written by:
photos by:
illustrated by:
January 14, 2009
Originally published in Renovate It!

Openshop|Studio’s design for a hivelike structure in the middle of a Brooklyn loft creates a chrysalis of comfort for a couple and their baby.

OSB interior brooklyn loft
A large OSB structure with skylights, a bathroom, enclosed baby’s room, and master sleeping alcove dominates Ryan and Showalter’s Brooklyn loft.
Photo by 
1 / 9
The former Ex-Lax factory on busy Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn is one of the only loft buildings in brownstone-rich Boerum Hill.
Photo by 
2 / 9
A foam mat creates a colorful play space for one-year-old Tatum.
Photo by 
3 / 9
Custom-fabricated modular bookshelves create a corridor leading to the home office.
Photo by 
4 / 9
The doorway to Tatum’s room inside the hive is buffered with custom-cut Flor carpet tiles.
Photo by 
5 / 9
The master bedroom’s felt walls keep things cozy, and the hanging rubber Soft lamps by Droog prevent bumped heads.
Photo by 
6 / 9
Young parents Ainsley Ryan and Chris Showalter created a freestanding OSB (oriented strand board) structure inside their Brooklyn, New York, apartment to house their daughter Tatum’s room, as well as their own connecting master bedroom. The crib is by Oeu
Young parents Ainsley Ryan and Chris Showalter created a freestanding OSB (oriented strand board) structure inside their Brooklyn, New York, apartment to house their daughter Tatum’s room, as well as their own connecting master bedroom. The crib is by Oeuf. Read the whole story here.
Photo by 
7 / 9
A grand piano provides a focal point for the room—a place for Ryan to play Tatum’s favorite music, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. The Portola series sofa is from Design Within Reach.
Photo by 
8 / 9
Staggered Ikea cabinets and Castore lamps by Michele de Lucci for Artemide make the most of the loft’s 14-foot ceilings.
Photo by 
9 / 9
OSB interior brooklyn loft
A large OSB structure with skylights, a bathroom, enclosed baby’s room, and master sleeping alcove dominates Ryan and Showalter’s Brooklyn loft.
Project 
Showalter Loft
Architect 

When opera singer Ainsley Ryan and Goldman Sachs VP Chris Showalter took over a fixer-upper loft in a former Ex-Lax factory in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, they decided to, quite literally, think outside the box. Forgoing standard wall-building bedroom construction, the couple gave free rein to Adam Hayes and Mark Kroeckel of Openshop|Studio, who devised a fluid, multifaceted freestanding structure sheathed in oriented strand board (OSB). The configuration preserves the loft’s open space and ample light while forming a master sleeping cove, bathroom, walk-in closet, and cavelike bedroom for the couple’s other big project, daughter Tatum.

When we bought this place, we could not have moved in. It was weird. It was bizarre. It was filthy—–the carpets, the walls, everything. They had lofted the bedroom, but we’re really tall—–I’m six feet, Chris is six-three—–so for us, that just didn’t work. Underneath, they had what looked almost like a garage—–an enormous crawl space packed full of junk. The two huge columns were drywalled and part of a closet, so we didn’t even know they were here. The layout was just absolutely insane. This probably appears insane too, but basically, we knew we had to gut it.

We hired friends of ours, Adam Hayes and Mark Kroeckel, to help us design it. We knew that this might be the last apartment we’d live in in New York, and came to the conclusion that we might as well go crazy. We gave them carte blanche. The only thing I cared about was the grand piano. So they basically had a big rectangle to work with.

hive loft exterior building
The former Ex-Lax factory on busy Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn is one of the only loft buildings in brownstone-rich Boerum Hill.

This is a south-facing apartment, so the sun that comes in is so bright. It could be 20 degrees outside, but in here, you feel like you’re at the beach. We wanted the light and the air to continue to circulate around the apartment and not build walls blocking off large portions of the space. We also knew we didn’t care for a big bedroom. That’s why the designers came up with this structure: It bends, it has skylights, and it’s open. The bedroom is tucked beneath a fold, Tatum’s room and the bathroom are enclosed, and  the closet is formed between the back wall of the apartment and an outer wall of the structure. The designers called it a form or volume in their plans, but our friends call it the hive, the pod, or the amoeba. It sort of looked like a dinosaur skeleton.

hive loft portrait
A foam mat creates a colorful play space for one-year-old Tatum.

