Budget Breakdown: A Design Duo Give Their San Francisco Loft a Modern Makeover For $70K

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By Melissa Dalton
The homeowners tackled much of the work themselves to refashion a dated home into the ultimate, 700-square-foot city loft.

When they first stepped foot into their Mission District loft in 2015, Kathryn Heller and Kevin Short knew they’d found what they were looking for, though surface impressions were deceiving. "The interiors were ugly, stained, and completely outdated," the couple tell Dwell. "The previous tenant had smoked cigarettes inside for nearly a decade, so it was particularly dreary and felt like a time capsule from the ’90s."

$300
Demolition
$400
Wall Framing
$1,300
Doors
$3,500
Metal Guardrails
$1,500
Built-In Bedroom Closets
$5,300
Drywall & Plaster
$8,600
Tile
$2,200
Flooring
$4,500
Painting
$600
Kitchen & Bath Accessories
$2,100
Kitchen Appliances
$2,500
Kitchen & Bath Cabinetry
$500
Miscellaneous Carpentry
$2,200
Wood Countertop
$600
Black Quartz Countertop
$9,500
Furniture
$2,400
Mechanical Work
$7,200
Plumbing Work
$5,400
Electrical Work
$1,300
Lighting
$2,500
Curtains
$2,600
Miscellaneous
$1,400
Permits
$1,600
Patio Landscaping
Grand Total: $70,000

Even so, with such a great location and no structural or exterior problems, the couple—she’s a designer and he’s an architect, both at Tiny Monster Design—knew that they had found the perfect blank canvas in the loft. "We both had had that urban loft fantasy, and this space was our opportunity to not only live it, but also design it," say the couple.

Scroll ahead for a look at the transformation.

Before

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Drab carpeting, a boring stair railing, and nondescript kitchen cabinets all added up to a "blah" 700-square-foot space. Despite its lackluster appearance, however, "it was also the perfect size for our first construction project together," say the couple. "We ended taking on a lot of construction items ourselves in order to build for our budget." They outsourced electrical, plumbing, and paint, but did the demolition, framing, and much of the finish work themselves.

Drab carpeting, a boring stair railing, and nondescript kitchen cabinets all added up to a "blah" 700-square-foot space. Despite its lackluster appearance, however, "it was also the perfect size for our first construction project together," say the couple. "We ended taking on a lot of construction items ourselves in order to build for our budget." They outsourced electrical, plumbing, and paint, but did the demolition, framing, and much of the finish work themselves.

After

Now, crisp white walls and the refinished concrete floor conjure the loft's urban roots. Sleek black kitchen cabinets sync up nicely with the new metal railing.

Now, crisp white walls and the refinished concrete floor conjure the loft's urban roots. Sleek black kitchen cabinets sync up nicely with the new metal railing.

Before: The Kitchen

The biggest design challenge was getting the kitchen layout just right and expanding this crammed work triangle. "We love cooking and entertaining, but we knew we wouldn't have the space for a formal dining room, so we needed to maximize every last inch and make it flexible to suit cooking, dining, and even work needs," say the couple.

The biggest design challenge was getting the kitchen layout just right and expanding this crammed work triangle. "We love cooking and entertaining, but we knew we wouldn't have the space for a formal dining room, so we needed to maximize every last inch and make it flexible to suit cooking, dining, and even work needs," say the couple.

After: The Kitchen

Now, the kitchen's workspace has been considerably expanded, which makes it multi-functional. During the day, it's Kevin's design studio; at night, it's ready for relaxing. Black IKEA cabinetry is a streamlined backdrop for the warm wood accents and geometric wall tile, the latter from Wayfair. The stools are from Blu Dot.

Now, the kitchen's workspace has been considerably expanded, which makes it multi-functional. During the day, it's Kevin's design studio; at night, it's ready for relaxing. Black IKEA cabinetry is a streamlined backdrop for the warm wood accents and geometric wall tile, the latter from Wayfair. The stools are from Blu Dot.

The kitchen backsplash features geometric wall tiles from Wayfair, while floating, open shelves create a pleasing display of mini succulents.

The kitchen backsplash features geometric wall tiles from Wayfair, while floating, open shelves create a pleasing display of mini succulents.

Inset shelves made of oak keep supplies close at hand.

Inset shelves made of oak keep supplies close at hand.

The peninsula counter was crafted by a local woodworker that the couple met at a craft fair. "It's a mix of basically every wood under the sun: white oak, mahogany, birch, ash, maple, cherry, walnut, and more," say the couple. "We love the result thanks to its unique (and practical) style."

The peninsula counter was crafted by a local woodworker that the couple met at a craft fair. "It's a mix of basically every wood under the sun: white oak, mahogany, birch, ash, maple, cherry, walnut, and more," say the couple. "We love the result thanks to its unique (and practical) style."

Kevin uses the desk as a work station, with room to spread over the centralized peninsula. Well-planned storage conceals office supplies when the work day is over.

Kevin uses the desk as a work station, with room to spread over the centralized peninsula. Well-planned storage conceals office supplies when the work day is over.

