Bushman Dreyfus Architects totally renovated a loft apartment located in the oldest building on the downtown pedestrian mall in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA using the light as the central design axis of this minimal and modern intervention.

-text by the authors

The c.1843 three-story structure was badly in need of refurbishment — portions of the framing, roof, insulation, windows, mechanical systems, electrical and plumbing were all replaced and renewed so this building is set for service for another century or more. What was dark commercial space with claustrophobic offices and an enclosed storage attic is now transformed into a single spacious open floor apartment with a sleeping loft.

Transparency from front to back is a key design intent, establishing visual access to the street trees in front and sunlight in the back. Multiple modes of direct and indirect natural lighting animate the space. 

A single scaled up cabinet “box” with hidden hardware, secret doors and rooms runs the length of the interior and conceals the kitchen, bathroom, services and storage. All kitchen appliances disappear when not in use. Doors to the left and right of the work surface open fully for access to a wall oven and refrigerator. The wood cladding is rough sawn white oak with a light stain. The floor planks are also white oak, keeping the color and material palette to a minimum.

A window-like opening through the oak cabinet volume frames a view of the original brick masonry bearing walls offering a dramatic counterpoint of texture and color. The backsplash is completely open to a stair leading to the apartment vestibule below. In the kitchen’s opening, a low-profile stainless steel utility trough with electrical outlets runs along the edge of the counter. Functional and durable stainless-steel accessories for the kitchen and bath are custom-fabricated locally. 

The sleeping loft stair is both foreground and background, heavy and light, transparent and opaque. The white guardrail is a single 3/8” thick painted steel plate. The treads and risers are folded perforated steel, fixed to the vertical steel plate guard, creating a delicate, but monolithic, integrated structure.

Seven new skylights in the high ceiling fill the space with natural light.

New double pane aluminum-clad windows maximize the daylight openings and ensure better energy performance. New insulation under the existing roof provides thermal insulation far in excess of the code required value.

About Bushman Dreyfus Architects

BDA believes that architecture is distinguished from the other arts by the dialog between client and designer. Every BDA project is a response to a singular location, a particular climate, and the intentions of a unique client. Based in Virginia, BDA works with clients across the USA and internationally, from California to New York, to London, to Kenya. Practice areas include new construction, historic renovation, building additions and remodels.


Facts & Credits
Project title  Downtown Loft Apartment
Location  Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
Date  2019
Floor Area  125 sqm
Architecture  Bushman Dreyfus Architects
Design team  Jeff Bushman, Aga Saulle
Structural engineer  Dunbar Milby Williams Pittman & Vaughan
General contractor  Longview Management & Construction Co.
Photography  Virginia Hamrick Photography
Awards  2019 Virginia AIA Merit Award for Excellence in Interior Design, 2020 Architizer A+ Awards Jury Winner & Popular Choice Winner in the Apartment category