Alchemy Architects Brings Color and Charm to a Big Box Condo Creating an Artistic Oasis at the 918 Lofts Building
Alchemy Architects, the award-winning St. Paul architecture firm best known for the weeHouse and its “tightwad panache,” has renovated a bland, 2000 square foot, boxy loft-style condominium into an oasis of habitable hues and selective spaces for its international owner.
Following Alchemy’s forward-thinking design and (often) typical disregard for convention, the master bedroom has been placed in the smallest room in the Loft, bringing whimsy into an otherwise austere space. At 8.5' x 11' the room is just big enough to center a queen-sized bed. A textured curtain that wraps the room provides softness, acoustical separation, and the illusion of layered space—like being on stage in one's own play. Hanging above the bed is an old-tech skeleton coil remnant—now a newborn chandelier. This piece is a variant of Bedspring Chandelier, a design by Alchemy Architects principle Geoffrey Warner, originally shown at the Weisman Art Museum in 2006.
The master bathroom features Bryan Carpenter's off-the-shelf rigging hooks for towels and a black iron C-clamp repurposed as a toilet paper holder (yes, Virginia, it really works). Carpenter served as the Project Manager on the project. These hearty, industrial fixtures juxtaposed next to a luxurious steam shower and custom bath cabinets show that modern design and contemporary details need not be uptight.
Together, Warner and Carpenter developed a floor plan with strong anchors by showcasing a fire-engine red, entertaining-ready IKEA kitchen. Scott McGlasson of Woodsport created a counter/table top using ash boards stained black that provide an elegant contrast to the cabinet’s sleek surface. A pair of mylar “feather” overhead lamps and a soaring Artemide fixture light the entrance corridor and kitchen in the spirit of Brancusi's elegant sculpture Bird in Space. A ruddy, South American wood floor is elevated to serve as leisure area, dance floor, or simply a stage for contemporary art installed right outside the bedroom. A nook for studying is also elevated just inside the front door. Sculptured timbers serve as graceful, yet functional steps allowing passage to these upper areas.
Alchemy started the schematic design of the space by defining a simple pallet of color and materials for the space: golds, warm browns, blacks, deep reds, and adding textures that melded rustic with simple and sleek: shiny red kitchen cabinets warmed with exotic wood and composite countertops. Being “green-thinking” comes naturally for Alchemy, as the theme of reuse/reduce/recycle appears in the use of cast off timbers for stairs and hot-rolled steel for doors and fireplace surround. Industrial materials are partnered with natural and rustic materials to temper the raw open space.
The space boasts corner wrap windows that look out onto the North Loop Warehouse District, just outside of downtown Minneapolis, allowing natural light to play effortlessly throughout the various rooms. The now-distinctive environment embraces the client's taste for eclectic and extraordinary details while being a welcoming place for friends and a home-away-from-home for the owner.
Architecture and Design: Bryan Carpenter and Geoffrey Warner, AIA
General Contractor: Kurt Albrecht, Owner, KA Construction, Grand Rapids, MN
Various Woodwork: Scott McGlasson, Owner, Woodsport, woodsport.net
Alchemists live in the Midwest and we love barns. Our clients love barns. Everyone loves barns. Can you imagine a house that took all the great things about barns and left those other things to the cows?
Alchemy designed a custom house using 19th century simplicity and 21st Century technology including:
- Barn siding with light filtering through
- Few, but large openings
- A sleeping loft and bedrooms in the cellar
- And, of course, Barn Space: an open 2-story room with two volumes inserted within. One in steel, the other in ash strips, they provide under-and over spaces like a hayloft (without the smell).
The green BarnHouse uses passive solar design and features advanced framing, spray foam insulation, locally sourced materials, and concrete and wood floors with in-floor heat powered by a geothermal system. Local General Contractors and Tradesmen are doing the site-building.
Alchemy is pleased to share the architectural rendering and now (drum roll, please) client photos of the site work!
Summer and Winter Site Views, 2008
Geothermal Prep Work, 2009
Foundation Prep Work, 2009: