By Candice Grahama
Photography by Med Dement
Architect: Caughman + Caughman Architects
Contractor: The Strauss Company
Chattanooga’s Southside is bustling with restaurants, shops, bars, and art galleries. Now added to the mix is a transformed downtown loft with youthful vibrancy, original elements, and a blast of bohemian style.
After sitting vacant for half a century, this Main Street loft, expertly revamped by architect Jay Caughman, hardly resembles its former self. Caughman was presented with nothing more than a dirt floor and a ceiling when he came on board in 2013. “There were pigeons living in here,” Caughman says. “They stayed for most of the construction.”
At more than 100 feet long and only 21 feet wide, the building’s shell presented an interesting challenge when it came to lighting the layout. “These long, skinny spaces kind of design themselves,” Caughman explains. “We knew we wanted the front wide open, but we only had light coming in from the very front and the very back.” With nearly 100 feet of space left with no natural light, they decided to use big windows leading up to the penthouse area to bring light into the core. Original openings, including vents, were replaced with large and small windows. The result is a space that flows naturally and is well lit throughout.
Facing Main Street, the living room is characterized by a fun juxtaposition of rustic exposed brick and fresh, vibrant colors. Mid-century vintage furniture mixes with bold patterns and bright hues, which pop against natural elements like the ash floors. Mustard yellow, citrus orange, and aqua blue repeat on pillows, rugs, accessories, and even antique glass bottles collected by the homeowner. Placed above the windows, the bottles provide an almost stained-glass aesthetic. “We wanted to have a little bit of a warm look, so when you walk in it feels young and hip but also goes with the loft theme,” says interior designer Bryan Kirkland. A suspended swinging chair adds a bohemian element, while a sleek steel writing table fashioned after an airplane wing and an overhead fan with 10 foot aluminum blades lend an industrial look.
Two coal burning fireplaces, original to the building, flank the dining area. Graphic artwork and white floating shelves displaying jewel-toned pottery fill the walls with personality. The dining table’s base was taken from a vintage 1980s table, and a new solid walnut slab was commissioned for the top. Six chairs from the 1960s were recovered and brought from drab purple-red to cool turquoise blue. A nearby server table, another ‘80s find, was given a modern update with a fresh coat of verdant green lacquer. Buffet lamps and an overhead light complete the space.
In the kitchen, sleek white cabinetry brings a crisp look and stainless steel appliances provide a modern edge. Gray Caesarstone countertops allow brightly colored accessories to pop. “The shape of the kitchen was kind of driven by the design,” Caughman says. “Since we only had 21 feet to work with, we knew the master bedroom and living room would be full width, so we had to divide this space up. We used the shape of the island to direct traffic around it.”
Adjacent to the kitchen island is a built-in breakfast booth, made by the homeowner’s father. A mixture of pallet wood and exposed brick on the walls, combined with bronze-colored steel seating, makes the cozy space extra rustic. An accordion lamp hanging above provides an ambient glow.
In the back of the loft, the master bedroom and bathroom feature a flood of natural light. Windows are outlined in pallet wood and painted in a mirrored tint for extra privacy. The vintage bed, originally from Holland, was given an update with slate gray paint. An orange vintage chair adds a retro feel and a place to kick back. The master bath, separated by a pallet wood sliding barn door, is a continuation of bright streams of light. Chevron-patterned porcelain tile has a wood look, and the pattern is mirrored in a black and white pouf resting next to the vintage tub. An updated twist was added to the clawfoot tub by painting the base in a rich orange tone and the feet in a shiny silver.
Stairs leading up to the rooftop, expertly handcrafted by the homeowner’s father, are made with a mix of walnut and white maple stripes. Clear polyurethane lets the wood’s natural character show. As an engineer, he also welded the stair rails for a permanent fixture that is truly one-of-a-kind. “The handrails create all kinds of shadows and interesting lines,” Caughman says. “You have great sightlines for people, and also great lines as light travels through the space.”
Halfway up the stairs, a cozy study area houses a blue chair and a small bookshelf. Resting atop the breakfast nook, the space shares the same intimate, warm ambiance. Seven black globe light fixtures create an artistic statement and also add light to the core of the home. The rooftop patio boasts views of Southside establishments and lush mountains in the distance. A trellis adds a place for shade on extra sunny days.
With this new loft comes a breath of fresh air to a building that sat vacant for decades. And while the youthful vibrancy is evident in every corner, more plans are being made to ramp up the aesthetic even further. Plans for a top-level mini-bar are in the works, and soon the homeowner hopes to open a handmade pottery studio and retail shop at street-level.
Booth and custom trim: Adam Hart, Hart Customs
Cabinetry: Kenny Wallace
Countertops: Stone Source
Glass shower: Hubbuch Glass Company, Stolpmann Plumbing
Interior design: Bryan Kirkland, Kirkland & King Design Associates
Plumbing fixtures: Ferguson
Stairs and ironwork: Houston Jewell, Jewell Welding
Tile: Alexander Tile