This 60-Square-Foot Structure Divides and Conquers in a Manhattan Renovation

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By Heather Corcoran
In a New York loft, a multifunctional cube provides a space-saving fix that’s anything but square.

In cramped New York apartments, it’s not an uncommon requirement for spaces to serve a multitude of functions. To make one 2,000-square-foot loft more efficient, Frame Design Lab came up with a novel solution that does just that within a very tight footprint.

They call it the Cube, a 60-square-foot structure that organizes the larger space by dividing it into a more conventional floor plan. Formerly one large open area with two bedrooms at one end, the interior is now subdivided by the structure into public and private spaces connected by a pair of hallways.

This 60-Square-Foot Structure Divides and Conquers in a Manhattan Renovation - Photo 1 of 8 - When a Manhattan family approached Frame Design Lab to create a more private master bedroom, they imagined the firm would simply rework a few closet walls. Instead, partners Nina Cooke John and Anne-Marie Singer proposed a bold plan to divide the space by adding a 60-square-foot unit in the middle of the floor plan to reorganize the flow.

When a Manhattan family approached Frame Design Lab to create a more private master bedroom, they imagined the firm would simply rework a few closet walls. Instead, partners Nina Cooke John and Anne-Marie Singer proposed a bold plan to divide the space by adding a 60-square-foot unit in the middle of the floor plan to reorganize the flow.

Originally, Frame’s clients wished to simply move two walls to make a more secluded master suite, but the firm’s iterative approach led to the seemingly illogical idea of creating space by chopping it up with the addition of the structure-within-a-structure. "Our process involves exploring all possibilities, even things that are far out of field, just to say we looked at it and didn’t miss anything," explains architect Nina Cooke John, who cofounded the firm in 2012 with designer Anne-Marie Singer.

This 60-Square-Foot Structure Divides and Conquers in a Manhattan Renovation - Photo 2 of 8 - Rather than clutter the master bedroom with furniture, Frame Design Lab created a system where night stands hang from a wall-mounted headboard.  

Rather than clutter the master bedroom with furniture, Frame Design Lab created a system where night stands hang from a wall-mounted headboard.  

That method led to about 10 initial schematic designs, ranging from conservative to the Cube, four of which were presented to the clients, an artist and a film director with a young son.At first, they were hesitant to embrace the more adventurous option. ("It’s really intriguing, but we can’t do that. We’d be wasting space," Cooke John recalls the clients saying of the cube-shaped addition.) But after seeing a second round of plans that demonstrated a more ambitious scheme including a kitchen renovation, the couple decided to go all in.

This 60-Square-Foot Structure Divides and Conquers in a Manhattan Renovation - Photo 3 of 8 - A linear lacquer storage unit with a Corian top helped define the main living areas; now the residents spend more time enjoying the apartment’s northern exposure–one of two main sources of natural light in the floor-through loft.  A custom whitewashed oak mirror, White paint by Benjamin Moore, and a lighting program by Melanie Freundlich carry the brightness throughout the loft. The Grid sofa is by Resource Furniture.

A linear lacquer storage unit with a Corian top helped define the main living areas; now the residents spend more time enjoying the apartment’s northern exposure–one of two main sources of natural light in the floor-through loft.  A custom whitewashed oak mirror, White paint by Benjamin Moore, and a lighting program by Melanie Freundlich carry the brightness throughout the loft. The Grid sofa is by Resource Furniture.

"We love working with different materials, experimenting with how we choose them and how we create interesting details that take advantage of every little nook and cranny," Cooke John says. In this case, the Cube is made of simple Sheetrock, painted in Benjamin Moore’s White to match the surrounding space. Following a four-month gut renovation, the new Cube serves as a combined guest room, office, and media room, with a space-saving Resource Furniture Swing wall system that doubles as a sofa and bed. Custom details include a niche for books and a built-in desk.

This 60-Square-Foot Structure Divides and Conquers in a Manhattan Renovation - Photo 4 of 8 - The public spaces are separated from the private bedrooms by the new Sheetrock addition. 

The public spaces are separated from the private bedrooms by the new Sheetrock addition. 

