Turning a “Bowling Alley” into a Home

There are challenges with every interior design project, but this latest project was a doozy!

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My parents just moved into a new(ish) loft. The space is about 1300 square feet, in a converted furniture warehouse. It’s a great space with lots of cool industrial details. But there were many challenges, including:

  • Little lighting (we added the chandeliers shown here, having electricians divert wiring to this wide corridor).
  • No closets, no towel bars, no walls to demarcate space.
  • My mom really wanted an uncluttered, minimalist décor, but my parents had heaps of stuff they’d accumulated over the years. Some of their favorite pieces are neither industrial nor modern.
  • The layout of the space is akin to a giant bowling alley, in which the energy just goes swish in one direction. Not great for flow. (If you are not familiar with basic feng shui principles, you don’t want the flow of a space to be too strongly oriented in one direction or broken up by obstructions and thus too weak).
  • Of course, we were working with a limited budget: $5K for everything.

The first thing I did was to divide the space into functional zones. I used shelves and curtains to separate each functional area: a study for my dad, a great room off the kitchen that included the dining and seating areas, and a bedroom.

I utilized the long hallway for the placement of closets (purchased from Ikea and assembled with lots of sweat and tears by yours truly) and the dining table.

Make use of all available space. Although it’s ideal to have dedicated rooms for dining, sleeping, and socializing, you have to work with what you’ve got. A space can be turned into something else by virtue of its furniture and arrangement.

I combined the old with the new and embraced the contrast instead of trying to keep everything within one style family. Here, in the bathroom, we used the traditional Korean etagere they’ve owned for decades in the bathroom as a storage space for towels.

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You can also see the eclectic mix at play with this new chandelier we had installed. It’s from Ikea and cost less than $100 on sale! It’s plastic, not crystal, it still adds the right dose of bling to this corner of the space, and makes for a striking contrast against the wood beams and ceiling. How fabulous to wake up and see this fixture first thing every day.

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By placing the sofa and floor to ceiling curtains crosswise, we were able to demarcate the separation between the bedroom and common areas and to interrupt the strong unidirectional flow of the space. The horizontal element here breaks up the strong vertical alignment of the floor plan as does the furniture and artwork along the vertical spine, thereby slowing down the flow of the space to a healthy level. This arrangement also works great in terms of function, giving each occupant (my mom and dad) their own private spaces on either end of the loft and a common middle ground in which to congregate.

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We also ended up throwing out (mostly through donation) a majority of their former possessions. They totally don’t miss it. (And you won’t either!) We came in at under $5K, after purchasing the closets, new sofa and coffee table, drapery, bed, rug, and book case.

So have faith! No matter the eccentricity of the space, you can create a beautiful home if you think creatively and meet the challenges as they come.

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Mina Yang

Mina Yang is a certified feng shui and design consultant and coach (as well as the mother of two energetic kids). She helps people transform their space (and life!) through her designs and online course on feng shui-inspired design.

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