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Gaby van Baal

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My love affair with my loft space began 35 years ago, long before I had ever heard of ‘Loft Living’ which is so popular in New York. From the first time I walked into the space to pick out glass for an art project, I was fascinated by it. A year later, when the factory closed down, and I discovered that the owner was a friend of mine, I used this connection and was able to rent it. It was a real bohemian lifestyle—primitive and romantic.

Gaby van Baal Loft Stairs

The outside of the typical 19th-century industrial building is not attractive at all; it was one of the first concrete buildings erected in the Netherlands. That’s why people are so amazed when they see the interior.

Where fashionable designers and architects may spend a fortune renovating and decorating these types of spaces, I did mine on a shoestring. As my father once said, “Your loft is not about money—it is all about luck and love.” Due to my extremely limited budget, initially, rooms were created as cheaply as possible using drapes to separate the space into living and sleeping areas. We had no money to do it up and no central heating. And, the roof leaked. So when my children were small, the family lived elsewhere while I kept the space as a studio, and shared it with other artists.

Gaby van Baal Loft with Chair

To contrast the cold materials such as concrete steel and glass of the factory, I added a number of warm elements such as wood, wool, leather, linen and paper. The limited budget was a blessing in disguise, requiring me to use my imagination and creativity about the materials I wanted to use in the house. While I will not compromise when it comes to quality, I did save on 50% of the floor cost by using a batch of old wooden planks in their original state.

In 2003, I was given the opportunity to buy my loft space. I knew it was in need of renovation; it had none of the features essential to comfortable living. The kitchen, bedrooms, bathroom and the wonderful roof garden were all built from scratch. Now that both of my children have left home, I have split off a section of the loft, creating a separate student apartment that I rent out.

Having my studio in the same space as my home is wonderful. If I am working on a piece, I can catch a glimpse of it from the living space and see what still needs to be done to finish it. Then within a few seconds, I can add that final touch.

It comes naturally to me to decorate and furnish in an eclectic fashion, blending a variety of mainly vintage items of different styles to form a homogenous, harmonious ambiance. Soft, romantic pieces are placed next to more robust items and set against a backdrop of industrial elements that have been preserved in the space. My way of combining things and bringing them together and choosing items is the same as it was when I was a youngster. If I love something, it’s a lifelong love affair. It is all about universal/timeless beauty. I don’t follow trends or hypes or want to be fashionable.

My work and my life are organically blended.

This space has lived up to so many of my visions. One of them was creating a place where I could combine raw elements with the natural beauty of materials. Cold materials such as steel, glass and concrete embrace the wool, wood, linen, old lace, woodstoves and plants. And, having so much space around is great. To have my own studio and to create a unique family home that combines my work with my life ticks off all the boxes!

Gaby van Baal Loft Studio

There is just one thing I might do differently if I were to do it all over again and that is to create more balance between work and relaxation. Now that the transformation from factory to working, living and family home is complete, it is time to slow down. For years, so much effort was put into bringing alive this old neglected concrete building so my current plans are now completely focused on my paintings and realizing all my other dreams.

My love affair with my loft space began 35 years ago, long before I had ever heard of ‘Loft Living’ which is so popular in New York. From the first time I walked into the space to pick out glass for an art project, I was fascinated by it. A year later, when the factory closed down, and I discovered that the owner was a friend of mine, I used this connection and was able to rent it. It was a real bohemian lifestyle—primitive and romantic.

Gaby van Baal Loft Stairs

The outside of the typical 19th-century industrial building is not attractive at all; it was one of the first concrete buildings erected in the Netherlands. That’s why people are so amazed when they see the interior.

Where fashionable designers and architects may spend a fortune renovating and decorating these types of spaces, I did mine on a shoestring. As my father once said, “Your loft is not about money—it is all about luck and love.” Due to my extremely limited budget, initially, rooms were created as cheaply as possible using drapes to separate the space into living and sleeping areas. We had no money to do it up and no central heating. And, the roof leaked. So when my children were small, the family lived elsewhere while I kept the space as a studio, and shared it with other artists.

Gaby van Baal Loft with Chair

To contrast the cold materials such as concrete steel and glass of the factory, I added a number of warm elements such as wood, wool, leather, linen and paper. The limited budget was a blessing in disguise, requiring me to use my imagination and creativity about the materials I wanted to use in the house. While I will not compromise when it comes to quality, I did save on 50% of the floor cost by using a batch of old wooden planks in their original state.

In 2003, I was given the opportunity to buy my loft space. I knew it was in need of renovation; it had none of the features essential to comfortable living. The kitchen, bedrooms, bathroom and the wonderful roof garden were all built from scratch. Now that both of my children have left home, I have split off a section of the loft, creating a separate student apartment that I rent out.

Having my studio in the same space as my home is wonderful. If I am working on a piece, I can catch a glimpse of it from the living space and see what still needs to be done to finish it. Then within a few seconds, I can add that final touch.

It comes naturally to me to decorate and furnish in an eclectic fashion, blending a variety of mainly vintage items of different styles to form a homogenous, harmonious ambiance. Soft, romantic pieces are placed next to more robust items and set against a backdrop of industrial elements that have been preserved in the space. My way of combining things and bringing them together and choosing items is the same as it was when I was a youngster. If I love something, it’s a lifelong love affair. It is all about universal/timeless beauty. I don’t follow trends or hypes or want to be fashionable.

My work and my life are organically blended.

This space has lived up to so many of my visions. One of them was creating a place where I could combine raw elements with the natural beauty of materials. Cold materials such as steel, glass and concrete embrace the wool, wood, linen, old lace, woodstoves and plants. And, having so much space around is great. To have my own studio and to create a unique family home that combines my work with my life ticks off all the boxes!

Gaby van Baal Loft Studio

There is just one thing I might do differently if I were to do it all over again and that is to create more balance between work and relaxation. Now that the transformation from factory to working, living and family home is complete, it is time to slow down. For years, so much effort was put into bringing alive this old neglected concrete building so my current plans are now completely focused on my paintings and realizing all my other dreams.