Cozy warmth in a sprawling space: Fashion stylist Bear Brandegee’s strategically designed Lawrenceville home celebrates contemporary living in an old church banquet hall.
In the family’s previous home, each room had a distinctive look. Decorating this loft required an innovative approach: The master bedroom, dining and living areas are all connected, so the owner used one palette of colors throughout the space and combined several decorating styles for an eclectic look.
Photo by Laura Petrilla
Loft apartments are prized for their wide-open spaces and towering ceilings. They feel wonderfully airy and light, but they can have a downside: Soaring, open spaces can also feel cold and impersonal.
Two years ago, fashion stylist Bear Brandegee was determined to have the best of both worlds when she began designing her family’s loft in Lawrenceville. With careful planning, she created a home for herself, her husband, Nir Kossovsky, and their daughter, Natasha, that can only be described as warm and wonderful.
Before moving to the 4,000-square-foot loft, which is one of three homes carved from a former church, Brandegee and her family lived in a 6,000-square-foot house. So the move required some serious strategy.
“Getting our arms around making the contents of 20-plus rooms from an old East End home work in a virtually open space was a huge challenge,” Brandegee says. “We tackled it by breaking the problem into three steps. First, we created a list of our activity areas—cooking, working, entertaining, exercise, etc. Second, we designed distinct living areas around those activities. And third, we pared down our ‘stuff’ to those things we used and truly love.”
As the family decided on their needs and wants—including a cozy conversation area, a dining area to hold their 11-foot Italian table, an intimate breakfast area and separate but connected workspaces—Brandegee sketched out the living space on graph paper.
She briefly considered using decorative screens to section off the different areas within the huge main room, but that interrupted the flow of the loft.
Brandegee found creative ways to balance the loft’s airy feeling with the intimacy of traditional rooms.
The loft’s ceiling features recessed lighting in various parts. Brandegee strategically added chandeliers over several areas and also used lamps to define each space with warm, welcoming light.
“When we divided the main space into each life area, we created lighting especially for that area so that the other spaces could be dark but the one we were in would be cozy,” she says. “We also lit for the evening so that the entire room would sparkle and have interesting lighting with no dark spots.”
Each section of the loft has an area rug to define its boundaries and create warmth underfoot. Between the rugs, large stretches of the loft’s polished hardwood floors are visible, including a space where Brandegee and her husband enjoy ballroom dancing in the evenings.
Scale and Placement of Furniture
The sweeping dimensions of a loft can accommodate huge pieces of furniture. But Brandegee opted not to use many large pieces. “You want the space and each mini area to feel comfortable and not super-sized,” she says, “so I suggest limiting the use of oversized furniture to a few key, strategically-placed pieces.”
She uses a few items of varying heights to define the living areas, including potted plants and standing sculptures. But low-slung sofas and tables are used throughout the space to bring a down-to-earth feel.
A long, low sideboard is used to define one side of the dining-room area. But the absence of walls presented a challenge: The back of the sideboard is visible from the living-room area. Brandegee’s solution? She painted the unfinished back of the piece.
The final element that brings intimacy to this cavernous space is the color palette. Ruby reds, deep browns and warm shades of gold appear throughout and are set off with dramatic black accents.
The finished space is grand and intimate. Once used as a banquet hall for church events, it now feels like a home but retains its original purpose as the perfect place to celebrate.