written by:
photos by:
February 24, 2011
Originally published in We Love New York
as
Take Five

The Miner and a Major is an experiment in communal living and fantastical form. A New York story of creativity born from hardscrabble circumstance, the project grew out of the joint imagination of three architects with a limited budget.

The Miner and Major is an experiment in communal living and fantastical form.
The Miner and Major is an experiment in communal living and fantastical form.
Photo by 
1 / 13
Designers Serban Ionescu, Jim Dreitlein, and Justin Smith built The Miner and A Major over the course of five months. The process was iterative. Ideas were sketched out and developed as time and budget allowed. “It was an organic process,” recalls Ionescu
Designers Serban Ionescu, Jim Dreitlein, and Justin Smith built The Miner and A Major over the course of five months. The process was iterative. Ideas were sketched out and developed as time and budget allowed. “It was an organic process,” recalls Ionescu. “When we were building it was a strange ritual. We had mattresses laid out in the main room side-by-side and it was like we were camping.”
Photo by 
2 / 13
The Miner and Major experiment in New York
Many of The Miner and A Major’s doors and windows face south, towards the loft’s existing industrial windows. This allows sunlight to reach inside the sleeping quarters. A wedge-shaped gap also helps bring air, light and views into the deepest recesses of the sculptural construct.
Photo by 
3 / 13
The Miner and Major experiment in New York
The five roommates share the common space in their high-ceiling loft. There’s a large library and a studio. The large worktable gives Dreitlein and Ionescu, who together have a small art/architecture practice called The Objectionists, space to paint and make models.
Photo by 
4 / 13
Compact living space in New York
Justin Smith’s cell-like quarters are packed full of books and art. “Each room gets the bare minimum: a sleeping area, a desk, and storage,” explains Ionescu. The designers carefully laid out the space so that the beds in each room are as far apart from each other in plan as possible, in order to get as much privacy as possible.
Photo by 
5 / 13
Mohawk skylight in room
A “Mohawk” skylight cuts across the ceiling of Dreitlein's room. The interior skylights bring in extra light and help the cell-like rooms feel more spacious.
Photo by 
6 / 13
Yellow OSB wall with slits
A jumble of windows framed into the bright yellow oriented strand board (OSB) wall looks out from Ionescu’s room onto the common kitchen area. Although the team worked hard to create privacy, each room has some kind of portal or opening that connects it back to the larger loft space.
Photo by 
7 / 13
Cat lounging on bed with turquoise blue sheets
Count Dracula, one of two loft cats, curls up on Ionescu’s bed. An operable window swings open to allow ventilation, natural light, and a view of library.
Photo by 
8 / 13
Personal collections in room
Ionescu’s room has built in shelving for his eclectic collections. “We embrace everything—new, old, anything that embraces the truth in architecture,” says Ionescu. “We’ve been compared to the Deconstructivists, but we like things that are decorative or made by hand—16th century objects, Art Nouveau, anything that has an aesthetic truth to it.”
Photo by 
9 / 13
Narrow walk-in closet space
Every leftover space was put to use. Here, a narrow slot behind the structure allows just enough room for a tight walk-in closet.
Photo by 
10 / 13
Community area space at The Miner and Major experiment in New York
Confining The Miner and A Major to just one side of the loft allowed the roommates to leave the kitchen, dining, and living areas wide open. This makes it great for parties. “We wanted it to be fun, community-oriented, and playful—like the Situtationist’s credo where work is play,” says Ionescu. “It’s an experiment. It works because we are all friends. I don’t think strangers could live in this manner.”
Photo by 
11 / 13
Compact living space in New York
Located at the rear corner of the installation, down a progressively narrowing hallway, and reached by a steep staircase, Eric Juron’s attic-like space is the most remote of the bedrooms. A window over his desk looks down through the gap between the Major and the Minor.
Photo by 
12 / 13
Compact bedroom with low ceiling
Low-ceilned and darker than the other quarters, it’s not a surprise that the designers call Narek Gevorgian’s room “the cave.” A work in progress, it’s their first attempt to slowly introduce color to the double-insulated interior walls.
Photo by 
13 / 13
The Miner and Major is an experiment in communal living and fantastical form.
The Miner and Major is an experiment in communal living and fantastical form.

It took just five months and $4,000 for Serban Ionescu, Jim Dreitlein, and Justin Smith to build the warren of five sleeping units inside a Greenpoint, Brooklyn, live/work loft that was selected for being big and affordable. (They slept on mattresses scattered across the floor during construction.) Ionescu and Dreitlein had collaborated before, when they cofounded and designed the now-defunct Gestarc Gallery with three friends, and the loft presented a dream opportunity for architectural experimentation.

Named for the abstract faces the architects found in the front facade, the Miner and a Major’s painted oriented strand board (OSB) exterior conceals five small bedrooms, each outfitted with a desk, bed, and storage space. Idiosyncratic openings and operable skylights offer ventilation and bring illumination from the loft’s large industrial windows into each cell. While the wood-framed walls are thickly insulated for privacy, life in the Miner and a Major is undeniably intimate. “The thing is, it gives us all weird dreams,” says Ionescu. 

