Helen Thompson
Helen Thompson
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This compact four-level apartment with a 425-foot footprint on Manhattan’s Upper West Side was one of the most unusual residential renovation projects Austin- and New York-based Specht Harpman Architects (now Specht) have ever been involved with. The wee apartment is located at the top of a brownstone, and the space stretches vertically for about 25 feet. A bonus is that it also had access to a roof terrace. The layout of the original apartment was so awkward that there wasn’t even a place to situate a bed or a sofa.

Specht Harpman’s solution was to create four separate “living platforms” inserted into the space that provide room for all the essentials and still allow the apartment to feel open and filled with light. The lowest level is an entry and kitchen space; a few steps up is the main living area. Above the living area is a cantilevered bed pavilion that projects out into the main space and is supported on steel beams. A final staircase leads up to a roof garden. All the spaces flow into one another, and the notion of distinct “rooms” is dissolved.

Materials throughout were selected to emphasize the spatial characteristics of the project. The perimeter is light with painted brick (part of the original wall), glass back splashes and shelving, and white lacquered kitchen cabinets, stair cabinets, and fittings.

The kitchen counter top wraps into the main living space to become a virtual hearth with built-in entertainment system.

The only door in the apartment is the one into the bathroom, located below the primary staircase.

The kitchen features fully concealed appliances and flip-up high storage unites for easy access.

The wrap-around counter top also functions as a dining table.

Stairs are not just for getting around from floor to floor in the apartment.

Built-in storage and drawers make full use of stair space.

The cantilevered bed pavilion is clad in dark wood and anchors the space—a central object around which everything revolves.

There are no traditional closets in the loft and furnishings have been kept to a minimum: Only a sofa, coffee table, bed, and side table are necessary.

Windows at the top of the stairs admit light and a stunning view on the way to the roof garden.

The terrace is tiny but allows access to the out of doors.


Another before shot.



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