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Strength of character – loft makeover by architect Irit Axelrod

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This loft refit by Irit Axelrod celebrates its origins

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Open-plan living can go far beyond having a kitchen overlook the family room. One way to bring out the drama in a large industrial volume is to ensure the entire space can be read at a glance.

Built in 1907, the clocktower in San Francisco's South of Market district was originally a factory. Then in the early 1990s, the building was converted into live-and-work spaces, maintaining its brick and wood surfaces as well as the overall concrete, industrial feel.

When architect Irit Axelrod came to renovate an 1800sq ft loft in the historic building, it was decided to make the most of the strong simple form and build on its industrial material palette.

The original 14ft ceilings, big concrete columns, mezzanine, and steel window frames have been retained, says Axelrod.

"The floor was stripped back to the original concrete and sealed with a high-gloss finish. The wall of windows was kept and other walls surfaced in plywall.


"To maximize the impact of the large volume, I set the mezzanine-level master bedroom, and guest bedroom beneath, behind a freestanding wall finished in gray wallpaper – a dark planar insertion into a white loft envelope. This allows you to see past the wall and understand the dimensions of the space at a glance.

"Other internal walls needed for room separations were made of glass or acrylic to maintain a visual flow of space."

The minimalist kitchen is set in front of the dividing wall and has sleek aluminum cabinets and stainless steel countertops.

"The introduced materials – acrylic, stainless steel, and plywood – all play off the industrial feel," says Axelrod. "However, I used them in a more finished way. For example, I designed a coffee table in layered resin sheet to create a piece that's refined, despite the basic material."

Some whimsical touches include a wall niche containing miniature models, further dwarfed by the apartment's scale. And in the master bedroom, artificial grass grows at the base of a pillar.

With furniture chosen in sympathetic hues, color accents are achieved through stacks of colorful books.

Apart from the living room furniture, a desk and the kitchen, the loft is an open space, dotted with sculpture.

"The end result is a vibrant new take on a well-known theme – an industrial loft with a modernist aesthetic," Axelrod says.

First published date: 06 October 2013

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Credit List

Architect and interior designer Irit Axelrod, Axelrod + Stept Architects (San Francisco)
Kitchen manufacturer Arclinea San Francisco
Flooring Existing polished concrete with sealer; birch veneer plywood
Paints and varnishes Benjamin Moore
Lighting Ingo Maurer; custom linear pendant in kitchen by Irit Axelrod
Heating Existing radiant baseboard
Furniture Herman Miller Eames moulded plywood lounge chair from Design Within Reach; Porro dining table, Moooi sofa from DZINE; custom-designed acrylic coffee table by Irit Axelrod; Megis chairs
Kitchen cabinetry Aluminum
Countertops Stainless steel
Backsplash Black acrylic by Tap Plastics
Faucets Hansgrohe Axor
Oven, cooktop, refrigeration, dishwasher Bosch
Bathroom vanity, shower surround Stainless steel
Tub Zuma