01/25/2011 05:38 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Ask Xorin: Loft Life in Brooklyn

Ask Xorin is a weekly home and self improvement column created by award-winning architectural conservator, designer and philanthropist Xorin Balbes and best selling author Sandra Bark. For more info visit the official TempleHome website

Dear Xorin,

My boyfriend and I just closed on a new loft. Signing those papers together was terrifying; now we have a big empty space that we need to deal with. We're excited but we're also overwhelmed! Help!

I have two main questions. First, the loft has oak parquet flooring. Yellowish. Ick. What do I do? Do I sand and stain it? Paint it? We need to find a budget solution that works for a while before we can replace it with something nicer.

Also, we've been really excited at the idea of having a large space in which we can entertain, but we also love to stay in by ourselves and eat. I've been collecting dining room chairs for a while, a beautifully mismatched set of gorgeous chairs that range from dark wood to white plastic to a rich purple velvet. I love the look of a big farm table, and now have room for one that is 10 ft or more. Is it more practical to get two shorter ones? Or would two tables start to make my dining space look like a restaurant? I worry, though, that one big table will feel empty with just the two of us eating.

Lost in my loft,

Melissa in Brooklyn

Dear Melissa,

You've asked some very good questions here, leading me to believe you are not as lost as you might feel like you are. Many people struggle with flooring concerns; in your case, with wood parquet floors, the cost of sanding your wood floors and then staining them would be much more expensive than the alternative, which is painting. Since your future plan is to replace the floors, painting is a wonderful option that will still allow you to achieve the right look.

When I work with clients with an eclectic collection of furniture, I often recommend staining or painting the floors a dark color so that the pieces of furniture really pop and can be enjoyed almost as a collection of art pieces. For your loft, I would recommend painting the floors a high gloss black, which allows the floor to almost fade away. What you will see most is the furniture, not the floors. Since you are living in a loft space I can imagine that the space itself feels a bit contemporary... which painting the floor black will further enhance. This is an inexpensive way to create a solution to what could be a very expensive thing to do.

As far as your dining options, I love the drama of a large dining table. You describe a space that can easily hold a table with a strong presence, so take advantage of it! When you and your boyfriend are home alone, you can use one of several solutions to create intimacy even at a larger-scaled table. You might choose to purchase a large center piece; this could be a an art piece, a flower arrangement, a large bowl filled with fruit. With this solution, when you are sitting on one end or the other, the table almost feels like it is only half the size. When you are setting the table to sit and eat with just the two of you, use candles to focus the energy on one side only; of course, candlelight will only increase the sense of intimacy.

You can also choose to use half the table as a place to stack larger art books, creating a smaller space for you and your partner to enjoy when you are solo. By stacking the books with some small accessories, you will also create an additional space that just begs passersby to sit and browse through your stash, like a specialized library. When you have company, just remove the pile of books.


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