Lovely, Lofty Living

During my years of being an interior designer, recently designing a loft for a client was one of my most enjoyable design experiences.

An important goal for this lovely loft was to turn the practical, underutilized space atop a horse stable into an elegant and cozy studio apartment for my client’s guests and family members.

What was a vacant, unused attic with a coat of dust, is now a warm and comfortable loft. It offers aesthetic and natural beauty for those who are lucky enough to spend the night under the eaves, or curl up with a favorite book on the plush sofa during a cool autumn afternoon.

I have been asked a few times of late about this project, as well as how interior design and renovation can lead to a luxurious loft space for both personal use and as a guest room or suite. So, I thought I’d share some of the questions I have been asked, along with my answers and insights about lovely, lofty living.

I hope this Q&A inspires others to consider their own cozy spaces in lofts, attics or other special get-aways that can be designed into havens of livable luxury.

Q. What did the loft space look like before the project?

Ami: When I walked up the narrow stairs and saw the loft for the first time, I took in an unfinished, open-space sitting over the horse stable. It was a space with much potential! The floors were rough, and there was no heating, air or plumbing. It was completely empty, and there had been no prior thoughts of finishing it out. However, once I saw the charming pitched, eaved roof, I knew the space could be transformed into a unique and distinctive place, and I welcomed the challenge.

Q. What were the loft client’s expressed goals or objectives for the space?

Ami: After an additional horse arena was built on my client’s estate, they decided to create a space for trainers and guests to stay while showing and training the horses. These equestrian experts and family friends and guests needed a space near the barn to stay while they coached the horses and prepared them for shows. In addition, the loft provided just the right style feeling and essence well suited for their tasks at hand.

Q. How did you plan for and accomplish these goals?

Ami: I was very excited to roll up my sleeves and get started on this project for several reasons. I wanted to make sure it was functional and did not look like a boring, lifeless bunk house. I wanted to create a cozy, welcoming space for trainers and guests of the homeowner to enjoy throughout their stay as well as make them feel at home.

Q. What are the dimensions of the space in square feet?

Ami: When I initially measured the loft’s 760 square feet, I knew it was the perfect size for an intimate, comfy living space for one guest or a few people. The outspread, open design I created also yields the illusion of a bigger space, so it feels much larger than 760 square feet.

Q. How did you go about choosing the furnishings, lighting and color scheme for the project?

Ami: The lighting was chosen to complement the incredible, sparkling chandelier we had previously installed in the lower stable. I wanted the chandelier to stand out and make a bold statement since it can be seen from both the first floor and while in the loft. The furnishings were chosen to allow for the maximum use of space for guests, while at the same time blending with the rest of the décor. The Murphy beds and sleeper sofa I selected are very practical because they can comfortably fit four guests without taking up a lot of space. I chose a limited color palette that was warm, inviting and worked well with the wood plank interior, because this helped contribute to the illusion of a larger space. The grey and rust-colored furnishings and rug were hand-picked to blend well in the area, and the consistent, black surfaces of the counter-tops and side tables added depth and dimension.

Q. How did you go about choosing the finishes- i.e., the specific wood for the floors and walls, kitchen counter tops, etc.?

Ami: The walls were easy because we used the same finish that already existed on the rest of the barn. This finish is what set our palette for color. The floors were a darker shade of walnut than the walls and ceilings, and I used an engineered floor for durability. The honed, black granite against all of the lighter wood tones was simple and elegant, and grounded the space visually.

Q. What is your favorite part about the loft?

Ami: I love everything about this loft! First and foremost, the views of the countryside were breathtaking and inspiring. I was also so pleased that such an exquisite and valuable space could be created from a previously empty, uninhabited room above a barn. Last, I love the way everything can have a useful purpose in an open space without having to compartmentalize it into rooms. When you try to divide a loft or some rooms into too many sections, you lose the sense of sociability and roominess that comes with a more open space.

Q. Had you ever designed anything like this before?

Ami: I have never had the opportunity to design a loft quite like this before, so I feel very fortunate to have been given the chance to work on this one. However, the entire estate has been a project on which I have worked for more than five years, and it has evolved and grown over time. I saw the potential the minute the stable was originally built, and I could not wait to see it come to life.

Q. What was the most challenging part of this project?

Ami: The narrow stairway leading up to the loft presented a huge challenge. It was too small and tight to fit the larger furnishings and building materials, so we actually had to use a lift to bring it all up to the loft. Luckily, we had great assistance from the contractor, and I can proudly say that everything was placed without a problem.

Q. Is there anything you would do differently the second time around?

Ami: If I had to design the loft again, I would not change a thing. Any designer will tell you that there is always room to add and layer over time as the space evolves, but I love it exactly how it is. My client absolutely adores it, which is the most important thing to me. Making them happy has always been my top priority.

Q. How did you address the project’s challenges by providing creative solutions?

Ami: The pitched walls were just perfect for the use of the Murphy beds. I chose fully integrated appliances. The waterfall edges on the cabinetry broke up the effect of too much wood and actually will offer more durability over time. The open concept was unique for such a small space that did need some privacy. I wanted to create as much symmetry as possible. One way I achieved this was to create a living room space directly in the center of the loft, centering a large, soft sofa and evenly flanking two chairs facing the sofa. I also installed double sliding doors to create an illusion of more space, while concealing the returns with a stationary louvered door.

Q. How did this project compare to others that you have completed in the past?

Ami: This project was one of the most enjoyable I have done. For starters, it was very different from past projects. Most interior designers get to create a bedroom or a bathroom, but I’ll bet most have never had the privilege of designing a loft above a barn. It is such an unusual and unconventional space, so the opportunity does not present itself very often. Also, my client gave me complete freedom to go wild with the space and do whatever I wanted, which was so much fun. Having free rein, so to speak, allowed for much creativity and imagination.

Q. Did you personally design the fold-away beds, and were there any challenges related to those specifically?

Ami: I envisioned the Murphy beds the minute I walked into the room. They were the perfect solution for the pitched ceilings and walls, as well as for the limited space. I am very fortunate to have been able to work with a wonderful team of craftsmen at Kerns-Wilcheck in Memphis who custom-built them for me. We were able to use all of the exterior materials from the barn to keep our look consistent and polished throughout the loft.

Q. Who were the other members of the project team?

Ami: I had the pleasure of working collaboratively with the best team of people. Granite and Marble Services installed and fabricated all of the granite throughout the kitchen and bathroom. Like I said before, Kerns-Wilcheck did an amazing job with the Murphy beds as well as all of the cabinetry and doors. The rest of this wonderfully-diligent team consisted of Kiser’s Floor for the beautiful walnut floors, Venice Tile and Marble for the gorgeous, slate-black splashes on the counter tops, and Chuck Clark, with Chuck Clark Construction, LLC.

Now that I have shared with you my incredible experience designing a loft, I hope I have inspired you to begin a project like this for your barn, attic or perhaps a room above a garage. If you do choose to renovate or remodel an unused or underused space in your home, please contact me, and let’s find a way to create an “at-home get-away” for you!

For more information, please visit my website:
~ Ami Austin

Daniel Hicks