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Manhattan Apartments: Make the most of a Tiny West Village studio

by SuperiorInvest

Many people are looking for the biggest home they can afford. But not Michael Ingram Jones.

When he started looking at moving back from San Francisco to New York, size was a secondary concern, considering the city to be his larger living room. Far more important was the neighborhood he wanted to live in: the West Village. And the specific type of building he hoped to live in: a pre-war apartment building built by Bing & Bing.

In the early 20th century, prominent New York developers built several buildings in the West Village, ”and I would have lived in any of them,” said Mr. Ingram Jones, a fashion designer in his 60s who lived in the Bing & Bing Building at 302 West 12th Street , before moving to San Francisco in 2007 to serve as senior vice president of design for Old Navy.

“I wanted to travel a lot, so I wanted a space that was safe,” he said. “And these buildings have good security. You can just lock them up and go away for a few weeks or months.”

Still, he added, “I didn’t go into the search thinking it was going to be this small.”

But he found a small one: a 450-square-foot studio with a view of the Empire State Building.

“I had friends who lived in the building, so I knew it well,” he said. “The space was available and had a great view. She is the one who introduced herself.”

The apartment was renovated, but not in a way that Mr. Ingram Jones liked. The arrangement, he thought, was inefficient and a waste of space.

So after buying it for $799,000 in June 2018, he got in touch Messan O’Rorkea New York architecture firm he hired to transform two previous homes, which also weren’t that big: his last West Village apartment, about 1,000 square feet, and his San Francisco house, about 1,300 square feet.

His new home would be less than half the size of his previous one, but Mr. Ingram Jones was sure that Messana O’Rorke could handle it. He saw a Manhattan apartment that one of the firm’s partners, Brian Messana, had designed for himself—and it was even smaller, at 420 square feet.

“I had no doubt they would present something I would want to live in,” Mr Ingram Jones said.

When planning the gut renovation, the architects began to think about the largest piece of furniture the apartment should contain.

“When we look at studios, there’s always the question: What to do with the bed?” said Mr. Messana. Most people tuck it in a corner, push it against a wall, try to hide it behind a folding screen or use a Murphy bed.

In his own apartment, Mr. Messana took a completely different approach: he placed the bed in the center, in a cube formed by a large door that can be closed during the day and opened at night. “It creates an object in a space, as well as a sequence of spaces that can actually make a small apartment bigger,” he said.

Mr. Ingram Jones liked the result so much that he and the architects decided to use the same strategy in his apartment. They tucked the large bed into a box painted deep aubergine gray, with circulation space on all sides. At the rear of the apartment, the box has doors that open into integrated wardrobes; the other three sides open into a sleeping area surrounded by gray felt.

On one side of the apartment, a paneled wall runs the length of the space, concealing a door that opens to the bathroom, kitchen and long storage area. On the other side of the apartment is an alcove which contains the desk of Mr. Ingram Jones. The living and dining area is in the front part, by the windows.

The architects used a limited palette of materials to give the space a sense of calm. The oak of the kitchen cabinets looks almost identical to the wood of the existing hardwood strip floors; the white Carrara marble in the bathroom is repeated on the floor, sink and shelf.

“When you limit your palette” — especially when you’re working with a small space, Mr. Messana said — “your space seems bigger.”

The team began construction in September 2019, but due to Covid-related delays, the renovation took until September 2021 to complete at a cost of about $300,000.

So what is it like to live in such a small place?

The architecture may be pared down, with clean lines and simple details, but Mr. Ingram Jones is quick to declare that he is no minimalist. “I like furniture, I like art and I like all the other things that go with it,” he said. “I live in poorly designed apartments, but I carry a lot of stuff with me.”

These things, accumulated over the years, make an apartment warmer and more comfortable than an austere space. There are a pair of deep, linen-upholstered English armchairs by George Sherlock, a carved wooden Senufo table and a wide range of objects and art – including a taxidermy of a sulphur-crested cockatoo in a glass case and ink illustrations by Sue McNally, a contemporary. artist.

With such a thoughtfully planned space, Mr. Ingram Jones said, he rarely misses a bigger home.

“There are times when I wish I had more space,” he admitted. “But that’s not very often. This apartment has everything I could need: a great bathroom, a great kitchen and an office. I don’t know what else you could want in this city.”

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