Notes on Designing the Zebra Loft

by on May 14, 2013 » Add more comments.


The Zebra Loft

The Zebra Loft, as we are calling it, is South Main Vacation Rental’s newest property. Our architect Kenny Craft designed the exterior and Jed and Kennley Selby spearheaded the interior. The following are Kennley’s thoughts on designing what has turned out to be one of the most interesting interiors in South Main:

We built our house about 5 years ago now, and at the time it was really our first design project together as well as the first interior design project for South Main Building Company. Wow, we’ve learned a lot since then! It was really exciting to finally have the opportunity to design and build our garage/apartment. It is very different experience designing for yourself rather than for a client. On one hand it is so much easier. And on the other it becomes a lot harder, at least for us, because now the question is not, “do you like it?” But rather, if I could do anything I wanted (budget permitting) what would I do? As we design projects it seems like there is always an ongoing “idea bank” of things we can’t wait to try on the next project or sometime in the future. Probably the hardest part for us was narrowing down all the things we really wanted to try. It was also a great opportunity to test things out on ourselves to see how they’d turn out. Another challenge we took on was to try and incorporate as much reclaimed, reused, and repurposed material as possible.


There is always a new idea that we can’t wait to try.

Jed and I design a lot of things together and it is always an interesting process. We work well together because we both have the same end result in mind – to make it the best we can – but we also balance each other out because we care about different things. Jed works more on things like trim details and materials, where as I focus more on colors, textures and the overall feel.

We take a somewhat unconventional approach to design. While South Main’s exteriors are very traditional, our interiors can be much more liberal. Of course we always have great trim details and the window proportions are vertical so right off the bat you are in a somewhat traditional framework. However, we don’t like to get too caught up in the constraint of a particular style. Instead we like to pull elements that work from all styles. In the Zebra Loft we have almost a cottage style with all the T & G trim work, but then we flop over to modern industrial with the kitchen, lighting and furniture. The floors are stained and waxed reclaimed hickory.


The Zebra Loft

The beauty of small spaces is that you can afford to do really cool things.

Tung & Groove (T & G) – Because the space is small, we were able to use very little dry wall. In its place we used 1”x 6” T & G horizontally wrapping the entry, living room and kitchen. We mitered the corners and wrapped openings in a few places for an extra cool effect. We then finished off the wall treatment top and bottom with a pencil crown and shoe moulding.

Pencil Mould – Pencil mould is the round moulding at the top of the wall. It is slightly outset in order to create shadow lines above and below. Kenny has wanted us to try out pencil moulding for a long time, and for whatever reason it never seemed to work out. It was therefore the first thing we went to when we decided we were installing T & G.

Shoe Mould – Historically shoe moulding was used to allow flooring to be replaced without also replacing the trim. We decided to install shoe mould both for this reason and also to balance out the pencil mould

Modernism – While we are generally opposed to the ideals of modernism and the lack of comfort and timelessness it creates, we can be attracted to select details. To create a more modern, sleek look, we installed all the trim pieces flush on the wall surface. A 1”x10” T & G base flows into 1”x 6” walls with 1”x4” casing around the windows and doors; all flush. This follows the principles of traditional design by having an implied base and casing, but the effect is subtle and textural. The shoe mould and pencil crown are the only projecting elements from the wall making them really stand out. Rather than using a traditional sill and stool detail, we simply chamfered the casing.

Reclaim, Reuse, Repurpose…

South Main Building Company has a rather large storage shed that houses unused materials from other construction projects. Sometimes we end up with great items that can be tough to use because of limited quantities. For example, we might have 50 or 100 square feet of beautiful reclaimed wood flooring left over from a home construction project. We really wanted to try and incorporate some of these “leftovers” into the Zebra Loft.

Reclaimed Hickory Floors – Because our apartment is made up of small spaces, we were able to salvage wood for the floors. The hickory floors we had left over from our main house also offered a unique opportunity to try out something new. When we used the same floors in the main house several years ago, we used just a tung oil finish. We wanted to experiment a bit so we decided to use three coats of Ebony stain and then a natural floor wax for the finish.

Glass Tile – At first glance there appeared to be enough leftover tile in storage for us to have options. But after further investigation, the large quantity of glass tile made it our only option if we wanted to use one material throughout. On the design side I wanted to use one tile because the bath is fairly small and we already had a lot going on with the T & G.

Plumbing pipe – My plumbing pipe obsession started about six years ago. I was in the hardware store looking around and happened upon the plumbing parts isle, mid whatever I was doing, and decided to make a candleholder right then and there out of gas pipe fittings. I thought it turned out really well and started dreaming up projects, but never actually made anything else with it until now. We ended up used this same pipe to make just about all of the Zebra Loft’s furniture. I had great precedents from a number of companies – like Urban Outfitters for example – who make some amazing things with pipe. Plus Pinterest has a wealth of cool ideas. However, even with all these resources, we still had a lot of figuring out to do. We started big, with the goal of building our bed frames out of this threaded gas plumbing pipe. After putting together the dining room table and bed frames, the other things we had planned seemed super easy. We ended up building shelves, hooks, end tables, the bathroom vanity and the handrail…. We loved using the pipes!

Color – We kept the pallet very simple white for all the fixed surfaces except the flooring. When it came time to decorate it was all about the color. Bold, bright, with a little complexity and pattern. A touch bohemian…


Efficiency was the key.

700 square feet is not a lot of space to work with; and when you have an upstairs unit, the stair well uses up quite a bit of space. We really wanted two bedrooms, a full kitchen, washer/dryer, fireplace and balcony, so the challenge became how to incorporate all of these elements without making the space feel cramped. We think we nailed it. The loft has a great spacious living room, small but stylish and super efficient kitchen, and ample closets. The bathroom is not oversized but still feels great. The bedrooms are small but adequate.

The loft can comfortably accommodate four guests. The “white room” offers a queen bed and super stylish pipe bed frame. The “school room” offers a full sized, hand built pipe bed and a splash of color. There is one bath and a fully equipped kitchen. The living room is super cozy with the gas fireplace; and the balcony has great views of Swift Street, South Main’s hand built cobblestone street, as well as The Buena Vista Boulder Garden. You can watch people climbing right from the balcony!

We named the Zebra Loft partly for our daughter who loves Zebras and partly as testament to the Black and White interior and exterior.  In Jed’s words it is “The best thing we have ever done.” But he says stuff like that all the time so who knows. Each new project is of course a learning experience for us and always exciting. We pour so much time and effort into each one that we can’t help but think that the latest is our “best ever”. I guess only time will tell!

The Zebra Loft, at 901.5 South Main St, is at the heart of the South Main neighborhood. Two minutes after stepping out the door you could be walking by the river, riding a cruiser bike around downtown Buena Vista, fly fishing, rock climbing, rafting, whitewater kayaking, mountain biking or enjoying an IPA at Eddyline Restaurant and Brewery. This is the magic of connecting beauty, urbanism and the outdoors in one great place. Book your stay at the Zebra Loft at and check it out for yourself!



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Mary Banks
May 15, 2013
1:47 pm

If I didn’t live in South Main, I would be staying at the Zebra Loft!

JIll Bosshart
May 31, 2013
8:56 pm

Fab-u-lous! I love it! You innovation and creativity is really showcased in the adorable apartment you created. So clean, fresh and unique! Can’t wait to come and stay!


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