House Call: Demian's Chelsea Renovation

New York

Name: Demian Repucci
Location: Chelsea, New York City

We didn't have a lot of money when we bought this little one-bedroom apartment on West 34th Street but it was in need of major renovation. The kitchen and the bathroom are both small and I needed to figure out a way to incorporate an office area into the space as I work from home some of the time. Being a designer, how our home looks and how it functions are both very important to me. But with limited space and a limited budget it can be a challenge to be true to my modernist style leanings.

I have designed a few restaurants (I won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Restaurant Design in 2002 for Blackbird Restaurant in Chicago) and have worked in a few restaurant kitchens (St. John in London, Blue Hill) so I wanted our kitchen to have a modern feel and the serious functionality of a restaurant kitchen. To solve this I stole some space from an under-utilized hall closet and swapped the big upright fridge for two high-end under counter units, enabling me to expand the kitchen’s counter space from 3 ½ to 7 linear feet. Utilizing horizontal cabinets allows the sight lines to run horizontally and switching from closed cabinets to open stainless steel restaurant shelving at the far wall lets the sight lines move further into the space, giving the room a larger, more spacious feel.

For the compact bathroom I was able to accomplish several things. I built and installed a maple plywood vanity that is cantilevered from the wall, removing the need for any base or legs. This allows the floor surface to flow underneath the sink giving the room a more expansive feel with less visual interruptions. The oversized mirror effectively doubles the perception of the space. The ample lighting recessed behind the mirror makes the room bright and chases away any shadows that might creep into the corners. I removed the traditional shower curtain rod, annoyingly positioned at head level, and replaced it with aluminum hospital curtain track on the ceiling. So now when the curtain is pulled back the bathroom's space is uninterrupted all the way to the far tub wall.

For the issue of an office area, I was able to carve out some space from a living room closet. Now the closet doors open up and slide back into the closet to reveal a desk, filing cabinet and shelving for a computer and work space.

A little creative thinking and some elbow grease enabled us to turn our straight-forward one bedroom apartment into a spacious modern home. Now that we are selling this apartment I think that the design solutions incorporated into the renovations are the thing that has made this apartment stand out ahead of the rest.

Thanks, Demian!

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