A Colorful NYC Loft That's Anything But Cookie Cutter

See how a designer blended traditional architecture with modern features.

 green dining room chairs
Photography by FRANCIS DZIKOWSKI

Given that the rustic loft vibe and the playful, colorful family home look are such unique and separate motifs, it might not be everyone’s first instinct to try and combine the two. But designer Tamara Eaton, inspired by the changing needs of her clients, worked in tandem with CWB Architects to take on the challenge and give this 1,700-square-foot loft a gut renovation.

Situated in NYC’s Flatiron District, the apartment belongs to a young family. They have now lived there for almost ten years—but the difference is that they now have two kids, and the space wasn’t working the way it was before.

Over the course of one and a half years (between contractor bidding and building approvals, there’s a lot of un-glamorous behind-the-scenes work that goes into a gut reno), the team set about making the home more efficient. Every single furniture item in the apartment is new, and with a brand new layout that now includes an extra bedroom, there’s a lot more space for the family to infuse their personality.

“They really wanted to keep a lot of the loft qualities,” says Eaton. “So that exposed brick, and the open living space in the front. The approach was doing a beautiful, clean, crisp, modern build out within a loft space.”

Want to learn how she did it? Read on to discover what went into the design, how to let kids have a say in their room decor, and the right way to use color in your home.

[In the lead image: Crate & Barrel Cody Open Back Dining Chair, $449]

 built in shelving pink desk
Photography by FRANCIS DZIKOWSKI

Let’s start at the beginning—what did the family’s wishlist look like?  

Having funky and artful furniture. And the other thing that clients ask for, no matter how big or small their space is, is smart storage. So in this study area, instead of having a big desk—a lot of people don’t always work at their desk at home anymore—we did floor-to-ceiling storage. On the other side of that nook is open shelving for toys.

There also wasn’t a clothes closet, so we built a furniture-like piece off the front entry. We didn’t bring it up all the way to the ceiling, and we put antique mirrors on it. It has a lot of storage, but it doesn’t feel like you have a big closet in the middle of your living room; it’s more like a beautiful piece of furniture.

Was there anything from the old space they wanted to keep, or any architectural elements they wanted to highlight?

You can see a lot of the exposed ductwork, pipes, and beams; the ceiling is very indicative of a loft. Even the cast iron radiators and exposed brick… we allowed it to be a loft, but to make it a little quieter, we painted everything that hit the ceiling white. It’s a playful take on the traditional loft.

 colorful kids bedroom bunk beds
Photography by FRANCIS DZIKOWSKI

[In this image: Ikea Maskros Pendant Lamp, $59.99]

How did you strike that balance between traditional and playful?

We were careful. Even in the living room, all the pipes in the ceiling are white, but we kept the black cast iron pipe so that we made a real intentional move to still have some of that classic loft feel.

colorful living room decor
Photography by FRANCIS DZIKOWSKI

[In this image: MGBW Home Dumont Sofa, $3,140]

Stylistically, what was your inspiration?

Definitely modern. If you look at the kitchen, it’s really clean and crisp. But there’s a beautiful blue glass tile that we put at the back—those are the little touches that, even in a modern space, it’s really important to be aware of. That soft glass light fixture and the blue glass backsplash make [the kitchen] feel soft and warm and human.

 white kitchen blue backsplash tile
Photography by FRANCIS DZIKOWSKI

Can you tell us a bit about how you approached color in the space?

We approached each room from a unique standpoint. A lot of what we come up with is from what inspires us and what inspires the client—here, all the artwork in the living room was existing from the client, so we knew that they were attracted to really bold, saturated jewel tones. Having the opportunity to do something like a quiet wood dining room table with the cool color of the chairs makes the apartment feel more artful.

Oftentimes we’ll do light, airy spaces and infuse color in rugs, furniture, window treatments, art… having a crisp white palette gives you a lot of flexibility to infuse color in each room.

Plus, it also lends itself to being more experimental with trends and color in the future.

Absolutely! In the girl’s bathroom, the bright purple vanity and cabinets are painted pieces. We’ve done a pretty clean white tile on the wall and a grey floor; you could easily paint the cabinets green and create a completely different feel for the bathroom. These things have a natural shelf life.

purple bathroom cabinets
Photography by FRANCIS DZIKOWSKI

What about decorating for kids? Any tips on how to navigate that?

The one thing we really don’t let kids do is pick their paint colors. When you let kids pick their paint, they’re naturally attracted to really saturated, phosphorescent colors. So we often paint the room something really clean like a grey or light taupe—maybe with one accent wall—but we’ll add things like a wild rug or crazy sparkling bedding.

We understand that a kid might spill something, and there will be a natural wear and tear, so by the time they get sick of the colors, they might need new bedding anyway, and then they can have fun there. Let them pick the bedding because it’s a big part of the room, and it’s not terribly expensive.

 pink bedding girls room
Photography by FRANCIS DZIKOWSKI

Was there a room that proved particularly difficult?

When we first did a floor plan for this space, we never had anything in the middle between the dining room and the living room, and there’s a lot of space there. What is sometimes difficult for clients to see and understand is negative space: Sometimes to make a space feel good, you shouldn’t stuff it with furniture. Just a few key pieces that are a bit more sculptural and interesting can carry you pretty far!

There’s this “wasted space” fallacy, but sometimes it’s nice to have a moment where there’s not furniture everywhere. I know that as an interior designer, that sounds crazy, but don’t over-furnish. You can always add in later, but you want to avoid turning it into a furniture showroom.

Also, having a little space that you don’t know what you’re going to do with immediately is ok. Live in the space and see what happens. Maybe your kids want space to build trains.

 grey bathroom tile
Photography by FRANCIS DZIKOWSKI

Do you have a favorite part of the loft?

The living room, because it was the most challenging, and we had to fit in the most functionality. Often the trickiest spaces are multipurpose rooms; there’s often a blend between social entertainment and TV. It’s important to have a comfortable place to watch TV, but also when you have people over for cocktails you should have a space that’s not set up just for a football stadium television.

Published on February 03, 2018 - 5:05am EST

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