September 1, 2012

Up Meets Down: Lubrano Ciavarra Architects Converts Cramped Floorplan into Spacious Loft

Not unlike many city apartment-hunters, TV executive Frances Berwick and asset manager Marc Zeitoun were looking for a short commute to their demanding jobs, a view worthy of a Woody Allen movie, and a loft-style expansiveness that lends itself both to family life, in this case with a 9-year-old son, and to frequent entertaining. The condo that the couple found did deliver on the first two requirements—Upper East Side location, stupendous terrace over looking the river from the 18th floor—but came up short on the last. The cramped layout and built-up floor of the “postwar developer special,” Anne Marie Lubranoof Lubrano Ciavarra Architects  says, made her “instantly nervous.”

Undeterred, she and Lea Ciavarra embarked on a renovation of the 1,800-square-foot space, opening up the public areas dramatically by removing walls between the living and dining areas and the kitchen. The pair then painted almost all the remaining walls matte white and replaced the post war flooring with ebonized white-oak boards. Reflective materials— stainless-steel counters in the kitchen caramel-colored glass topping built-ins under windows in the living area—give the illusion of more space. Uniform rows of recessed LED fixtures help clean up the ceiling plane.

The 8-foot ceiling seems to be heightened by the verticality of the dining area’s wall covering, a digitally printed reproduction of a contemporary drip painting. “That wall grounds the public area and ties everything together,” Ciavarra says. The multi colored lines further more drove the color direction for furnishings in the entire apartment.

One of the subtle divisions that defines the public space without interrupting its flow is the drywall partition that she and Lubrano installed after ripping out the full wall between the living and dining areas. Ingeniously, the partition is fitted with a pocket door on either side. “When the doors slide away, the wall looks like a discreet white plane,” Lubrano says. When they come out, kids can watch TV without interrupting adults dining.

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