This Psychology-Focused Renovation is Full of Smart Layout Changes and Clever Storage Hacks

updated Oct 22, 2019
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Credit: Courtesy George Ranalli & Anne Valentino

With twenty years of accumulated items, one New York City apartment dweller was ready for a change, starting with some major decluttering.

Thanks to licensed psychologist and associate partner Anne Valentino Ph.D., who specializes in organizational psychology, the homeowner was able to clean up her space and later start a makeover of another kind, a complete interior remodel, with architect George Ranalli

Valentino and Ranalli, who have been working together on projects for more than 30 years, feel that applying psychological principles to architecture is invaluable in understanding the way environments impact our lives. From how sensory stimulation affects mood to the importance of daylight and novelty versus familiarity, it’s something that all architecture firms and homeowners can benefit from. 

Credit: Courtesy George Ranalli & Anne Valentino
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“Psychology played a big role in project readiness in particular for this before and after,” Valentino tells Apartment Therapy. She worked with the homeowner for months before construction could begin. “We redistributed a mountain of possessions, recycled and donated. That process assisted planning and mindful design decisions.”

Located in The Towers at London Terrace Garden in West Chelsea, formerly London Terrace, a 1,700-unit apartment complex completed in 1931 by Victor Farrar and Richard Watmough with luxurious amenities, a furnished rooftop deck and original intercom system, the one-bedroom 750-square-foot also had a dated floor plan, a lack of natural light and wasn’t amenable to the homeowner’s lifestyle. 

“Once the chaos was managed, the homeowner was able to identify design interest,” Valentino says. And with this clean slate, Ranalli got to work planning a gut renovation, and with general contractor Roth Built Works, yielded a perfectly modern upgrade with ample storage, an enlarged bathroom and walk-in closet to accommodate the client’s 75 pairs of shoes and a kitchen arranged around healthy food preparation. 

“On some levels, we occupy a small space every day, whether it’s an elevator, cab or subway but it isn’t where we want to live,” Ranalli comments. “So, we accepted this challenge and asked ourselves what the benefits of living in a small space are. How do we fit everything we do into a small apartment and when does a person feel architectural claustrophobia?”

To begin, Ranalli helped illuminate the dim courtyard-facing space by integrating daylight-simulating LED lights into the ceiling. He then went about rearranging a handful of interior walls to yield a more open-feeling master bath with an oversized walk-in closet, full-length mirror, custom built-in cabinetry with wood-framed pocket doors with frosted glass at either end. 

The kitchen was another room where Ranalli utilized the new layout and he focused on safety and functionality with differing zones for cooking, prep and serving. There’s a Sub-Zero refrigerator, Gaggenau range, Miele dishwasher and custom cabinetry with 180 cubic feet of under-the-counter storage, plus new limestone floors which are inset into the original oak flooring. 

As the design focused on modernizing the space and making it more livable for the homeowner, clever organizational hacks were key. From the retractable office shelving system to the library ladder for reaching those highest shelves to the tower warmer in the bathroom which plays double duty as a radiator. 

Even though Ranalli only had 750 square feet to work with, this renovation shows that simple layout changes and clever storage hacks can make any home a dream space.