What do you do when you have a blank corner of your apartment, sitting unused?

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Most people might settle with finding the perfect sectional, storage bed, or space-saving billiards game to fill the space, but not Donnie and Nicki Wang.

They wanted to maximize every square inch of their 500-square-foot San Francisco condo, so they hired architects to design a Domino Loft system that would transform their one empty corner into five functional living spaces.

The result, created by Peter Suen from FIFTH ARCH and Charles Irby at ICOSA Design, is stunning. So stunning that we just had to find the Domino Loft’s owners and creators to learn more about the loft’s birth, features, materials, and of course, the answer to the million dollar question:

How do we get our hands on this spectacular space-saving loft?!

Keep reading to find out, and try not to ogle too hard.

The birth of the Domino Loft system

When the couple first reached out to Peter and Charles, Donnie told us they had a clear idea of what they wanted:

“Five functional spaces depending on the time of day or occasion: bedroom, office, dining room, guest room, and walk-in closet.”

Working collaboratively, the designers started from scratch and went through months of content exploration before settling on the ultimate solution. Peter said he and Charles “spent more time than typical on the initial schematic and conceptual phases,” testing at least eight ideas, but the planning paid off.

“We focused,” Peter told us, “on how a static spatial configuration can still produce dynamic, multifunctional spaces.”

Like the Gramercy Park micro-apartment with a sliding storage wall and the tricked-out YO! Home, the Domino Loft feels dynamic even when it’s not in use. Its energy is partly due to its growing out of (and into) the Wangs’ condo.

Fabricated piece-by-piece in Charles’ Oakland shop, the loft system fits seamlessly in the Wangs’ home where it was assembled on site.


The Domino Loft system as a workspace

In addition to eating, sleeping, and watching movies in their loft, Donnie and Nicki run treadfast — a business that designs and sells premium tall socks with grips — from home.

As a result, the couple needed a designated workstation and more storage space for their inventory. The Domino Loft provides both.

With a built-in standing desk in the interior, a full-wall whiteboard, and storage shelves and drawers just about everywhere else, the Domino Loft system gives the Wangs the workspace they need while saving them from having to stack unsightly boxes in a corner.

Donnie told us they store “thousands of socks in, on, and around the loft, though you could never tell just by looking.” He’s right. We can’t.

The loft’s two tiers allow Donnie and Nicki to work or rest separately, which is one of the keys to successfully sharing an apartment with your significant other.

The Domino Loft system as a guest bedroom

Living in Downtown San Francisco often means you attract friends and family from all over the country. Which is great if you have a spare bedroom, but it’s tougher when you’re already two people living in a 500-square-foot condo.

So does that mean the Wangs have their guests sleep on an air mattress that deflates throughout the night?

Nope. The Domino Loft’s whiteboard folds down into a Murphy bed that sleeps two.


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What’s the Domino Loft system made of?

The Domino Loft is primarily made of concrete, steel, and a gorgeous maple plywood with a white lye and natural soap finish. This follows the industrial, urban aesthetic Donnie and Nicki wanted to create in their home.

“The loft platform,” Peter told us, “is formed from a series of solid wood joists that allow lighting to tuck into the member spacing.

The loft’s concrete and steel live up to their sturdy reputations, and because of its sleek and multifunctional design, it doesn’t create a heavy or bulky presence. Details like the sliding library ladder contribute to the energy of this system. It shifts and adapts while standing perfectly still.

Want a Domino Loft system of your own?

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We do too. But we’ll have to wait for an indefinite amount of time.

“We would like to develop a kit-based system based on this concept that owners could potentially configure on their own,” Peter told us. He also couldn’t say what the Domino Loft’s price range might be, since the cost of the loft built in the costs of construction and demolition of the Wangs’ condo.

All hope isn’t lost, though. ICOSA Design specializes in computational architecture, meaning they’re experts at turning concepts and data into physical structures.

The Domino Loft is the first living space project that ICOSA Design has built, and it hopefully won’t be their last.

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This article was written by David Michael McFarlane, a writer from Texas and Oregon who lives in New York and loves smart design and organization.

When you’re looking for extra space in your home, garages are logical places to turn. Whether you need an extra room, a bit of rental income, or just want to spread out, chances are, with some modifications, your home has the space you need.

Before you convert your garage to livable space, you must attend to a few issues. Here are a few suggestions to help ensure converting a garage to a living space goes smoothly:

1. Meet building codes

“To get a building permit, you may need a plot plan, a floor plan of the house and an elevation plan showing setbacks,” says Andy Baker, residential land use attorney from Calabasas, Calif. Before finalizing those plans, he advises getting feedback from the city or county planning office to be sure they meet the current building codes. Then go back to your contractor or architect for the final versions you will submit for a building permit.

“If you can’t meet the requirements, you may apply for a variance,” Baker says. Applying for a variance is a better option than renovating without a building permit, where penalties can exceed $1,000 plus the cost of reconverting the space.

2. Comply with zoning ordinances

Converting a garage to a room means you lose parking space. In many jurisdictions, “zoning ordinances require covered, off-street parking.” Baker says. “If you take parking from the garage, you must provide it elsewhere.”

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In dense subdivisions, that may be impossible, requiring you to rethink your garage conversion. If your goal is to gain rental income, check local zoning to find out if there are any related restrictions, such as those on the number of rental spaces allowed per lot. The objective is to avoid any changes that affect the neighborhood.

If the garage conversion changes the footprint of the residence, check the zoning laws to determine the mandated setbacks for the side, back and front yards.


3. Consult your CC&Rs

If you’re part of a homeowners’ association, your garage conversion project must also meet the requirements of its Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs). While the details will vary among communities, homeowners who do not meet these requirements may find themselves in mediation or being sued by their association.

Some CC&Rs do not allow garage conversions, while others consult the board of directors for discussion. Other conversions, such as to the attic or basement, may gain easier approval because they don’t effect on-street parking. However, be aware of neighbors’ privacy concerns, as attic conversions may provide new views into their homes or yards.

4. Work with the right professionals

Even if you plan to do the work yourself , involve professionals who are active in the field. For example, practicing architects should know the current building codes. The building and safety division of your city or county’s public works department can help too.

If you hire a contractor, choose someone who routinely performs the type of work you want done. A handyman may have the necessary skills, but be unaware of recent building codes.

Depending on the conversion, you may also need to hire an engineer. This is more common for attic or basement conversions as they “need a structural engineer to determine whether they can support habitation,” Baker explains. This includes ensuring that attic structures can support the extra weight and that trusses can open properly, in addition to adding or modifying the windows.

5. Start and end construction on time

Converting a space may take three to six months, including the time required to gain the necessary permits. “Planning departments typically allow six months for renovations, but you may buy an extension,” Baker says. If you don’t start within the allotted time, you will need a new building permit. Projects that exceed the allotted time frame may incur fines.

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These aspects of garage conversions are often overlooked. Attending to them initially makes your project proceed much more smoothly, rather than getting caught up in a legal predicament. Be sure to contact your Nationwide agent before work begins to ensure that you are protected during the remodeling and, afterward, to ensure that your insurance policy is updated to reflect the additional square footage of your new living space.

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If you ultimately decide that converting your garage to a living space is too big of a task, there are other ways to optimize your garage space.

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