Integration and Illumination on the Rise
This co-op loft building in Chelsea was originally converted from a factory/warehouse space to residential living in the early 1980s. Our clients moved in as newly-weds in 1983.
When our clients bought the adjacent loft in 1998, they enjoyed having the added room, but never really integrated the two spaces. They contacted us to draw up plans to create more visual and physical open space. Our first focus was designing a new sitting room by removing an obstructing wall and revealing all south-facing windows.
We created an audio-private writing room and an audio- and visually-private master bedroom which incorporated large glass panels to let the light flow through into their 1850 sq. ft. space. Fifty running feet of storage along the west wall of the loft was installed along with an upgraded lighting scheme to showcase the entire expanse.
The kitchen island was moved and redesigned. Both bathrooms were renovated to conceal cumbersome drainpipes and intentionally reveal massive, vintage shut-off valves. Relocating an existing storage space provided the opportunity to build a substantial dressing room and walk-in closet, and we reorganized the laundry area to be more efficient.
The added bonus of the renovation was revealing enough existing space to create a comfortable new guest room for our clients; a true reward of “space discovery.”
An Airy Space for an Art Showcase
This West Village co-op, high above Sheridan Square, has been the beloved home of Eleanor and her daughter for years. With its south- and west-facing views, all of the rooms were flooded with light for most of the day. As evening approached, however, the space was sparsely lit by only a few floor lamps. With walnut-stained floors, maroon mohair furniture and dark wood tables and chairs, the room felt crowded.
The long living/dining room originally had a dining alcove, which had been partitioned off with bookcases and dark velvet curtains to create a separate bedroom for her daughter. But as she was preparing to head off to college, Eleanor saw the opportunity to open up the temporary partition wall to regain that valuable L-shaped main space with its additional windows.
Eleanor, a physician, had never done a renovation prior to this one. She had been meeting and interviewing various contractors over the previous two months, but there were no plans or drawings from which a contractor could base a bid. All parties were relying upon their memories and her verbal descriptions without a specific Scope of Work. In addition, her co-op board had no documentation regarding the intended work.
The estimates from contractors ranged from $32,000 to $95,000 and Eleanor could not imagine why there was such a differential. I advised her that the contractors ought to have architecturally-scaled drawings upon which to base their estimates. Then they would all be working from the same basic information. I created several alternative design schemes for her review. Once we had done so, and defined the scope of work, I completed the necessary drawings for the contractors to make estimates. I also offered to meet with each of them and visit one or more of their projects to get a better idea of their skill level.
Reviewing the alternative plans together - which showed various locations for major furniture elements, her home office and dining room - and discussing their pros and cons together helped Eleanor prioritize her goals in a new way. She took the time to imagine the space functioning in different ways – what it would be like with the office here vs. here; the dining room here vs. here; a Chinese bed vs. an open bedroom; the linen closet here vs. here. She wanted her renovated space to flow better, to really enjoy her sky-filled southern views, and that ultimately determined how we re-configured the space!
Unsightly heating and AC units along exterior walls were concealed with sixty feet of sleek new cabinetry with a continuous white top. We strategically added storage cabinetry between those HVAC units. Several modular, full-height custom cabinetry units held a diverse collection of books, media and beautiful souvenirs from her travels meanwhile concealing awkward corners and unattractive beams. New crown molding helped integrate everything together as it provided a graceful transition from wall to ceiling.
We re-worked all the hallway closet interiors combining shelving and high/low hanging rods to hold vastly more outerwear than they had been able to before. By widening their doorways, we increased accessibility from the narrow foyer: by changing out single 26”-wide doors for pairs of 20”-wide doors, we made it possible to keep the walkway clear while getting something out of the closet. The foyer’s worn wood floor was replaced with 6” square Moroccan cement tiles in vivid sky blue and grass green. A delight to the eyes upon opening the front door!
We added new closets to an empty corner of the Bedroom to rebalance the room as well as extending a soffit with lighting along the whole wall above the window. The front faces of the closets were flush with the walls; pivot-hinged doors opened wide allowing easy access to the new interior fittings for the neat organization of everything from summer dresses to winter sweaters to ski pants, from sandals to sneakers to party shoes, gym clothes, intimates, scarves and jewelry.
