An architect revamps a pint-sized Manhattan apartment for a couple on the go.
An alumnus of Richard Meier’s studio, Matt Krajewski had recently begun his own practice when he was commissioned to transform a ruin of a 390- square-foot Manhattan apartment. Avoiding the anxiety of influence that might have plagued another Meier-trained architect, Krajewski embraced his longtime mentor’s signature bright white minimalism. Recasting the legendary designer’s "super style" in a fashion of his own, Krajewski flipped the tiny interior into a space-defying home—all on a budget of $130,000.
Krajewski’s clients, a couple from Europe who are executives at a French cosmetics company, had worked with him before on renovating a townhouse in Jersey City. The owner and his wife, who hail from France and England, respectively, had been debating whether or not to plant roots in New York when they wondered, "Why not buy a small place in the city as a pied-à-terre? For us, Manhattan and the Village are the epitome of New York’s image." In that respect, the location of the apartment, on a quintessential Greenwich Village street, was a perfect fit. But the linear railroad configuration, with one tiny bedroom outfitted with a single set of street-facing windows, led the owners to look for a solution that would maximize the modest space and proliferate natural light throughout.
When the residents decided to renovate the apartment, which is housed in a former tenement building that dates to 1901, they naturally turned to Krajewski, who was more than up to the challenge. Together, the three of them envisioned an open, flexible space. "It was pretty clear that we had to remove everything and completely gut the apartment," says Krajewski, "including the flooring, which was severely uneven and riddled with holes."
He replaced the hardwood surfaces with oil-finished white oak to brighten the interior and proposed a glass partition in place of a solid wall, which had previously prevented sunlight from reaching the kitchen and bathroom at the opposite end of the apartment. A custom wood-and-glass divider, made with pristine white frames and square panels that subtly nod to Meier, now separates the bedroom from the rest of the residence. Its two sliding doors cleverly eliminate the need for swinging, and they operate by way of an exposed pulley system that provides a visual counterpoint to the interior’s sleek geometric fittings. Recessed ceiling lights obviate the need for floor lamps, further freeing up space.
Other critical gestures included the introduction of a new kitchen counter, which consolidated the workstation into a single surface. The cabinetry and finishes were sourced from IKEA, and all of the compact appliances, including the dishwasher, are from Bosch’s 800 and 500 series.
A tall white wardrobe installed opposite the kitchen workstation offers a sleek catchall solution for the residents’ storage needs. Its compartments stow kitchen sundries as well as clothing. Like the workstation, it was sourced from IKEA, a not insignificant compromise on the part of Krajewski, who would have much preferred a custom-made unit composed of perfect cubic elements in classic Meier style.
The diminutive bathroom, located near the entrance, makes every inch count. In place of a tub, there is now a shower stall and a cube-shaped standing sink. Despite its minuscule size, the basin is set deep enough to accommodate a hanging trolley for toiletries. Other small but mighty features include a series of wall-mounted cubes that act as a stairway the resident cat can climb to get atop a large storage module, his preferred perch.
As with all best-laid plans, the revamped one-bedroom apartment didn’t turn out as they had intended. Originally meant as a pied-à-terre, it has become the couple’s primary residence. "The space now seems bigger than it actually is," says Krajewski. "The ingredients are not complicated, but the way they come together is what makes them good."
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