Modern Whimsy

Text by Rebecca Rochat and Hannah Vanbiber

This home in Southside Chattanooga was a new start both for its homeowners and for the building itself. “You have to shake your life up sometimes,” the owner says, “so we decided ‘let’s sell the house and move to Chattanooga!’” They moved south from Wisconsin and picked a reclaimed industrial space as their new home. Formerly Reeves Reneedling factory, then an office, the building and adjacent concrete yard had little promise. But with the visual skill of architect Bruce Simonson of Artech and the remodeling expertise of Collier Construction, the space was transformed from manufacturing doldrums into a chic home in the style of a New York loft.

Many old and new elements retain the commercial feel of the loft, from the original concrete floor and track lighting from Lowe’s to small details like the time clock, sign and water fountain from the original building. The design intentionally incorporated echoes of the original manufacturing identity of the building. The result is a space that feels thoroughly urban and city-savvy, but shot through with unexpected personality. Where the homeowners are concerned, she is a collector of “everything,” and he’s a self-taught metal worker and welder. Together they made their dream a reality, each putting their personal stamp on the home through collectibles and repurposed vintage pieces.

Originally, the back wall encompassed an industrial garage door where the kitchen sink now stands, and a solid wall of concrete. The space was gutted and opened up, with windows cut across the entire back wall to create a living space filled with light. Confronted with an eyesore parking lot in the back, the homeowners worked with Collier to create a beautiful urban green space in their back lot. The expanse of windows along the back wall allows the green yard to create a backdrop for the public spaces, softening and complementing the industrial accents.

The spacious kitchen has cabinets by IKEA, which fit the industrial aesthetic throughout the home. The quartz countertops and gas stove make for a beautiful cohesive area. An island painted the same blue as the dining chairs has a marble countertop and antique soda fountain stools with red leather seats. The simple cabinetry allows the surprising whimsy of the décor to really stand out in the kitchen. The space is scattered and filled with eclectic pieces, like the reclaimed electric ice cream sign outfitted with lights by the owner, the old factory water fountain and a torso sculpture from ReStore on the counter. On an upper shelf over the far wall, a collection of Big Boy figurines oversees the cooking process.

Exposed beams and metalwork in the ceiling connect the kitchen, dining room and living room, while track lighting blends with natural light to fill the spaces. Doors and millwork in the loft were made by Cox Interior, cinching the industrial chic look and providing structural reinforcement. Openness and space were pivotal to the design aesthetic of the home, so storage was a question mark for the builder and architect. The answer? Chic cabinetry and clever spacing. Waist-high bookshelves were built in along the side of the living room, creating a natural hallway without breaking up the line of sight. Above the shelving unit, a large, non-structural beam was used to accentuate the division and the length of the room.

Given  the challenge to take the delightful quirkiness of a homeowner’s taste and create a spacious, comfortable, modern loft, local craftsmen and designers pulled off a feat that celebrates Chattanooga culture: a piece of urban residential artwork that builds on the city’s history and artfully imagines its future.

Architect: Bruce Simonson,
Artech Design Group
Builder: Collier Construction
Photography: Med Dement