Walk-up at Stangee | Brooklyn Loft x Contemporary Cool
A complete renovation breathes new life into this once-uninspiring walk-up apartment built in the 1950s.
The young homeowners, Shaun and Abigail, are a pair of easy-going individuals whose home is a safe haven from their day-to-day jobs and a place to let loose with their friends over the weekends.
The couple did not have a specific concept in mind but shared the following brief:
an open floor plan with minimal walls and maximum natural light
a homely space in harmony with a contemporary style ('cool' but not 'cold')
a generous use of wood (in varying shades and prints) and concrete accents
incorporate a loft-style brick wall
Video: Capturing a slow Sunday morning in the renovated walk-up apartment.
Prior to the renovation, the apartment was used as an office. The combination of the dark-coloured carpet flooring, green-tinted windows, and heavily lowered false ceiling gave off a very sombre, off-putting mood.
Co-founders, Royston and Cher, completely gutted the apartment and proposed a major layout change. The once perplexing apartment now features an open floor plan, wherein the living room is the hub of the home, surrounded by the balcony, kitchen, and formal dining area. There is only one bedroom, and it takes the place of the previous kitchen.
Oblivion Lab’s challenge was to convert the lustreless home office into a comfortable home for two. With its high ceiling and potential for an influx of natural light, this walk-up apartment was the perfect property to showcase the studio’s contemporary take on a laid-back Brooklyn loft-style interior.
Before & After: An influx of natural light uplifts the mood in the apartment.
“The main source of natural light comes from the long stretch of windows at the balcony so immediately we identified that the unnecessary walls at the entry foyer and between the balcony and living room had to go,” shares Royston, on his first impression of the original layout.
The key characteristic of Brooklyn lofts are their floor to ceiling loft-style windows which was lacking in this apartment. The oversized steel framed glass doors now replacing the hacked walls were specifically designed to bridge that gap and more importantly to allow natural light in while segmenting the outdoor and indoor spaces.
“Where there is an opportunity to create a separate outdoor space, we generally would not suggest reclaiming that space to be part of the indoors. Especially with people spending more time at home in this post-COVID-19 world, an outdoor space now becomes a sacred environment to wind down and relax,” says Cher.
Before & After: A drastic transformation to the balcony.
The homeowners expressed that the balcony was a lifesaver during the COVID-19 lockdown. Designed as a Slow Space, this part of the home prioritises the well-being of the homeowners, allowing them to press pause on the hustle-culture associated with our current way of life.
“The homeowners and ourselves are extremely happy with the outcome of tiling both the floor and main wall at the balcony”, Royston says, referring to the gorgeous walnut wood effect tiles that enhance the earthy, warm, inviting aesthetics and further highlight the original high ceiling.
Large sliding windows maximises airflow, encouraging deep breaths, self-reflection, and connection to nature.
Before & After: A drastic transformation to the balcony.
The diverse collection of greenery, natural wood and raw rattan furnishing further complements the earthy, organic beauty in this environment.
The black and white roller blinds lends the space a vintage touch and is a tribute to the heritage of the building.
A contemporary monochromatic palette, playing up grey and black shades accentuated by teak, plants and mirrored finishes.
Work-in-progress: Removal of unnecessary false ceiling and walls.
Except for the structural beams and pillars that could not be hacked, the space has barely any walls from one end to the other and when required, only sectioned with clear glass partitions. Once the false ceiling and unnecessary walls were removed, the apartment's potential became even more apparent. The advantage of the freshly exposed 4.4-metre high ceiling and influx of natural light instantly reinvigorated the once stuffy space.
""The structural beams and pillars were never an issue for us when working on the design of the space. In fact, we really like that they add to the character of the loft-style interior we wanted to create, " Cher says when asked if the beams and pillars posed a challenge.
Graphic credit: Remodelista
"We wanted the space to feel lived-in, laid-back, and easy like Sunday morning. Their home is a reflection of the comfort you feel around Shaun and Abigail with their easy-going personalities and unpretentious attitude towards life," says Cher, revealing that one of the ways that helped achieve that was to have the furnishing, botanicals, and decor look more naturally scattered than deliberately positioned.
