Can the Interior Design of an Urban-Chic Loft Apartment Be Child Friendly?

IN NEW YORK designer Lucy Harris’s experience, Manhattanites tend to ask for “refined and upscale” décor, a description that suggests the sort of formal, adults-only living room children must resentfully eye from a distance. The couple who came to her for help when renovating this West Village loft, however, wanted a refined, upscale home that they and their children, ages 5 and 8, would nevertheless find familial and cozy. Said Ms. Harris, who pulled together the interior design with a colleague, senior designer Kelley Roach, “They very much wanted a grown-up space, but they did not want it to be precious.”

Traces of the space’s former life as the floor of a factory building—wrapped beams, a concrete pillar, great, gridded windows—contribute a sophisticated hipness. To keep the aesthetic spare, Ms. Harris installed a tightly edited collection of contemporary furnishings in a limited, muted palette. To a basic scheme of black, white and gray, she added earthy tones of sandy brown and blush, and the occasional jolt of saturated color for a note of childlike playfulness and adult artiness.

Instead of the “typical synthetic outdoor fabrics” most people use to childproof residences, the designers favored natural materials. “There’s nothing to me more homemaking than wood and wool,” not to mention durable, said Ms. Harris. To coax “the warmth and sense of safety you get from nature” into the space, she drafted a slew of swishy houseplants and furnishings that curve and slope. Here, a tour of the loft’s elegant yet approachable rooms, and guidance on how to achieve the same visual balance yourself.



Photo:

Hulya Kolabas

Unify with color

When an entryway isn’t clearly delineated, as in most converted lofts, grouping elements that share one color can make an area around the front door feel “more defined,” said Ms. Harris. Here, she chose a bluish gray, tying together Eskayel’s Nairutya wallpaper, the console’s leather fronts and the blobby ceramics by Los Angeles artist Pilar Wily. The wallcovering’s easygoing “hippie tie-dye” pattern lightens the effect of dressier details such as the agate-baubled Talisman sconce from Apparatus and the glamorous peach mirror. The owners wanted an “eye-catching introduction to the home,” Ms. Harris said, and a warm welcome. The shearling chair is particularly inviting—and aligns with her plan to dress the home, wherever possible, in natural fibers that age well and are somewhat stain and bacteria-resistant.



Photo:

Hulya Kolabas

Choose furnishings that hug like a human

The only overtly practical elements in the living room? The built-in storage and performance-fabric upholstery of the blocky sofa. Beyond that, family-friendliness comes via the chubby, swirly and rounded furniture. “Circles just feel very comforting,” explained Ms. Harris of the cushy stools and the custom coffee table. Curvilinear shapes—also seen in the Gestalt armchairs and the Fitzhugh Karol sculpture—add a “holding,” humanlike feel to the room along with grace. “They’re almost like a hip, or an arm, or a leg,” said Ms. Harris.



Photo:

Hulya Kolabas

Crayon the kitchen

An otherwise briskly modern kitchen got hits of homeyness with organic elements: blackened-elm cabinets from New York kitchen specialists Urban Homes, pale ash stool legs and a pleasing mishmash of plants, wicker and nobby dishware. Metal shelves jibe with industrial-chic vestiges of the once-commercial space, such as the structural pillar and metal pipes. Meanwhile the stools—with their Crayola-red appeal and cosseting curved backs—make primo seats for kids. The poppy chairs also connect to the couple’s psychedelic prints. That kind of chromatic synchronicity, said Ms. Harris, cuts down on visual clutter.



Photo:

Hulya Kolabas

Find your marbles

The dining room called for something a bit more elevated than the rest of the home, said Ms. Harris—hence the table of nero marquina marble and steel by Croft House to complement the lean black-stone fireplace. While the room, with that rigid linearity and relatively high-maintenance marble, is mostly for dinner parties, it still needed to connect with the otherwise child-friendly apartment. The set of 1960s Italian chairs, each with a low-slung, wide seat and inviting little lip of fabric that peeks over the top of the slick table, added “a soft element,” said Ms. Harris, as does the whimsical pendant light from Matter.



Photo:

Hulya Kolabas

Admit a quilt

In the primary bedroom, Ms. Harris called on the soothingly restrained ticking pattern of Rebecca Atwood’s Dashes wallpaper to create a refuge. “It shrinks your world a little bit,” she said. Napped textiles—the cabinlike alpaca bouclé of the headboard, the velvet throw pillows and chair—add to the room’s coddling effect. The quilt, from Thompson Street Studio, might blend and disappear amid traditional décor. But in the context of a bare industrial window and the simple globe of a Noguchi lantern, the bedcover that Ms. Harris selected for its “handmade feel and earth tones” is both unexpected and inviting.



Photo:

Hulya Kolabas

Knock back the kid colors

Sun-bleached versions of primary hues bring nuance to the bedroom the couple’s two children share. “The ceiling is one of the most colorful elements, but [because it is overhead] you’re not seeing it full on,” said Ms. Harris. Throughout, she chose pigments that are “pretty saturated but not overwhelming.” Soft elements like the bubbly wallpaper, rainbow rug and a velvet pillow ameliorate hard-edge necessities like the toy crates. A white Lego-like bed gives the eye a playful place to rest while the Flos hanging light, which has graced many a chic dining room in black, punctuates the room with a bit of Parisian élan.

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