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Emeryville Renovation: Part 2

In this Backstory series, preview the loft renovation that will be the My House story in Dwell's November issue—our first-ever online sneak peek. Here, Emeryville, California, architect Peter Benoit shares the process behind customizing the San Francisco Bay area loft he shares with his wife, Lynda. Catch up with Part 1: The Way it Was here, and keep reading for Part 2: Drawings and Demolition.


After we moved in and had a chance to live in our new home, the first thing I did was draw a master plan of the entire place with detailed field measurings of the existing layout. We needed to add some material, some warmth, some wood, some texture—it was all dull before that. Then, I made a bunch of master plan options. One of the options was very involved—it would entail opening a big hole between the kitchen and living area. I scaled that back and we decided to open up half of the living room so we could get the loft back and redefine the area. I looked at a lot of different schemes: Originally, I considered a series of built-in bookshelves, or treating the entry way with different materials—even lacquered panels at one point. I kept playing around with it for weeks. In the end the space really called for a volume, and I started seeing the unit that housed the bedroom as a box rather than two different walls. Then I imagined it as a uniform material, which really simplified everything. Next I moved on to construction drawings. 

This shows the main elevation of the wood box from the living room side; the bedroom is within and the loft is above, with shelves along the facing wall and stairs adjacent to the right. There are three typical details: the head/top (with the integral lighting), the base detail, and then the plan detail (which ran through any one of these verticals). Originally I thought that I was going to do butt-jointed boards (which means you’d be able to see the joint as you turn the corner), but I changed that idea to a more seamless mitre joint when I started construction. It actually turned out to be so much nicer, but the process was a LOT longer and a lot more labor intensive.

Stay tuned for the next installment, where the plans become a reality and construction begins!

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