 

Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

havart 170
Updating standard pieces, designer Gaëtan Havart turns a misused space into a vibrant kitchen.
May 04, 2016
tech support stillwater dwellings prefab exterior napa
In Napa, a custom menu of apps helps a frequent traveler keep track of security—and his garden—from afar.
May 04, 2016
home for good renovation montreal family rear facade steel cladding footbridge garden
This family opens up an old structure and imagines a long-term house.
May 04, 2016
BKLYN DESIGNS 2016 location
From panel discussions to virtual reality demonstrations and more, this weekend will bring out the designer in everyone during BKLYN DESIGNS at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint from May 6-8, 2016. Here are just a few activities and installations to check out.
May 04, 2016
cbill timmerman photography jarson residence l7c4109 0
After a successful kick-off program in San Diego, we’re now making our way to Scottsdale, Arizona for the second stop on our Dwell Home Tours series. As the only desert locale on our agenda, we’re giving visitors the chance to explore exquisite modern residences that are fully immersed in the city’s arid landscape.
May 04, 2016
Modern winery in Central California
An updated California winery captures a prestigious architecture award.
May 03, 2016
back to the garden rhode island cottage small space facade landscaping
Outside Providence, Rhode Island, a little retreat takes up no more space than a standard two-car garage.
May 03, 2016
White staircase with skylight and under-stair storage
With clever storage and a retractable skylight, a London apartment feels larger than its 576 square feet.
May 03, 2016
Off-the-grid prefab in pristine Tasmanian landscape by Misho+Associates.
In Tasmania, an eco-conscious architect builds a vacation home that can stand up to an untamed island.
May 03, 2016
30degree pendants by wrong.london
The Danish design brand never disappoints.
May 02, 2016
practical magic brooklyn renocation kitchen caesarstone countertop stainless steel ikea cabinetes green vola faucet
A creative couple flips the script on their family home, a former workman’s cottage on the northern edge of Brooklyn.
May 02, 2016
history lesson kansas city outdoor backyard facade porch saarinen round table emeco navy chairs
An architect pushes the vernacular architecture of Missouri into the modern realm.
May 02, 2016
mission possible san francisco renovation facade exterior french doors cedar
A dilapidated lot in San Francisco gets a second chance.
May 02, 2016
Eames Demetrios of Kcymaerxthaere
The Eames scion and "geographer-at-large" traverses the globe on behalf of Kcymaerxthaere, a network of markers and monuments that tells fictional tales about real-life communities.
May 02, 2016
marcel breuer architect letter office kansas city snower house
See a glimpse into the office of a master architect.
May 01, 2016
Santa Monica living room with an Yves Klein coffee table
Dwell editor-in-chief Amanda Dameron talks us through Dwell's May 2016 issue.
May 01, 2016
house that sottsass built maui hawaii memphis group home renovation ettore facade colored volumes
In Maui, of all places.
May 01, 2016
two of a kind padua italy matching family homes facade green roof doors color
For Dwell's annual issue dedicated to dream homes , we visited homes from Haiti to Italy. Here, we introduce you to the photographers and writers who made it happen.
April 30, 2016
houseofweek
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
April 30, 2016
W House living room
Our best reader reactions this week.
April 29, 2016
Vineyard house illuminated at night
Rammed-earth construction fuses this Portuguese house to the environment.
April 29, 2016
vintage Scandinavian furniture Kathryn Tyler
In southwest England, interior designer Kathryn Tyler built her home around her ever-expanding furniture collection.
April 29, 2016
steel facade home Seattle
On the sandy shores of Fauntleroy Cove in Seattle, renowned firm Olson Kundig Architects crafts a subtle home with striking steel accents.
April 29, 2016
seperate piece renovated guesthouse eames storage unit cork floor tiles living room
An architect and an interior designer put the tools to the test for this impressive renovation.
April 29, 2016
Ceramics by WrenLab
Manhattan doesn’t get to have all the fun during NYCxDesign. Brooklyn is set for the return of BKLYN DESIGNS at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint from May 6-8, 2016. Here are just a few exhibitors we are excited to see this year.
April 29, 2016
n0a6974 dxo
Architect Diego Revollo refreshes an apartment with a standout kitchen.
April 29, 2016
img 8652 1
The city of San Francisco has been eagerly awaiting the reopening of SFMOMA for years—and as the May 14th opening approaches closer everyday, the anticipation continues to build for art enthusiasts both near and far. This morning, we were given the opportunity to explore the newly expanded space before the crowds roll in. After a series of speeches, remarks, and tours, we left the grounds feeling thoroughly inspired and excited to share what we discovered.
April 28, 2016
intage Milo Baughman chairs, Darren Vigilant side table and B&B Italia sofa define the living room.
A family doesn’t have to travel far for a private oasis away from the busy city.
April 28, 2016
Renovation of 1967 Hamburg apartment with Vipp kitchen.
In our April issue, we showcased an apartment in Hamburg, Germany, with a striking, matte-black kitchen from Vipp. The 77-year-old company became famous for its iconic pedal trash can before venturing into kitchens and other tools for the home. This isn't the first time that the Danish company's products have graced our pages, and here we've gathered additional examples from our archive that show how the brand's minimalist black kitchens are always a win in modern interiors.
April 28, 2016
Zafra residence living room.
A man and his wife make an emotional return to an apartment building he loved as a kid.
April 28, 2016