A 16-Foot-Wide Triplex Is Cleverly Reconfigured to Feel Extra Spacious
An affordable Manhattan triplex might seem the stuff of real estate fantasy. That’s why attorney René Roupinian jumped on the apartment she now calls home when she first saw it in the mid-aughts—despite the fact that the square footage of its three combined levels was less than that of some studios. "It was so different from anything I had seen. It felt really spacious because of the high ceilings, and it had exposed brick on both sides," René recalls. "I just said, ‘Oh my god, I love this apartment.’"
But after nearly a decade of living in the 580-square-foot space, located in a late 19th–century building on New York’s Upper West Side, René decided to give the condo an overdue update. The last time it had been remodeled was in the 1970s, and the scratched oak floors, cramped living spaces, and lack of storage were getting to her. So she gave herself a budget and began planning a renovation with STADT Architecture’s Christopher Kitterman, whom she’d met through a mutual friend. "I told him what my dream was:to have a bigger bedroom, a bigger bathroom, and less clutter," she says.
Kitterman presented her with three proposals. "I always take the middle one," René says, half jokingly. The plan called for an integrated cabinetry system on all three levels and less workon the kitchen than on the other areas. In 2013, René moved to a vacant apartment across the hall as Kitterman began a gut renovation. Everything was torn down except the brick walls. The damaged oak floors were replaced with concrete tile by the entrance, while in the rest of the space walnut boards from LV Wood were installed over a three-quarter-inch plywood substrate with a 10-millimeter GenieMat sound-abatement layer.
"As an architect, I wanted a clean white space. René was on board, but fortunately she spoke up and said she liked the exposed brick, so we found a way that made it work." —Christopher Kitterman, architect
Located just off the entrance, the small existing kitchen received a simple update. ("I don’t cook," René explains.) Kitterman added marble countertops and had the cabinets painted white; he placed new Micro Grazer light channels by Edge Lighting under the millwork and halogen housings with LED retrofits by Element Lighting overhead.
The adjacent area became a flexible space that serves as a dining room or office. A Goliath table from Resource Furniture can be used as a console, desk, or dining table, expanding from a slim 17 inches to 115 inches. "To have something for one purpose is not so practical," says Kitterman, who also added a wall of white lacquer cabinets for storage. René takes full advantage of the table’s versatility. "I’ve used it as often for working as for entertaining and setting up food and drinks," she says.
"The material palette is simple: walnut or a white lacquered surface. It’s really about two materials intertwined."—Christopher Kitterman
The living room, on the second level, was outfitted with a similar custom white-lacquer cabinetry system, but this one includes a niche for the television that allows it to swivel in such a way that René can watch TV as she works down below.
As the project progressed, she got rid of all her dated furniture, replacing it with an edited selection that includes a plum Womb chair by Eero Saarinen for Knoll and contemporary pieces such as a glass pendant light fixture and a sofa with a chaise by Gus Modern. A set of round nesting tables from the Paper table series by GamFratesi for Gubi completes the space.
Kitterman reconfigured the stairs to the bedroom so that instead of going straight up, they wind their way to the loft, creating a new landing. He rotated the bed 90 degrees and replaced an existing guard wall with a wall that serves as a low built-in headboard, adding 18 inches of space. He also worked with the contractor to build a custom platform bed frame with drawers underneath as well as integrated side tables with built-in USB outlets. An automated Lutron shade drops from the ceiling to provide privacy.
To eke out a bit more room in the bathroom, Kitterman replaced the tub with a glass shower. A stone mosaic floor was laid out, and the drawers beneath the sink and the medicine cabinet were enlarged and redone in white.
With the 11-month renovation, Kitterman was able to create everything his client desired. The apartment now offers storage on all three levels, a more spacious bathroom, and a larger bedroom. "Every day, when I come down these steps, I have this wonderful feeling of peace," René says. "There’s no clutter. It’s neat. It’s spacious."
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