When you talk to people who’ve renovated in New York, you hear horror stories about how it takes twice as long and costs twice as much. And we started the whole process before I was pregnant. I had to call the architects and say, “Uh, so, we actually need a baby’s room now.” It’s funny, they were the first people I told I was pregnant!

hive loft doorway
The doorway to Tatum’s room inside the hive is buffered with custom-cut Flor carpet tiles.

The renovations started in September 2006. Because the apartment is on the second floor, passersby could see inside; people were running out onto the middle of the street, saying, “What is going on up there?”

Living here took a little bit of getting used to, because you’re just so accustomed to having walls and four corners. You feel almost like you’ve been institutionalized. Of course, I had a newborn, so I was out of my mind to begin with.

The baby loves the structure, though. She loves running around and playing hide-and-seek in it. Tatum doesn’t know it’s weird. She just thinks everyone’s bedroom looks like that. The built-in bench in her room doubles as a storage bin for her stuff, which is greatly needed. She basically learned to walk by moving alongside the bench. The Flor tiles make the surfaces more baby-friendly. During the day, the light streaming in through the skylight turns a corner and it gets darker, which is great for naps. She won’t sleep through the night when we’re all out of town.

Young parents Ainsley Ryan and Chris Showalter created a freestanding OSB (oriented strand board) structure inside their Brooklyn, New York, apartment to house their daughter Tatum’s room, as well as their own connecting master bedroom. The crib is by Oeu
Young parents Ainsley Ryan and Chris Showalter created a freestanding OSB (oriented strand board) structure inside their Brooklyn, New York, apartment to house their daughter Tatum’s room, as well as their own connecting master bedroom. The crib is by Oeuf. Read the whole story here.

For our bedroom, we wanted a simple sleeping nook. This is where we really used material to soften up the structure. The felt makes it feel cozy, and the light pours in from the windows each morning and makes it nice and warm. Even the pendant lamps are rubber, in case you smack your head on them. At first I felt like I was waking up in a spaceship, but I got used to it. Everyone that goes in there is like, “Oh my god, that’s awesome!” Then they want us to put felt on the rest of it.

A lot of people are shocked by the material—–definitely more so than the shape. They can’t get over the wood. If it were a different material, I think people would have a different response. But we had a budget—–we couldn’t build it out of marble! Also, this is a very low-toxicity, low-emissions OSB. That was very important to me. I really wanted a safe, green material.

Chris was worried that the design and the theme of exposed wood and concrete would make it feel hard. But the bedroom and the roll-out bed area, which is padded so it can double as a place to curl up and watch a movie, really soften things up. Having a big, explosively colorful, comfortable rug to mitigate the industrial feel of the space is also important.

The open kitchen is awesome. It’s critical for me with a baby to be able to watch her play while I’m cooking. It’s great for entertaining; the custom Corian table that wraps around the column is perfect for dinner parties.

The shelving and the closet use identical custom ironwork so you can take brackets out, put poles up—–whatever you want. We’ve rearranged the shelves several times already; we took them off of the lower level because Tatum was starting to walk.

We love it, though. Today, I had no lights on, and the hallway inside the structure was lit up by the sun. The air circulates really well and it always feels fresh in here. Except for when I’m burning spanakopita.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

