A Giant Golden Cube Hides the Bedroom in This Tiny Jewel Box Apartment
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A Giant Golden Cube Hides the Bedroom in This Tiny Jewel Box Apartment

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By Lucy Wang
In Greenwich Village, Messana O’Rorke uses a minimalist yet luxe material palette to give a compact studio apartment the illusion of spaciousness.

Having skillfully transformed many small Manhattan apartments into multifunctional living spaces, Brian Messana and Toby O’Rorke of design practice Messana O’Rorke were tapped once again to bring their reductivist sensibilities to a 430-square-foot studio apartment in a post-war co-op at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Ninth Street.

The bedroom is enclosed in a cube clad in unlacquered brass. The floors are wide-plank European white oak.

The bedroom is enclosed in a cube clad in unlacquered brass. The floors are wide-plank European white oak.

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"The clients wanted a pied-à-terre that felt like a room at a boutique hotel, a program that could accommodate cooking and entertaining, and they did not want to see their bed," explains the firm. "Our goal was to maximize the physical and atmospheric size of a singular space, its storage capacity, while creating multiple experiences that all fit efficiently into an organized structure inspired by such objects as jewel boxes, steamer trunks, and recreational vehicles."

West-facing windows offer stellar views of the Jefferson Market Library Clock Tower, the West Village, and New Jersey beyond.

West-facing windows offer stellar views of the Jefferson Market Library Clock Tower, the West Village, and New Jersey beyond.

To begin, the designers stripped the apartment of its existing internal walls, plumbing fixtures, appliances, and finishes to create a blank slate defined only by its eight-foot-tall ceilings and band of west-facing windows that overlook the Jefferson Market Library Clock Tower and West Village.

The northern wall is lined with a custom-built, 15-inch-deep storage unit for books, clothes, AV equipment, and the television.

The northern wall is lined with a custom-built, 15-inch-deep storage unit for books, clothes, AV equipment, and the television.

Next, they addressed the clients' request for a concealed bedroom by inserting a "bedroom container"—a jewel box-like unit with hinged wall panels covered in unlacquered brass. The interior is wrapped with Italian cowhide dyed gray. The placement of the bedroom container three feet from the entry door and three feet from the north wall delineates the entry vestibule and hallway.

The doors to the bedroom can be closed when guests visit. Sunlight from the west-facing windows bounces off the brass cube and bathes the living area in golden light.

The doors to the bedroom can be closed when guests visit. Sunlight from the west-facing windows bounces off the brass cube and bathes the living area in golden light.

The walls of the brass bedroom cube fold back to reveal the living room on one side and the entry hall on the other.

The walls of the brass bedroom cube fold back to reveal the living room on one side and the entry hall on the other.

The interior of the bed container is covered with Italian cowhide dyed dark gray.

The interior of the bed container is covered with Italian cowhide dyed dark gray.

A predominately timber palette balances the bright metal gleam of the bedroom container. In addition to wide-planked white oak floors, the designers added custom floor-to-ceiling cabinetry on the north and south walls constructed from fumed and wire-brushed European oak. The units—which conceal the kitchen on the south side and the entertainment center on the north—also help increase noise dampening between apartments.

When opened, the storage unit on the south side of the apartment reveals the kitchen with a Carrara marble countertop and backsplash, a fridge/freezer, and a closet for general storage.

When opened, the storage unit on the south side of the apartment reveals the kitchen with a Carrara marble countertop and backsplash, a fridge/freezer, and a closet for general storage.

Although the apartment serves as a city getaway rather than the client’s primary residence, the dwelling boasts ample storage to ensure zero visual clutter. The base of the bedroom container is raised to create long-term storage underneath, while the custom cabinets offer plenty of clothing, book, and general storage space.

A smoke-gray mirrored door reflects the bedroom cube and leads to the bathroom near the entrance.

A smoke-gray mirrored door reflects the bedroom cube and leads to the bathroom near the entrance.

Opening the mirrored door reveals a surprising contrast of colors and materials between the bathroom and the timber-lined living space.

Opening the mirrored door reveals a surprising contrast of colors and materials between the bathroom and the timber-lined living space.

Slabs of Carrara marble cover the minimalist bathroom, which is punctuated with fixtures made from unlacquered brass.

Slabs of Carrara marble cover the minimalist bathroom, which is punctuated with fixtures made from unlacquered brass.

"The Jewel Box is a study of space efficiency, creating the illusion of a larger space through multiple experiences within a 430-square-foot New York City ‘Studio’ apartment," note the architects. The transformed apartment was recently crowned the winner of the 2019 NYCxDESIGN small apartment category.

Related Reading: 11 Transforming Apartments That Make the Most of Minuscule Spaces, This Madrid Home Morphs From Studio to Two-Bedroom Apartment With the Push of a Finger