The main living space of the apartment was painted a clean, creamy white above the now pale, refinished parquet floors. The perimeter cabinetry, crown and base moldings and kitchen cabinets were painted in a pearl finish to match the walls; art gallery lighting was installed to illuminate her art and foreign-found treasures.
We shopped for all new furniture including rugs, tables, and chairs; choosing comfortable, neutral pieces that would wear well. Pops of color and texture were added with throw pillows, which were coordinated with the art pieces hung nearby. We found some vintage feature pieces to add some international flair. We framed and hung the art pieces she had gotten from painters she knew, along with interesting souvenirs that Eleanor had brought home from her trips abroad.
Now, her home is expansive and gracious. She can put things away, and find them again! She loves having friends come for dinner or stay over and she’s making good use of her beautiful, new space!
Entertainer's Dream Featuring Gorgeous Views
Our homeowners were downsizing from a 4-bedroom house in New Jersey and looking to transform a co-op which had not been updated since the 1970’s. Their primary request was a bright, open space for entertaining.
In the pre-renovation photos (last two, below), you can see how little light from the living room windows makes it to the dining room (photo with closet), and how the kitchen appeared gloomy--even in midday.
With a mission to provide a bright and airy environment for our clients, we opened up the kitchen walls to afford a beautiful and functional space. The convenient breakfast bar easily translates into a serving surface for distinctive cocktail parties. Two kitchen sinks help to keep the entertainment fallout under control. The generous dining room was connected to the kitchen with a frosted-glass-paneled pocket door, and dimmable lighting creates warm ambiance for our homeowners who are averse to using candles.
Opening up a mass of closets, walls, and hallways that previously closed off the kitchen and dining room uncovered space that had always existed, but had been trapped within itself.
We created a coat closet among other relocated closets near the apartment’s entrance which resulted in light from the north-facing windows streaming into the heart of the space. Now, abundant storage keeps everything organized and out of sight.
The spacious dining room is graced with a multi-leafed table suitable for hosting ten comfortably at holiday meals.
The new library/den is separated from the living room by frosted-glass-paneled pocket doors. Even when closed, they permit light to flood in and illuminate the apartment. With custom shelving, library lighting, a sleep sofa, and a window seat, guests feel welcome in their private suite. The ottoman holds bedding and pillows and the room accommodates a 36" flat screen TV along with stereo components.
Both the guest bathroom and master bath were renovated with their own unique selection of stone tiles. The custom light fixtures were mounted on the inset mirrors in order to maximize their illumination. All bathing areas have glass enclosures and thermostatic temperature controls. Each bathroom has a substantial recessed medicine cabinet deep enough to handle a hair dryer, curling iron, and electric tooth brush, as well as personal care products.
An exceptional touch was adding window seats underneath all of the apartment’s windows complete with custom cushions and curtains or blinds. We also replaced all the HVAC units underneath the window seats. Their custom grilles have access doors that were integrated seamlessly.
The master bedroom comes complete with its own en suite bathroom and boasts flanking his-and-hers closets as well as a shared walk-in closet. At our clients’ request, the matching nightstand cabinetry features a pullout mini counter surface to accommodate an evening mug of herbal tea or glass of brandy. The custom-angled headboard holds seasonal bedding and extra pillows. Good lighting makes reading a few pages of a best seller before sleep a pleasant way to wind down from the day. A small table by the window seat makes Sundays mornings with the NY Times a casual way to start a relaxing day.
This warm and inviting retreat, immersed in light and spectacular Central Park views, will be graciously hosting friends and family for years to come!
A Creative and Cozy Space for Guests and Inspiration
I was familiar with this 2nd floor, Federal townhouse apartment in the West Village since my client and I were friends from the theater world here in New York. I had first redesigned his home office/design studio space (off the living room) back in the late 1980s soon after he bought the place. He was pleased with the result, which gave him the flexible storage he wanted.
He heard through the grapevine that I had gone to architecture school, and when he wanted to embark on a series of upgrades, he asked me to be his architect. It was clear from the start that the project would have to be done in phases – because he planned to live in the apartment while the work was being done – unless he was out of town on a production. With the controlled tension leading up to a theatrical opening, we had to be able to be out of his hair when the timing was tight.
