A 19th-Century Carriage House Is Transformed Into a Live/Work Residence For a Pair of Artists
Beverly O’Mara, an artist and teacher, and Mark Uriu, owner of a residential painting and finishing company, needed a place to work from home. So in 2014 the couple embarked on transforming a 2,700-square-foot loft located in an 1890 Wells Fargo horse-and-carriage facility in Jersey City, New Jersey, into a flexible art studio and residence.
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To make their redesign happen, the couple approached local architect Jeff Jordan. In deference to the building’s most notable aspects—a historic facade, brick walls, steel beams, and an 18-foot-high ceiling—Jordan opted for a no-frills palette of AC plywood and painted drywall, a simple yet aesthetically pleasing approach that fell within the couple’s budget of $250,000.
The cabinetry was built on-site, another cost-saving measure. "As artists who planned to work in the space, they weren’t interested in a refined, shop-fabricated system," Jordan says. "Instead, we were able to work with a skilled carpenter who turned the space into a basic shop and built everything at a fraction of the cost."
"We all worked hard to come up with easily executed yet elegant solutions to space planning and detailing." Jeff Jordan, architect
The new layout is split almost down the middle by a millwork spine that provides storage; the living and work areas are on either side of it. In the back, on the upper level, the bedrooms are enclosed by Japanese-style shoji screens, which allow diffused sunlight from the opposite end of the loft to enter. "The home’s major shortcoming was that there were windows on only one facade, which limited natural light," says Mark.
Daylight and air now penetrate to the back of the loft, while the entire space is open and functional. "We were hesitant to buy the property because we didn’t want to renovate a perfectly functional space," says Mark, "but we were persuaded. The potential was too hard to ignore."