Before: The Living Room

Looking down into the living room, the window wall overlooking the street is 16 feet tall, and provided the couple with a design opportunity.

Looking down into the living room, the window wall overlooking the street is 16 feet tall, and provided the couple with a design opportunity.

After: The Living Room

They created a striking focal point in the space with custom curtains fabricated from 65 yards of block-printed fabric sourced from India. "Making such a big statement with the curtains was both an aesthetic and practical choice," say the couple. "We spent a week in Jaipur touring textile markets to find the right fabric." The curtains are motor-operated, and a black-out liner ensures good sleep in the bedroom upstairs. An additional sheer liner facilitates daytime light and privacy.

They created a striking focal point in the space with custom curtains fabricated from 65 yards of block-printed fabric sourced from India. "Making such a big statement with the curtains was both an aesthetic and practical choice," say the couple. "We spent a week in Jaipur touring textile markets to find the right fabric." The curtains are motor-operated, and a black-out liner ensures good sleep in the bedroom upstairs. An additional sheer liner facilitates daytime light and privacy.

A drawer unit from IKEA provides lots of storage.

A drawer unit from IKEA provides lots of storage.

The console is from Room and Board. Kevin designed the metal stair railing to feel good under the hand, and local outlet Mission Iron Works did the fabrication. "First, they waxed the cold rolled steel, and then mixed a few metal patina colors (blue, brown, black) to rub in by hand," the couple say. "It’s a labor-intensive process, but the result gives a finish with subtle variation that changes depending on the light. It would have been easier to paint, but we would never have had the same effect."

The console is from Room and Board. Kevin designed the metal stair railing to feel good under the hand, and local outlet Mission Iron Works did the fabrication. "First, they waxed the cold rolled steel, and then mixed a few metal patina colors (blue, brown, black) to rub in by hand," the couple say. "It’s a labor-intensive process, but the result gives a finish with subtle variation that changes depending on the light. It would have been easier to paint, but we would never have had the same effect."

Shop the Look
West Elm Iris Planter and Chevron Stand
West Elm Iris Planter and Chevron Stand
Put your favorite plants on a pedestal with this planter and metal stand set. In a stone and cement composite material, the planter is lightweight and easy to move, while the powder-coated steel base lifts it off the ground for a lighter, airier display.
Blu Dot Real Good Counter Stool
Blu Dot Real Good Counter Stool
Think thin with the Blu Dot Real Good Counterstool. This skinny mini ships flat and unfolds along laser-cut lines to form a fantastically comfortable chair.
Menu Norm Wire Bowl
Menu Norm Wire Bowl
The Menu Norm Wire Bowl is the airy, modern way to store fruit, magazines and much more. It is made out of thick steel wire that has been either powder coated or metal plated.

Before: The Bedroom

The bedroom had no visual interest before.

The bedroom had no visual interest before.

After: The Bedroom

Now, the new railing enables sight lines from the bed, and a dark-hued wall is filled with the couple's art and mementos from their travels.

Now, the new railing enables sight lines from the bed, and a dark-hued wall is filled with the couple's art and mementos from their travels.

An IKEA frame with custom art above it create a stylish, but understated bed.

An IKEA frame with custom art above it create a stylish, but understated bed.

Sleek closets meet open inset shelves that echo the kitchen shelving.

Sleek closets meet open inset shelves that echo the kitchen shelving.

A small alcove supports a desk made by the couple from metal legs found on Etsy.

A small alcove supports a desk made by the couple from metal legs found on Etsy.

Shop the Look
Now House by Jonathan Adler, Faux Mongolian Throw
Now House by Jonathan Adler, Faux Mongolian Throw
White faux Mongolian fur on one side, off-white microsuede on the other—our fabulously fluffy throw looks just as chic tossed on your bed, sofa or chair as it feels wrapped around your shoulders.
'Breathe' Neon Art
'Breathe' Neon Art
Make a statement with bright neon lighting from The Oliver Gal Artist Co. These hand-crafted signs are sure to attract attention with chic sayings and iconic shapes. The sign is made of hand crafted glass tubing mounted to a contour cut piece of high quality clear acrylic.

Before: The Bathroom

Standard-issue finishes ruled in the bathroom.

Standard-issue finishes ruled in the bathroom.

After: The Bathroom

In the new bathroom, the couple chose black floor tile from Wayfair, selecting a shape similar to the kitchen tile for consistency. The marble shower tile was a Home Depot find, as was the Toto toilet.

In the new bathroom, the couple chose black floor tile from Wayfair, selecting a shape similar to the kitchen tile for consistency. The marble shower tile was a Home Depot find, as was the Toto toilet.

Project Credits:

Architect: Tiny Monster Design / Kevin Short(@tinymonster.design

Builder: DLiu Construction

Landscape Design: Stephen Stolte Designs

Lighting Design: Tiny Monster Design / Kevin Short

Interior Design: Tiny Monster Design / Kathryn Heller

Metal Railings: Mission Iron Works / Manny Lopez

Wood Counter: Mac Cutting Boards / Bart McHale

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