The first phase was focused on his design office with the goal of incorporating a cozy guest room. We would remove the custom cabinetry (that we’d previously built at one end) so as to open up the space. Then we would add work surfaces along the long sidewalls backed with continuous bulletin board: along one side would be custom under-counter drawer units, multiple filing cabinets, storage compartments; along the other side would be space for two or three people to sit at computers. Placed at one short end was his drafting table beneath a large window overlooking the tree-lined street. At the opposite end, flanked by concealed seasonal storage closets, and compartments that functioned as end tables, we nestled an armless sleep sofa that fit perfectly. The upper third of the room was wrapped with bookshelves topped by an illuminated display shelf. We installed a pocket door between the guest room/design office and the living room for privacy.
The second phase included reworking the AC unit, and the cabinetry to conceal it, in the living room. Also part of this phase were new bookshelves, new art display lighting, new window shades, a new living room sofa and new carpeting throughout these first two rooms.
The first step of the third phase was a complete overhaul of the master closet: California Closets to the rescue.
Once that was handled, we could move into phase four: the bedroom and the small room off the bedroom off which the closet opened. This small, passageway room was going to become the writing room for my client’s life partner – a playwright and novelist. Encircling the top half of the room we installed a stack of variously sized bookshelves; they stored books and mementos. There was an L-shaped counter surface with a bulletin board along the back of the work surface leg and, on the other leg, a pull-down cover that could conceal the printer, and any untidy work-in-progress piles. Several filing cabinets and drawer units were spaced compactly below the counter, leaving knee space where it was needed.
The bedroom had custom cabinetry to hold books all across the wall above the head of the bed. There were custom nightstands with deep drawers for storage. There were L-shaped custom cabinets that held folded garments and shoes as well as concealing the through-the-wall AC unit. Another section of that cabinet concealed a “rise-up TV” on a lift, with VCR and Cable box. Closer to the ceiling was an L-shaped, illuminated display shelf for art glass and other sculptures.
The next project was the kitchen – and improving the lighting and display elements in the living room. His art glass collection had grown over the years and he wanted to really display it well. This was our chance to emphasize my client’s very modern sensibility of sense of light, air, and space. We enlarged the pass-through between the kitchen and the living room – rimming the opening with frosted resin. Above the pass-through on the living room side, we created an illuminated, mirrored-interior display niche cabinet – the glorious glass sculptures appeared to float overhead. In the kitchen itself, we used some very new products: 3-form frosted resin, acid-etched glass tiles, wire-brushed aluminum tiles; and some traditional ones: granite, marmoleum (linseed oil linoleum), brushed stainless appliances. We invented a dishware drying rack (over the sink) that was concealed from casual view by cabinet doors. We also invented a base cabinet pullout storage rack to hold saucepans and skillets suspended from their handles, so they could air-dry out of sight. Most of the upper cabinet doors swung up out of the way. There were shelves for cookbooks, for phone charging, for art glass display.
The last phase was the bathroom: new tub and plumbing hardware; toilet; wall-hung vanity sink with storage cabinet and uplift medicine cabinet; all new wall tile, floor tile; lighting fixtures. The result was a wonderful combination of efficient modernity and serene elegance.
Spacious and Gracious Cook's Kitchen Complete with Light, Charm, and Sparkle
The “before” version of this kitchen was divided into two rooms – one originally intended as the maid’s room with its own half-bath, the other as the meal-preparation space. A jutting peninsula that blocked easy access to the sink, stove, work surfaces and most of the day-to-day storage divided the cooking kitchen in half. This inefficient traffic-flow had the cook trapped in a small square of clear floor area surrounded with 1970s oak cabinetry topped with scarred butcher-block counters. The refrigerator was a good 10 feet from the nearest work surface in the former maid’s room. That room had also housed the eat-in kitchen table and a wall of broom closets and pantry cabinets.
In our renovation, we opened up and incorporated the space of the original maid’s room to create a very enjoyable kitchen for our client who loves to cook. We raised the sills of the two windows so that new base cabinets and counters could pass in front of them. The relocated cook top has a downdraft retractable exhaust vent behind it. The wall oven and microwave are across the way with handy counter space adjacent. Understanding our client’s preferences, we gave him a full-height refrigerator and separate under-counter freezer. We also created a 32” deep, side-accessed, pullout shelf unit to hold tools, paint buckets and touch-up colors, vacuum, mops, etc., tucked behind the refrigerator.
