Two stunning historical lofts

Posted by Lauran

I’ve always dreamed of living “the loft life”—tons of open space, big windows, and light. Lucky for me, we get to stage and decorate a fair number of them so I can get my fix.

In April we staged two cool East Bay lofts—each with a unique history. First up, a unit in Oak Park Studios,  formerly the Oakland Edison Elementary School built in 1926. It was converted to condos in the late 1980s.

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We love that the original first grade chalkboard was left in tact.

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The bedroom suite is located down a fun spiral staircase . . .

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. . . and it’s much more than a bedroom. It includes a sitting area, office space, and a dressing room area (not to mention a fabulous custom bathroom).

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The unit includes a charming outdoor patio right off the living room, as well as a detached workshop with high ceilings.

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This schoolhouse loft went into contract just two weeks after the first open house!

The second loft we staged is open this Sunday, May 10. It’s in the Besler Building in Emeryville, one of the very first live/work loft projects in the Bay Area.

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Harlan loft bedroom

As you can see, this is more of a “New York” style loft, with visible pipes and columns and tall steel windows.

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We separated the open floor plan into several different spaces (living room, dining room, bedroom, office, dressing room), using rugs and artwork to anchor each one.

Harlan loft office

Lofts are some of our favorite spaces to decorate, because you can completely change the feel and layout by simply moving furniture around. The flexibility means you’ll never get tired of your home. What do you think of lofts? Tell us in the comments section.

Photography credits:

Schoolhouse loft photos by Natacha Nay

Emeryville loft photos by Liz Rusby

Re-creating a cool Oakland loft

Posted by Lauran

“When Carol and Andre first contacted us, they had just purchased a loft in Jack London Square,” says Visual Jill Designer Lauren. “It was difficult for them to envision how this one large space could be broken up into functional areas they needed, while also being stylish and inviting.”  They also inherited worn carpet on the floors and multiple paint colors on the walls, making the space feel cluttered and confused.

Flash forward a few months . . . after a bit of design magic, Carol and Andre now have this beautiful space!

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Lauren and Jill began the project by defining what their clients needed within the large open space: They wanted a designated area for their guests to sleep, an office for Carol, a TV room, dining room, and master bedroom.

Question: How do you create “guest quarters” without any walls?  Lauren’s answer was to place this CB2 Flex Frost Sleeper Sofa in the entryway! It’s extra seating on most days, but easily converts into a bed when guests arrive. We love the texture added by the branch “wall partitions” from Furniture Envy.

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The master bedroom is divided from the main space with curtains hung from a ceiling track. It’s a sanctuary for relaxation, with a custom upholstered headboard from AlexAlinDesign on etsy, nightstands and lamps from West Elm, and rug from CB2. The carefully chosen textures are a great contrast to the rough loft ceilings.

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Lauren and Jill also helped their clients choose new hardwood flooring and paint colors to brighten up and modernize the space.  They chose White Dove for the majority of the walls and Kiwi for the pop of color in the living room and kitchen (both Benjamin Moore).

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2nd loft lo-res

Lighting was also an issue, since the cement ceiling made adding recessed lights impossible.  “We added unique fixtures to designate the dining room, master bedroom, and living room,” explains Lauren. “We also added floor lamps to fill the 14′ height of the loft.”

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The raw wood coffee table from HD Buttercup brings extra warmth to the living room, which also features a custom sectional from EQ3 and Celeste Swivel chairs from Room & Board.

Lauren and Jill loved this project, both because of the space and the clients! “Carol and Andre  had a clear idea of what they needed and trusted us as designers to find the items they loved and make sure they would be functional for their lifestyle”, says Lauren.  “They were very involved from the get-go with a positive attitude and ready to make an amazing change to their space.”

Photography by Peter Lyons

We love lofts!

Decorating a loft is a bit different than decorating a regular house. The high ceilings and lack of dividing walls typically found in lofts give a great feeling of space and light . . .

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. . . but to prevent the space from feeling cavernous, it’s important to divide it into zones. In this West Oakland loft, above, we anchored the living room space with a large rug, then created a separate office set-up along the staircase wall.



This next loft near Piedmont Avenue had a much smaller designated living room space, so the scale of the furniture was extremely important. Since our client already had a custom-sized sectional, we supplemented it with smaller round chairs that don’t take up much visual space. Again we carved out an office area along the wall between the living area and dining area.

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Large windows are also usually found in lofts, which can present a challenge in terms of placing furniture. There are different ways we could have laid out this downtown Oakland loft, and after experimenting we chose to place the sofa against the wall and build the conversation area out into the middle of the room, still allowing room for traffic flow. Again, we used a rug to define the space.

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Sometimes the best choice is to place the sofa in front of the windows, as we did in this West Berkeley loft. When you do so be sure to leave a few inches between the window and the sofa so you don’t block the light.

Another thing to consider when decorating a loft is artwork placement. As you can see in these photos, art helps define each zone (entryway, living room, stairwell, etc.). It also helps “ground” the room by keeping the focus mid-wall.

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