A Pivoting Wall Makes This Tiny Studio a Fit For Any Occasion

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By Arlene Hirst / Published by Dwell
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Movable modular parts make this renovated, 400-square-foot Manhattan apartment a flexible feat.

Some might call it Mission: Impossible. The client wanted sleeping for six,a home office, and a kitchen in which he could make a Thanksgiving feast, plus seating for 10 dinner guests—all in a 400-square-foot studio apartment.

Said studio, on the 15th floor of a prewar building in Chelsea, one of Manhattan’s booming neighborhoods, had been owned for more than 10 years by Paul and Billie Andersson. The couple had purchased it as a home for their daughter Andrea, when she was a graduate student at Columbia University. After earning her doctorate, Andrea decided to stay in the city, making room for a new husband in the residence. When they had a child, the young family moved to a larger space, leaving the Anderssons with a vacant apartment at an increasingly desirable address. Rather than sell, the couple decided to turn it into a pied-à-terre for their frequent visits to the city. But they knew they would have to make some changes: "It looked like a big hotel room," says Paul, a defense trial lawyer from New Orleans and a design buff.

Finding a professional was easy. When she was living in the building, Andrea had befriended a neighbor, Robert Garneau, a Canadian-born architect who had converted his family’s apartment into a savvy, space-maximizing home ("Stow Aways," March 2011). At the time, Garneau, who had previously worked for Nicholas Grimshaw and now teaches at Columbia, was just opening his own office, Architecture Workshop PC, in partnership with Eric Ansel. When he heard of the Anderssons’ renovation wishes, Garneau leapt at the challenge. "We knew the minute he walked in that we were going to work together," says Paul.

Garneau proved to be an excellent choice—the architect met the family’s demands, and then some. The apartment is now a jewel box of meticulously crafted parts and has been lavished with awards, winning plaudits from local, state, and national chapters of the American Institute of Architects. Staying there "is simply heaven—it’s like going on a vacation," says Paul, though he notes that the cost of the project rose from about $150,000 to $250,000 during the process.

Garneau explains that the additional expense was primarily due to the installation of a pivoting wall. "They cost as much as a car," he says. But the unit was added to provide privacy. Many Andersson family members, including two of the couple’s three daughters and their families, use the apartment when they visit the city.

The wall not only pulls out, but contains a generous array of drawers and cabinets in its backside. It’s all constructed of plywood, as is the entire concealed area, providing a striking contrast to the cool white walls in the rest of the apartment. A Murphy bed, stowed in the rear wall, easily opens to provide cozy sleeping for two. There are closets fitted with drawers andpull-down rods on both sides of the bed. When the bed is hidden away, the space can serve as a small study or sitting room. A cutout in the pivoting wall allows a view through to the other half of the room and lets in light from the apartment’s original large and elegantly wrought windows, which were left intact and outfitted with new sills, a radiator cover, and a recess for pull-down shades and lighting.

When the pivoting unit is closed and flush against the wall, the room appears to contain one continuous line of floor-to-ceiling storage, broken only by cutout ledges illuminated withconcealed LED lights that add both openness and warmth. Garneau used ash throughout the apartment to maintain a uniform palette.

In this project, God is indeed in the details. A floor-to-ceiling door between the windows glides open, revealing cabinets that store home office supplies. The multipurpose dining table, custom-designed by Garneau, becomes a desk or a prep counter and can adjust in height from 28 to 40 inches.

The galley kitchen, too, is a model of efficiency. The backsplash even slides open to reveal more storage. While the space is small, Paul, an experienced chef, happily cooks for company. "We’ve actually had twelve people here," he notes of the apartment’s now-spacious accommodations.

The bathroom also got a complete makeover. Once small and cramped, it now seems roomy thanks to the removal of the bathtub, which the Anderssons happily relinquished in exchange for a curbless shower and a double sink. The door and cabinets are fumed mahogany, which holds up well to moisture, says Garneau. Environmental sensitivity was also high on the agenda: All the wood is sustainably harvested, the finishes are low-VOC, and the fixtures are low-flow to minimize water consumption.

"It’s a new kind of luxury," says Garneau. "It’s not about space or luxurious materials. It’s about the kind of craftsmanship found on yachts and private airplanes."   


Bedroom

After successfully reconfiguring his own tiny New York City apartment, Robert Garneau, partner at Architecture Workshop PC, reinvented a 400-square-foot studio for neighbors just a few floors down. Called the Pivot Apartment, the highly efficient residence now serves multiple functions, thanks to a central modular unit that can be arranged to create distinct stations for living, sleeping, and entertaining.

After successfully reconfiguring his own tiny New York City apartment, Robert Garneau, partner at Architecture Workshop PC, reinvented a 400-square-foot studio for neighbors just a few floors down. Called the Pivot Apartment, the highly efficient residence now serves multiple functions, thanks to a central modular unit that can be arranged to create distinct stations for living, sleeping, and entertaining.

