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

San Francisco dining room with chandelier and Eames shell chairs
Brooklyn-based RBW's work—from diminutive sconces to large floor lamps—shape these five interiors.
February 09, 2016
Glass-fronted converted garage in Washington
These garages go behind parking cars and storing your drum sets.
February 09, 2016
Modern Texas home office with sliding walls, behr black chalkboard paint, concrete walls, and white oak flooring
From appropriated nooks to glass-encased rooms, each of these modern offices works a unique angle.
February 09, 2016
picnic-style table in renovated San Francisco house
From chandeliers to pendants, these designs make the dining room the most entertaining space in the house.
February 09, 2016
Midcentury house in Portland with iron colored facade and gold front door
From preserved masterworks to carefully updated time capsules, these homes have one thing in common (other than a healthy appreciation for everything Eames): the conviction that the '40s, '50s, and '60s were the most outstanding moments in American architecture.
February 09, 2016
Modern living room with furniture designed by Ludovica + Roberto Palomba
These oases by the sea, many done up in white, make stunning escapes.
February 08, 2016
A Philippe Starck standing lamp and an Eames chaise longue bracket the living room; two Lawrence Weiner prints hang behind a pair of Warren Platner chairs and a table purchased from a River Oaks estate sale; at far left of the room, a partial wall of new
Texas might have a big reputation, but these homes show the variety of shapes and sizes in the Lone Star State.
February 08, 2016
Montigo gas-burning fireplace in spacious living room.
Built atop the foundation of a flood-damaged home, this 3,000-square-foot Maryland home features vibrant furniture placed in front of stunning views of a nearby estuary.
February 08, 2016
Studio addition in Seattle
An architect couple sets out to transform a run-down property.
February 08, 2016
West Elm coffee table, custom Joybird sofa, and matching Jens Risom chairs in living room of Westchester renovation by Khanna Shultz.
Every Monday, @dwell and @designmilk invite fans and experts on Twitter to weigh in on trending topics in design.
February 08, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment living room vertical oak slats
For the modernists among us, these spare spaces are a dream come true.
February 08, 2016
The square fountain at the courtyard's center is a modern rendition of a very traditional feature in many Middle Eastern homes.
From a large gathering space for family or a tranquil sanctuary, these seven designs feature some very different takes on the ancient idea of a courtyard.
February 08, 2016
stdaluminum 021
Since windows and doors are such important aspects of your home, it’s always a good idea to take the time to evaluate how they fit within the lifestyle you want. Whether you’re in the middle of constructing a new home, or you’re considering replacing your current setup, there are multiple elements to consider when it comes time to make the final decisions. Milgard® Windows & Doors understands how vital these choices are to the well-being of your home and has developed ways to turn the process into a journey that can be just as enjoyable as it is fulfilling. Not sure where to start? We gathered some helpful insights from their team of experts to help us better understand what goes into the process of bringing your vision to life.
February 08, 2016
modern fire resistant green boulder loewen windows south facade triple planed low-e glass
These houses in Broncos Country prove modern design is alive in the Rocky Mountains.
February 08, 2016
french evolution paris daniel rozensztroch living area eames la chaise butterfly chair moroccan berber rug
A tastemaker brings his distinct vision to an industrial loft with a centuries-old pedigree.
February 07, 2016
senses touch products
The haptic impact can’t be underplayed. The tactility of a material—its temperature, its texture­—can make the difference between pleasure and discontent.
February 07, 2016
senses taste products
Ambience is a key ingredient to any meal—materials, textures, and mood all impart a certain flavor.
February 07, 2016
senses smell products
The nose knows: Though fleeting and immaterial, scent is the lifeblood of Proustian memories, both evoking and imprinting visceral associations.
February 06, 2016
design icon josef frank villa beer vienna
Josef Frank: Against Design, which runs through April 2016 at Vienna’s Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art, is a comprehensive study of the prolific architect, designer, and author.
February 06, 2016
senses sound products
From an alarm to a symphony, audio frequencies hold the power to elicit an emotional call-and-response.
February 06, 2016
Italian Apline home with double-height walls on one facade.
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
February 05, 2016
A built-in sofa with Design Tex upholstery marks the boundary between the two-level addition and the bungalow. Leading up to the master bedroom, a perforated metal staircase, lit from above, casts a Sigmar Polke–like shadow grid on the concrete floor.
From a minimalist Walter Gropius design to a curving sculptural stair, these six stairways run the gamut.
February 05, 2016
distant structure lakeside prefab norway facade stones green roof
Dwell has traveled all over the world, from Tasmania to Indonesia, to report on modern houses.
February 05, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment master bedroom atrium
Get ready for a weekend of rest with these sleepy, little cocoons.
February 05, 2016
lamp show 99 cent plus gallery 0
At Brooklyn's 99¢ Plus gallery, 30 artists and designers re-imagine the lamp in an illuminating light show.
February 04, 2016
Hidden storage stairwell with raw brass hardware
Having ample space to stow items is a daily struggle—peep these modern homes for some ideas on maximizing your square footage.
February 04, 2016
modern fairhaven beach house blackbutt eucalyptus living room Patricia Urquiola sofa
Whether it's along a coast in Australia or the French Alps, wood provides a natural touch in these interiors.
February 04, 2016
Glass and steel sculpture in Printemps store of Paris.
In the Paris' venerable Printemps department store, two Toronto-based firms were tasked with enlivening a new atrium and creating a unique experience for visitors. YabuPushelberg, partnering with UUfie, designed this stunning steel "sail" embedded with vibrant dichroic glass.
February 04, 2016
Monochromatic Master Bedroom in Copenhagen Townhouse
Whether it's to maximize limited light or create a soothing interior, these five projects go white in a big way.
February 04, 2016
EQ3 Assembly quilt by Kenneth LaVallee
The new Assembly collection from EQ3 celebrates up-and-coming figures in Canadian design. Discover this newly appointed class, which debuted at Toronto's Interior Design Show, here.
February 03, 2016