OWIU - Biscuit Loft in Los Angeles: centuries-old strategies from Japanese homes
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Biscuit Loft in Los Angeles: centuries-old strategies from Japanese homes


House  /  Completed

Biscuit Loft is a Japanese-inspired apartment in Downtown LA's burgeoning Arts District. Housed within the old Nabisco bakery building, the loft's interior architecture has been transformed from a tired loft space into a two-bedroom urban Zen hideaway. OWIU's main goal was to avoid a cluttered scheme, as often happens in loft spaces, and create a homey environment for comfortable and practical everyday use. Maximizing every inch, OWIU created additional quarters with distinct uses. The result merges Asian design principles with Southern California industrial edge and a comfortable living environment that inspires a thoughtful daily routine and mindful lifestyle.

The firm's detail-oriented approach helped maintain the apartment's expansive feel, while also providing well-planned interventions that compartmentalize space and maximize usage. The Japanese-inspired ethos of the design creates clear functions for each area of the apartment and eases the industrial elements within. As one enters the loft, the immediate size of the space is apparent and framed by the hanging Noguchi Akari pendant lights. The lights lead the eyes towards the gigantic concrete slab that sits atop the kitchen bar and functions as the home's main dining table.

The ground floor living space frames the grandiose staircase that ascends to the upper open loft level of the apartment. The staircase's railing wraps up to seamlessly blend into the extended mezzanine and functions as a faceted guardrail. The staircase is assembled from 10 custom fabricated panels and features four angled interventions that break up the visual continuity. The guardrail's typology is a unique design element that strays from a typical straight-line guardrail.

The Biscuit Loft's strongest physical aspect is its double volume height. The loft's upper mezzanine floor functions as a semi-private study/reading room that rests above the open kitchen and living area. It also serves as the entryway to the private master bedroom on the second floor. The upper mezzanine was extended by 130 sq. feet with wooden pilotis to provide a more extended cover of the ground floor and section off the entranceway to the private guest bedroom. The intervention fixes the problem of privacy in the apartment and creates a tranquil space for the master bedroom, enabling the master suite to provide a good night's sleep, its sole purpose and function.

The concept of “home” was reimagined in 2020, and the team at OWIU is adapting to the seismic changes in which homeowners use and consider their space. Many experts believe that the work-from-home revolution is here to stay, thereby increasing the total amount of time spent within the house. People are now truly getting to know their personal lifestyles and relationships with their homes - how they interact and use their spaces. This leaves room for zero wasted space and design solutions that are tailored to the home dwellers' individual needs.

Designed at the height of the pandemic, when the whole world was practically sheltering in place, the Biscuit Loft borrows centuries-old strategies from Japanese homes, which take into consideration the user’s lifestyle and how space can accommodate it. The guest bedroom design was inspired by the simple Japanese Ryokan, a traditional inn and guest experience established in the 17th century. In a typical Japanese home, one would sleep on a futon above a tatami mat. If they needed the room for something else (for example, hosting people), they would roll the futons up and put them in storage. OWIU allocated space that was meant to house overnight guests; however, just using the space for the occasional guest would limit the function of the room.

As a solution, the team created a multifunctional, custom fixture that serves as a guest room but could also benefit the homeowner in ways the other rooms (the kitchen, dining area, and living room) could not. The result is a convertible platform that holds a stored futon when needed, but serves as a usable sitting space, in this case, a tea room, for the homeowner. The minimalist tea room is a quiet, sun-soaked area that can be used for moments of stillness and disconnection, inspiring a thoughtful daily routine and mindful lifestyle, which is key for many homeowners now working from home. The platform can also be used for enjoying conversations with friends, as many will continue to engage in intimate social gatherings at home.

The Biscuit Loft’s unique ability to build multifunctional spaces rich with natural light and day-parting benefits shines through in this example, and the firm is eager to continue sharing its residential innovations for years to come as the needs of homeowners evolve.


 Los Angeles
 Amanda Gunawan (Founding Principal), Joel Wong (Founding Principal), Claudia Wainer (Architectural Associate), Eduardo Cortazar (Architectural Associate)
 Amanda Gunawan (Founding Principal), Joel Wong (Founding Principal), Claudia Wainer (Architectural Associate), Eduardo Cortazar (Architectural Associate)
 Inflexion Builds
 Justin Chung


OWIU, an abbreviation for The Only Way Is Up, is a full-service Architecture and Design office located in the heart of Los Angeles. Our office and showroom is located in the burgeoning Art’s District, a spot that has become the Silicon Valley for young creatives. Our fields of expertise include Architectural design, Construction, Urban Design and Product Design. We also provide Architectural visualization services. We approach every project with a strong emphasis on aesthetics and precision of form, coupled with a strong narrative and conviction.

Imbued in the practice lies an innovative and progressive mindset that naturally creates a mission to propel design forward given the technological advances of contemporary society. OWIU is the brainchild of Joel Wong and Amanda Gunawan, two designers with proficient architectural knowledge.


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