Name: LJ, Elena and Teo
Location: Downtown Brooklyn
Size: 500 sqft studio loft coop
Years lived in: 3 years
LJ invited us in to view phase one of a very labor intensive home improvement process. He and his wife, partners in their own architecture firm, decided to spruce up their space before they learned they were pregnant. With a few pen strokes and a new attitude, their ideas for space efficiency became plans for a baby room instead of an office and a playpen instead of storage...
LJ took on a lot of the manual labor himself. He tore up the original parquet floor and sealed the beautiful concrete floor he found underneath. He built the platform and storage drawers below it as well as the multi-purpose boxes used for stairs, storage, display, etc. For the more complicated carpentry cuts, LJ used a woodworking studio off site, dragging the pieces back to his studio apartment for assembly!
LJ and his wife love their pull out playpen solution, and so do we! When Teo is playing in there, he has a lot of room in an enclosed safe space. When he isn't using it, the giant drawer disappears under the platform, making way for a nicely scaled living room.
In terms of furniture, LJ and Elena seem to have many opportunities to inherit great hand-me-downs from people who are upgrading their decor. They also have great luck with curbside discoveries and are very discerning IKEA shoppers.
For now, Teo is a toddler and doesn't take up much room. The current solutions work wonderfully and will be even better with the added guardrails and protective elements built onto the stage. As Teo elongates, and outgrows his crib, there is enough room in the crib alcove to incorporate a child's bed.
Phase II will include a transparent low wall for the upstairs loft, a hand rail for the precarious steps/boxes up to the loft, and a media center that will serve as a partial wall for the platform area--all built by LJ. The planned bathroom and kitchen reno, however, will be courtesy of a professional contractor. Stay tuned for the update!
Style: Functional formalism
Inspiration: Jewel Box
Favorite Element: Alternating tread stair/shelving unit that serves the loft.
Biggest Challenge: Creating hideaway spaces that blend into functional elements so the baby toys and clutter can be hidden easily.
What Friends Say: "Very spacious for a small place"
Biggest Embarrassment: Elena's mother almost falling to her death when she stayed with us a few months ago. In an effort to maintain the clean esthetic of the apartment, we did not provide hand rails.
Proudest DIY: Building everything ourselves with limited resources and little time to do it in the apartment and at my office's shop in Harlem on nights and weekends.
Biggest Indulgence: The floor sample Della Robbia sofa we bought impulsively to replace the cat-mangled Pier One floor sample couch that we U-hauled around the country.
Best Advice: Commit and don't waver. Oh, and the oldy but goody: measure twice, cut once! Very important.
Dream Source: Moss on Greene and Houston
• The sofa is a Della Robbia, Regata we bought at Rico on Atlantic.
• The adhesive remover I used to get the black mastic up after I ripped up the parquet flooring is called Sentinel 747 Odorless Adhesive Remover; (not really odorless, but better than the other options)
• Also critical for this job is a utility knife scraper with long handle that you scrape up the top layer of adhesive after the remover has soaked in for a while, a hard bristle hand brush to loosen what's left with some more remover, a bag of rags to get that up and then kitty litter (Cheap clay type) to clean up the sludge that is left. I then cleaned the floor twice with an ammonia based floor cleaner and after it dried for a day, rolled 3 coats of a Quikrete concrete sealer that is typically used for garage floors.
• Do not use polyurethane for the concrete. It will chip over time and does not penetrate or keep the dust down like a sealer/curing agent.
• I used ¾" Red Oak plywood for the platform and all built-ins finished with 3 coats of Cabot water based polyurethane. Use only Cabot in my opinion as well as many cabinetry makers that I work with. I tried to save money and use some other off-the shelf water based poly for one of the drawers and it cured with a milky finish. Not good.
• The laundry drawer slides are Accuride, undermount, heavy duty slides and I used Blum hinges for all the doors. (This is the standard hardware for the Hafele cabinets). All of the white cabinets are from Hafele as well as the pulls. They were very easy to install and are by far the best bang for the buck, especially when you use them as utilitarian features under custom made cabinetry.
• I bought my daily necessities or urgent items at Bruno's Hardware on Court Street and Sid's downtown. They are more expensive than Home Depot but at least these guys know what they are talking about.