With our annual issue devoted to the outdoors on newsstands, we did a lap of Instagram for some extra inspiration.
May 23, 2016
forest for the trees english prefab mobile home facade chesnut cladding
On the edge of a historic park in an English shire, a prefabricated home sets a new design standard.
May 23, 2016
tread lightly australia
A family home on Australia’s Mornington Peninsula is built to blend in with its lakeside setting.
May 23, 2016
jardins party dining room hay chairs local wood floor
A pair of architects help a client carve out an oasis of calm amid São Paulo’s bustle.
May 23, 2016
hwm6zf 1
No matter where you're located or what time of the year it is, having a fireplace in your home is a treasure that’s continuously sought after. Besides the obvious benefits of keeping a fire going through the cold winter months, it can also be a cherished asset that provides an extra level of year-round comfort—not to mention how it can help define the layout of a space by acting as a sculptural element.
May 23, 2016
An office Crosby Studios designed for NGRS in Moscow
Crosby Studios just cares about the essentials.
May 22, 2016
cold sweat seattle floating sauna gocstudio
A cadre of designers let off steam after hours by building and sailing a seaworthy sauna.
May 22, 2016
in the swim off the grid campsite healdsburg california swimming pool solar heat lap pool ipe deck loll designs lounge chairs
An off-the-grid house that is little more than a decked campsite—albeit with a roof—includes a swimming pool for a family that loves to enjoy the elements.
May 21, 2016
A print by Kristina Krogh
From flat to physical, Kristina Krogh masters every dimension.
May 21, 2016
scifi
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
May 21, 2016
beverly hills living room piano view
Architect Noah Walker, principal of Los Angeles–based studio Walker Workshop, shares completed and work-in-progress residential designs on his Instagram page (@noah_walker). Take a peek at some of the striking modern houses here, and tour the Venice House on the Dwell Home Tours on June 26.
May 20, 2016
ripple effect san fancisco small space yard outdoor monica viarengo pebble mosiac artificial turf slide
A San Francisco landscape designer finds a small-space solution that’s anything but narrow-minded.
May 20, 2016
Oslo living room with light wood floors and wood slab table
A pair of designers in Oslo, armed with tricks for introducing color and daylight, remake their compact late-19th-century apartment.
May 20, 2016
family affair backyard addition portrait
In coastal Massachusetts, a resourceful couple and their equally enterprising children use reclaimed materials to create a versatile 168-square-foot backyard building.
May 20, 2016
speed machine australian beachside prefab archiblox facade colorbond ultra steel cladding queensland blue gum wood
With little time to waste, an Australian firm erects an efficient prefab overlooking the ocean.
May 20, 2016
Christian Benimana at Design Indaba
When he was younger, there wasn't a single architecture school in his country. Now, as part of MASS Design Group, Christian Benimana shares how architecture can heal and inspire Africa.
May 19, 2016
01 1
This Italian villa is serenity incarnate.
May 19, 2016
michael cobb interior
Alternative materials help a house in California’s wine country tread lightly on the land.
May 18, 2016
13266797 1799532953608317 1984666518 n 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
May 18, 2016
Industrial kitchen built on a budget.
In Austin, Texas, architect Sean Guess forges an inventive industrial kitchen for a cost-conscious couple.
May 18, 2016
great danes dining area
In an up-and-coming area of Copenhagen, a pair of designers and their twin girls inhabit a converted loft, filling it with serious design savvy and a hefty dose of creativity.
May 18, 2016
25687 preview low 1633 2 25687 sc v2com
An 1885 house in Montreal dips a little into its backyard for spare space.
May 17, 2016
modern ecoconscious pavilion walkway roof
A couple’s retirement home on a nature preserve in Carmel, California, emerges as a series of eco-conscious pavilions that rest lightly on the land.
May 17, 2016
Formafantasma's designs for Alcantara's Touching Tales
In a 17-century palazzo, two young design studios explore a very modern material.
May 17, 2016
25104 preview low 567 9 25104 sc v2com
An extended clan, separated by business, gathers for holidays at a forested getaway near Sutton, Quebec.
May 16, 2016
it takes a village exterior
A family matriarch enlisted an architect, an interior designer, a builder, and a landscape architect to help realize her vision for a diminutive, low-key lakeside getaway.
May 16, 2016
starry night light installation
A celestial light installation illuminates the garage door of a recently renovated Toronto house.
May 16, 2016
kiwis big adventure facade
Three designers jump-start their practice with an affordably built abode in New Zealand.
May 16, 2016
Once a horse stable, this Chicago house first got a superficial makeover from Oprah (we wonder whether Stedman likes modern) before architect Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang was called in for a more substantial renovation and a dazzlingly porous brick screen.
We catch up with the creative couple living in Studio Gang's Brick Weave House.
May 16, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent sabine marcelis rotterdam netherlands clee wei swee dawnlights sabinemarcelis boijmans leeweiswee16
The sleek lighting designs of Sabine Marcelis are capturing the attention of fashion houses and architecture firms alike.
May 15, 2016