Until a front entrance was added two years ago, sculptor Joe Sturges entered his upstairs loft by passing through an art gallery that once was a furniture warehouse at the edge of the Artist District on Alameda Street.
"People periodically wandered up into the space in the beginning," recalls Sturges, an Art Center School of Design graduate who moved to the 3,200-square-foot loft in 1995 from a Craftsman home in Pasadena. "A lot of art students finish school, move into a small one-bedroom apartment and don't make art anymore. The loft offered me a creative environment with room for a workshop that I could afford."
Sturges initially camped out in his backpacking tent in the corner of the loft, the site of his current bedroom. "There was an existing kitchen and an enclosed bedroom and bathroom, and a couple wall partitions in the living room and bedroom area. Otherwise, it was pretty wide open," says the designer, whose design/build company, Temple Designs, specializes in creating personalized spiritual environments. "I wanted to take the time to feel and perceive the space and how I wanted it to unfold."
Sturges began by creating a master bedroom sanctuary, complete with a recessed-niche Buddha wall and built-in platform bed. The diagonal wall he installed between two existing walls now separates the bedroom from his open-plan office/kitchen/living room space. Three shelves built into the wall hold objects with a spiritual meaning for Sturges: an urn with his grandfather's ashes, books on mysticism and Zen masters, objects from his travels to Thailand and Indonesia.
He took a sledgehammer to the '80s-style industrial steel shower with a marble faux-finish exterior, replacing it with a serene indoor-outdoor shower of corrugated metal and glass, then added a reed-screen backdrop and a small Asian-inspired garden. "I wanted to create a symbolic space that related to a natural environment, even though I'm in the middle of downtown."
Elsewhere in the loft, Sturges arranged his thrift-shop furnishings in a neutral earth-tone palette as well as some of his own sculptures. Occasionally, he drops down to the gallery and selects a painting to hang. "I've had an Ed Moses and a John Baldessari; right now there's a paper collage by Charles Hill hanging over the sofa," says Sturges. "Living in a loft above a gallery, and being friends with the owner, has some definite perks."