As romanticised as living in a New York City loft is, bringing enough warmth and texture to turn a former industrial space into a home is no easy feat. It’s a challenge that architect Antonio Monserrat was up for during lockdown when he purchased and renovated a historic loft in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighbourhood last year. Formerly an industrial bakery dating back to 1915, the updated space – his first completed project since setting up his eponymous practice, Monserrat Studio – has been carved into an attractive one-bedroom layout, with custom-designed features and furniture (opens in new tab) that enhance the warehouse’s original architecture.
Boasting original timber beams and columns, exposed brick walls, 12 foot high ceilings and expansive windows to match, the space was an opportunity for Monserrat to explore his design language. With structural walls already in place and predetermined, he maximised the interior of the 800 square foot apartment (opens in new tab) by striking a balance between creating storage and redefining its living areas. He achieved this not only by painting different areas of the apartment in varying blocks of colour, but also by custom-designing furniture and fixtures with the space in mind.
‘Before I started designing the apartment, I tested a few concepts by designing smaller objects. Although simpler to call them chairs, I prefer to think of them as a series of prototypes that could be used for seating, such as bedside tables, shelves (opens in new tab) or plant stands,’ he reveals. ‘Working on these smaller scale objects allowed me to [define the] design, shapes, materials and color variations that determined the language in the apartment. This process was essential in making some of the early design decisions, including some of the key furniture pieces, such as bespoke window shutters, custom built-in storage and dining table (opens in new tab).’
‘Because the apartment is rather open, each area is defined by a color,’ he adds. ‘I didn't want to use any white, so the living area walls are a light peach color, which complements the dark wood ceiling. The entire sleeping area is painted a pale blue to bring a feeling of calmness and stillness. The entrance is imagined as if it was a black box, painted in a dark green with a dropped ceiling just above head-height, leading to a dramatic change in height when entering into the living room (opens in new tab).’
The result is a dynamic sequence of inviting spaces that are peppered with individualised touches. Arched doorways and modular window shutters stand harmoniously alongside a low sofas, a low stepped bedframe and whimsical cabinetry. Monserrat’s thoughtful approach extends to a number of surprising details, including suspended shelving platforms attached onto a corner of a wall for his cat and a colourful perspex towel rail in the bathroom. Finished with vintage lighting, furniture and accents that fill in the blanks, the home is an eclectic pastiche of the past and present.
‘Although small, the apartment feels spacious and comfortable,’ Monserrat concludes. ‘I wanted to tone down the rustic feeling of the standardized loft warehouse apartment by making it feel more Mediterranean. I wanted to create an airy feeling by keeping the design simple and elegant, and by accentuating the division between the spaces with minimal and soft geometric forms.
instagram.com/monserrat.studio (opens in new tab)
Pei-Ru Keh is the US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru has held various titles at Wallpaper* since she joined in 2007. She currently reports on design, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru has taken a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars and actively seeks out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.
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