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How to make your neighbors envy your pad for more than its space

Use color to designate an area of a

Use color to designate an area of a loft, like here on Hope Street in Williamsburg. (Betsey Helmuth) Credit: Use color to designate an area of a loft, like here on Hope Street in Williamsburg. (Betsey Helmuth)

In a city of 8 million people seemingly living on top of each other, it's hard to believe that anyone has more space than they know what to do with.

But that's exactly the "problem" some lucky New Yorkers have - particularly those living in the big, open lofts prevalent in downtown Manhattan, Long Island City, Williamsburg and some parts of the Bronx, according to a few interior designers we spoke to.

We've collected tips for designing and decorating lofts, which can also be applied to open spaces in many apartments around the city.


"You want to honor what the architecture's telling you to do, and if it's an open loft it's telling you, 'don't segment me,'" said Betsy Helmuth of Affordable Interior Design.

"The reason that people pick lofts is because it does feel so grand - so if we do break it up architecturally, we really want to maintain that openness," she added.

She recommended defining living and dining areas with rugs.

Use an 8-by-10-foot rug to define a living zone, and a separate rug for the eating area, she said.

Another tip Helmuth gave is specific furniture placement to define living, working and dining zones.

For example, have the back of a living room couch face the dining area "to kind of create visual delineation," she said.

Antony Perez, a designer/project manager at Knockout Renovation, suggested using textures to separate areas of a loft.

"In the bathroom you have paint all around, but in the living room you can treat a wall differently, [with] Venetian stucco or expose a brick wall," he said, referring to different textures.


Perez said creating privacy is one of the biggest challenges facing loft residents.

"You can use screens, curtains, drapes, heavy drapes, that open during the day and close at night," he said.

A popular item are pocket doors, he said, which pull fully open or closed and come in a range of styles, such as glass, depending on how much you want to spend.

"It depends on the quality, but you can do it without having to spend a lot of money," he said of solving the privacy problem.

Helmuth said loft residents also favor using modular bookshelves, which can create the illusion of a separate room.

Another technique, which Helmuth said she is hesitant to use because of the stark divisions it creates, is using curtains that hang from tracks on the ceiling.

"So you can have it be open sometimes," she said. "We don't want to do anything architecturally permanent, but it can be nice to have flexibility."

Helmuth added that these touches can be affordable, as most of her clients shop at Ikea, Target, and Crate&Barrel.


Perez said color can help divide spaces in a loft.

"Let's say you have a long, narrow space and in that same space you have to do dining, living, everything," he said. "You have to separate dining with living with color."

He suggested painting one wall per area a different color, creating the illusion of more space.

Helmuth said a misconception many have when decorating lofts is that they should hang art high up on the walls.

What you really need is "bigger, well-placed art," she said. "You want to get pieces that are in scale."

She recommended designating focal points, or "picking a couple of places you want people's attention to go so that way they don't get lost in this visual expanse."

As for the kind of art, Helmuth recommended frameless pictures and paintings, and tapestries that fall to the floor. 

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