The new kitchen and bathroom in a Charlottesville, Virginia, office-turned-apartment are both neatly concealed and showcased within a 40-foot-long reclaimed-oak box. Bushman Dreyfus Architects conceived the intervention while renovating the 1843 rowhouse for a couple who had purchased it as an investment property. With retail and office tenants on the ground and second levels, they wanted the dimly lit and unlivable third floor converted into a bright and welcoming second residence, where they also could host visiting family and friends.
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The low-ceilinged top-floor space previously had a toilet, but no kitchen. According to principal Jeff Bushman, the owners’ requirements for the project were that he add natural light and keep the design minimal, to make it feel more spacious. To accomplish that, the team removed part of the ceiling, combining the space with the attic level above to expose the building’s sloped roof and make it an open, two-level dwelling. They installed skylights and designed a boxy enclosure in oak as the prominent feature of the 1,350-square-foot space, spanning nearly the entire 50-foot length of the floor.
To keep the living and dining area as open as possible, they kept a portion of the former attic and converted it into a sleeping loft overlooking the main space. The architects doubled the thickness of the gable roof with insulation to make it as energy-efficient as possible. Daylight pouring in through the skylights illuminates the living area as well as the apartment’s steep entry stair, along the western brick wall, leading down to a sidewalk-level front door.
The oak volume wraps the stairwell, screening the landing from the main living area. The architects essentially built the enclosure as a large cabinet to hold the bathroom, complete with a shower, and a one-wall kitchen that includes an oven, dishwasher, full-size refrigerator, and a pantry behind plank-clad doors.
Above the kitchen’s sink and cooktop, a window-like cut through the oak volume frames a view of the exposed brick wall, instead of a backsplash, and a glimpse of the entryway below. To bring light into the windowless bathroom, its south-facing wall is fully glazed, giving it a floor-to-ceiling view of the stairwell. In this case, there were concerns about privacy, but, ultimately, the clients opted for the transparency.
To further extend the clean aesthetic, Bushman wanted to “minimize any appearance of products.” Below the kitchen’s opening, a low-profile utility trough with electrical outlets runs along the edge of the counter to obscure clutter. The bathroom employs the same unobtrusive feature, designed to match other custom hardware, such as a towel bar.
After updating the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems and installing insulation and structural framing, the apartment now exudes a streamlined, contemporary style. That part, according to Bushman, “was easy to figure out.”
Bushman Dreyfus Architects — Jeff Bushman; Aga Saulle, design team
Dunbar, Milby, Williams, Pittman & Vaughn (structural)
Longview Management & Construction
1,350 square feet