With their two daughters grown and gone, the owners of this small two-bedroom condo on the top floor of a vintage row house commissioned Red Hook-based League Studio Architects to rethink their home of three decades. Their priorities: private roof access, more daylight and a new kitchen.
The couple, both artists, had always owned the roof, accessing it through a ladder in the public hall. “They wanted a direct, private way to get there,” said Andrew Magnes, one of two partners in League Studio, along with Gregory Canaras. “In an apartment of less than 1,000 square feet, a spiral stair was the only way to do it.”
Because the clients are avid readers with “tons of books,” the architects surrounded the new spiral stair with a soaring bookcase, and added an 8-by-6-foot skylit bulkhead on the roof with enough space for a reading chair.
“We wanted something larger, and tried to push the size of the bulkhead, but the Building Department pushed back,” Magnes said.
The new stair sits in a corner of the living room previously occupied by a loft bed for guests. The space beneath it was “packed with stuff,” Magnes said. “They basically had no access to that part of the apartment. This totally opened it up.”
League Studio also remodeled the kitchen in its entirety, removing the existing galley kitchen and replacing it with a new kitchen along two walls. Two new skylights and storage that takes advantage of the tall ceilings, which reach 11 or 12 feet in some areas, “really changed the way they experience their home,” the architect said.
The budget for all improvements, including new windows, the new stair and bulkhead, the new kitchen and remodeled bath, was under $150,000, Magnes said. In lieu of high-end finishes, “There’s a lot of white paint over wood.”
Kowal Construction was the GC.
“A custom stair was too expensive and complicated,” Magnes said, as well as difficult to fit into the available space. Instead, the architects used a customizable stair kit from The Iron Shop near Philadelphia.
Hardie panels clad the outside of the new bulkhead, which is made of steel.
Decking for the roof remains a future project.
Keeping the plumbing where it had been before was a money-saver in the new kitchen.
Cabinets from IKEA‘s Akurum line were grouped within custom framing elements to create an abundance of storage. Sleek Häfele cabinet pulls and a countertop of Celador, a quartz-based engineered product, elevate the design.
The existing floor was refurbished with white paint and polyurethane.
[Photos by Seth Boyd]
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