written by:
September 26, 2011

In our latest Backstory series, we'll be previewing the loft renovation that is the featured My House 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. Check out Part 1: As it Was, Part 2: Drawings and Demolition, and now, Part 3: Construction.

Now that the demo was pretty much done, I started construction of the wood box. I decided that I was going to build it myself to save money on labor more than anything else.

I had a mandate from Lynda—as soon as I demolished the existing stair I had to make a new one within 48 hours, because she didn’t want to climb a ladder to get to her clothes. I had never built stairs before, but I did learn how to frame when I worked wit
I had a mandate from Lynda—as soon as I demolished the existing stair I had to make a new one within 48 hours, because she didn’t want to climb a ladder to get to her clothes. I had never built stairs before, but I did learn how to frame when I worked with a house builder for a summer when I was back in Massachusetts. This picture shows the first stair stringer— the structural support for each of the steps—being fabricated. I used a regular old framing square, skill saw, and hand saw to square up the cuts.
1 / 8
I built the closet platform and landing first, and then nailed the two stringers into place. Our floor is uneven—it used to be the roof of the old building—so I had to custom shave and shim each of the stringers to get them to be level and sturdy when the
I built the closet platform and landing first, and then nailed the two stringers into place. Our floor is uneven—it used to be the roof of the old building—so I had to custom shave and shim each of the stringers to get them to be level and sturdy when they were secured to the structure.
2 / 8
We used the completed, rough stair like this for a while before I got to cladding the wood box.
We used the completed, rough stair like this for a while before I got to cladding the wood box.
3 / 8
This was my typical workshop throughout the construction of the wood box. I had two portable metal sawhorses that I would set up, and I used my task chair at my desk as support when I needed to cut really long boards. Once I measured and cut all the indiv
This was my typical workshop throughout the construction of the wood box. I had two portable metal sawhorses that I would set up, and I used my task chair at my desk as support when I needed to cut really long boards. Once I measured and cut all the individual pieces of cladding I’d test the fit, then go back and finesse them, then nail them up. It took forever. I bought an air compressor and a finish nail gun that made this possible—I couldn’t have done the work without it.
4 / 8
Once we removed drywall on the living room side, I laid up sheets of plywood—all by myself. I had to do this choreographed sequence of getting the board onto the sawhorses, dead lifting it up onto some temporary nails in the studs, climbing the ladder whi
Once we removed drywall on the living room side, I laid up sheets of plywood—all by myself. I had to do this choreographed sequence of getting the board onto the sawhorses, dead lifting it up onto some temporary nails in the studs, climbing the ladder while keeping the board from tipping over, and then nailing it up in place. In retrospect, I have no idea why I didn’t do it from the ground up.
5 / 8
This shot shows the bookcase framing up. I built a regular wood-stud wall and spaced it off of the plywood with a narrow deck at the top. The wood bookcase cladding went in and out and wrapped each of the stud bays. I did some basic rough electrical wirin
This shot shows the bookcase framing up. I built a regular wood-stud wall and spaced it off of the plywood with a narrow deck at the top. The wood bookcase cladding went in and out and wrapped each of the stud bays. I did some basic rough electrical wiring with new convenience outlets at the base, and stubbed out for the lighting at top. (Hello, Lynda!)
6 / 8
Lynda did all of the tiling work in the kitchen. We used Heath Ceramics second stock tiles and applied them directly to the drywall. Lynda sorted them all by grade and color, and hand assembled the pattern as she went up the wall. She hadn’t any construct
Lynda did all of the tiling work in the kitchen. We used Heath Ceramics second stock tiles and applied them directly to the drywall. Lynda sorted them all by grade and color, and hand assembled the pattern as she went up the wall. She hadn’t any construction experience before, but she was awesome, learned fast, and really did a great job.
7 / 8
And here’s the wood box about half-way completed. Once I figured out how to get into a rhythm on each of the cladding courses (all the way across), I could lay one in about a half an hour. I tried to keep the heartwood (dark) and sapwood (light) portions
And here’s the wood box about half-way completed. Once I figured out how to get into a rhythm on each of the cladding courses (all the way across), I could lay one in about a half an hour. I tried to keep the heartwood (dark) and sapwood (light) portions of the board balanced as best I could, but pretty much let the natural randomnesss create its own pattern and texture. When I finished all the cladding, I hired a carpenter to install the individual bookshelves, hang the doors at the stair, and finish up cladding around the stair treads and risers. And we got rid of the ceiling fan.

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

8 / 8
I had a mandate from Lynda—as soon as I demolished the existing stair I had to make a new one within 48 hours, because she didn’t want to climb a ladder to get to her clothes. I had never built stairs before, but I did learn how to frame when I worked wit
I had a mandate from Lynda—as soon as I demolished the existing stair I had to make a new one within 48 hours, because she didn’t want to climb a ladder to get to her clothes. I had never built stairs before, but I did learn how to frame when I worked with a house builder for a summer when I was back in Massachusetts. This picture shows the first stair stringer— the structural support for each of the steps—being fabricated. I used a regular old framing square, skill saw, and hand saw to square up the cuts.

Pickup the November issue to see the results of the renovation!

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
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