Set in a former chocolate factory in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, New York, fashion designer Victoria Bartlett’s apartment has a bright, open feel, despite the two huge concrete columns that take up no small part of the 93-square-metre space. That’s all thanks to Jaffer Kolb and Ivi Diamantopoulou of New York-based design practice New Affiliates.
‘When we first saw the studio, it was a typical “developer apartment”, featuring poor quality materials and appliances,’ remembers Jaffer. ‘Pipes were boxed out, which led to a feeling of closed darkness, and there was a mezzanine sleeping area that was 2.5 metres tall with a one-metre space beneath, so that when you opened the front door, you were confronted with a cave of storage.’ The designers wanted a more dynamic layout, so they moved the mezzanine floor – host to the bedroom – to a less imposing position.
In order to maximise daylight and space in the apartment, New Affiliates started from scratch, removing plasterboard walls, exposing pipes and ripping out the existing kitchen, leaving a roomier, more open-plan design. Walls and ceilings were painted cool white and the floorboards were bleached. Next, they installed a brand-new mezzanine structure with distinct spaces for sleeping, studying and storage. ‘The old mezzanine floor was a thick concrete plate,’ says Ivi. ‘We used a thin steel floor slab instead, so we gained nearly 30 centimetres of space.’
This might sound like a bulky design, but it actually enhances the feeling of openness. ‘You can make a small apartment appear more airy by celebrating volume and solidness, as long as you puncture it with enough windows, cuts and openings,’ explains Jaffer. ‘Here, that is achieved by creating a huge cut-out in the walls between the kitchen and the study beyond.’
At the request of homeowner Victoria, designers Jaffer and Ivi took inspiration from the minimalist artist Donald Judd and used plywood throughout the interior, both to build the mezzanine structure and for cabinet doors in the kitchen area.
The budget for the project was limited, so at just over £20 per 1.2 x 2.4 metre sheet, plywood was a practical choice. ‘We looked at different kinds of plywood and settled on Radiata – a type of pine – for two reasons,’ says Ivi. ‘Firstly, because we are averse to having too much yellow in the scheme – it makes everything look a little dingy – and Radiata has a pink undertone. Secondly, because it has a rich grain, almost akin to zebra striping, so it’s decorative but with a roughness, and – apart from a coat of urethane to seal it – requires very little preparation.’ Using a single key material works well in this small space – the effect is uncluttered and clean. new-affiliates.us
For the full house tour see ELLE Decoration March 2018
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