Livin' La Vida 'Loft' with Kitchen, Bath Remade for Urban Life

LOS ANGELES -- In recent years, the downtown section of the City of Angels has been getting a Hollywood makeover, experiencing unprecedented business and residential redevelopment which has given rise to numerous loft projects that are geared toward the urban lifestyle.

Inspired by this "lofty" trend, the L.A. Mart Design Center last month presented an experimental case study installation with an L.A. twist at NeoCon West.
According to L.A. Mart's director of marketing Jeff Sampson, "The concept was straightforward: Create a model installation appealing to contract and residential designers that interprets the contemporary live/work lifestyle of today's L.A. loft dweller."

'Lofty' Goals
Called "Fine Living: the Loft Life," this case study of the urban live/work lifestyle set out to examine the outgrowth of the city's downtown revival and its converging elements ? live/work, urban/home, contract/residential. The result captured what the L.A. Mart views as "the ultimate experience of life in downtown LA."

Indeed, the 1,050-sq.ft. installation was a decidedly contemporary, flexible space that included a work/lounge area, bath and kitchen. It "ingeniously blended form and function, incorporating high-end amenities, while maintaining the urban edge of classic loft lifestyle. It also underscored the blending of the contract and residential design disciplines and their influence on each other," according to the L.A. Mart.

It was brought to life through collaboration between the L.A. Mart and Los Angeles-based Shimoda Design Group. Warner Constructors, also in Los Angeles, built the display, while Balcony Press, publishers of L.A. Architect and L.A. Inside, served as co-producer on the project.

In particular, Ann Gray, publisher of L.A. Architect and a seasoned architect herself, identified Joey Shimoda, AIA and design principal of Shimoda Design Group, to create this space, as did Chris Tosdevin, v.p. and design director of Los Angeles-based Bulthaup Corp., which provided the kitchen cabinetry.
Since both the magazine and Shimoda's firm serve the architectural and design community of Los Angeles, their partnership created a powerful partnership that helped bring this project to life, believes Gray.

"Once we received an invitation to participate, we immediately thought of Joey, with whom we worked on a previous project. We were looking for another project to do together, and this seemed like a good fit," adds Tosdevin.

"The L.A. Mart was trying to emulate what the Chicago Merchandise Mart is currently doing ? appealing to more designers by crossing over to residential. It also saw the rise in loft development in L.A., and wanted to show the design potential of loft life in an urban setting that was similar to New York loft life, but with a little more L.A. style mixed in," explains Shimoda.

Liquid Lounge
With that in mind, Shimoda hit the ground running in late November. He and his firm's design team had a few short months to conceive and build a design in time for NeoCon West with the help of Warner Constructors. The team included Susan Chang, project architect, Dan Allen, Steve Zimmerman, AIA, J.R. Schuler, Matthew Royce and Angelica Solis.

Shimoda's design began by redefining the loft's work/lounge area. He and his team created a lounge-style, entertainment/relaxation area that combines a tiered, built-in seating area made from polished statuary marble and glass tile mosaics with a TOTO Pacifica air bath.

"The idea behind the whole loft was to have a space in which you could work then relax, enjoy good food and entertain. The bath provided relaxation and a social focal point," notes Shimoda.

A hanging sculpture from HAHA SOSO and designed by the Shimoda Design Group sits directly above the air bath, providing a sense of warmth and privacy ? and a feminine shape that contrasts with a space full of mainly masculine forms, he adds.

Rounding out the area was a plasma TV and custom stereo system by Los Angeles-based Michael Fuschi.

Gourmet Dream
The kitchen became its own environment, sitting at the center of the design. "We located it centrally because we felt it was the pivot point of the whole space," elaborates Shimoda.

Bulthaup was an integral part of the design process of the kitchen, where it lent its modular System 20 cabinetry to the design.

The all-aluminum and stainless steel, eco-friendly system even included solid metal shelving and an integral stainless unit with a sliding trough sink and faucet.

"The unit is totally free-standing, enabling you to take a piece of design with you," notes Tosdevin.

"The modular design allowed the kitchen to be mobile," agrees Shimoda.

Another primary goal of the project was ensuring the kitchen was equipped with enough function to suit true food aficionados. To that end, Shimoda et al installed a Gaggenau oven, cooktop and dishwasher and Sub-Zero refrigeration.

In terms of style, a table, chairs, dinnerware and flatware from Armani Casa and Interface FLOR modular carpet complete the deliberately Spartan, yet stylish look.

Bathing Oasis
The bath was an experiment in dividing the wet and dry areas. The wet area provided bathing and water closet facilities, while the dry offered primping options, notes Shimoda.

The wet area features blue mosaic tiles in the shower from Vetro Mosaico set off by pink lighting from LC-Euro, with a shower system from Nova Studio at one end and a TOTO Neorest toilet at the other end. "All of the surfaces, including the light, are waterproof. You can either use the toilet or take a shower behind glass. We were also pleased by the way the lighting makes the tile pop," remarks Shimoda.

A vessel sink and faucet and Karol vanity from Nova Studio sit outside the glass.

Moving Boundaries
While the centralized kitchen anchors the water elements ? i.e., the bathroom and the air bath ? situated at either end, Shimoda et al felt the space need something more. And it needed sleeping quarters.

So without installing stationary walls that would permanently break up the open loft space and take away from the great appeal of living in a loft, Shimoda installed a moveable solution: the sleeping quarters would be elevated and put on wheels, much like a moveable bunk bed.

Indeed, this structure could be pushed from one end of the loft to the other at the whim and ease of the loft dweller, enabling him/her to change the environment without expense and hassle.

"The best thing about a loft space is the open feel, and this maintains that," notes Shimoda.

While the project's tight timeframe presented its share of challenges ? the biggest one being securing all of the desired vendors and getting them to donate and deliver within the short schedule ? the project was completed to the satisfaction of all those involved, as it accomplished the goal of showing how the current downtown Los Angeles loft movement is pushing the design envelope.