Carlos’ Custom DIY Loft

House Tour

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Name: Carlos E. Fernández-Dieppa
Location: Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York
Size: 670 square feet
Years lived in: 1.5 years; rented

Carlos Fernández takes the expression "one man's trash is another man's treasure" to a whole other level. Carlos is a resourceful and highly intelligent designer who never lets a single item go to waste. His custom pieces are thoughtful and functional, with a playful flair. To say that the slideshow cannot do this handcrafted loft justice is an understatement. In his home, surrounded by his creations, Carlos truly comes alive; he is energetic, vibrant, and will excitedly share with you the history of any piece.

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He is also warm, friendly and completely down-to-earth; it's no wonder that he sees beauty in every piece of scrap wood, glass, metal, and plastic New York City has to offer. It's out of this true craftsmanship and his absolute passion for design that Carlos' studio, CreoCreo, was born.

Carlos received his BFA in Glass from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and an MFA in Interior Design from Parsons the New School for Design. This art and design background, mixed with a lifelong passion for the "study of environment and the human condition," has led him to teach classes in glassblowing, art for adults with disabilities, and metal fabrication and 3D modeling, as well as taking interior design outside the conventional box. He had the vision to turn this open space into a two-bedroom apartment that's very different from most city lofts. Where most units build up vertically, with the a ladder leading up to a lofted bed at the celling, Carlos built actual bedrooms with walls reminiscent of traditional Japanese Shoji screens, with a modern spin. The screens are made out metal and frosted glass, while the whole bedroom structure from concept to finish was built by Carlos with the help of his girlfriend, Carolyn, and friends (see before photos + digital floor plan sketch at the end of the slideshow).

The rest of the furniture and apartment decor are deceptively clever; the closet is a rolling rack that tucks away in an often neglected bit of negative space between the wall and bedroom, while the other closet is hidden behind a tapestry in-between. Most of the shelves and tables were built to move if necessary; the tabletops come off from the legs and fold away. Carlos' marble desktop is made with a throwaway island from Tony's Pizzeria, a pizza joint that has been around since my parents grew up in Brooklyn. You will also find velcro-affixed floorboard as wall decoration and a one-legged stool that hangs on a hook above the couch. Carlos' loft is a visual playground that's full of surprises; it's like being inside the Willy Wonka Factory of interior design.

The DIY plant wall is one of Carlos' favorite pieces to look at; it is an ever-changing work-in-progress that shifts around according to the plants' need for light and water. Carlos' friend jokingly mentioned that he made an "accidental pet-safe planter." Though Carlos does not have any pets himself, one man's accident may just be a treasure for the rest of us.

To see more from Carlos or contact him directly, please visit Creo Creo Studio, his Etsy shop, or his highlighted shelving on Fab.com.

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I strive to design and create in a timeless way. I love objects that tell a story, and ones which are just beginning to record their own. I’m an artist, designer, and maker balled into one. I’m constantly balancing function, aesthetics, and the pursuit for inspiration.

Inspiration: Buckminster Fuller, Andrea Zittel, The Eameses, Shaker furniture, my grandfathers’ amazing plants and gardens, Spanish colonial architecture, compact living, and a good flea market.

Favorite Element: The plant wall. From the beginning I’ve always wanted to retain a feeling of openness in the space while establishing separate areas. The plant wall functions in such a way where you can either focus on it, or on the background. Its irregular pattern nicely breaks the grid created by the old factory windows, while not obstructing them completely.

Biggest Challenge: Fitting three people into a small open space. We sleep and have most of our personal possessions in less than 175 square feet. While that's a feat in its own right, having the right chemistry of people is equally as important. Carolyn and I feel so lucky to have met our current roommate Lindsay Powell, aka Fielded.

What Friends Say: I love the plants, but how do you guys… you know?

Biggest Embarrassment: We still haven’t completely sealed the windows. They look cool, but make it difficult to maintain a pleasant temperature throughout the year.

Proudest DIY: The bedrooms. They are the biggest constructed pieces in the space. The design is an exploration of converting a bedroom into quite literally that, a room for a bed. Many of the apartments I have had in New York have been small, with even smaller closets. Those spaces always made me feel like I was just sleeping in a storage closet of my stuff. The intention here is to prioritize everything in order to have easy access to things needed often, and limited access to seldom used or seasonal objects. Having this more structured means of storage means that while the rooms are small, they are visually calming once inside. I just want to quickly thank Dan Brohawn, Victoria Valencia, Steven Ma, Larson Harley, and of course Carolyn Murphy for all of the hard work you put into helping construct these. You are all amazing people, and talented artists. Look’em up!

Biggest Indulgence: The plants. They require a lot of time to maintain, and can be fairly expensive depending on the type and size. I wouldn’t trade them for anything, but you really need to love them to keep them happy!

Best Advice: Constantly work on your space. Our domicile grows and changes with us. I like to think of our living spaces as an opportunity to express not only our personality, but also our history. I believe that we are our own historians, and the pieces we chose to surround ourselves with are reminders of who we are, whether it's for the purpose of self reflection, or to tell your friends a cool story.

Dream Sources: Unlimited Gift Card for McMaster-Carr (I know, super dorky…), Matter, continuing to trade with my friends, traditional wood furniture straight from the countryside in Puerto Rico.

