design hunting summer 2014

Tour a Light-Filled Loft in Chelsea

Photo: Chuck Choi

Firm: StudioKCA
Completed: 2012
Mandate: Provide access to a roof space while retaining the apartment’s essential open character
Specialty: Creative reordering of space, using sustainable materials and light

Prior to purchasing this 1,800-square-foot two-bedroom loft, the prospective owners brought their architect, Jason Klimoski, to see the space, hoping he would confirm the potential they saw. He did. “I immediately realized that the skylight could allow rooftop access,” Klimoski says.

StudioKCA, the firm Klimoski runs with partner Lesley Chang, set about creating a staircase that afforded the residents roof access—and in doing so, it landed on what would be the loft’s central feature, both practically and decoratively: a staircase that’s almost a room in itself. On the first landing, the architects carved out a spot for a dog bed; on the second, they crafted a reading nook for the family’s young daughter; and on the upper landing, they placed a small loft office. “We thought of it as a way to integrate vertical living,” Klimoski says.

The challenge was to create a staircase that would increase the apartment’s circulation without interfering with the natural illumination from the skylight overhead. As building entirely in glass was prohibitively expensive, StudioKCA designed a folded steel central balustrade with a pixelated pattern milled into it. The steel has a greater number of openings on the upper levels of the staircase, to maximize the flow of light.

The architects took one of the loft’s existing quirks—bedroom walls that don’t rise to full height, leaving a gap below the ceiling—and turned it into an asset, fitting the openings with translucent glass and illuminating this with built-in LEDs to create warm washes of light. “It gives the space a buoyancy and gives it an identity,” Klimoski says. Handily, it makes the ceilings appear higher than they are.

Klimoski reused the milled material from the staircase to make a similarly patterned custom chandelier over the dining table. The motif returns in the rug in the living area. The granite countertops from the old kitchen were recycled for the fireplace hearth, while the fireplace surround also picks up on the slatted pattern. These design decisions pull the room together without making it feel fussy.

The custom kitchen was designed to largely disappear, and with much of the lighting integrated into the architecture, the apartment is uncluttered without being austere. The abundant natural light is its defining characteristic.

*This article appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of New York Design Hunting.

The perforated steel staircase was designed to maximize the flow of natural light from above. The landing was conceived as a playful zone for the owners’ daughter.

The blackened steel underside of the staircase exactly aligns with the interior glass panels atop the bedroom walls; that connection creates a line that helps further unify the space. The clerestory offers access to unfettered natural light.

The staircase’s contrast of blackened steel and pure white is echoed in the palette of the furniture. “That’s the trick, to keep playing with similar elements,” Klimoski says. The bedrooms’ walls are topped with illuminated glass panels. The light fixture above the dining table was constructed of material milled from the staircase’s central balustrade, a way to reinforce the decorative motif and repurpose what would otherwise have been wasted.

Tour a Light-Filled Loft in Chelsea