This Remodeled 650-Square-Foot NYC Apartment Beautifully Fits a Family of Four

This Remodeled 650-Square-Foot NYC Apartment Beautifully Fits a Family of Four

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Name: Stephanie and James Blanco with our two teenage children, Isabella and Aidan. And Pablo the bunny
Architect: Lynn Gaffney Architect
Contractor: Kevin Kenefick
Location: West Village, Manhattan
Size: 650 square feet
Years lived in: 20 years, owned

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We actually ended up buying this apartment after going into contract on another place in Murray Hill. The seller we were in contract with found out her upstairs neighbor sold their place for $25k more than what we agreed to, and wanted to go back to the negotiating table. It left such a bad taste, and we happened to see our current apartment that same day in my brother’s building. The broker was a day shy of losing her exclusive on it, and we were able to negotiate a great price on the apartment. Call it serendipity or simply just dumb luck.

Credit: James Blanco

Prior to quarantine, we entertained quite a bit—our major gripe was due to the layout, groups would naturally splinter off into separate rooms, and dining together would require “shifts” to get everyone a seat to eat. Even though it’s a small space, we never really felt crowded, but we did wish we could be more connected. What we love post-renovation is how many options we have—for entertaining, for relaxing, and really capitalizing on the west-facing windows. For four people to live comfortably in this square footage, it’s a fine balance of keeping things open while still allowing some modicum of privacy. And contrary to what living small might make you think, it’s really not about living with less—it’s taking stock of what you really need and being happy with what you have in your space.

Credit: James Blanco

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Mid-century modern/eclectic

Inspiration: We’re inspired to have a light footprint on our earth and our urban small home is an intention of how to live responsibly and sustainably. We naturally have less material things because of our spatial constraints and we use less energy to heat and cool the space. The small space inspires us to live simply and stay very tight-knit—these are important values to us.

Credit: James Blanco

Favorite Element: We wanted a more sophisticated feel and an open layout, both for our day-to-day but also for entertaining. I think we shocked our architect Lynn Gaffney when we told her at the beginning of the project that we regularly have big family get-togethers of 12 to 18 people, but it’s true—lots of food and laughter. The open plan is probably my favorite aspect—everything is so light and comfortable. I love that we’re connected with our family and guests while we’re entertaining. Before the renovation, we were cooking in a separate cramped kitchen, secluded from everyone. And also now since everything’s so visible, we tend to clean up during the evening and we don’t have to finish a fun night by walking into our old kitchen piled high with dishes.

Credit: James Blanco

Biggest Challenge: One of our biggest annoyances before the renovation was that anyone needing to get to the bathroom had to move through our sleeping niche—it was a real drag on privacy. In solving this, our architect, Lynn Gaffney, wanted to avoid direct connection between kitchen and bathroom, which made sense to us too. She came up with a layout that added a buffer—a vanity area between the bathing/toilet room and the kitchen. This piece of the puzzle became a challenge after demolition when we discovered building plumbing risers exactly where our kitchen/vanity door was supposed to be—these can’t be rerouted. In general, it’s a challenge to realize that well-designed plans may have to be upended due to unforeseen obstacles within your old walls. Lynn came in and worked with us to revise the plan and the result is an open passage with great wallpaper and a longer vanity/mirror area.

Credit: James Blanco

Proudest DIY: My (James) woodworking skills have come in handy over the decades and I’ve built many custom storage units to make the small space more livable. Even after the gut renovation, I built several custom items including the storage banquette at the kitchen, a living room shelving unit, a bedroom shelving unit and open closet for the kids, and some vented window sills. Oh, and retrofitting towel hooks on a heating pipe—it becomes a nice towel warmer in the winter. We also outfitted the closets ourselves using Elfa components, and created custom walnut organizers for our spices and cutlery. I also retrofitted our media cabinet with a custom AC Infinity ventilation/cooling system.

