Project: Minimal Downtown Loft
Architecture: Bushman Dreyfus Architects
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia, United States
Project size: 2350 ft2
Site size: 3000 ft2
Completion date: 2019
Building levels 4
Photo Credits: Virginia Hamrick Photography
Light is the theme of this minimal and modern intervention.
The oldest building on the downtown pedestrian mall in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, contains this minimal and modern renovation. The c.1843 three-story structure was badly in need of refurbishment — portions of the framing, roof, insulation, windows, mechanical systems, electrical and plumbing were all replaced and renewed so this building is set for service for another century or more.
Dark and claustrophobic commercial space was the starting point on both floors. The second floor is transformed into space for a small commercial venture. The third floor and attic are transformed into a single spacious open floor apartment with sleeping loft overlooking the main space. Transparency from front to back is a key design intent, establishing visual access to the street trees in front and sunlight in the back. Multiple modes of direct and indirect natural lighting animate the space.
A single scaled up cabinet “box” with hidden hardware, secret doors and rooms runs nearly the entire 50-foot length of the floor and conceals all modernized services and storage for each level. In the apartment all kitchen appliances disappear when not in use. Doors to the left and right of the work surface open fully for access to a wall oven and refrigerator. The wood cladding is rough sawn white oak with a light stain. The floor planks are also white oak, keeping the color and material palette to a minimum on both floors.
In the apartment a window-like opening through the oak cabinet volume frames a view of the original brick masonry bearing walls, offering a dramatic counterpoint of texture and color. The backsplash is completely open to a stair leading to the apartment vestibule below. In the kitchen’s opening, a low-profile stainless steel utility trough with electrical outlets runs along the edge of the counter. Functional and durable stainless-steel accessories for the kitchen and bath are custom-fabricated locally.
Although the residential bathroom doesn’t have an exterior window, a south-facing floor-to-ceiling sheet of glass brings borrowed light in from the skylight above the apartment entry stair, illuminating a floating oak vanity. The finish of the engineered stone countertop and integral sink match the the slabs in the kitchen’s opening, providing a thread of continuity. The intention was not to introduce another color or material in this space.
The residential sleeping loft stair is both foreground and background, heavy and light, transparent and opaque. The white guardrail is a single 3/8” thick painted steel plate. The treads and risers are folded perforated steel, fixed to the vertical steel plate guard, creating a delicate, but monolithic, integrated structure.
Seven new skylights in the high ceiling of the apartment fill the space with natural light. Illuminated cove at the top of the cabinet wall brightens the second floor office. New double pane aluminum clad windows on both floors maximize the daylight openings and ensure better energy performance. New insulation under the existing roof provides thermal resistance far in excess of the code required value.