Why Leave Home?

Barbara Thornburg is a senior editor for West.

Paul Solomon takes the elevator to his parking garage only occasionally, when he wants to visit his mother in Westwood or his dentist in Beverly Hills. Other than that, why would he leave his loft on Industrial Street? His office is in the building, his personal trainer lives four floors below, and Joe's Downtown Market on the ground level sells Baileys Irish Cream, organic dog food, eggs from cage-free hens and other vital provisions.

"I believe space affects how we live," says the lawyer-turned-real-estate developer and a partner in Linear City, the firm that converted the 1924 edifice in the gritty south end of L.A.'s Arts District into 121 condos (including his own) plus retail space. "The built environment is the clearest and most influential manifestation of a culture. I like positive, inspiring buildings." Originally a warehouse, the sturdy, seven-story steel and concrete Toy Factory Lofts building was an air raid shelter during World War II, then the Ace Novelty Co. and another toy business that sewed, steamed and packaged imported faux belts from China. (When Solomon purchased his top-floor loft, it was filled with stuffed toys.) Today the newly painted building is lilac-hued, with TOY spelled out on two sides in 50-foot-tall letters.

It's an oasis in a no man's land of concrete, stray cats and, along nearby 7th Street, clothing shops with signs that declare: "$2.99 for Absolutely Anything." Some might not want to wander too far from their condo, but Solomon loves the area and delights in joining weekly Neighborhood Watch patrols. "It's a friendly walk," he says. "It keeps us in touch as a community."

That said, it can be hard to leave the building. Among the perks are a rooftop pool, an infinity deck with drop-dead skyline views, and a fireplace for hanging around on cool California evenings. Cabanas offer semiprivate spots for sunbathing. On Sunday evenings during the summer, residents bring potluck and watch movies under the stars. "No popcorn," Solomon says, "but we have really great homemade Jello shots and caramel brownies."

If there's an urge to barbecue, the destination is the boat-shaped third-floor terrace, where a large grill stands at the ready. A trio of grass planters--industrial drainpipes 8 to 13 feet in diameter--and containers of tall grasses, succulents and scented geraniums offer residents their hits of green.

Upstairs, Solomon's 3,200-square-foot loft is tricked out with all the goodies of a luxury home. In the kitchen, there's a double Gaggenau convection/steam oven and a Sub-Zero fridge. A built-in turntable in the center island plays his vinyl records, which he stores underneath. Nearby is a 10-foot-long screen, with a surround-sound system, for movie watching. It's better than driving to the ArcLight. Behind the serpentine Serra-esque wall that bisects the loft is his open bedroom and raised platform bathroom. The vintage claw-and-ball tub has views of City Hall and the 1st and 4th street bridges. He hung a hammock between columns for a siesta or chilling out with a good book.

The Toy Factory Lofts project isn't finished; there's talk of a dry cleaner moving in. With that, what else would Solomon need? The only thing missing is the ocean. "A home by the water, in addition to the downtown loft, would be the most ideal," he says. "That way I could be bicoastal."



Paul Solomon, Linear City, paul@linear-city.com. Loft design by architect Aleks Istanbullu, Santa Monica, (310) 450-8246. Garden by Sean Knibb, Los Angeles, (310) 440-0101. Custom bed set from 100 x Better, Los Angeles, (213) 617-1541. Antique carpets from Amadi Carpets, West Hollywood, (310) 659-5353. Lacava sink available at Euroconcepts, Los Angeles, (310) 652-3472. Dining table by David Brotman, at Form & Function, Inglewood, (310) 801-5053. Black leather sofa from Menzie International, Los Angeles, (310) 475-2331.

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