800 Square Feet, and Not an Inch Wasted


Can a studio apartment ever seem as spacious as a loft? That depends on how clever you are at planning. Because when you’re downsizing to 800 square feet from 2,500, every inch counts.

Frans and Dalal Preidel learned that last summer, after they sold the sprawling Flatiron loft where they had lived for more than a decade and bought a studio apartment in Kips Bay. Their intention was to turn it into a pied-à-terre; their main residence would be a large waterfront house in Sea Cliff, N.Y. But designing and building that house would take a couple of years, and in the meantime the apartment — a dated postwar studio with a tiny kitchen, low ceilings and a single closet, for which they paid about $610,000 — would be their primary home.

“Coming from a big loft, we really liked the idea of a large open living space,” said Mr. Preidel, an associate real estate broker with Brown Harris Stevens in New York. “To get that feeling, we needed to keep the living room as open as possible and make everything else squeeze into tight spaces.”

Using SketchUp, 3D modeling software, Mr. Preidel designed a new layout with a reconfigured kitchen, hidden storage, space for a king-size bed and sliding doors that can be closed for privacy or opened to create a loftlike ambience. Ms. Preidel, a retired banking director with an eye for design, focused on finishes, including seven-inch white oak planks from Siberian Floors, white bianco Brazilian marble counters from Artistic Tile and striking graffiti-patterned shower tiles from the Tile Spark.

“We created a mock-up of everything there was, so that we could sort of walk through it and feel all the dimensions,” Mr. Preidel said. “Then we would literally measure it out in our apartment and say, ‘O.K., we’re going to have this much room between the counter and the refrigerator — is that enough?’”

By the time they began working with their contractor — Krzysztof Famurat, whom they found through Sweeten, a free service that matches homeowners with vetted professionals — the couple knew exactly what they wanted, down to the model number of the refrigerator. As Ms. Preidel said, “We’re hands-on kind of clients.”

But then, it wasn’t the first time they had done something like this. In 2010, they bought and gut-renovated a 900-square-foot beachfront cottage in Montauk, N.Y. “There we can sleep comfortably — with no one on top of each other — 12 people,” Ms. Preidel said. One bedroom has bunk beds that sleep four people, the master bedroom sleeps two, the living room sofas sleep two and a large bay window with built-in Coco-Mat mattresses sleeps four.

Using tricks they learned in Montauk, Mr. Preidel designed two flexible sleeping spaces for the Kips Bay apartment. Along one wall of the living room, a queen-size Murphy bed and guest closet are concealed behind a white-lacquer wall unit. To avoid having to rearrange the furniture every time a guest stayed over, they turned the Murphy bed on its side, so that the bed folds out with the headboard perpendicular to the wall.

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Sliding doors with opaque glass in this renovated Kips Bay studio can be closed to create distinct living, sleeping and kitchen areas or open for a loft-like feel.

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Sweeten

“Keeping this open just visually opened up the whole room,” said Mr. Preidel, who ran a walnut shelf about a foot off the floor along the opposite wall. “We don’t have the good ceiling height here, so we needed to do everything to enhance the length and the width of the place. We felt like a way to do that was to keep things low — keep things as clean as possible — so that you get these vertical lines going.”

To separate the living area from the bedroom area, which has a custom-made king-size platform bed and matching night stands, they had the contractor build sliding doors with opaque glass. “The idea is you can close it off entirely if you have guests over, and you can both have privacy,” Mr. Preidel said.

But they also needed a way for guests to get to the bathroom without walking through the bedroom area, so they added what amounts to a secret passage through the walk-in closet, by way of a floor-to-ceiling shoe-rack that pivots open like a door.

“This is the only studio apartment that turns into a two-bedroom, where each bedroom has direct access to a bathroom,” Mr. Preidel said.

Needless to say, this sort of renovation doesn’t come cheap. The entire project cost nearly $200,000 (including materials and labor, and high-end appliances like a $2,995 Bertazzoni range and $5,595 Liebherr refrigerator).

One area where they managed to economize was the bathroom, for which they chose the graffiti-motif tiles to line the shower, saving about $2,500. “This was much cheaper than the actual marble I wanted to put up,” Ms. Preidel said.

Mr. Preidel had the entire apartment wired so that lighting, temperature, sound and even the front door handle can be controlled from a smartphone. The couple also gutted and expanded the 6-by-8-foot kitchen, adding counter-saving features like a pop-out microwave that emerges on sliders from under the counter.

They found room where you would think there was none. By leaving space behind the wall that holds the refrigerator and the wine cooler in the kitchen, they were able to fashion an L-shaped closet that serves as a mini mud room, hiding items like boots, umbrellas and coats. And in the living area — occupying a high percentage of one wall — are a pull-down screen and a projector.

“That’s one amenity we didn’t want to give up — we do like to watch movies,” Mr. Preidel said.

“I was probably the one that was most worried about leaving the big place, because I thought I was going to miss it so much,” he added. But “I’ve got to be honest: There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t walk into this apartment and really love coming home.”

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