written by:
September 22, 2011

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 lig
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.
1 / 8
This section and elevation shows the side of the wood box with the stairs. I drew this so I could figure out how I would be framing the stair. The challenge was to make sure that no one would hit their head on the existing beams as they ascend to the top
This section and elevation shows the side of the wood box with the stairs. I drew this so I could figure out how I would be framing the stair. The challenge was to make sure that no one would hit their head on the existing beams as they ascend to the top of the space. I looked at a handful of configurations, and opted to make a landing one step down from the loft, which happened to work out perfectly—with an inch of space for a 6’2” person (which is me). We also knew we wanted to have a closet beneath the landing. I used this drawing all the way through construction, which is why it’s so beat up with so many notations and stains.
2 / 8
This is the original section detail that shows the cavity for recessed lighting on top of the bookcase in the loft. This fixture provides indirect lighting for the living room—it pumps up onto the ceiling and reflects down, but you don’t see the light sou
This is the original section detail that shows the cavity for recessed lighting on top of the bookcase in the loft. This fixture provides indirect lighting for the living room—it pumps up onto the ceiling and reflects down, but you don’t see the light source from the living room. Because we were up there every morning and night getting dressed, I planned to put a frosted lens over it so its beam wouldn’t be too bright. I wasn’t sure what kind of light fixtures to use in the beginning, but I found some fluorescents that worked well.
3 / 8
This is a concealed hinge door detail for the double door at the closet under the stair. We bought a standard 1-3/8” solid core wood door panel from a lumber yard, clad it in 1x4 Douglas fir, and used Soss invisible hinges. I ended up hiring a carpenter w
This is a concealed hinge door detail for the double door at the closet under the stair. We bought a standard 1-3/8” solid core wood door panel from a lumber yard, clad it in 1x4 Douglas fir, and used Soss invisible hinges. I ended up hiring a carpenter with more experience to hang the door because it was out of my comfort zone to get it plumb.
4 / 8
This shot shows the existing loft, halfway down. It was mostly all framing with a little bit of electrical wiring so it came down pretty easily with the sledgehammers—but it was a total mess. I had to pull the deck down myself, which was tricky; I ended u
This shot shows the existing loft, halfway down. It was mostly all framing with a little bit of electrical wiring so it came down pretty easily with the sledgehammers—but it was a total mess. I had to pull the deck down myself, which was tricky; I ended up cutting it into manageable pieces and letting them hang down so their own weight would guide them to the floor.
5 / 8
This was a very satisfying day. Here’s the entire loft smooshed into the back of my Isuzu. Removing the demo material was actually pretty easy in our building because we have a massive freight elevator that used to lift cars, so I rolled the materials dow
This was a very satisfying day. Here’s the entire loft smooshed into the back of my Isuzu. Removing the demo material was actually pretty easy in our building because we have a massive freight elevator that used to lift cars, so I rolled the materials down the hall and packed the shit out of the Trooper. I took it to the Berkeley Transfer Station; you get charged by type of vehicle and the weight you’re carrying, so it behooves you to make as few trips as possible. I made it in two.
6 / 8
One of the few days I got Lynda to help with demolition! Here she is  removing drywall from the wall separating living room from bedroom.
One of the few days I got Lynda to help with demolition! Here she is removing drywall from the wall separating living room from bedroom.
7 / 8
This shows the space opened up, breathing again, with all of the loft demolition down. You can see all the tarps—we would bunch all our furniture together and tarp everything off, tarp up the loft where our clothes were, and tarp of the passage to the kit
This shows the space opened up, breathing again, with all of the loft demolition down. You can see all the tarps—we would bunch all our furniture together and tarp everything off, tarp up the loft where our clothes were, and tarp of the passage to the kitchen. I did my best to stack up the demo-ed wood neatly, and I took a lot of break. It was slow going, trying to sweep up all the dust and keep stuff from blowing into the living room and making more of a mess. You can see the Seafoam green color of the floor that predated that terrible vinyl. You can also see the footprint of the original stair, which really chopped up the space.Stay tuned for the next step in the renovation process and see the finished loft in Dwell's November Small Spaces issue on newsstands October 4th!

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

8 / 8
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 lig
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!

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

18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016
amaroso40040
When a garage damaged by termites had to go, a studio emerges.
June 19, 2016