The Chocolate Loft

When I moved back to Salt Lake I was single and I had fallen in love with the idea of urban living. (Read: I wasn’t really into a driveway to shovel during the winter months.) I told my realtor that I wanted to live in “the most urban location possible.” He said, “All roads lead back to Zion, eh?” And then we laughed and laughed.

The building where I live was originally built in 1901 as the J.G. McDonald Chocolate Co. This is how we started calling my place “The Chocolate Loft.”

In the last few weeks I’ve had a number of people ask me for pictures of my loft or for more details on my furniture and what-not. And for some reason it takes me FOR-EV-ER to gather up pictures and send them over along with descriptions of the aforementioned what-not.

Today I thought how nice it would be if I just had a link I could send to people. So really, this post is for my own selfish purposes, but I hope you enjoy it too! (And to the people that have asked me for pictures and other info: I’m really sorry that it took so long.)

It should be said up front that my sister, the lovely lovely Janaan, was my interior designer/decorator/personal shopper/muse and deserves all of the credit for how my house looks. She had the vision for the space and knew how to pull all of this together and I knew how to point at what I liked most and pull out a credit card.

I immediately fell in love with the large, paned windows that are original to the building. And while they aren’t very energy efficient, they are very beautiful. The natural light that these windows provide makes the space feel like much more than its ~870 square feet. I chose white window coverings (triple-paned AND insulated) so even if the shades are drawn it still feels open and light inside.

(Window Coverings: Hunter Douglas Duette Honeycomb Shades)

The space required very little work, however renovations still took two months. At one point I burst into tears over a contractor delaying a schedule YET AGAIN and Janaan (who had just spent two years renovating her home) just laughed and laughed…and laughed some more.

Janaan calls my style “rustic modern.” I am going for an eclectic mix of industrial and natural and funky and new. Given the limited square footage and my tendency to let laundry pile up, I also need things to be simple and uncluttered. One nice thing about living in a small space is that you really have to think about what you buy and where you’re going to put it. (Or let’s face it, you rent a 20′ x 20′ storage unit and blame it on your husband’s hobbies and tools. Look, I have a lot of Christmas decorations OK?)

The biggest challenge I had was the HUGE column right inside the front door. It was painted white when I bought the loft and so IN YOUR FACE when you walked inside. Alek suggested that I paint all of the columns with a rusted iron faux finish that matched the rusted iron benches in the front of the building. That treatment changed the column from a barrier to a point of interest. Or at least, a more interesting barrier.

I added the console table stacked with my collection of crystal candlesticks to create a more formal entry point. Also, this totally justified the obsession that I had at the time with crystal candlesticks.

Alek applied a gray venetian plaster finish to the walls. If you’re a new guest, he will make you touch the wall. Guaranteed. It looks rough but it is totally smooth.  

(Faux Finish Painting: Alek House | Console Table: CG Sparks | Candlesticks: Various Stores | Mirror: TJ Maxx | Light Fixtures: Lamps Plus)

I’ve always dreamed of white cabinets and black countertops so I re-faced the kitchen in a distressed white and swapped out the counter tops for black granite. I bought apothecary jars to sit on my counter and love to fill them with delicious treats. They are always the first stop when people come by to visit. (Unless I’m on some radical new diet and they’re filled with raisins and Kid’s Cliff bars. Then, people aren’t so interested.)

My mid-century Tolix stools were purchased for a STEAL while Janaan worked at Sundance Catalog (best.job.ever!). They look perfect tucked under the counters, provide a lot of seating for guests and are a handy way to get up into the higher levels of my closet.

(Cabinets: I’ll Never Use Those Guys Again or Recommend Them. I’m totally serious. If you want cabinets, call Faux at FX Designs. That’s what I wish I had done. | Countertops: Rock Solid, Orem, UT – loved working with those guys | Tolix Stools: Sundance Catalogue | Apothecary Jars: Taipan Trading)

Speaking of my closet – I did have to sacrifice one of the concrete walls to fashion and functionality (mostly fashion.) The “guts” of the closet are all IKEA and the doors were all done by the same cabinet company that finished the kitchen.

I replaced the bathroom floor with white subway tiles (Favorite line of all time from Mom, who specializes in choosing tile and granite in colors that will look good, yet totally mask dirt: “That tile is going to be the bane of your existence.”) Rather than install built-in cabinets, I opted for these stand alone pieces from CG Sparks. Sorry next owner of this place, those go with me when I leave. Basically, I just want to buy everything I see at CG Sparks.

The bathroom was supposed to be finished in this amazing Benjamin Moore paint that adds a bit of gold sparkle and shimmer to the paint. Let’s just say my original painter had NO IDEA how to apply this treatment and $500 in paint later, I gave up and had Alek paint it white again.

We used the Expedit storage shelves from IKEA as a separator between the bedroom and the living area. This was the perfect solution since it was large enough to separate the two spaces, but the open shelves created areas to accessorize on both sides of the room (Oh please, what am I saying? The open shelves gave me a place to stack more crap, cute crap that I need to have around, but crap nonetheless).

All of the pipes in my building are exposed and Alek surprised me after a business trip by painting all of the water pipes in a faux copper finish. He even added a little patina to the joints.

I fell in love with this loft the minute I laid eyes on it and it has been filled with love ever since.

Well, minus those little bouts with the first painter and the first tile guy and the first counter top guy and the cabinet guys.

The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is not to be intimidated by living in a small space. The loft has provided a home base for family and friends when they are downtown for dinner, concerts, or the Saturday Farmer’s Market. We’ve hosted anywhere from two to fifty people and it is not uncommon for us to have people over after the bars close until the wee hours of the morning. I just ask for a 10 minute heads up so I can make the bed and stash the laundry.


2 responses to The Chocolate Loft

  1. Kim

    I still send people to see these photos of your space… it. Would love to see Janaan’s renovation too.

  2. Chris McDonald

    Very nice. I am a McDonald, and it makes me happy to see my families hisory live on. I love the way you have decorated the place.

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