We created a special “serving counter” close to the dining room doorway where a coffee urn and cups were readily accessible for large gatherings. Most of the china, festive glassware, etc., were stored right above this counter in cabinets with custom brushed stainless steel doors framing frosted glass panes. Most of the rest of the custom cabinetry was built with pickled book-matched maple doors. Some of the base cabinets were finished with grey-textured laminate with long, brushed stainless pulls. The new white-on-white countertops were of man-made speckled quartz with tiny mirror flecks. The new coordinating backsplash was done in random arranged, multi-white-to-pale-taupe glass mosaic tiles, with a sprinkling of silver tiles included to echo the mirror flecks of the counter top material. All the backsplash edges were crisply finished with brushed stainless steel edging strips.
Since the 9-6” high ceiling was a tangle of 4”-7” deep, short beams, we chose to drop a continuous ceiling plane - to conceal all the beams. Between the now-hidden beams, we placed recessed lighting fixtures to both illuminate the upper cabinets and provide soft ambient light. Along the underside of the upper cabinets, we concealed dimmable, LED channel lighting fixtures. Our client now has the choice of creating an inviting atmospheric glow for a get-together, or a bright light for cooking and food preparation: never again will he struggle to cook in the shadow cast from a central overhead ceiling fixture.
We added nearly invisible recessed pockets above each window to store sleek, semi-opaque solar veil shades. The shades can glide down, or rise out of sight, via remote control - either revealing, or blocking, the morning sun as it clears the towers of the Ansonia Artists Cooperative to the east.
A Dramatic Staircase Alighting Upon a Performance-Art Kitchen
Our clients, Matt and Sandra were newlyweds who had just purchased this co-op apartment - their first home together! They were creative people with gregarious personalities who loved the give-and-take of our collaborative design process!
There was “nowhere to go but up!” for this cramped, lack-luster apartment (see before photos below). The existing staircase looked like the utilitarian backstairs of a high school. The kitchen had bargain basement cabinetry, industrial tile floors and a central ceiling fixture. The filtered light from the light well was trapped at the perimeter; other smaller windows looked north: the apartment felt dim during the day. Asymmetrical niches that served no purpose surrounded the charmless wood-burning fireplace. Baseboard heating units lined the exterior walls. The bathrooms were plain vanilla at best. Various closets made half-hearted use of the space available.
From our first walk-thru, they trusted our vision: a light-filled, dramatic transformation for their new home! We started with the stair – reversing its path and incorporating it into a raised dining platform with a curved, built-in banquette seat along the halfway landing. This platform could be used as a stage when the quintet performed. After confirming they owned their roof rights, we installed an 8-foot square skylight above the stairwell so light flowed down throughout the heart of their space.
The central air conditioning system units were installed in compartments above centralized bathroom on each floor. The cooled air was discretely directed outward into the adjacent rooms while keeping the spacious stairwell clear. Each floor was treated as a separate cooling zone.
The newly opened kitchen revealed a central work island holding a 6-burner cook top with its sleek, stainless-and-glass exhaust vent suspended above. The white marble, table-height counter section provided a spot for convivial cup of coffee and conversation with the cook, as well as the perfect workplace for culinary artistry with chilled pastry dough. Over 300 cookbooks were arrayed on open shelves above the maple-doored cabinetry. The double wall oven, dishwasher and refrigerator were all stainless, top-of-the-line appliances.
Every nook, cranny and corner now had shelves, or drawers, being put to good use! We fitted a pantry closet next to the wall ovens. Facing the dining platform, and stretching along the walkway between the kitchen and the living room, was the “Malt Vault” housing Matt’s extensive collection of single malt and blended scotches. The illuminated cabinets housed all the gifts of glassware and related paraphernalia he had received over the years. Behind the Malt Vault, a half bath and stacking washer/dryer were concealed.
Sandra’s collection of flea market and auction finds of colorful art glass sparkled in the southern sunlight on floating glass shelves spanning the kitchen window. Her art glass display continued into the niches on either side of the living room fireplace, and on top of the shelf units between the windows. Adding kindling and log cubbies above the wider hearth helped the firebox feel visually balanced on the end wall. The simple mantelshelf across the entire wall punctuated the wall geometry. Wall-hung shelving units housed a massive library of CDs and DVDs covering most of the wall facing the fireplace.
