It’s funny how some properties – and some developments – just connect with you. Years ago, way back in 1999 – and yes, I can barely believe it was so long ago! – I visited this loft development in Edinburgh’s Leith area. Named Leith Lofts, the project architects, Duffy & Batt (since reborn as Studio DuB) converted two former B listed whisky bond warehouses on Maritime Street in the heart of Leith to create 28 apartments. Buyers had the choice of purchasing a shell where they could fit out the interior themselves, or buying a completed apartment. Over the years I’ve written about a few of the lofts, and each has been interesting and unique, not only in terms of the individual spaces but also in the way each owner had interpreted and worked with the characteristics of each space.
The development garnered quite a buzz at the time of its completion. The architects had retained the industrial aesthetic of the warehouses with exposed timber beams and cast iron columns punctuating the living spaces. These were authentic lofts, the kind of spaces that, up until that point, you’d have expected to find in London or New York rather than Edinburgh.
Academic, designer, researcher and author Alex Milton spotted this top floor one bedroom loft apartment, which is currently being marketed by Knight Frank – with all photography by SquareFoot – when it was sold by the previous owners in 2007. The top floor loft apartments in the development – which were called ‘Sky Lofts’ by the developers – feature glazed ‘pods’ on the roof that open onto terraces, offering incredible views across the city. Different owners have used these spaces in different ways and the original owner here, an author and garden designer, had filled this rooftop space with a vast collection of plants, which spilled out onto the roof terrace.
For Alex, who is the Head of School of Design at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, this loft offered a unique and inspiring home. The apartment centres around a large open plan living and dining space, which is also open to the kitchen. A wet room is tucked behind a full-height opaque glazed door at one end of this living space, and a spiral staircase leads up to the ‘pod’, which is now the bedroom, and the roof terrace.
The previous owners had installed the kitchen (sourced from Kitchens International) with a combination of high gloss lacquered white units and a moulded stainless steel worktop, and with a freestanding Siemens industrial-style dishwasher unit, again in stainless steel, which incorporates a combination microwave, grill and convection oven. This industrial styling is a perfect fit here. The island unit, meanwhile, is on castors, and features a Carrara marble worktop – a lovely, elegant contrast against the metal.
The existing bathroom was also overhauled to create today’s slate-clad wetroom, which includes twin basins mounted on a South American slate countertop, while the silver gilt-framed mirror above turns out to be a door that conceals the cupboard space behind. Colour-changing fibre optic lights feature in both the wet room and illuminating the curved wall that wraps around the spiral staircase.
I asked Alex what had drawn him to this apartment, and what he has enjoyed most about this space.
What was your first impression of this loft space back in 2007?
I fell in love with the panoramic view over Edinburgh and the creative opportunities of a New York style loft in a vibrant Leith location.
I’d been aware of the development and the work of the architects Duffy & Batt in general. I discovered that we shared a love of Scottish modernist architecture, and in particular the work of Peter Wormersley, a Borders based architect who created masterpieces for the textile artist, Bernat Klein. The development was the first of its kind in Scotland, and has attracted a fantastic community of neighbours, many of whom work in the creative industries.
Coming from a design background, what are the features that really drew you to this space?
The quality of light and volume of space were what first attracted me to the loft, and the wonderful juxtaposition of the heritage details and patina of the Victorian bonded warehouse with the playful architectural intervention of the glass and timber roof pod, spiral staircase and slate wet room.
What improvements did you make after moving in?
Having a friend build a bespoke veneered dressing room storage unit and matching stool helped ensure the wet room felt truly indulgent.
What things have you enjoyed most about open plan living?
Having a blank canvas that can constantly be reconfigured and redesigned as required. It also enables me to ensure my collection of design classics and artwork can be rotated, bringing things out of storage to suit the seasons.
And what have been the challenges?
Having guests to stay in an open plan space was initially a challenge, but that was quickly resolved through using movable screens and playful, lightweight Ligne Roset Togo sofas which can be reconfigured really easily.
How did you go about selecting furnishings for the main living space?
I’m lucky to have been able to work with a wonderful assortment of established and emerging designers over the years, and I’ve picked up pieces that remind me of certain creative projects, or have featured in exhibitions I’ve curated, spotting fresh talent and buying pieces from designers at the start of often stellar careers.
The upper bedroom is an incredible space – what’s it been like living with so much light and this indoor outdoor flow?
When I walk up the stairs into the upper bedroom I always feel like I’ve escaped from work and been transported to a holiday retreat.
How have you used the roof top terrace and what have been the highlights of this space?
The roof terrace is my favourite ‘room’, and whether dining outside, relaxing on a lounger or watering the plants I’ve always found myself enjoying the amazing views and technicolour sunrises and sunsets.
How will this unique apartment influence or inspire whatever you do next?
I’ll struggle to find a similar apartment in Dublin where we are moving to. But having spent years loving loft living I intend to ensure our next home has the sense of space, light and flexibility we’ve grown accustomed to.
Loft 15, Maritime Street is on the market with Knight Frank. See the listing here.
All photography by SquareFoot.