How a Spacial Designer Created Privacy In Her Door-Less Loft with a Clever Divider
It’s now filled with one designer’s product prototypes.
Published Mar 25, 2022 1:01 AM
Until March 2021, Christine Espinal was living in Yonkers, New York, in her own apartment. Which meant that the spatial designer for home decor shop Lichen was commuting over an hour to its storefront in East Williamsburg. Needless to say, “the second I saw on Instagram that someone had availability in Brooklyn, I drove down,” says Espinal. It’s rare to find a New York City bedroom for rent with a window and a closet, not to mention it was only a 10-minute walk to the shop. Espinal signed the lease on sight. Originally tucked away in one of the duplex apartment’s lower-floor rooms—she shares the place with two other creatives—she paid her roommate dues and moved up to the highly coveted, sun-filled loft over the summer.
While low ceilings aren’t usually an enviable feature, Espinal loves the way the loft’s 6-foot-2-inch height frames the short windows. “It’s a perfect place to meditate and read,” she says—and it helps that she’s just above 5 feet tall. She mostly works in person at Lichen’s store, helping customers and designing its fan-favorite plywood mirrors, but the sectional carried over from her last place is her preferred spot to answer emails after hours. (Plus the L shape conveniently demarcates this zone from where Espinal sleeps.) Her desk at the other end of the room, while perfect for displaying prototype trays and doing her makeup, doesn’t actually get much use 9-to-5.
When friends are over, Espinal only has to take a few steps to join in on the fun—the bedroom overlooks the length of the lower living space. At bedtime, a flexible, lightweight room divider gets unfurled and positioned right up against the railing for a bit of privacy. “On the weekends I keep it rolled up so the rest of the apartment can get as much sunlight as possible,” she explains.
The ample rays that filter into the space is one reason the ceilings don’t feel oppressive. Leaving the walls white helps bounce the light around, as does forgoing curtains. A low platform-style bed frame also ensures the proportions aren’t too wacky (anything taller would make it seem like you’re on the upper half of a bunk bed).
A big advocate for mood lighting, Espinal skipped overhead fixtures altogether in both her space and the common living area. Instead, a chrome arched floor lamp pulls double duty as dining ambience and a TV-time spotlight. Upstairs, her favorite purchase “maybe ever” is a square-shaped Flos wall sconce (made from fabric) that hangs above her bed in place of a traditional headboard. “The soft glow is perfect for unwinding, but even when it’s turned off, it’s a sculptural centerpiece,” she explains. Across the way, above her desk, is a rounded paper lantern from Noguchi.
Rather than hunt through vintage marketplaces or take the bus to IKEA, Espinal designs the exact pieces she wants—and then constructs them at Lichen’s workshop. Take her plywood creations: a curvy bedside table and a cutout wine rack in the kitchen (both will soon be available at Lichen for the masses, don’t worry). The former doubles as a magazine rack when flipped on its side—Espinal opts for multiple functions wherever possible—and the latter was simply an aesthetic hole that needed to be filled (chic bottle storage is difficult to find). “I like exercising that design muscle whenever I can,” she says. Working for a vintage seller has another perk: getting first dibs on new inventory, like an orange storage system (Espinal uses it to store clothes) and an equally citrine floor lamp in the living room by Nmbello Studios.
Since Lichen closed its doors in February to expand production capacity, Espinal has officially stepped away from the cash register and toward the power saw. “We’re taking time to focus on bigger projects, which means a lot more self-made pieces,” she says. The designer has her sights on perfecting her signature slatted storage—stay tuned.