Before and After: A Smart Makeover Creates a “Triple Duty” Living Room

published Dec 15, 2023
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Often, in small apartments, one room has to accommodate many purposes. A living room might also have a pull-out sofa to become a guest bedroom when needed, or it might have a desk for WFH days, or it might store workout equipment. The secret to making everything fit? Creating flexible furniture solutions.

Joshua Brady and his wife are familiar with the challenge of making one space serve multiple needs. When they moved into their current one-bedroom apartment in Queens, it was a space upgrade from their previous studio — about 200 square feet bigger. But despite the larger size, they still needed to do some creative problem solving to make their apartment accommodate all of their routines and needs.

The couple’s expectation as they were apartment-hunting was that they’d need to make some changes to whatever place they bought. “I would only purchase an apartment I knew we would renovate, so that we could make it exactly how we wanted,” Joshua says. He grew up doing construction for his father’s company, and was more comfortable than most with the prospect of what was in store. And good thing: The apartment Joshua and his wife ended up moving into had been vacant for years and wasn’t well-maintained, with peeling paint and damaged floors.

“My wife and I planned the design well before we ever thought about moving forward with the sale of my old apartment and the purchase of this one,” Joshua says. The apartment’s existing living room was a long rectangle off a main hallway, with windows on the far end and an archway at the entrance. Joshua’s plan involved adding a partition wall and a Murphy bed so that the room could shapeshift to meet the couple’s needs. “This allows guests to have their own private space as well as a dedicated area for me to work from home,” Joshua says. 

Credit: Joshua Brady

The new partition wall doesn’t sacrifice style. 

Although Joshua originally envisioned a glass wall with sliding doors in the middle to divide up his space, that wasn’t quite adjustable enough. He ended up adding a closable partition with glass doors from a Florida-based company, and his contractor installed them. “This has been amazing for friends and family visiting to have some privacy,” Joshua says. 

The window trim in the space is painted to black to match the partition and to give the look of old-school leaded glass windows.

Credit: Joshua Brady
Credit: Joshua Brady

Wall upgrades refresh the look and add a cohesive feel.

The pros refurbished the original floors and skim-coated the walls; both projects helped revive the long-empty space. But on one wall, drywall actually came down to expose beautiful brick for some throwback NYC charm.

Because the new partition wall had a clean-lined frame, the couple decided to ask their hired team to remove the curved archway in the room. Sticking with straight lines throughout helps the room feel cohesive. “[The] weird thing is, arched doorways are something I usually love and want,” Joshua says. “It just didn’t give the look we wanted and stood out more than I wanted it to, as it was the only arched doorway … [the] contractors just cut out the arch and squared off the corners.”

Credit: Joshua Brady
Credit: Joshua Brady

Furniture ties it all together.

The new furniture is just as practical as all of the renovations. “We incorporated our new spaces with mid-century modern furniture, mostly from Article, to complement the clean-modern concept we were after,” Joshua says. That includes a low-slung sofa, leather side chair, black armoire, and a smaller desk for his wife.  

Initially, the couple selected a daybed to go behind Joshua’s desk in the office, but after about a year, they bought a Murphy bed on Overstock that they knew would be a better fit. “While the daybed wasn’t terrible, it took up a lot of space for something that was not used very often,” Joshua says. “The Murphy bed was what we truly wanted but didn’t purchase at the time of the renovation to save money.” 

Joshua’s planning helped create a living room that’s cozy and comfortable — a major win, as this couple will soon be welcoming a new baby — and he has advice for anyone who hopes to do the same. “Always have a deadline and consequences for the contractor in writing as part of the contract agreement,” he says. “You can design with cheap materials, but let me be clear: Not cheap quality, but discounted prices. Look for sales, and spend on items you really want.”