The 10th floor condominium had spectacular lake and skyline views, but the cluttered floor plan and enclosed kitchen “cube” made the two-bedroom unit feel cramped and dark. Our clients wanted to capture the sense of light and space, and reveal the character of the building’s past: a grain elevator.
They wanted the home to reflect and embrace their two passions: simple, uncluttered living surrounded by stone, wood, and other natural materials and their collection of handcrafted art, fine crafts, and Danish teak furniture. With a modest change to the floor plan, and extensive use of natural materials, we were able to create a simple, but sophisticated, urban shelter.
The mechanical and building challenges were significant:
- Association rules dictated no exterior refuse chutes and limited work times (much later start and earlier stop times than most building trades are accustomed to). Demolition and most construction materials would need to be moved in small lifts using a passenger elevator at the other end of the building.
- Utilities did not meet modern codes for multi-family construction (some were run through the private, interior walls). We worked with the building engineer to reroute power to adjacent units, upgrade the fire sprinkler system, and re-appropriate an abandoned vent from a gas fireplace to accommodate an exterior vent for the dryer (the dryer had been vented into the condo’s living space before).
- The “ductwork” on the outside walls was simply a dry-walled soffit with no insulation.
- The plan called for a portion of the concrete silo to be exposed—which was complicated by the discovery of abandoned steel beams protruding through the wall and severe damage from the initial construction and the drywall wall that had been installed over it. Creating a pleasing finished surface was going to require restoration.
Perhaps the greatest challenge was the timeline. Just as construction commenced, the clients finally sold their home and needed to move. Soon. The clients’ work and travel schedules, combined with the condo association’s restrictions, dictated the exact day for the move-in—less than three months away. A complete gut and remodel on the 10th floor in a few months? No problem! (In the final weeks up to 15 people were working in the space simultaneously–a logistical challenge in itself).
The final design opened the space to the light and views. The kitchen now serves as the heart of the main gathering space, nestled beneath a curved soffit that contains utilities and electrical connections. A “floating” plate of decorative laminated glass illuminates the work area like an oculus letting in the sun (a specially designed and fabricated light box in the ceiling bounces full spectrum LED light off a white surface to give the diffused appearance of natural light). An extensive plate rack above the sink holds the collection of handmade ceramic plates created by various craftspeople. These serve for everyday meals.
Natural stone is used throughout—the homeowner and designer carefully edited the palette of stone to reflect the homeowner’s love of the Southwest and distinctive rock formations. The bathroom and powder room sinks are handcrafted of ceramic or wood and required custom fittings and delicate handling during installation. The concrete wall was restored and hand-stained to achieve the look of undamaged aged concrete. A surprise niche between the curved wall of the silos was exposed to display a treasured sculpture. In keeping with the clients interest in handcrafted objects, we helped them commission a furniture maker to build floating shelves that hug the concrete wall and a sculptor to build a unique, iron “towel tree” for the master bath.
The crowning moment was a party hosted several weeks after the clients successfully moved in on their deadline. New neighbors, friends, and all the craftspeople who were involved in the project raised a toast to the successful journey.