To retain the apartment’s loft proportions, the top of the new space does not reach the original tin ceiling; it simply exists within the larger mass. An electric skylight by Velux lets air and light from the wider apartment into the Cube. The result is a minimalist monolith in the center of an updated version of a traditional New York City typology.

"We’ve always liked super modern, clean spaces, which is perfect for these clients," says Cooke John. "They were willing to go as modern as we would."  

This 60-Square-Foot Structure Divides and Conquers in a Manhattan Renovation - Photo 5 of 8 - The kitchen was designed in collaboration with Henrybuilt. The laminate cabinets are paired with a marble countertop by SMC Stone. 

The kitchen was designed in collaboration with Henrybuilt. The laminate cabinets are paired with a marble countertop by SMC Stone. 



This 60-Square-Foot Structure Divides and Conquers in a Manhattan Renovation - Photo 6 of 8 - Inside the Cube, a Wishbone chair by Hans Wegner pulls up to a built-in painted lacquer desk.  

Inside the Cube, a Wishbone chair by Hans Wegner pulls up to a built-in painted lacquer desk.  



This 60-Square-Foot Structure Divides and Conquers in a Manhattan Renovation - Photo 7 of 8 - Across from it, a Murphy bed by Resource Furniture—lined with Camilla Meijer wallpaper and featuring a customized niche—allows the space to function as a guest room. An electric Velux skylight frames views of the original tin plates above. The architects chose to leave space between the top of the structure and the ceiling to maintain the rectangular proportions of the loft. "It reads right away," Singer says of the volume. "It’s very satisfying."

Across from it, a Murphy bed by Resource Furniture—lined with Camilla Meijer wallpaper and featuring a customized niche—allows the space to function as a guest room. An electric Velux skylight frames views of the original tin plates above. The architects chose to leave space between the top of the structure and the ceiling to maintain the rectangular proportions of the loft. "It reads right away," Singer says of the volume. "It’s very satisfying."



This 60-Square-Foot Structure Divides and Conquers in a Manhattan Renovation - Photo 8 of 8 -


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Saarinen Pedestal Table
Saarinen Pedestal Table
When Eero Saarinen was designing his Pedestal Collection in the 1950s, he promised to find an alternative to the constricting undersides of tables and chairs at the time. While researching his idea, he turned to his training in sculpture to create hundreds of drawings that then led to ¼ scale models—and finally to full-scale versions. Finalized in 1957, the pedestal tables feature a sculptural base that leaves enough empty space to slide in and out from the table. Its base is made out of heavy molded cast aluminum and can be finished in a white, black, or platinum paint. It’s attached to a simple, beveled-edge tabletop with a threaded rod. Today, Knoll produces the design as a side table, coffee table, or dining table in round, oval, or outdoor options. You can choose to have the top in laminate white, or a range of wood veneers and marbles (in either a satin or polished finish). Photo: John Ellis 
Hans J. Wegner Wishbone Chair
Hans J. Wegner Wishbone Chair
Designed specifically for Carl Hansen & Søn in 1949, Hans J. Wegner's Wishbone Chair (CH24) was the last part of his series that combined a chair's arms and top rails into one piece. The series was inspired by portraits of Danish merchants sitting in Chinese Ming Dynasty chairs. At the time, Wegner was making a huge leap of faith—and it paid off since Carl Hansen & Søn had been looking for a more lightweight chair than what was common at the time. The steam-bent solid wood top connects to the Y-shaped back in a way that provides both comfort and support. To this day, it’s crafted in Denmark with an acute attention to detail. The seat is hand-woven from paper cord, which is a durable material that replaced jute during WWII. You can choose to have the sculptural frame made of beech, oak, or walnut in a range of lacquer finishes.
Resource Furniture Grid Sofa
Resource Furniture Grid Sofa
Endlessly configurable, the modular, custom-made Grid can be a sofa, sectional, or tête-à-tête. The elements include six different seating platforms, five backs and arms in varying lengths, and four back cushion sizes; each element comes in fabric or leather. An interwoven webbing suspension of latex is hidden within the lower platform perimeter, which is encased in saddle leather, and feathers fill the back cushions for downy comfort. Select matching features or contrast piping, and choose from a chrome or silver epoxy finish for the steel legs. Photo: Courtesy of Resource Furniture

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