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.
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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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.