This Japanese-Inspired L.A. Apartment Features Brilliant Storage Ideas
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Name: Amanda Gunawan, with Koby and Kipper, two border collie boys
Location: Arts District — Los Angeles, California
Size: 1,620 square feet
Type of Home: Loft-style Apartment
Years Lived In: 2 years, owned
“It’s funny because one of the most common pieces of relationship advice is to never fall in love with someone’s potential instead of who they are at the current moment, but that’s almost always the case for me when I am scouting for homes or properties,” explains Amanda Gunawan, the co-founder of OWIU (which stands for “Only Way Is Up”), a Los Angeles-based architecture and design firm.
“I 100 percent fell in love with Biscuit Loft’s potential,” Amanda writes, of her full-time home that she shares with her pups, Koby and Kipper. “Something about the natural light that seemed to pour in at all the right times and in all the right places coupled with the expansive volume immediately made it easy to breathe. That and the rich history that came with the building, knowing that it was built in a way things are no longer built — strong and sturdy with material choices that are made to last.”
Amanda continues: “I also knew exactly what I wanted to do with the space because I knew how I wanted to live and feel in my home. I’ve spent a lot of time in Japanese ryokans and have always wanted to bring that experience back home. Why couldn’t feeling like that be an everyday phenomenon, why was it only reserved for holidays? Why couldn’t that feeling of stillness be the norm in our homes?”
“That’s what I sought to achieve with Biscuit Loft. What others would perceive as ironic, given the building was an old, industrial factory and that I wanted to achieve the feeling of a Japanese ryokan, I saw as an opportunity to add new life and evolve a space with character and an already dense history.”
“The Biscuit Loft is a Japanese-inspired apartment in LA’s Arts District housed within the old Nabisco Biscuit Factory. I worked alongside the OWIU design and architect studio team (which I co-founded) to design and build the space into a two-bedroom urban hideaway.”
“The design of Biscuit Loft borrows centuries-old strategies from Japanese homes, which take into consideration the user’s lifestyle and how space can accommodate it. The guest bedroom, which was inspired by the simple Japanese Ryokan, is a perfect example. The Japanese-inspired ethos of the design also creates clear functions for each area of the loft and eases the industrial elements within.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: I like spaces that are evocative, contemplative, and sentimental or thoughtful.
Inspiration: A Japanese Ryokan. Nature, always nature. I wanted the space to feel pleasing to the eye the way nature feels natural to us.
Favorite Element: I have a whole ceramics collection that I am very proud of. I make a point to buy a piece of ceramic whenever I travel. I love being reminded of that particular experience when I use the piece.
I personally love the guest room that functions as a multipurpose room for people to hang out, when I don’t actually have guests visiting. I love how diverse that room is. I work there, I take meetings there. When I throw a party, I’ve seen guests flock to that room, sit down, and have serious conversations. I have spent lazy Sundays lounging on that platform with my dogs. I just like the overall feel and it gets an incredible amount of natural light.
Biggest Challenge: With loft spaces, in order to create segregation, it usually involves adding walls. I did not want to do that, but I did want each space to be able to be easily identifiable. I also wanted to avoid it looking cluttered, which is most often the case with loft spaces. The solution to this was designing a lot of smart storage solutions — we have storage everywhere. Abundant kitchen storage, a big storage room underneath the stairs, lots of storage in the guest room, etc. It was also important to see the whole project as a compositional one. I overcame this challenge by looking at the space as a giant canvas where multiple components come together to create a robust whole. All the individual objects bring significance to the space whether in an obvious way (visual) or covert way (linens or soft textures signifying a calm space for sensory relaxation) so nothing would be screaming out for attention more than the other, therefore achieving a cohesive space.
Proudest DIY: My favorite room in any house tends to be the contemplative space; it’s in this space that the homeowner forges an intimate connection to the home. I’ve always been inspired by Japanese ryokans for precisely this reason. There is a meditative element to each space that takes into consideration the user’s lifestyle. I love how space efficient traditional Japanese bedrooms are, where one sleeps on a futon atop a tatami mat. At the same time, if the homeowners need the space for something else, such as hosting guests, they roll up the futons and put them in storage.
I used this strategy to build a mixed-use tea ceremony and guest room by constructing a platform that features storage underneath for the futon. When I have guests over, they can use the platform and futon as a bed, but the rest of the time, the platform serves as a sitting room fitted for tea ceremonies. I enjoy moments of self-reflection in the space as well as sipping tea over conversation with friends. In fact, whenever I have friends over, I find two or three of them on the platform, having intense conversations over tea. The space inspires connection with oneself and others.
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? I often use the kitchen counter to do my work. Having a central kitchen island makes it very tempting to work on. And I really wanted an onsen bathtub to soak in and wanted to make that happen despite the limited square footage that was available for the primary bathroom. We had to really design it such that I was able to have both a shower and an onsen hot tub. And honestly, it was such an absurd idea at first, but it absolutely works, and I have loved showering there as well as having baths.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: I want to emphasize the importance of storage. The key to having an uncluttered home is having a well-designed system for where to put things and this is all dependent on how you use the space. I would also like to emphasize “designed” storage. More storage is always better than less, and if you get a good architect, your storage should end up being a design element.
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Decorating advice would be to view the whole home as an art piece and the different parts of the house as all the little elements that need to come together to create a beautiful composition. Each element should somehow tie in with each other and make sense. There shouldn’t be something that feels alien or out of place.
PAINT & COLORS
- Venetian Plaster
- Toto toilet — Build
This tour’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.
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