Raul Barreneche -- Interior Design, 9/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Lofts with sought-after square footage and high ceilings often come with one significant shortcoming: windows. They're frequently not only skimpy but also restricted to a single exposure, as far away from the entry as possible. Bringing daylight deep into the space while creating private areas is a challenge. So is orchestrating graceful circulation.
Such was the case with a 1,000-square-foot apartment that Workshop/APD's Matthew Berman and Andrew Kotchen renovated for a banker and a marketing executive. The Midtown unit has only two windows, on the wall farthest from the front door—though luckily they face south, toward a view of the modernist-industrial Starrett-Lehigh Building.
The elongated box of a space hadn't been touched since the building went co-op in the 1980's. "It was old and dingy and gross," Berman says. Public and private areas alternated in an awkward arrangement: To get to the kitchen, one had to walk through a dormitory of a bedroom. "It's one of those New York situations where the foyer is surrounded by private space," Berman says. In addition, erratic level changes required stepping up and down to get from one end to the other.
One of the gut renovation's guiding concepts was to lead the eye away from the private spaces and toward the windows, eliminating the tunnel sensation. Now the flow begins in the foyer, with the bathroom to one side, and continues through a study, formerly a hallway. It's separated from the bedroom, similarly to the side, by pivoting cherrywood doors that disappear behind the bedroom's drywall partition when they open.
The bedroom, bathroom, study, and foyer, which occupy the back half of the layout, are separated from the free-flowing kitchen, dining area, and living area by an aluminum-framed glass wall—a storefront system made from off-the-shelf materials and painted black to match the existing window frames. A cream-colored curtain shields the bedroom from the kitchen but can be pulled back to allow light through. Two large panes of glass hinge open to let air in, too.
For clients to whom money is no object, Berman and Kotchen often develop sophisticated devices to join and separate spaces in multifunctional configurations. For this relatively modest Midtown project, however, the architects created distinct zones by varying floor materials and ceiling heights. There's cherry-stained oak in the living area, study, and bedroom, where the 11 1/2-foot ceiling's concrete beams are exposed. Everywhere else, the floor is slate, the ceiling drops to 9 feet, and cove lights suggest natural illumination.
The budget also meant no fancy finishes and lots of painted drywall, but Berman and Kotchen were able to work in a few flourishes by finding inexpensive sources. The kitchen and bathroom's glass tile, which would typically run $20 a square foot, cost $2; the 12-inch-square slate floor tile was less than $6 a square foot. "If you have a good contractor and stay on top of the workers to install things properly, even the cheapest material can look good," Kotchen says. With a little ingenuity and a flexible, cleverly layered floor plan, the architects made a boxy pad feel like a rambling home.