Biggest Indulgence: Installing a mini split air conditioning system—this was a hassle to get approval for from our building’s coop board, took some creative routing for the piping to reach the rear courtyard, and it was definitely an investment. It’s absolutely worth it to avoid window AC unit, letting in more light and getting better airflow.

Credit: James Blanco

Best Advice: When you renovate your home in any substantial way, hire an architect. Don’t try to design it yourself. Our architect Lynn Gaffney not only understood our aesthetic requirements, but translated our functional needs to fit within the overall design. Conflicts and surprises come along with every renovation project and a good architect is able to keep proportions and design elements consistent and prioritize how you live as a family. Every family is unique. We were both busy with work and the kids and just life in general, and there were also the countless moments during construction when our impatience and shortsightedness may have given way to concessions. So, it was essential that Lynn was always on top of the most minute details and seemingly minor transactions with subcontractors and material vendors to ensure the overall cohesiveness of the project.

What’s your best home secret? Institute a maintenance regimen and stick to it! Modern homes are rife with appliances and finishes that need upkeep, from air and vent filters, to custom finishes, to specialty tiles and textiles. No one wants to discover that a daily wipe-down could have saved the finish on their Wolf range. Doing the little things daily prevents big cost replacements.


Credit: James Blanco


  • Paint — Benjamin Moore


  • Chair — Flight Recliner, Design Within Reach
  • Sofa — Nelson Daybed, Herman Miller
  • Ottoman — AllModern
  • Loveseat — Article
  • Planters — Amazon
  • Side table — West Elm
  • Credenza — Vintage Danish Modern
  • Bookshelf — Design Within Reach
  • Area rug — West Elm
  • Media cabinet — Custom, East Coast Cabinets
  • TV/Speaker — Frame TV, Sonos Beam
  • Ceiling fan — Cirrus, Modern Fan Co
  • Wall sconces — Nicosia Sconce, A19 Artist Ceramic Lighting
  • Floor throughout — Cali Bamboo
Credit: James Blanco


  • Banquet — Custom DIY
  • Table — West Elm
  • Chairs — France & Sons
  • Light fixture —
  • Planter — Amazon
Credit: James Blanco


  • Cabinets — Custom by East Coast Cabinets
  • Sink — Blanco, Home Perfect
  • Faucet — Blanco, Home Perfect
  • Dishwasher (18” wide) — Fisher & Paykel, AppliancesConnection
  • Refrigerator (24” wide) — Bosch, AppliancesConnection
  • Range (30” wide) — Wolf, AppliancesConnection
  • Hood (30” wide) — Zephyr, AppliancesConnection
  • Backsplash — Artisan Tile Co
  • Counter surface — Caesarstone Raw Concrete
  • Stools — Article
  • Island Light — Progress Lighting
  • Recessed lights (highhats) — WAC
Credit: James Blanco


  • Bed — AllModern
  • Ceiling fan — Modern Fan Co
  • Wall sconce —
  • Dresser — Joss & Main
  • Dresser — Vintage Danish modern
  • Shelving unit — AllModern
  • Mirror — IKEA
Credit: James Blanco


  • Wall sconce 1 — Amazon
  • Wall sconce 2 — Amazon
  • Drapery and drapery hardware — ikea
  • Closet — custom DIY
Credit: James Blanco


  • Sink — Nameeks
  • Sink Faucet — Hansgrohe,
  • Toilet — Toto Washlet, Plumbtile
  • Tub — Toto 54” Iron Tub,
  • Tub spout / shower head — Grohe,
  • Medicine cabinet — Home Perfect
  • Wall sconce above medicine cabinet — Lumens
  • Wall sconce above sink — Amazon
  • Vanity — Custom by East Coast Cabinets
  • Counter surface — Caesarstone Fresh Concrete
  • Wall Tile — Stone Center Online
  • Pencil Liner — Akdo
  • Shower Doors — Custom, ABC Glass, Brooklyn

Thanks James and Stephanie!

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