September 1, 2010

Core Studies: A Smart 900-Square-Foot Manhattan Apartment

The refrigerator rarely houses more than Diet Coke. Still, the pristine Pullman kitchen is more than capable of producing dinner for 12 when the busy medical student who lives in this TriBeCa loft chooses to entertain others than those in her study group. In fact, the 8-foot-long counter provides the sort of culinary work surface that cramped Manhattanites love to envy, and the full-size oven, combining convection and microwave, easily accommodates a holiday bird.

These are just a few of the domestic perks that Lynch/Eisinger/Design neatly fit into a minimalist 900-square-foot interior defined by such quintessentially downtown surfaces as painted brick, refinished maple, birch plywood, and fiber cement that reads as concrete. “The apartment was chopped up into small rooms when we first encountered it,” Simon Eisinger says. The goal of the gut renovation, Christian Lynch adds, was “to be able to see daylight from every point, even the shower.” 

But while the medical student responds to the romance of openness, there’s always the counterbalancing wish for privacy. The solution in this case is a 275-square-foot plywood-clad volume that simultaneously contains the bedroom suite and anchors the kitchen—truly the core of the apartment. “It accentuates the new aspects versus the old, consolidating all daily functions and allowing for views, light, and air to circulate around it,” Eisinger continues.

The box is completely open on one side of the bedroom to take advantage of the windows that line the adjacent corridor. (Because guests pass this way, between the entry and the public area, a dove-gray curtain can slide across for privacy.) The opposite wall of the bedroom is laminated glass, bringing sunlight into the bathroom beyond. On the bathroom side of this translucent partition is the shower-more a small room in itself than a mere stall, thanks to clear glass doors that a passive vent in the ceiling keeps from steaming up. Artificial light, halogen and fluorescent, comes from ceiling fixtures and a cove under the medicine cabinet.

Aside from the translucent and clear glass, the walls of the shower are clad in 1-inch squares of pale gray ceramic, as is the ceiling. The shower’s floor, by contrast, is bluestone. It extends throughout the bathroom, beneath the floating vanity—likewise bluestone-topped—before flowing out toward the public area.

This bluestone-floored connec­tor emerges between the Pullman kitchen and one of the loft’s side­walls. Because the wall is windowless, Lynch and Eisinger were able to build in an impressive array of utilitarian options, all in a row. Closest to the kitchen, a pantry is concealed behind a set of satin-gloss white doors that match the kitchen cabinets. Next, what might have been just a closet instead houses a compact office lined in cork and fitted with a desktop and shelves.

Most innovative is the setup for the Murphy bed on the other side of the office. Another white door generally hides the bed in its niche. Then, if guests arrive to spend the night, the door swings out 90 degrees and locks in place, giving some privacy to the bed when it folds down. “The door creates a second room in the common area,” Lynch explains.

While overnight guests have the opportunity to enjoy the light-flooded shower, those just over for dinner tend to use the powder room by the entry. The ceramic tile on the walls is the same as the bathroom’s, only white. Instead of bluestone, fiber cement tops the vanity.

It’s an unusually long vanity for a mere powder room: 8 feet-because of the full-size washer and dryer inside. “A lot of New Yorkers would spend more time here than in the kitchen,” Eisinger says with a chuckle. Actually, that’s no joke.

Photography by Amy Barkow.

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