A Loft Grows Up
Back in 1999, a young couple, acting on a casual referral, showed up at fledgling designer Shamir Shah's tiny apartment, liked what they saw, and hired him on the spot for their SoHo loft. "It was my first real job," Shah says.
Peter Webster -- Interior Design, 9/1/2011 2:00:00 AM
firm: Shamir Shah Design
Back in 1999, a young couple, acting on a casual referral, showed up at fledgling designer Shamir Shah's tiny apartment, liked what they saw, and hired him on the spot for their SoHo loft. "It was my first real job," Shah says-he'd established Shamir Shah Design that year. The 4,000-square-foot loft was minimally appointed, a characterless white box typical of so many developer conversions. But it was a floor-through on the fifth story of a onetime industrial building and had windows on three exposures. Running down the center, like a spine, was a rugged wooden beam supported by six columns.
The clients, an American filmmaker and her Norwegian rock musician husband, both work at home, and they needed to combine secluded spaces with relaxed and comfortable open areas for living and entertaining. Shah used the wooden colonnade, left exposed, to organize the layout and temper the aesthetics. On one side, he placed the living-dining area and the master suite. On the other, he located the kitchen, a bedroom for the couple's infant, an office, and a music studio. And he deliberately juxtaposed his signature streamlined style with the rough-hewn timbers, so nothing looked fussy or precious.
Since completing that project, Shah himself has moved apartments four times. His clients, however, have stayed put, finding that the overall setup suits their lifestyle to a T. But wear and tear, evolving tastes, and the wholesale migration of furniture to a house in the country meant that the loft was ready for a decorative overhaul. "All the changes were cosmetic, apart from some new lighting in the master bedroom and tweaking the HVAC system," he says. It was merely a matter of refinishing and refurnishing.
Furnishings are now a mix of custom pieces, mid-century classics, and other vintage finds. In the living area, somewhat looser, more organic forms have superseded a certain Jean-Michel Frank boxiness: Note the two barrel chairs with ample white leather upholstery. Off to the side, in a pairing of manufactured elegance with natural beauty, a small group of modernist classics-an Arne Jacobsen chair, an Eero Saarinen side table, and a Serge Mouille floor lamp-is backed by a screen's irregular slabs of honey-colored knotty tropical hardwood.
Shah didn't alter the walnut built-ins surrounding the living area's fireplace, since part of their function is to conceal flues rising from the apartments below. He simply softened the clean geometry of the open shelves slightly by lining them with grass cloth-an effect echoed by the blurry landscape photograph propped on the mantel. Another photograph, this one an atmospheric seascape, determined the treatment of the wide, shallow niche in the dining area. "It's a very pale, low-contrast image. The background has to recede to set it off nicely," he explains. So he backed the niche in dark metallic glazed tiles, their silvery glint adding a further aquatic note to the composition. Below the photograph, a wall-mounted credenza appears to float in the moody depths.
To hang over the dining table's long bamboo top, Shah built a chandelier from a rectangular bronze frame and a dozen old-fashioned Edison bulbs, a nod to the loft's industrial past as their carbon filaments cast a gentle light over evening meals. The vibe turns a little rustic with the sturdy dining chairs, walnut-framed and leather-covered. Below is a rug pieced together from strips of hair-on cowhide straight off the Argentine pampas.
In the son's room, the wall behind the headboard got a special treatment: He sleeps beneath a world map limned in bronze wire. As a cheerful reminder of his Scandinavian heritage, Norway is highlighted in red.
Photography by Eric Laignel.
FRITZ HANSEN: PEDESTAL CHAIR (LIVING AREA).
KNOLL: SIDE TABLE.
SAN JUAN VENTURES: CUSTOM SCREEN.
TWENTIETH: BLACK FLOOR LAMP, DAYBED.
CHRISTIAN LIAIGRE: SOFA, BRONZE FLOOR LAMP.
CORTINA LEATHERS: CHAIR UPHOLSTERY.
ABC CARPET & HOME: THROW.
SACCO CARPET: CUSTOM RUG.
JONATHAN ADLER: LAMPS (DINING AREA).
YERRA: CUSTOM RUG.
TROSCAN DESIGN + FURNISHINGS: SIDE CHAIRS (DINING AREA, OFFICE).
FURNITURE MASTERS: CUSTOM STOOLS (KITCHEN).
STONE SOURCE: COUNTER MATERIAL.
VIKING RANGE CORPORATION: RANGE, HOOD.
MODERN LINK: ARMCHAIR (OFFICE).
DONGHIA: ARMCHAIR FABRIC.
RALPH LAUREN HOME: PILLOW FABRIC.
ROMO: PILLOW FABRIC (BOY'S ROOM).
MODERN LIVING SUPPLIES: CUSTOM CHAIRS, OTTOMAN (MASTER BEDROOM).
TWILL TEXTILES: CHAIR FABRIC, OTTOMAN FABRIC.
ROSE TARLOW MELROSE HOUSE: HEADBOARD FABRIC.
OSBORNE & LITTLE: BOLSTER FABRIC.
PHILLIP JEFFRIES: WALL COVERING.
TED BOERNER: LAMPS.
LEPERE: CUSTOM RUG.
LUCIFER LIGHTING COMPANY: RECESSED CEILING FIXTURES.
FINE PAINTS OF EUROPE: PAINT.
AUDIO VIDEO DESIGN: AUDIOVISUAL CONSULTANT.
PAVANE AND KWALBRUN CONSULTING ENGINEER: MEP.
PENEPLAIN WOODWORKS: WOODWORK.
RICH CONTRACTING: GENERAL CONTRACTOR.