Long And Lean
Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 9/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
It looked "like a bowling alley," Martin Raffone says, describing his first impression of this poorly lit SoHo shoe box 100 feet deep. As with so many lofts, the only three windows were ganged inconveniently at one end. Worse, in the zone immediately behind the windows, the elevator shaft and fire stair choked the 20-foot width down by more than a third. Those proportions might have suited an intimate boutique or an experimental black-box theater, but the owner of this apartment was a young Los Angeles musician looking to transition into New York's documentary filmmaking scene. So Martin Raffone Interior Design had to assemble a 2,000-square-foot pied-à-terre on a relatively limited budget.
Raffone designated that constricted front zone as the living area. On one side, a conversational group of Italian seating is surrounded on three sides by a low poplar-plank structure that backs up to the wall of the loft. The open side of this shallow, squared-off C faces poplar case goods framing a 60-inch plasma TV. To develop a driftwood-gray stain for the wood, Raffone didn't even have to leave his own office: He shares it with color consultant Eve Ashcraft Studio.
A little farther back, one wall looks rough, distressed. It used to have a skin of Chinese newsprint scribbled with crayon. "The former owner was sort of an artist," Raffone says. Once the paper was stripped, he spent hours personally washing the plaster underneath with the same gray finish "to give the surface back some age," he explains. The area next to this archaeological project—now furnished with nothing but a Marc Newson bentwood chair—will eventually be home to a baby grand piano.
Next in the sequence come the dining area on one side and a sitting area opposite. Again, each is embraced by a low poplar partition. That frees up the center of the existing maple floor, now ebonized, to flow back toward the German-engineered cabinetry of the open kitchen. Its rear wall, clad in black mosaic tiles, is interrupted by a tall frosted-glass window that supplies the guest bathroom with a glimmer of natural light.
The guest bath, like the master, required extensive new plumbing, forcing Raffone to raise the floor. Because, as he puts it, "stepping up into a bathroom can be unpleasant," he extended the raised floor 30 inches outside, into the study. That also creates a platform for a tufted gray mattress, a bed for occasional visitors.
When plaster in the adjacent hallway fell into a dusty pile during repairs, Raffone was delighted by the texture of the newly exposed bricks and decided merely to paint them white. He also skipped a baseboard. Instead, there's an anodized-aluminum raceway for wires; it simply pops open if more outlets are ever needed.
The hall terminates at the master suite, which is essentially devoid of daylight. Farthest of all from the front windows is the dressing area behind the bed. However, storing clothes isn't the only purpose of this space. It's also an emergency exit for neighbors in a twin loft building: A white lacquered panel conceals a communicating door that's alarmed but not locked.
When the absentee owner shipped his clothes in, Raffone had the honor of hanging them here. He purchased everything else, from the towels to the shampoo. Let's hope the neighbors never find themselves in desperate need of Moulton Brown products one dark and stormy night.