March 14, 2010

Open House: Urbane retreat

Once another old warehouse,this Portland loft home is now a stylish, sophisticated city oasis.

PORTLAND — When Richard Renner had the opportunity to buy a one-story brick warehouse building on Pleasant Street a few years ago, he saw potential for a very livable home.

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The living room

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Richard Renner and Janet Friskey make their home in a converted warehouse on Pleasant Street in Portland. The building includes space for Renner’s architectural firm as well as 1,400 square feet of living space – two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room and more. The renovation was completed in 2007.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

ABOUT THIS SERIES

“OPEN HOUSE” is a monthly series in Home & Garden profiling eye-catching, historic or innovative homes around Maine.

TO SUBMIT a home for this series, contact Ray Routhier at  rrouthier@pressherald.com or at 791-6454.

Renner is an architect, so he sees potential where the rest of us would see, well, a brick warehouse.

“When I saw it I just thought I could make something of it, and I loved the neighborhood, being close to the Old Port without being right in the middle of all the activity,” said Renner. 

So Renner sat down at his drawing board and began planning the conversion of the late 1800s structure into a new, sleek space for his architecture firm (Richard Renner Architects) in the building’s lower level as well as a 1,400-square foot loft residence on the upper level for himself and his wife, graphic designer Janet Friskey. Friskey did the interior design and coordinated with Renner on the architecture.

As an architect, Renner is known for his green designs, including the use of renewable materials and energy efficiency.

So he set out to use those principles in his home, while maximizing the space and making the dingy building as livable as possible.

The result is a striking loft residence that looks like it’s straight out of Manhattan, with light birch wood floors, 10- or 12-foot ceilings, lots of metal accents, such as railings, half-walls and steps, plus huge windows and lots of light. The couple has lived there since 2007.

NOOK AND CRANNIES

One of the more innovative creations in the home is an office space that is in a nook about four steps above the living room. The space had been a sleeping loft that most adults could barely stand up in.

So Renner had a small addition built, to make the space about 10 feet high, allowing for huge windows that light the nook as well as the main living/dining space of the home.

To get to the office nook, you walk up a few metal steps that come from the side and bring you to a little landing that doubles as shelf space. Then there’s a half-wall of dark metal with little holes separating the office nook from the living area. This allows people in the nook to see all of the rest of the home, but people down in the living room can’t see the papers on the desk and other potential clutter in the office area.

In the office area, there’s a metal pull-out staircase that allows you to climb up into the addition, to a small door that leads to a garden and patio area on the building’s flat rubber roof.

Another conversion was a small den/spare bedroom at the corner of the living room that had been the entrance way into the home when it was an apartment and the lower level was a used clothing store.

DESIGN DECISIONS

Renner has his architecture firm on the lower level now, but he didn’t want the entrance of the home to be through his office. He wanted “separation” of work and home. So he designed the entrance to his home using the building’s former loading dock entrance on South Street, around the corner from his office entrance, which is on Pleasant Street.

The new entrance is at street level, so you enter into a foyer with steps in front of you and a metal half-wall above your head, so people can’t stumble from the living room in into the foyer.

By using this area as the entrance to the home, Renner was able to take the old entrance and make a den out of it. His wife picked a bright color for the back wall of the den, citron (greenish yellow), which she says “visibly lengthens the space” by drawing people’s eyes.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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The entranceway to the living space at 35 Pleasant

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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The exercise room

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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The dining room

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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The kitchen.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Steps leading to an office nook

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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The office/loft, with stairs leading to a rooftop deck

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Built-ins and French doors leading to the den

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

  


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