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Resources of Note:

ENTRY

  • Shoe Rack: I built this out of scrap wood leftover from various home improvements.
  • Stool: The legs on the stool were made from leftover railing spindles from a railing commission I had last summer, the top is made from reclaimed Douglas fir.
  • Neoprene & Nitrile Sign: Found at a factory in Philadelphia I broke into when I was nineteen.
  • Mirror: Left by my friend Dan.
  • Bike Storage: Pullies from the Ace on Knickerbocker and my Eagle Scout acquired knot tying skills :)

LIVING ROOM

  • Leather Sectional: Unknown designer, acquired for free via the universe.
  • Coffee Table: The stainless steel top and sawhorses were found on our block. I sanded and refinished the stainless top and modified the sawhorse legs.
  • The Wall: Each piece has its own story. I like to reward the inquisitive. I have amassed the collection throughout the years. It ranges from objects found in abandoned factories in and around Philadelphia, junk stores in multiple cities, a flea market in Rome, my own material explorations, and a gift or two. There’s even something I found in the apartment when I moved in.
  • Metal sculpture: I was showing somebody how to use a roller and came out with this accidental homage to Richard Serra.
  • Glass piece: The last remnants of a project I did in undergrad as a Glass major at Tyler School of Art.
  • Cast Iron Shoe Last: Junk store on Starr Street.

DINING ROOM

  • Table and Chairs: Ikea, courtesy of my brother getting married.
  • Shelf: I made the top out of Mahogany boards which were donated to me, and the metal support out of metals scraps at the shop.
  • Library Ladder: Saved from my friends studio in Williamsburg hours before it was gutted.
  • Mirror: Also from the same studio.
  • The Light: From one of my favorite junk stores in the Fishtown neighborhood in Philadelphia.
  • Wall of Art (Clockwise from top left)
    Face it: Just Seeds Artists’ Cooperative
    Wire Sculpture Study: By me.
    Arte Para Todos: Just Seeds Artists’ Cooperative
    Taj Mahal Trio: justAjar Design Press
    La Puerta de San Juan: Purchased in a gallery in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Artist Unknown
    Hands Touching Hands: Lizzie Gill
    And We Haven’t Been Back There Since: Lizzie Gill
    The Watchman: Larson M. Harley
    Rocking Chair: justAjar Design Press
    Himrod Street Backyard: Joe Marxen
    Print by Daria Tessler
    Etching of University Baptist Church: Don Swann
  • Owl Lamp: Made by Carolyn.
  • Bookcase: Salvaged by Carloyn.

KITCHEN

  • Lamp: This is an old heat lamp which I refinished all of the copper surfaces, and rewired to convert into a light. This too was purchased in Fishtown.
  • Wall Cladding: Salvaged wood cutoffs which I modified to create the Chevron pattern.
  • Utensil Storage: These are PVC pipe elbows I installed to free up space in the drawers.
  • Wood molding on kitchen cabinets: Wood moulding found at the old 3rd Ward which I custom fit to the space.
  • Metal Shelves: All of these pieces are part of the Fe series under my design line, CreoCreo Studio.
  • Wood Shelves: Years ago I lived across the street from a company which assembled wood pallets, and these are constructed of the scraps pieces deemed unusable to them.
  • Kitchen Island: I design this piece to be a flat pack product. The bottom section is removable for easier shipping and moving.
  • Stools: Purchased at Build it Green in Queens. Painted with Montana Gold spray paint.
  • La Maja Desnuda, Goya: Goya reproduction and awesome frame acquired by Carolyn.
  • Penguins: Found on separate occasions by Carolyn and I.
  • Golden Parrot Sculpture: A piece Carolyn haggled for with a bodega employee in exchange for $10 and her phone number :)
  • Pot rack: I made this with chain and well placed eye hooks in the ceiling. I altered the galvanized steel chain by sandblasting it.
  • String of lights: Made by Dan Brohawn.

BEDROOM AREA

  • Metal Partition: I bought it from a Pastor down the street. I then carried it up three stories alone...I felt like a worker ant.
  • Gray Dresser: Overstock.com via craigslist.
  • On dresser: Placemat by House of Faye.
  • Lion Drawing: Violated Threads owner Johnny Mattei made this illustration for Carolyn.
  • Transom: I finished it near my house and refinished it.
  • Pine dresser: Ikea.
  • Metal Rolling Rack: After Carolyn threatened to buy a cheap one, I custom designed/built the rack to fit in the tight space between our room and the wall.

INSIDE CARLOS & CAROLYN'S ROOM

  • End Table: Salvaged from the loading dock at my old shop.
  • Sebadoh Print: Landland hand-printed posters.
  • Festival Nacional de la Hamaca: Artist unknown.
  • Three small prints of various places in Old San Juan: Artist unknown.
  • Wood shelf and metal brackets: I made this from old red wood and metal scraps from my shop.

OFFICE

  • Vertical Garden and Wheelbarrow: The vertical garden is constantly a work in progress. I tied into the ceiling joists and have been working towards a multiple tiered hanging system so that the excess water goes into subsequent pots. It is comprised mostly of spider plants except for the wandering jew on the corner closest to the window. I found the wheelbarrow near my old apartment and decided to convert it into a garden. It conveniently captures excess water from the vertical wall, and can be easily moved around for cleaning and maintenance.
  • White marble work table: Carolyn and I found a discarded kitchen island from a pizza shop in our neighborhood. I suggested we take a closer look, and the bottom shelf was white marble! I ran back home, gathered the necessary tools, and dismantled the island. After a three story walk up, and many hours of scrubbing we brought it back to life.
  • Metal and wood chair: I made this chair a little while back with cutoffs from a few commissions.
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Thanks for sharing, Carlos & Carloyn!

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(Image credits: Andrea Sparacio)