Living with less

Limited space helps a designer focus on just the things he loves.

By Marni Elyse Katz
March 7, 2010

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Jeff Osborne had spent quite a bit of time in this South End loft before actually living there. An interior designer and the co-owner of a card company, Osborne moved into the 900-square-foot apartment when a client -- who had hired the firm where he works, Meichi Peng Design in Boston, to plan the lighting design and choose paint colors -- had a change of heart about the place.

Though Osborne was attracted to the idea of living in one open space, the designer says he knew he would have to do some serious editing of both furniture and accessories to make the home comfortable. “You can’t have 16,000 things on 16 different tables in a loft.”

He rose to the challenge, buying all new furniture (he gave his old stuff to his brother, who had just built a house in Maine) and packing up more than a few prized possessions. He placed a low bed, upholstered in white leather and covered in gray houndstooth linens, adjacent to the south-facing floor-to-ceiling wall of windows. It’s a perfectly produced almost-nook, with sleek industrial-style lighting from Casa

Design in the South End and folding black leather stools from West Elm for nightstands -- $100 side tables with an $8,000 bed, but “you can’t tell,” Osborne says. (Another couple of steals amid the splurges: twin aluminum-framed mirrors and large smoked-glass-front armoires from IKEA.)

The loft’s largest blank wall is artfully and masterfully arranged. Black-framed paintings somehow make the flat-screen television look good, and white lacquer shelving holds just a few treasures, including several Chinese bronze animal bells from Intarawut in Cambridge, a whaling-ship propeller Osborne found at an antiques show, and ceramics from his parents’ collection.

So, how does Osborne like this whole loft living experiment? “I love it. I don’t have a dining room,” he says, “but I can have friends over for cocktails,” then head out to dinner. “And it forces me to be neat.”

Marni Elyse Katz blogs about design at Send comments to

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