The new stair with its curved stainless railing curled upward to an open balcony/walkway that joined the master bedroom suite with the guest bedroom and home office. The guest bathroom, renovated with creamy-white tile and fittings above a riotously red marble floor, opened onto that balcony. The home office had a large window opening onto the light-filled stairwell. The guest bedroom and crafts/sewing room had windows with sky views looking north.
The master bedroom suite was separated into two sections by its massive, freestanding walk-in closet with rounded corners. Upon the long closet side facing the king-size bed, our clients hung a lyrical expressionist painting that had been a wedding gift from the artist. It was easy to walk along either side of the closet to reach the dressing room area and the closet doors. We designed the whole end wall to have built-in counter-height dresser drawers, cupboards to match the custom vanity cabinet and sink. On the wall backing onto the guest bath were the WC and a glass-enclosed shower. A linen closet provided a transition to the dressing area. We concealed the exhaust duct (from the cook top exhaust vent) by running it vertically through a corner of the freestanding closet to the roof above. A south-facing window (like the one in the kitchen) flooded light into the master bedroom. Additionally a clerestory-style window opening borrowed light from the stairwell.
We gave them a home that would nurture their romantic moments, allow for individual workspaces, and welcome their friends for socializing. It was such a pleasure collaborating on their home’s design with these art-loving clients!
Clean Lines, Innovative Storage, and a Safer Stairwell
When we first entered the living-dining room of our client, Lorna’s, 23rd St duplex apartment, we were struck by its indifferently-organized appearance: stop-and-start ceiling beams, spindly tall railing, irregular opening sizes in non-continuous wall planes, illogical alcoves, oddly-placed lighting, and a visual jumble of surface clutter on all flat surfaces.
Lorna’s wish list for her upper level started with a wall of new, well-fitting energy-efficient windows and doors with new thru-the-wall HVAC units with built-in cabinets to conceal them. She wanted to replace her water-damaged steps (onto her mostly sunny 45’ x 12’ terrace) and refinish the floors. She wanted an elegant kitchen with all new custom cabinetry, finishes and appliances. She wanted more effective storage and a greater sense of open-ness and light. Addressing these elements were our first goals.
Additionally, she wanted her (original) gas fireplace area upgraded with a new firebox, glass doors (and a replacement flu), new mantle, stone surround and hearth, new bookshelves, display lighting and sound system. We created a cozy living room corner to encourage relaxing alone or with guests.
Backing onto the fireplace, we transformed a pokey half-bath into a serenely beautiful powder room with a locking pocket door to ensure privacy. With the installation of a pair of doors, we achieved a continuous wall plane from the fireplace to the front door. Now Lorna had a large storage closet to hold outerwear for herself and her guests. With the addition of a wine refrigerator and some appropriate racks, it was a wine cellar as well.
Our client slowly revealed to us that she suffered from vertigo: she had draped rugs over the railings encircling the stairwell to the lower level because looking through the railing down into the stairwell made her dizzy.
We solved that problem by incorporating a low wall (to block her view into the stairwell depths) into our new railing design. A new maple handrail now floats on stainless steel stems above the 20” barrier wall then, turning mid-air, drops to follow the top edge of the first stainless steel openwork railing section; then it turns and drops again, then again to reach the bottom of the stair.
We relocated her out-dated stereo and opened up the “dead” space under the staircase for upgraded storage: seasonal garments, sports equipment and luggage; guest bedding; and a stacking washer/dryer. We raised and unified the ceiling plane of the lower level hallway/foyer; now the lighting now comes from alabaster sconces that match those in the living and dining rooms upstairs.
The guest bathroom was thoroughly gutted and redone: all new marble finishes, new vanity cabinet and counters, new mirrors, new lighting, old tub replaced with a new enclosed shower, and a new, wider pocket door for easy access.
We changed out the existing swinging door into the master bedroom installing a pocket door instead. Now, the new storage/linen closet, nestled into the nook behind the door, which had been previously blocked, became very accessible. We also designed a streamlined row of cabinetry to stretch from wall-to-wall under the master bedroom windows. This unit concealed the HVAC unit, the AC unit, held the TV and accessory components (DVR, modem, VCR, etc.) as well as providing some handy storage.
Our final touch was to replace the “cage-enclosed industrial bare bulb” lighting fixtures on the terrace with a modern, commercial-quality diffusing fixture that turned on at a low glow automatically as night arrived. When entertaining, Lorna could adjust the light level to suit her mood and her guests.