windows I put up woven wooden blinds with blackout linings to control the light when needed. I then put up long, luxurious drapery panels in a soft linen fabric.

I also installed a halogen track light from the ceiling that drops down about 18 inches to clear all of the ductwork and plumbing. This way Anurita will have light where she needs it — not up in the rafters.

After I added all of Anurita’s amazing African mementos — art, photos and other artifacts — the space was finally complete. By combining a lot of personality with a hint of luxury, this once style-starved loft got a makeover worthy of a world-weary traveler. Now it’s the perfect place for Anurita to call home. How divine!

Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of HGTV’s “Divine Design.” For more ideas or information visit Her column is syndicated by Scripps Howard News Service.

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