To an untrained eye, a classic staggered herringbone floor has been implemented but in fact, the team purposefully chose a chevron patterned flooring instead. "Chevron flooring looks more contemporary as compared to the herringbone style and it introduces a clean, refined, and orderly canvas for the more loosely defined furnishing and styling," Royston adds.
The light oak flooring also provides a high contrast to the warm brickwork and furniture with dark, rich, and inviting wood tones. Aesthetically, the steel-framed glass doors perfectly complement the brickwork and visible cement screed beams and pillars, part of the building fabric that the designers have purposefully brought to light.
While herringbone pieces are rectangular and cut at a 90 degree angle, chevrons are cut at a 45 degree angle at the end and fitted together at a point, creating a zigzag pattern.
In order to relocate the kitchen to the middle of the apartment, major piping works had to be done. The initial plan was to lay tiles for the whole floor space. However, post-hacking conditions revealed that the original concrete flooring was extremely thin, and had to be raised by a hefty 4-inches for the plumbing pipes to run under – this posed a weight load issue.
“The building was constructed in the 1950s. Neither the building’s MCST nor BCA had any proper plans nor guidelines. We worked with a team of engineers, tilers, and material consultants going back and forth until we found a conclusion,” says Royston.
“We faced a few challenges but retaining the kitchen at its original location and accommodating the bedroom at the main living area was never an option for us. Our main priority was to have an open floorplan; it would not have made sense if we started constructing walls in the middle of it all. We needed a resolution that balanced both the technical and aesthetic aspects,” added Cher.
The floor space is now partially covered with porcelain tiles and raised platforms finished with realistic concrete effect vinyl flooring from FloorXpert. The platform constructed from the new kitchen all the way to the current master bedroom allowed for the pipes to be routed from the master bathroom underneath it without exceeding the suggested weight load. It also elevates the kitchen area from the rest of space; thereby adding visual dimension to an open floor plan.
Work-in-progress. Plywood platform constructed from the new kitchen to the master bedroom.
The industrial sensibility of elements such as steel-framed glass doors, brickwork, cement screeded pillars and beams is harmoniously counterbalanced by more refined features such as the sleek stainless-steel effect island, slim profile black marble printed VULCAN porcelain countertop, minimalist black laminated cabinets, and bar stools with elegantly thin legs.
All cabinets are decked with innovative, low-maintenance laminates from Arova and EDL which have unique properties including anti-fingerprint, anti-bacterial, and scratch-resistance.
The designers did not miss out on another opportunity for an influx of natural light — instead of partitioning the master bedroom with walls, custom steel-framed glass doors were constructed to enable light to gleam towards the kitchen via the bedroom’s windows.
Work-in-progress. New kitchen on the left.
The master bedroom (previously the kitchen) was designed in the signature style of Oblivion Lab – a moody, ambient space with a cool contemporary vibe to it. To visually expand the narrow space, tinted mirrors and glass wardrobes were proposed.
Before & After: The old kitchen is now completely transformed into a contemporary master bedroom.
The previous WC and shower were combined and extended to create a spacious, luxurious bathroom. Exuding dark, delicious mystery, with a rebel's attitude, the bathroom is now a sophisticated urban oasis consisting of a spectrum of different textures: wood, stone, concrete, marble, and mosaic.
The custom integrated sink made from the same VULCAN porcelain surface captured the natural veins and grains of black marble and are then digitally replicated to provide a seamless aesthetic of natural stones at a fraction of the cost impact.
Before & After: The WC and shower before renovation.
The Gastby-approved common bathroom is an unexpected twist to the overall theme and reflects the duo's playful, merrymaking personalities.
Glazed artisanal tiles with their rich shade of blue create a stand-out feature against the matte black hexagonal tiles at the sides. The diamond-patterned floor tiles further elevate this maximalist style inspired by 1920s classic speakeasy bars.
To conclude, renovating apartments like these require confrontation with surprises that can be challenging yet ultimately fulfilling. Special shout-out to Shaun and Abigail for giving Oblivion Lab free rein to design their first home together and their utmost patience during the COVID-19 lockdown period.