K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

May 04 2017

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Big Ideas, Small Spaces

In our upcoming July/August issue, we are focusing on trends in small spaces. It’s a huge topic today with so many people moving to cities and the population slowly growing. I heard recently of one applicable renovation involving a young homeowner and one of those notoriously tiny New York apartments.

Emily’s 435-sq.-ft. studio apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan was typical NYC: dated, cramped and lacking in style. However, she had spent the last two years living and studying in Normandy, France, and grew fond of ancient buildings. She used a free service called Sweeten, which pairs homeowners and designers with contractors, to find a way to transform her small space.

                                     Before the renovations

Requests: This homeowner wanted the ornamental features she saw in Normandy, such as paneling and vintage doorknobs. She also wanted a design that befitted the prewar age of her building and at the same time folded in a modern touch.


Challenges: Even with its small size, the studio still contained separate rooms. It had also been stripped of most of its original architectural detail and ornamentation. Paint was several layers thick, and the wood flooring was worn. In the galley kitchen, the cabinets were off-white, the floors were peeling vinyl, and there was almost no counter space.


Solutions: The contractor created a pass-through from the galley kitchen to the living area, extending the counter through the opening to create a breakfast perch with stools. Open shelving made of marble and brass took the place of the upper cabinets.

“The appliances and sink were lined up on the left, given that the counters and base cabinets on the right were a mere nine inches deep,” said Jean Brownhill, architect and CEO/founder of Sweeten. “The entire kitchen was just about six feet wide. To keep the air space from feeling cluttered, upper cabinets were eschewed, which meant all storage and any appliances needed to fit in the lower cabinets.”

An undercounter refrigerator, paneled to blend in with the cabinets, saves space in the kitchen. There was no room for a dishwasher, but a 24-in. Bertazzoni gas range fit right at the end of the counter.


Materials: Emily wanted a classic yet modern vibe, which began by mixing white Carrara marble countertops with fun cabinet pulls and knobs from Cynthia Rowley and Anthropologie. Finishes included white subway tile, brass detailing, charcoal gray lower cabinets and blackened metal light fixtures with a retro feel. In keeping with the prewar feel of the building, Spanish tile was chosen to give the kitchen a graphic pop.

“Maximizing this small square footage to do so much more included keeping all function and storage within the lower run of cabinets,” said Brownhill. “The pass-through allowed the kitchen to become part of the social space, which doubled as an instant dining perch. She also loved the small details that restored elegance to the apartment.”

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 4th, 2017 at 5:47 PM and is filed under Inspiration, Kitchen Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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