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July 28, 2011

In our latest Backstory series, we'll be previewing the loft renovation that will be the featured My House in Dwell's November issue—our first-ever online sneak peek. Here, Emeryville, California architect Peter Benoit will share the process behind customizing the San Francisco Bay area loft he shares with his wife, Lynda. Part 1: As it Was.



We had been looking for places for about a year when we finally found this loft. It had a lot that needed to be done—and undone—but the view and high ceilings really hooked us, and we knew that we could work with it. Here's how we lived in it for about five months, before we started the renovation.

All of the furniture here was staged, and this is what we saw when we first visited the loft. The previous owners put down a cheap vinyl mat flooring that just laid on top of the floor; it wasn’t even adhered. In the kitchen, they spread joint compound on
All of the furniture here was staged, and this is what we saw when we first visited the loft. The previous owners put down a cheap vinyl mat flooring that just laid on top of the floor; it wasn’t even adhered. In the kitchen, they spread joint compound on the floor it to level the surface, which damaged the original concrete beneath. We knew that would be the first thing to go. I lifted up a section of it when I was there and thought, "yep, we’re getting rid of this."
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And the kitchen, which (unfortunately) had the same flooring.
And the kitchen, which (unfortunately) had the same flooring.
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Here's Lynda in the living room, after we pulled up the vinyl. We put in some bids to contractors to grind the concrete down and seal it so its natural texture would show through, but the process was too expensive.
Here's Lynda in the living room, after we pulled up the vinyl. We put in some bids to contractors to grind the concrete down and seal it so its natural texture would show through, but the process was too expensive.
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Another shot of the living room, before we moved in. You’d never know it, but the kitchen is behind that wall. And note the curtains, which were hanging off of a piece of droopy aircraft cable. We lived with these for a while, before we bought our shades.
Another shot of the living room, before we moved in. You’d never know it, but the kitchen is behind that wall. And note the curtains, which were hanging off of a piece of droopy aircraft cable. We lived with these for a while, before we bought our shades.
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This shot is looking back on the front entry from the kitchen. The whole elevated unit blocked the entry in terms of light and circulation, and had this real 1980s ski loft vibe. When we eventually took the stairs down we found that they definitely weren’
This shot is looking back on the front entry from the kitchen. The whole elevated unit blocked the entry in terms of light and circulation, and had this real 1980s ski loft vibe. When we eventually took the stairs down we found that they definitely weren’t framed safely—the stringers were just nailed into the sides of 2x4 studs.
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This is the kitchen flooring with the mat pulled up. Another reason we opted against the concrete grinding were these asphalt flooring tiles that were adhered to the original concrete. The previous owners spread this white leveling compound all over the f
This is the kitchen flooring with the mat pulled up. Another reason we opted against the concrete grinding were these asphalt flooring tiles that were adhered to the original concrete. The previous owners spread this white leveling compound all over the floor. If we wanted to take it up, they would have had to hot scrape it and remove all the casework, which would have been even more expensive.
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Ultimately, we had our contractor seal the floor, paint it, and call it a day. After that, we moved in, and found spots for everything we owned where we could. Once we were living there, we realized that some things really bothered us: It was a royal pain
Ultimately, we had our contractor seal the floor, paint it, and call it a day. After that, we moved in, and found spots for everything we owned where we could. Once we were living there, we realized that some things really bothered us: It was a royal pain in the ass to walk from our living room into our kitchen; There was a ton of unused space that was taken up by a stair that was strangely placed at a 45 degree angle to the room. We knew we wanted to make some serious changes. This pic shows the wall separating the living room and bedroom.
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This is the view from the living room into the bedroom. I put the framing up where the future wall would be so that we'd be able to put furniture in that corner of the bedroom and not walk into it. This was really like a college loft in the way it was bui
This is the view from the living room into the bedroom. I put the framing up where the future wall would be so that we'd be able to put furniture in that corner of the bedroom and not walk into it. This was really like a college loft in the way it was built—4x4 posts, very minimal framing, a framed deck above—then everything was bolted together, like you’d do in a dorm room. When I did the remodel work, I strengthened a lot of it and made some structural improvements. It’s still, fundamentally, a pretty basic loft that’s been tacked onto the walls.
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And this is how we lived in it for a while. We had a lot of stuff and there was no storage in our place, so everything was visible. The living room furniture layout we figured out early on—there was only really one way to do it—but for the longest time I
And this is how we lived in it for a while. We had a lot of stuff and there was no storage in our place, so everything was visible. The living room furniture layout we figured out early on—there was only really one way to do it—but for the longest time I had my desk in the middle of the room, and there wasn’t any place for a proper dining area. In fact, our dining table was an old desk I bought at a flea market in New York—it's from an NYC welfare office.
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And the other side of the room. The washer and dryer are tucked into the far left corner, facing straight into the main living space—again, very strangely located. The far end of the loft was built under the sloping section of the roof so you couldn’t sta
And the other side of the room. The washer and dryer are tucked into the far left corner, facing straight into the main living space—again, very strangely located. The far end of the loft was built under the sloping section of the roof so you couldn’t stand up under there, and you couldn’t store anything higher than the the guardrail, otherwise it would fall over. You can’t tell from this photograph, but up to that height was just stuff that we Tetrised in there: books, moving junk, clothes. Just lots and lots of stuff.
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Here's the floor plan as it was when we moved in. Lots of wasted space here.
Here's the floor plan as it was when we moved in. Lots of wasted space here.
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A view from the street. Aside from the windows, there was literally no ceiling lighting whatsoever. Everything had to be lit by floor or table lamp.<br /><br /><i>Stay tuned for the next installment, where Peter—an architect—delves into the drawings, sket
A view from the street. Aside from the windows, there was literally no ceiling lighting whatsoever. Everything had to be lit by floor or table lamp.Stay tuned for the next installment, where Peter—an architect—delves into the drawings, sketches, and plans he made for the master renovation, and watch as tarps go up while drywall and framing come down.

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12 / 12
All of the furniture here was staged, and this is what we saw when we first visited the loft. The previous owners put down a cheap vinyl mat flooring that just laid on top of the floor; it wasn’t even adhered. In the kitchen, they spread joint compound on
All of the furniture here was staged, and this is what we saw when we first visited the loft. The previous owners put down a cheap vinyl mat flooring that just laid on top of the floor; it wasn’t even adhered. In the kitchen, they spread joint compound on the floor it to level the surface, which damaged the original concrete beneath. We knew that would be the first thing to go. I lifted up a section of it when I was there and thought, "yep, we’re getting rid of this."

Stay tuned for the next installment, where Peter—an architect—delves into the drawings, sketches, and plans he made for the master renovation, and watch as tarps go up while drywall and framing come down.

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