How do you take an historic brick warehouse and re-appropriate it for a truly modern and highly functional live-work-event space? This was our challenge with a unique lofted building in the heart of San Francisco’s downtown. The result is a versatile space that straddles the line between private and communal, modern and historic, industrial and cozy.
In a close collaboration with Boor Bridges Architecture and Geremia Design, we ran with the client’s primary intention to celebrate the existing 8,000 square foot SOMA loft while creating small but dramatic interventions. The homeowner entered the project with a commitment to participate in the structure – a commercial laundry turned fashion atelier – without interrupting it. Clever design and custom manufactured details were the key to getting there.
Downstairs, the open layout was preserved to allow for workshop-meets-art gallery functionality. Twenty-six foot high atrium ceilings invite large sculptural and lighting installations, while clean white walls are perfect for hanging art or projecting video.
Echoing the client’s interest in light installations, Boor Bridges designed LED lighting fixtures that celebrate material and form. A string of light bulbs float in a perforated metal carriage for a simple concept that, from a distance, looks like a metal band dotted with points of light. These hanging fixtures light both upstairs and downstairs to carry a consistent design element between the two.
Next to an industrial kitchen for catering and bartending, communal bathrooms were designed to accommodate a large volume of guests in style. Powder coated fixtures and ceramic tile make for washable surfaces and a mood that is both minimal and rough-around-the-edges. From a craftsmanship standpoint, we were especially challenged to install a 13-foot long stainless steel sink. Calling on our local fabricators, we had the piece custom made along with a unique towel bar. The result is both minimal and highly functional.
Sometimes demolition reveals fun surprises – and that turned out to be the case in this project. Tearing out the original bathroom revealed two solid metal doors over an enormous opening to the interior patio. Following the client’s intention to celebrate the historic building, we repurposed the industrial doors as two large work benches that can also be used for serving food and drink. Over-scaled glass doors now lead to the small patio for a quiet outdoor retreat.
Upstairs, the space maintains many stylistic elements while the function shifts completely. The homeowner wanted to leave minimal fingerprints on the space while adding a few architectural elements to make it his own – and one of our favorite construction challenges of the entire project was born of this concept.
In a completely custom retractable skylight, we were able to combine three functions in one: roof access, workspace and light. How? Boor Bridges designed a genius steel stringer with T&G fir treads that extend beyond the steps to create a solid slab desk and two shelves. The stairs make for a smooth transition from the loft to the roof, which is accessed via skylight (and one that opens and closes at the push of a button).
The skylight isn’t the only thing that can instantly transform the upstairs space. The guest bedroom is enclosed by steel hung sliding barn doors that, when closed, offer complete privacy. When opened, the industrial-style doors allow an unoccupied guest room to become a seamless part of the expansive floor plan.
With such an array of sliding doors, open and closed roof access and industrial tables on wheels, this SOMA loft is ready to transform at the snap of a finger to meet the client’s changing needs. The result is a perfect balance of privacy and openness in a modern design that honors an historic structure.
In the spirit of this collaborative workshop space, we valued the collaborative remodeling process between homeowner, architect and designer. Project architect Sarah Fucinaro put it best: “It’s important for the teams involved to be passionate about the project and have fun with it. That creative input lives in the project once it’s done, and that gets passed on to the people that enjoy the space once we’ve left.”