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For The Home

The Loft Life

Author: John Roark
Issue: June, 2017, Page 98
Photo by Scott Sandler

Originally unused, the area beneath the staircase now houses a dry bar with a dramatically backlit wall of metamorphosed quartz, marble and granite. A small room behind a pair of LED-illuminated art panels conceals a stackable washer and dryer and storage for electronics components.
Transitioning From a Large Home to an Urban Condo, a Scottsdale Doctor Discovers the Upside to Downsizing

Finding himself newly single, dentist Thomas Prade decided that his next residence would be on a smaller scale, ideally sized for himself and the occasional visiting friend or family member. He also was determined to create a home he could take pride in, surround himself with the creature comforts he most appreciated—and indulge his passion for technology. 

A cozy semicircular sectional creates intimacy around the TV and fireplace, which was expanded to bridge the space between banks of windows and extended upward to the ceiling to emphasize the height of the room.
A two-story 1,600-square-foot urban loft near Old Town Scottsdale proved to be the unpolished gem that would become what Thomas now calls his jewel in the desert. “The minute I walked in, I knew it was for me,” he says. “I knew I could do something with it.”

“My first impression was that what the loft lacked in elegance, it more than made up for in potential,” interior designer and Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner Lynda Martin recalls thinking after her first walk-through. Black granite kitchen countertops and what she refers to as ‘gymnasium flooring’ needed updating. Use of space was inefficient. A full-scale makeover was in order.

The client and the designer had three key objectives with the remodel: maximize the existing space, find solutions to the scarcity of storage—a common drawback of loft living—and seamlessly incorporate a variety of technology.

A large rectangular dining table was replaced with a glass-topped table for four. The kitchen’s outdated black granite countertop and backsplash added weight and absorbed light. Light-colored quartz visually pushes the wall back and further opens the space.
The loft’s ground floor includes the kitchen and living room, with access to a sizeable balcony, and an office/guest room and full bath. Before the renovation, floor-to-ceiling windows were encumbered by an inconsequential fireplace that pulled the focus rather than celebrating its surroundings. “It was ridiculous, given the size of the space,” remembers Martin. “What the room needed was something monolithic—a strong focal point that would serve as a visual anchor and accentuate the vertical.” The solution was found in filling the expanse between the windows with a two-story overmantel clad in natural stone. An off-center lighted niche provides a dramatic space for sculpture, and a contemporary, linear electric firebox brings warmth to the space. A flat-screen TV spans the width, with wiring and cables easily accessible, but hidden within the structure.

The cabinetry and countertop clearly define the kitchen, while an area rug helps frame the living room. Recessed panels for artwork add visual interest above the kitchen, drawing the eye upward and creating the illusion of more space. Walls, ceilings and ductwork were painted white to reinforce the feeling of openness.
Martin brought additional intimacy to the room with an inviting sectional that encourages informal gathering and basking in the sights beyond the windows. “We played with different sofa ideas,” she says. “This curved shape makes the space feel more open because you don’t have extensions of rigid lines.” The living room is further anchored by an area rug and leather chair with matching ottoman, as well as a custom circular coffee table designed by Martin, with a swivel tabletop that conceals a nook for magazines, remotes and other essentials.

“The idea was to define the spaces for living without physical walls,” says Martin. “You accomplish that through visual clues and by the changes in either the materials or structure.”

One of the loft’s most inefficiently designed rooms was the second-story master bathroom. Originally, a dark, cramped maze with illogical doors and a bulky HVAC unit, the space was gutted and completely reworked to welcome the natural light from the living room windows and make better use of the available square footage. The new design includes a floor-to-ceiling switch-glass wall overlooking the living room, behind which a freestanding bathtub and shower are visible from the living room below. “I like that open, airy feeling. Privacy is important, but it’s not the most essential thing in my life,” says Thomas, who can now enjoy watching TV in the living room while relaxing in the bath tub. When modesty dictates, the touch of a keypad instantly transforms the clear glass into nontransparent panels. When the technology is turned on, the clear glass further opens the space—from both above and below—by allowing the eye to venture beyond the solid surfaces. The area is now bright, unobstructed and unbelievably spacious given the footprint.

Original artwork leading the eye to the second level provides visual interest but is small-scale and unobtrusive. The existing staircase was updated with caps that encase each step, creating the illusion of solid walnut slabs.
Incorporated into the master bath, a poorly designed closet was a study in inefficiency. “It was useless,” Martin recalls. “You had tiny rungs for hanging clothes and a few little drawers.” In the redesign, she removed obstructing walls and a door that ate up valuable space, and created a generous closet and vanity with amenities the homeowner relishes, including LED-lit drawers, expanded garment rods, mirrored door interiors and additional storage above. 

While Thomas eagerly embraces the latest and greatest technology—from smart home automation and security to cutting-edge TV and audio—he is adamantly opposed to seeing the disorder that can come with electronics. “I like an orderly environment. I think it has something to do with the fact that I’m a dentist,” he says. “Anything that you can easily keep clean is a priority to me.” Throughout the loft, touch screens, video components and audio speakers are neatly integrated into walls and behind panels. Electrical cables are cleverly concealed but easily accessible. The homeowner also eschewed drawer, door and cabinet hardware, so hidden doors and touch-latch drawers were used wherever possible. The result is a clean-lined experience, free of visual noise.

An LED-accented, upholstered headboard in the master bedroom softens sound reflections. Space beneath cantilevered night stands helps the small-scale room feel larger and more open. On the left, a frosted glass barn door provides bathroom privacy when desired.
Making the switch from a 5,000-square-foot home to a 1,600-square-foot loft was not the sacrifice one might have imagined. “My former wife basically took over the whole house, so I was left with a little man cave that makes this place look like a palace,” Thomas jokes. “I tend to get claustrophobic if I’m in too small of a space. I didn’t need a big footprint, but I did want to feel as though I had room to move around.”  With a busy practice and frequent international travel, he values the lock-and-leave convenience of his new place and the ability keep tabs on his home base through technology wherever he might be.

Martin believes that when you downsize, you are, in fact, upsizing. “Loft living is very popular right now,” she says. While you may have a smaller personal living space, in a sense you have more because you’ve also got communal places, workout areas and public spaces—without the added responsibility of maintenance. It’s a different lifestyle, and for many it’s the ideal answer.”

A cantilevered TV swings out for in-bed viewing and becomes an artistic accent when not in use.

The master bath was reconfigured to increase ease of livability and maximize space.
The glass wall incorporates switch-glass technology, which can be transparent or provide complete privacy at the touch of a keypad.

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