Architect transforms cramped New York apartment with smart, space-saving microelements

Living in an apartment in a big city and being close to all the action it has to offer is something that many people enjoy. With home prices on the rise, especially for larger single-family homes in the suburbs, many are opting to stay in the city by purchasing and remodeling older and potentially less expensive apartments. However, renovating an outdated apartment can be challenging, especially if the design is irregular in shape and lacks natural light.

But it can be done, and it can be done well, as New York City architect Martin Hopp managed to do with his own residence, a 700-square-foot (65-square-meter) garden-level apartment in the Chelsea.

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Located in a multi-story building dating to the 1930s, the basement suite’s current state was somewhat dark and dingy, due in part to the fact that much of the unit is below ground level. As Hopp explains on Dezeen:

“[The apartment’s] The strange design and challenging features of the exposed foundation walls and large structural columns were further complicated by being partially submerged below ground level and hemmed in by the foundations. This gave the apartment an underground feel that only allowed for brief moments of natural light.”

This cave-like feel wasn’t ideal, so Hopp chose an all-white color palette, bright lighting, and a completely minimalist approach when renovating the interiors. Not surprisingly, this works extremely well, as evidenced by this vibrant yet inviting multifunctional L-shaped space that functions as a living room, dining room, and kitchen.

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To make this relatively small and rather oddly shaped space work, Hopp designed a series of space-saving “micro elements” to increase functionality and maximize available space. Such microelements include a “rotating table” for eating and working, which is hidden in a row of built-in cabinets that run along one wall.

There are also a number of custom built-in living areas here, with a generous L-shaped sectional sofa stretching the length of much of the room and another tucked away in a nook above the dining area. There is some natural light here thanks to a window, but to provide more ambient light, recessed LED lighting strips have been placed near the ceiling and behind the cabinets. To bring warmth to the otherwise all-white space, the floors were refreshed with the warmer textures of white oak hardwood flooring.

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The compact kitchen is located at one end of the L-shaped space and includes all the basics like stove, oven, sink, and cabinets to store food and dishes. The kitchen can be separated if necessary, using a specially designed folding door.

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The bedroom is accessed through a door to the side of the kitchen and features much of the same minimalist approach. Every detail has been streamlined to give a seamless uniformity and almost impossible lightness to the entire space, from the white cabinet to the discreet hidden roller blinds above the window, to the fact that the cabinets don’t reach the ceiling and are lit with strips. lighting, which helps make the room feel less oppressive.

As Hopp and his team point out:

“Creative lighting strategies work as additional microgestures to make the space feel more functional and enjoyable.”

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Across from the kitchen, we have a nice surprise: an office and guest room that has been converted into what used to be a walk-in closet. Clad in white oak, the space now has shelving installed along one wall and a Murphy bed that can be folded away when guests sleep over.

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Once again, we have that line of minimalist lighting, and privacy can be found through a large set of sliding doors, closing off the space. As Hopp explains:

“A slightly larger closet was an opportunity to create a multifunctional space that could be a guest room, home office and storage area at the same time. Conceived before COVID-19, the value of spaces multifunctional has proven invaluable.”

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Past the office and down the hallway we come to the bathroom, which includes the rather eye-catching feature of wall shelves made from backlit glass panels. This custom element was made possible by the discovery of a two-foot-deep area behind the walls during demolition and really helps brighten up a windowless space.

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With the right approach to materials and lighting, this project shows that even a less than ideal living space can be successfully transformed into a beautiful home. To see more, visit Martin Hopp.

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