The Insider: Birch Ply Storage Wall Solves Multitude of Problems in Clinton Hill Studio-Loft

Got a project to propose for The Insider? Contact author Cara Greenberg at caramia447 [at] gmail [dot] com.

There were a few distinct challenges in this 900-square-foot ground floor loft in a former manufacturing building converted to condos in the early 2000s. The new homeowners, a young couple downsizing from a full-scale home in Portland, Ore., had lots of belongings and no place to put them, as well as two large dogs.

“It was just one big open space, with a couple of closets and a bathroom,” said Greenpoint-based architect Brandon Dean of Dean Works. “They had a curtain separating their bed from the rest. They wanted a more private bedroom area and plenty of storage.”

His clients also wanted to preserve the unit’s loftlike feel, which meant no solid sheetrock walls and leaving exposed ductwork and sprinklers visible on the 10.5-foot tall ceilings.

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Dean’s solution involved extensive use of Baltic birch plywood, the same material used by his client in building the couple’s dining table and bench (they are themselves the owners of a multidisciplinary Brooklyn design studio called GLAM).

Dean located a multi-purpose storage and appliance wall in the same general area where the original kitchen had been, and constructed an adjacent three-fourths wall with a sliding glass door to divide the sleeping area from the open space.

“We decided on minimalist detailing and tight joinery for the cabinetry, with no exposed hardware, to replicate the dining table,” Dean said. “It’s seamless and simple.”

The slab of highly figured marble that forms the back wall of the kitchen cabinetry is “a big statement moment,” the architect said. “It’s the first thing you see when you walk in the front door.”



Italian brecchia capraia marble from PMI Stone, used for the backsplash and open shelves, turned out to be less expensive than standard white marble, a happy surprise.

Dean chose dark blue soapstone for the island top. “We wetted them down to compare the colors and make sure they looked nice together,” Dean said. “The soapstone is more durable and heat, acid and scuff resistant,” so it made sense to use that material for a surface that sees a lot of cutting and chopping.

A pantry, fridge and oven are all slotted into the cabinetry.




The entrance to the sleeping space is essentially an extension of the kitchen cabinetry, but elevated a few inches off the floor. “The dogs are shedders, so it’s nice to have a stopping point for the fur, before it makes its way into the bedroom,” Dean said.

Pocket sliding doors made of reeded glass “let light in, but give some privacy. When they’re open, it still feels like a loft.”

A closet on the bedroom side has custom shelving and an integrated mirror. There is also deep storage above the sliding doors and closet for suitcases and other bulky, infrequently used items.


The fireplace in the front room, in place since the condo conversion, is strictly decorative. “There was a point when it was going to be thrown out, but we felt like it anchored the living room space” at the front of the building, Dean said. The front wall has the loft’s only windows.



Super-functional shelving systems from Vitsoe were installed both in the living room and, with a desk, in the couple’s compact bedroom.

[Photos by Daniel Salemi ]

The Insider is Brownstoner’s weekly in-depth look at a notable interior design/renovation project, by design journalist Cara Greenberg. Find it here every Thursday morning.

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