The oldest building on the downtown pedestrian mall in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, contains this minimal and modern renovation. 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.

Architecture, Construction & Design Awards 2020
First Award |  Interiors Residential (Built)

Project Name: Downtown Loft
Studio Name: Bushman Dreyfus Architects
Design Team: Jeff Bushman, Aga Saulle
Area: 1350 sq ft (125 sqm)
Year:  2019
Location: 118 E Main Street, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
Consultants: Dunbar Milby Williams Pittman & Vaughan – structural engineer

Photography Credits:  Virginia Hamrick Photography
Other Credits: Longview Management & Construction Co. – general contractor
Light is the theme of this minimal and modern intervention.

Downtown Loft By Bushman Dreyfus Architects - Sheet1
©Bushman Dreyfus Architects

What was dark commercial space with claustrophobic offices and an enclosed storage attic is now transformed into a single spacious open floor apartment with 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 nearly the entire 50-foot length of the floor 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.

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©Bushman Dreyfus Architects

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.

Although the bathroom doesn’t have an exterior window, a south-facing floor-to-ceiling sheet of glass brings borrowed light in from the skylight above the apartment entry stair.

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©Bushman Dreyfus Architects

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.

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©Bushman Dreyfus Architects

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.