The build-out of a new loft in Los Angeles gave William Beauter, AIA, LEED AP, and Jess Mullen-Carey the envious architectural challenge of starting with a clean slate. Former clients were the first owners in a new building on the corner of Hollywood and Vine. The young couple asked Beauter and Mullen-Carey, founders of MAKE Architecture, to design a residence with flexible spaces that would grow as their needs changed. The clients wanted to maintain an urban loft feel, but they needed privacy in addition to a second bedroom for overnight guests or an eventual nursery. The couple also entertains frequently and asked for open spaces. All of these requirements had to be handled within 1,450 square feet. 

The design team brainstormed a way to keep the loft’s airiness while inserting enclosed rooms. After researching several divider alternatives they designed a custom partition system with panels that slide fully open or close tight, but also tilt at various angles. The 10-foot-tall panels provide occupants with several options for privacy or connectedness. To create the system, solid-core doors were sliced into segments and reconfigured into long, narrow panels. The height is nearly two-doors tall while the width is approximately half that of a standard interior door. The dimensions are elegant and dramatic, plus the panels are heavy to help buffer sound, according to Beauter. When designing in tight quarters “you have to make the solution simple but inspiring or it will overpower the space,” Mullen-Carey surmises. “The star of this show is the movable partition system—simple, elegant, and really classic in a modernist way.” 

The panels operate manually using off-the-shelf hanging door hardware. The floor and ceiling tracks were installed as a single system that continues around the two bedrooms. The nonstop tacking allows for myriad panel configurations and creates a cool detail. “There’s this sleek snaking line around these spaces,” Beauter explains, “so it gives a sense of separation even when the doors are open.” 

Beauter and Mullen-Cary also devised clever ways to increase the usefulness of the guest bedroom. Concealing the bed beneath a raised floor allows the space to double as a home office or even overflow entertainment space when the panels are pushed aside. Hydraulic lifts beneath the wood floor raise the bed into position. Fashion-conscious beanbags conceal the mechanism’s door and transform the room into an intimate lounge, while a wrap-around step offers more casual seating. “We liked the idea of being perched a little higher so people could hang out in a special space and get a new perspective,” Mullen-Carey says. 

“In all of our projects, we like to manipulate standard materials to make them unique,” Beauter adds. “Here, we utilized standard basic doors and hardware and made them custom without a tremendous amount of cost or effort.” In addition to the movable panels and disappearing guest bed, Mullen-Carey and Beauter looked for other ways to increase flexibility. The kitchen island, for example, conceals an extendable glass dining table. A slab of tempered glass rests just below the solid-surface countertop and slides in or out to the desired length. A single stainless steel leg supports the floating end and sits flush against the island when the table is fully retracted. “Everything you see has an ability to function,” Mullen-Carey says, “but also allows the romance of how a loft should feel to read through the functionality.”