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A relative is a New York City developer. Last time I was visiting, he showed me a building he purchased and plans to retrofit. The project intrigued me. On the airplane back, I was working on the layout for the loft — sketching, brainstorming, and breathing life into the space in my mind’s eye.

loft, layout

sketching on the airplane


It’s a two-story building in Jersey City, NJ. The program is simple. The ground floor, will be divided between a store in the front and a loft apartment in the back. The space is 25 feet wide by 75 feet long. The store will take up 450 square feet of the available 1,875 square foot area. There’s just one unit upstairs at the moment, but it’s quite feasible to fit two one-bedroom apartments on the second floor.

Originally from St. Petersburg, having lived in Manhattan, I consider urban life very exciting. My fascination with loft living is incurable… I am daydreaming… It’s so close to Manhattan. Affordable rents at the city’s edge will be a draw. Maybe this project will set a precedent for the industrial neighborhood and turn it into the heart of a young creative community?

What if, this area, emerging from the shadows, will become home to studios, galleries, and craft shops? What if it’s a live/work situation? What if someone opens a bookshop there? A stylish café? An exquisite flower shop? A vintage clothing store?

What if the area will evolve into a hub for creativity professionals? Throw in a thriving music scene, and the next thing we know, my real estate developer is promoting it as “hip,” and young creatives are snapping up the still-affordable rental units and the loft space!

Can’t be enlarged; can’t have windows on the sides

loft, layout

facing future garden


To layout something most rationally, I need to envision a scenario, invent a client, and make it suit their needs. In my book DIY Like an Architect, I describe the 11-step process of tackling a design challenge like this. It’s the approach I use all the time. First, order of business is defining a parti.

There are no windows on either side. Light can come in from the back, potentially a beautiful garden. Since the garden is the only access to view and light, its importance is clear. The goal is to bring the light into the depth of the space. Hence, the parti: “Achieving Transparency.”

A loft is a space where cooking, eating, and living are combined

Incorporating furniture layout helps gauge the scale while defining space. It should feel sparse. The kitchen should enhance the sense of fluidity. It all should work together. I plan to integrate living, dining, and library/office that doubles as a guest room. The idea is to create one big open room, which draws heavily from the exterior landscape.

loft, layout

floor plans

Kitchen layout

The kitchen is the anchor of the loft. It needs to take center stage. The objective is to weave it into the space seamlessly.

Version 1: L-shape kitchen with a “bar.” First stab at it. Seems pretty dynamic, but not pure enough. I have to see if it works with the furniture. Where will the dining table go?

Version 2: This social kitchen “floats” as it merges with the main circulation spine.

Version 3: This functional kitchen is its own distinct entity. It’s a solid core.

Version 4: This slick kitchen almost disappears. It’s minimally invasive. Pared down simplicity.

I see it, but it doesn’t mean the developer will. I will have to explain the four versions of the loft layout to him. Do you think he will be impressed with my idea of instilling a welcoming vibe? Are you convinced? Please send me your thoughts here.

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