Made entirely of ash plywood, the custom unit with a pivoting wall contains a Murphy bed that unfolds to carve out a private bedroom for two, complete with built-in closets, niche shelving, and Tolomeo task lighting from Artemide.


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Living Room

The living area is appointed with small, efficient furnishings, including a rolling tray table by Hans Bolling and a Diplomat Sleeper Sofa by Blu Dot (a second one is situated opposite the Murphy bed). 

The living area is appointed with small, efficient furnishings, including a rolling tray table by Hans Bolling and a Diplomat Sleeper Sofa by Blu Dot (a second one is situated opposite the Murphy bed). 

Configuring the bedroom leaves a sizable lounge area on the opposite side of the partition; it’s furnished with a compact sofa bed that can accommodate two overnight guests.

Resident Paul Andersson lounges in a Paulistano armchair by Paulo Mendes da Rocha.

Resident Paul Andersson lounges in a Paulistano armchair by Paulo Mendes da Rocha.


Stowing the queen-size Room Makers Murphy bed by SICO frees up access to custom built-in cabinets and pull-down closet rods by Hafele that illuminate when the door is opened. 

Stowing the queen-size Room Makers Murphy bed by SICO frees up access to custom built-in cabinets and pull-down closet rods by Hafele that illuminate when the door is opened. 


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Dining Room

The red Piana folding chairs are by David Chipperfield for Alessi; Garneau custom-designed the millwork tabletop and stainless-steel legs. 

The red Piana folding chairs are by David Chipperfield for Alessi; Garneau custom-designed the millwork tabletop and stainless-steel legs. 

Tucking away the bedroom opens up the apartment’s living area to a space that can accommodate a table with seating for 10.

Among the Anderssons’ wishes for the micro-dwelling was the ability to host a Thanksgiving feast. Garneau’s solution delivers: Folding the pivot wall flush with the apartment’s perimeter opens up the space for entertaining a sizable group. 

Among the Anderssons’ wishes for the micro-dwelling was the ability to host a Thanksgiving feast. Garneau’s solution delivers: Folding the pivot wall flush with the apartment’s perimeter opens up the space for entertaining a sizable group. 



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Kitchen

For the combination table and workstation, Garneau sourced the hydraulic hardware from Linak. The cooktop and oven are from Smeg, and the low-flow faucet is from KWC Livello. Equipped with Hettich hardware, the backsplash rolls up to reveal a spice rack. 

For the combination table and workstation, Garneau sourced the hydraulic hardware from Linak. The cooktop and oven are from Smeg, and the low-flow faucet is from KWC Livello. Equipped with Hettich hardware, the backsplash rolls up to reveal a spice rack. 

With adjustable-height legs and leaves that can fold down to create a smaller surface, the lightweight dining table doubles as a standing workstation. The adjacent wall panel slides to reveal pantry shelving.

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Paulistano Armchair
Paulistano Armchair
As a Brazilian designer who was a member of the “Paulist brutalist” avant-garde in the 1950s, Paulo Mendes da Rocha gained international fame when he received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2006. At that time, Design Within Reach reintroduced the Paulistano Armchairs, a 1957 design that was never before made available in America. The original chair was designed for the Paulistano Athletic Club in São Paulo, Brazil, and is supported by a continuous 17-foot-long piece of phosphatized carbon steel that’s welded in one place. This is consistent with the original raw material that was used in 1957, and is meant to oxidize slowly over time. The chair is then wrapped with vegetable-tanned leather that’s meant to flex slightly. The seat can be adjusted along the frame for varying levels of seating angles.
-Written by Paige Alexus | Dwell
Artemide Tolomeo Table Lamp
Artemide Tolomeo Table Lamp
Designed by Michele De Lucchi and Giancarlo Fassina for Artemide, the Tolomeo family of table and task lamps adds brilliant lighting to your desk or reading area. The Tolomeo lamps are defined by their fully adjustable bodies, which enable you to set the lamp to different heights, depending on your lighting needs. The lamp also features a rotating shade, making it easy to redirect light as needed. Crafted in sleek aluminum with stainless steel cables, the Tolomeo Classic Table Lamp has a functional yet sophisticated feel, and will complement contemporary interiors. Photo: Noah Webb
-Written by Marianne Colahan | Dwell
Alessi Piana Chair
Alessi Piana Chair
When David Chipperfield designed the Piana Chairs for Alessi in 2011, he was looking to create an uncomplicated seating option that would simply do the job it was meant to do. The result is a fully-functional foldable design that can be stacked horizontally while laying completely flat. The optional wall hook allows you to hang them for even more streamlined storage. Made in Italy out of fiberglass-reinforced polypropylene with an anti-slip matte finish, the chair is available in a variety of bright and neutral colors—all of which are suitable for outdoor use. Additionally, the lack of visible hardware allows it to rotate around a single axis without the mechanism ever being seen.   Photo: Brian W. Ferry
-Written by Paige Alexus | Dwell