February 1, 2008
With a clever modular panel system, the Moorhead brothers split the difference between open and shut.
It was one of those classic New York real-estate conundrums: A couple with a 1,000-square-foot, double-height loft in lower Manhattan needed a bedroom for their three-year-old daughter. How could they carve out a place for her while preserving the spacious look and feel of the apartment? Last summer, they hired Granger and Robert Moorhead, brothers and partners in the New York–based architecture firm Moorhead & Moorhead, to create a small sleeping alcove by connecting the mezzanine to a storage area over a bathroom on the lower level. Since the couple also wanted to childproof the unenclosed loft steps, the brothers devised a clever screen system to demarcate spaces and ensure privacy without sacrificing air circulation or a sense of openness.
“They were a client who came to us because they were interested in design, so we saw that as an opportunity,” Granger says. “But the modest budget meant that we had to come up with a solution that was simple and modular.” He and his brother CNC-milled four circular patterns in three colors (light gray, medium gray, and off-white) that, when layered, form a surface with texture and depth. Once assembled, the edges of the panels blend together organically, unlike conventional, easily spotted modular systems such as carpet tiles. “They camouflage themselves,” Granger says. The architects took care to minimize wasted material by nesting all four patterns in a single sheet of polyethylene, a material chosen for its matte finish, UV resistance, durability, and ease of cleaning.
Though they entrusted most of the renovation to contractors, the brothers delighted in installing the screen themselves. “It was fun,” Robert says. “We probably spent more time doing it than we should have.”