In 2005 when this loft was built, its Boston neighborhood was still ‘up and coming,’ and the developer was taking a bit of a risk even in offering sparsely finished lofts with modest finishes. This penthouse unit – located in the key upper “turret” of the building — never quite managed to fulfill the promise of its prominent position with a double-height living room and panoramic views. After living in the unit for seven years, the owner, realizing that the neighborhood was changing fast and could now support additional investment, came to Ruhl Walker Architects with the desire to add privacy and function to the unit. Although lofts offer a tremendous amount of flexibility and are perfectly suited to certain peripatetic lifestyles, an open floor plan and high ceilings often make controlling sound, light and heat difficult. The homeowner wanted a bedroom and a study, each with walls and built-in storage, and a bigger bathroom. The challenge was how to maintain the allure of a light-filled open floor plan while providing the delineated spaces the client desired. At the same time, this unit was in need of the next level of design to give it the texture and character that would fit the owner’s lifestyle.
The functional solution was to partition the bedroom and study with a nearly continuous wall of black metal industrial glazing – a modern evocation of the industrial roots of the neighborhood. Translucent glass for privacy below eye level and clear glass for maximum light transmission above allows light to reach the entry hall and kitchen spaces. Full-height cabinetry finished with a sustainable, engineered wood, stained a calm, warm gray/brown that subtly mutes the existing reddish orange concrete flooring divides the spaces perpendicularly and provide the much needed storage. Through some careful planning around the existing building service cores, a bathtub was removed, turning the existing bath into a powder room, while gaining space for a generous walk-in shower in a new en-suite master bath.
The drum-shaped living room, which affords a 270 degree city views, suffered from a multitude of bad details – heating and cooling units placed awkwardly, windows that felt too small for the volume of the space, and walls and ceilings broken up by drywall protrusions. In response, the coffers in the high ceiling were smoothed over and the curve at the outside wall was reworked. A top-to-bottom expanse of knit mesh drapery and carefully selected paint colors unifies the drum. On the opposite side, HVAC and A/V components were collected into a rational assembly of concealed storage cabinets and fixed panels, finished with the same wood veneer used throughout. A show stopping 8’ diameter David Weeks suspended light draws the eye upward and accentuates the luxurious volume of this monumental space.
Ruhl Walker was also commissioned to re-think and design all the furniture and furnishings for the loft. While the new construction is relatively calm and uniform, with neutral colors and textures, the furniture was an opportunity to be livelier, starting with the owner’s lime green sofa and living room chairs, which are now paired with a large white coffee table, and striking black metal pole lights. The dining room features a simple Magis Baguette table with Kristalia Elephant chairs, an Axo Skin ceiling light, and a bright abstract canvas by Boston artist James de Crescentis.
In the Open