“Downtown loft” and “family-friendly living” aren’t terribly compatible terms. For most city-dwellers, making a home in a converted warehouse comes at the expense of certain creature comforts. So some people improvise: “You’ll go into an old warehouse building expecting lofts, but inside, the apartments look like something you’d see on Park Avenue,” says New York–based designer Robert Stilin. “It doesn’t make any sense!”
When a couple enlisted the designer—whose first book, Robert Stilin: Interiors, debuts from Vendome Press this October—to turn their sprawling TriBeCa loft into a home for themselves and their two young children, he was determined to keep the downtown spirit alive. The building itself dates back to 1866, when it was the carriage house for American Express (at the time, a stagecoach delivery service). In the 1980s, it became famous as the decade-defining nightclub Area, and in the early aughts, it was converted to loft units. “It was just an industrial space that no one had ever lived in,” the designer explains.
Figuring out how to best use the 5,400-square-foot space required lots of strategizing. “The goal was to keep it authentic, but at the same time, make it functional for a family, with every modern amenity,” Stilin says. “They weren’t really going to be able to live in one huge, open space.”
As a solution, Stilin divided the apartment into several zones: the entry, living, and dining areas remain in one massive, traditionally loft-like room. “The open living area takes up nearly half of the apartment, so it’s airy but also comfortable and cozy,” he says. An adjoining den and an office are separated by glass-and-metal partitions, which allow light through but don’t disrupt the home’s flow; and the eat-in kitchen and four bedrooms offer some privacy.
The decor—a mix of vintage, antique, and custom pieces—pays homage to the neighborhood’s roots. “This couple loves Americana and found art, and they were open to mi things together,” says Stilin. “Every piece adds patina.” Better yet, the heavy, rustic furnishings can hold up to the perils of day-to-day life. Loft living is family-friendly after all.
Says Stilin, “It’s meant to be a place where kids can grow up, run around, and just be kids.”
When the owner requested a working bar in the living room, Stilin says,“It was a challenge to find one that actually felt like it belonged.” He worked with Erik Gustafson to design this zinc, walnut, and brass piece. “It looks authentically vintage, but it also has everything you’d find in a contemporary bar.”
Rustic stag heads (from Jed Design & Antiques) and deep blue walls (Hale Navy by Benjamin Moore) create a cozy, cabin-like vibe that’s perfect for snuggling up.
A Frits Jeuris chandelier from Obsolete hangs over the custom table. Stilin paired an Arts and Crafts oak settee from Kindred Style Antiques with 1970s plywood-and-aluminum chairs found at The Golden Triangle in Chicago.
The owners’ treasured Christian Dior poster hangs above the tub. The steel apothecary cabinet, from Coo-CooU27, provides storage and some heavy-metal edge.
Rich textures—like chairs in Loro Piana linen-cashmere and a Holland & Sherry linen–covered sofa—soften the space’s industrial mood.
A vintage bingo board welcomes guests.
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