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Piano Nobile mixes work and play

Photo: Joshua Huston


Isabelle and Nick Robertson, owners of Piano Nobile, are experts in the art of blending work and home. The couple — an artist and an architect by trade, respectively — reside with their two young daughters, Clara, 4, and Anna, 14 months, and pup Bauhaus in an impeccably designed Ballard industrial warehouse. Piano Nobile’s design studio creates architectural systems and plans for homes and commercial spaces; the workshop produces graphic textiles, home goods and gotta-have-it accessories.

After moving from Brooklyn in 2007, the Robertsons completely renovated one side of the building with high ceilings, streaming light and industrial accents. The space gives a nod to New York City “loft life” with concrete floors, an airy bedroom loft and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. “I used to think we must really be crazy, trying to raise a family in this concrete-and-steel, open-plan apartment, but now that we have two small children, I love it here,” says Isabelle. “The concrete floors have turned out to be a perfect play surface for painting, Play-Doh, and cars, trucks and trains.”

The best part about the combined studio and home space is that even when at work, Mom and Dad are never far from home. The girls get to actively participate in their parents’ creative endeavors: “Nick brings the girls full-size architectural plans to draw on! They visit me often in the print shop. They get to play with materials and get their hands inky.”

As for making the warehouse a home, Isabelle says, "When we first renovated the warehouse space we live in, there was no kitchen, no windows, and only a urinal in the bathroom. Lovely! We took a lot out and tried to put back as little as possible." When they had a baby, they cleared out tools and work tables to the studio and made a more family-friendly room. The family continues to modify the apartment to their needs with flexibility, utility and warmth in mind. When asked if she has any advice for parents who would like to try a similar work/home arrangement, Isabelle answers: “Be flexible! And make sure you leave your work at the office, even if your office is 6 feet away, next to a pile of Legos!”


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