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Industrial Joburg loft

Text Graham Wood Styling Leana Schoeman Photographs Mark Lanning Portrait Gareth Jacobs Charles Moodie was the third person to move into the Frost Street Lofts in Milpark, Johannesburg. ‘The space was basically four walls, a garage door and a roof,’ he says. There was one bright-red steel I-beam spanning the length of the unit in what was essentially an empty industrial row with sloping corrugated iron roofs and windows up among the rafters. ‘I bought it because I wanted to convert a real loft, not buy a fake suburban one,’ says Charles. ‘I wanted an open-plan, double- volume space, and I wanted to keep it as industrial as possible.’ Charles is a freelance art director in the advertising industry who works predominantly from home, so his living area would have to be flexible enough to accommodate office space. The openness and informality of loft living suited him. The industrial living space that Charles sought couldn’t have come much more authentic than these lofts. The building had been the headquarters of Chubb Security, and nestled below the massive Egoli Gas cylinders in Milpark. Charles had renovated a number of homes before, so he had the experience necessary to pull off such a project. (He has gone on to act as the project manager on several subsequent renovations at Frost Street Lofts. ‘Managing renovations has become something of a hobby for me,’ he says.) Charles drew up plans himself and consulted with his cousin, architect Kerry Palmer of KJP Architects. ‘She took my sketches and refined them,’ he says. The double-volume space had a footprint of just 110m2, but Charles almost doubled the habitable area by pouring two concrete slabs at slightly different levels on either side of the entrance, linked by the dramatic steel stairs. These lead to workspace on one side and the bedroom on the other. The bedroom remains private despite being open because the study opposite is slightly lower, so you can’t see in and there’s no need to box it in. The red beam dictated where he placed the slab for the bedroom – ‘I wanted to work with what was here, maintaining the integrity of the space,’ says Charles – and served as the inspiration for his choice of colours, too. The red theme carries through an element of the building’s history, and his decision to keep the roll-up garage door came from a similar impulse. The striking safe door, which acts as a front entrance to the loft, was salvaged from debris on the property and is another aesthetic reference to the building’s past. BIG IDEA #1  Keep It Real A key part of renovating an industrial loft is retaining details and characteristics of the original space, or risk losing its character entirely. Leaving the garage door and steel I-beams in place, and carrying the original colour of the beam through into the rest of the loft enabled the sense of authenticity Charles wished to create. His use of the safe door as a front entrance also acts as a visual reference to the loft’s past life as a security company headquarters. Charles added black and white to his home’s palette. ‘They are the easiest contrasting colours to work with,’ he explains. In certain areas, such as the dining room, he also used wood to warm the space and break up the spans of concrete. ‘Lighting and visual cues, such as the raised dining room, help to define the floor spaces,’ he says. The steel pillars keep it dynamic. During the day the loft is flooded with beautiful natural light, which keeps the industrial materials from seeming heavy or oppressive. ‘I maximised the natural light and kept the electric lighting as simple as possible.’ Once he’d poured the concrete slabs, Charles found that his bedroom (now one of his favourite spots) overlooked neighbouring treetops. ‘I am surrounded by a green belt – it’s as though the complex is in the country,’ he says. That might have introduced a surprise element of peace and quiet to the loft’s industrial aesthetic and gritty roots, but it just meant that Charles ended up with everything you could possibly want from a real industrial loft, and more. BIG IDEA #2 Make Space Charles created open but private spaces. ‘The sense of the loft’s size has a lot to do with its height,’ he says, ‘and I didn’t want to lose that.’ In the same way that he suggested rooms with the layout of the floor space, Charles divided the vertical space. The split-level created a degree of privacy, especially in the bedroom, creating a sense of energy while retaining the openness of the loft. The bedroom, whose floor was level with the original red beam, is visible only from the study, and even then only slightly, because of the different levels of the slabs. ‘It still feels like a traditional loft,’ he says. LITTLE BLACK BOOK Architect: KJP Architecture & Interiors, 084-580-1262 Project manager: Charles Moodie, 083-442-2207 Flooring: X2 Flooring, 011-467-3517/9 Light fittings: Diva Luce, 011-787-1999 Bathroom fittings: Linea Brigio, Couches: Salt and Pepper Design, Wall art: Rasty, 082-508-0662 Photographic art: Erica Moodie, 072-304-1402  This article was originally featured in the July 2011 issue of House & Leisure.