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Gut renovation transforms a dated studio into an airy apartment with space to entertain

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An architect faces a new challenge: designing a space for himself

All photos courtesy of Christopher Kitterman of STADT Architecture.

For architect Christopher Kitterman of STADT Architecture, gut renovating a 450-square-foot Gramercy studio presented an unfamiliar set of challenges. The project was the first he had taken on for himself, in a space he would live in, while adhering to a strict budget. And from the moment he walked in, Kitterman knew the apartment was a gut: carpeting and linoleum tiles covered the floor, while a galley kitchen shoved away from the apartment’s only window created a claustrophobic floorplan.

“When I saw the apartment I knew it could be a very clean, simple kind of space,” Kitterman says. So he went to the drafting board, reworking the layout and setting out to resolve other space use issues. The apartment, in a 19th-century former ice cream factory, had a “slightly awkward layout” with two ceiling heights. (In true architect speak, Kitterman calls that an “intriguing architectural problem” to have had to work around.) When Kitterman purchased the apartment, its occupants were using the area with the higher ceiling heights for sleeping, “which seemed completely crazy to me.”

Under his plan, the entire apartment was turned around. The kitchen and bathroom areas were swapped, creating a linear kitchen along one wall and a bathroom tucked into the back corner. That allowed for a gracious sized table where Kitterman and his partner could entertain. In another space-saving measure, he replaced the bed that once took up the apartment’s main living area with a Murphy bed hidden near the entrance, opening up the apartment’s high-ceilinged area as a relaxed living space.

A pull-down bed just feet from the front door doesn’t sound ideal, but some smart design decisions by Kitterman offer privacy. A silver curtain along the room’s wall of shelving can be pulled around on a track to block the bed from view of an open front door. Another smart decision: An extra door to the bathroom “provides a little practical relief” so each person can get to the bathroom when the bed is down.

Kitterman spent about $250 per square foot on the renovation—or about $112,500—and doesn’t discount the glory of access to trade discounts. Still, he says that budget was a challenge and his design didn’t go without plenty of tweaks. Custom cabinetry slated for the Murphy bed wall was priced too high, so a design change to off-the-shelf cabinetry that was installed on the wall saved a few thousand bucks.

Kitterman and his partner have lived in the space for about two and a half years, and wouldn’t change much of anything about their design, except for the walnut floors. They’re beautiful, but too soft for the kind of entertaining they like to do—just one of those practical live and learn scenarios.