Before & After: An Outdated 80s Loft Is Rescued From a Flashy Color Palette

By Melissa Dalton / Published by Dwell

Brooklyn–based firm Isaac-Rae reimagines every inch of this 3,100-square-foot space, infusing an "un-fussy" aesthetic throughout.

According to Clay Coffey, founder of the architecture and design firm Isaac-Rae, his first tour of this spacious loft was a bit blinding. "As the elevator doors opened, you were overwhelmed by a dated and severe design—a lot of black, red, and silver," he notes. 

Located in an 1890 garment factory that was converted to lofts in the 1980s, this particular unit had undergone a misguided remodel before being bought by the current owners in 2013, when Coffey first saw it.


Flashy silver brick, bright red accents, and a black utilitarian floor obscure the loft's better qualities: high ceilings and exposed wood beams. Coffey notes there was also "an open enclave between the kitchen and living area [that] had a raised platform and no real programmatic use."

Courtesy of Isaac-Rae

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Not only were the fixtures and finishes out of sync with the building's bones, the 3,100-square-foot home was "underutilized" with "a good deal of dead space." "But the building had natural attributes and bones worth uncovering," said Coffey. 

"The large volume of the space provided opportunity for open, fluid living with good proportions. Finding/tapping into a place's best proportions is an essential priority in our designs." 

As you can see here, the fireplace sported even more flashy red accents.

Courtesy of Isaac-Rae

The team gave the loft a complete overhaul, reconfiguring the layout to fit two more bedrooms and upping the bathrooms from one and a half to three. They then incorporated an "un-fussy" aesthetic throughout. 

This wall of windows in the living/dining/kitchen space was the only source of natural light.

Courtesy of Isaac-Rae

"Once the space was gutted, we could simplify detail and let the space breathe," adds Coffey. "Even small hidden details, such as latches flush to the door instead of visible door pulls, made a difference in simplicity. By selecting better—and fewer—materials, the space now feels united." 


In the living room, the team raised the firebox, cladded the hearth in a tactile plaster finish, and installed a floating limestone bench that wraps the column. On the left (unseen) is integrated firewood storage, and a cozy reading nook sits on the right. "The bench was designed to be used as a social space/lounge, and is well-used," says Coffey. The wood beams and red brick were scraped and stripped many times to remove the silver paint and reclaim a natural state. 

Courtesy of Isaac-Rae

The new lounge space connects to the living room via a sliding steel-and-glass door, and hosts the homeowner's gardening hobby via the striking green wall.

Courtesy of Isaac-Rae

By removing the raised platform that originally had no use, the team was able to double the size of the kitchen and add in a new bathroom on the main floor. The pendants over the peninsula were sourced by the homeowner from AY Lighting, and now echo the dark tones of the white oak cabinetry, which sport walnut interiors.

Courtesy of Isaac-Rae

The cabinets are topped with stone—Calacatta Borghini from ABC Stone—which waterfalls to the floor and sheaths the backsplash for a seamless look. "We worked alongside the fabricator to align the veins of the stone to create a fluid move," explains Coffey. Appliances include a Gaggenau range top, steam and convection oven, as well as a walk-in pantry with two drawer refrigerators and a wine fridge.

Courtesy of Isaac-Rae

In the master bathroom, the teak vanity and wood screens were designed by Isaac-Rae and custom built by a furniture maker. The sinks by Apaiser were also made custom. The lighting is by Flos.

Courtesy of Isaac-Rae

Shop the Look

Serena & Lily Teak Ladder Mirror

A great idea for almost any room in the house. The tall, narrow shape creates a sense of height in rooms where the ceilings are less than cathedral – and the mirror makes it practical, as well beautiful. Made of harvested teak branches that would normally go unused, this gets extra points for minimizing waste. Photo courtesy of Serena & Lily


FLOS Aim Multipoint Pendant Light

The AIM Pendant Light, designed by brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for FLOS, challenges the conventions of lighting design. Instead of being made to be hidden, the substantial cord is a central design element that can be looped, gathered, crossed, or draped to add sculptural intrigue. The length of the cord allows you adjust the height and direction of the lamp as needed, and the dimmable LED creates a variety of moods. Produced out of polished aluminum, ABS, and polycarbonate, the AIM Pendant is a lighting fixture that approaches the impact of an art installation. Photo courtesy of Nostraforma


Kohler Vox Rectangle Vessel Sink

Sleek and contemporary, the Vox Rectangle vessel-style sink features a wide, shallow basin and rounded edges in true minimalist fashion. Countertop installation ensures this sink will stand out in your bathroom as a striking focal point. Photo courtesy of Kohler


The walls in the shower and behind the tub are clad in slabs of Bianco Dolomiti marble. The floors are the same reclaimed bleached white oak used throughout the house. The light over the tub is the owner's, sourced from souks in Marrakech.

Courtesy of Isaac-Rae

Since there was no natural light inherent to the room, the architects specified a transom window to access the light from the main living area.

Courtesy of Isaac-Rae

Project Credits:

Architect: Isaac Clay Coffey/Isaac-Rae

Builder: Christian Bunce Design

Lighting Design: Isaac-Rae

Stone Source: ABC Stone

Flooring: Wellborn and Wright

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