Made Over for Comfort

Witness a remodeling miracle: What was once an empty warehouse space is now a dream loft for a creative Richmond, Virginia, couple.
Robert Martin

Walls. They're a necessity in any home, but too many can make a place feel cramped and smaller than it actually is. Enter a new trend in design: Open and free-flowing layouts that combine living, dining, and entertaining spaces. For Robyn and Jeremy Connell, the one-room-fits-all approach is the only way to go.

All Within View
The Connells' loft boasts one long room with a series of large, metal-framed windows overlooking the city. The living and dining areas, kitchen, Robyn's office, and bar all come together in this multipurpose space. "What I like best about the openness is that we're able to enjoy much of our home and its contents in a single glance," says Robyn. When furnishing a layout like this, don't push all your furniture to the perimeter. Let it visually divide the room. A low bookshelf or sofa angled a certain way could signal the start of the living room; a prominent cooking island might separate your kitchen and dining areas.

Comfortably Contemporary
If you think lofts have to be stark white and minimalist, think again. The Connells' place is full of warm colors, homey touches, and traditional furniture. Their urban space is enhanced by original, refinished maple flooring that runs diagonally, and gathered drapery panels with matching valances soften the streamlined metal windows. Robyn's mother, Suzanne Brickner, designed the curtains and also stepped in as decorator. Robyn frequently sent her mom, who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, pictures so she could make suggestions.

Black distressed cabinetry helps link the living room, dining room, and kitchen. "The cabinets also bring a surprisingly traditional feel to this industrial warehouse complex," explains Robyn. "As with all the features of this room, my focus was to meld modern and traditional styles into one cohesive look."

Destined for Downtown Digs
That Robyn and her mother could create any style at all is quite a feat, considering that originally the loft was just a shell of empty, raw space. Before they could even think of hanging curtains and rolling out rugs, all new mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems had to be installed, along with a new elevator and a garage.

Through the entire space, the air ducts, plumbing lines, and electrical conduits along the timber-framed ceiling are left exposed. Because these components go hand in hand with the loft aesthetic, the couple never considered concealing them with gypsum drywall soffits or installing a lower ceiling. "They're not immediately obvious to the eye because there are so many textures, colors, and points of interest within the space," says Robyn.

"Made Over for Comfort" is from the September 2007 issue of Southern Living.