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A Mid-Century Relic Gets a Modern, Functional Refresh

The design commission for this awkward, 1,100-square-foot apartment called for a total gut renovation. The clients — two attorneys and Florida natives — asked architect Michael K. Chen for something bright. “Organizing the apartment plan to maximize natural light was very important to them,”

The open living-dining-kitchen space, seen above, is light and bright and pulled-together, with help from a soothing palette of materials. The Cappellini sofa is covered in a soft, gray Maharam wool. The millwork for the console and TV element is in bleached ash, Montpelier Gris marble, Corian, and lacquer, and the window wall features storage within the new built-out cabinets that also conceal the air and heating systems.

Chen says, “They also wanted an office space that was more than just a place to park their laptops.” Chen’s renovation included scaling down a second bedroom behind the kitchen to create a generous hallway along the window wall. It includes a work space where a pocket door can close off the area if need be.

The work space can be seen at the end of the hallway. Photo: Alan Tansey/Courtesy of MKCA
The kitchen before the renovation. Photo: Courtesy of MKCA

Chen says that “a question as prosaic as ‘Where does the TV go?’” helped him reorganize the layout. The new kitchen offers the best of both worlds: It’s open to guests and family members while someone is cooking, but it can close off just enough to hide the muss and fuss of food prep. The TV is concealed within the wall unit to the left and can be revealed with the tug of a leather pull tab instead of an automated gadget. “I wanted the kitchen unit to feel like a piece of furniture,” Chen says.

His clients asked for “a pristine laboratory” feeling. The original oak floors were stained white with a custom solution. Photo: Alan Tansey/Courtesy of MKCA
Most older apartments feature the proverbial “kitchen in a box,” as seen here before the renovation, creating wasted space in an unused corner. Photo: Courtesy of MKCA
The gut renovation entailed creating a better storage wall and building a custom banquette and dining table. The other challenge, Chen says of the renovation, “was to get everything done within the building’s three-month construction period. To accomplish that in a relatively compact window, you need a smart, organized contractor — which we had in the form of Structure NYC.” Photo: Alan Tansey/Courtesy of MKCA
The living room, seen here before the renovation, was begging for what Chen describes as a “crisp, streamlined overhaul.” Disparate elements, such as the exposed air conditioner and heater within the window wall, contributed to visual chaos, while the furniture placement wasn’t really conducive to conversation. Photo: Courtesy of MKCA
A fait accompli! Another view of the living room, this time showing the new space that accommodates Chen’s clients, whether they are cooking and entertaining, or enjoying a quiet night in. It’s a compact oasis that now feels fresh and up-to-date. Photo: Alan Tansey/Courtesy of MKCA
A Mid-Century Relic Gets a Modern, Functional Refresh