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Remodeled apartment kitchens showing ways to optimize functionality and visual impact in a restricted space

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Two Manhattan kitchens reworked for impact and to maximize space – features are reflective tile backsplashes, stainless steel sinks, glass cabinets and wood floors

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Apartments in Manhattan, in the heart of the Big Apple, are notorious for having small kitchens. By necessity, NYC apartment remodels are often about thinking big in a limited space.

The reinvented kitchens on these pages are by architect Alan Berman and interior designer Juliana Codas of Archetype Design Studio. The pair share some of their professional insights on designing in a constrained environment.

Common issues with an apartment remodel are having to work in with fixed services and coping with space limitation, says Berman.

"Organization is imperative to dealing with the waterworks. Often building unit guidelines prevent delving into ceilings or floors to reroute plumbing. To avoid this, it pays to position the sink or sinks near the chase wall – where the hot and cold risers are concealed – and organize the design around that.

"Another good space and budget measure is to specify standard cabinets, arranging them in interesting compositional forms that avoid the need for filler elements. Savings on custom cabinetry can be channeled into a dramatic backsplash and more upmarket appliances for maximum aesthetic impact."


Berman says this was the approach taken for the cabinetry in the first kitchen featured.

"These standard cabinet heights don't reach up to the ceiling. This gives them a furniture-like appeal and evokes a sense of space – as if the pieces sit freely within a much larger volume."

The backsplash is in a two-tone mosaic tile that has a different look from different angles, creating luster and a 3-D effect. And the shiny tilework reflects light through the space.

Berman and Codas also chose translucent glass-fronted upper cabinets that add to a feeling of depth without revealing their contents.

"The owners wanted to enjoy casual eating at the island so we specified a different countertop to the perimeter work surfaces. The change from light to dark gray provides interest and a degree of separation," says Codas.

The other kitchen is used by the family as a self-contained living and casual eating space.

"To optimize usable area here we set some cabinets in the corridor to the dining room, meaning less storage was needed in the kitchen. The slender hallway countertop doubles as a serving counter between the two rooms."

Berman says that this kitchen layout is tiered, again for space reasons, but interest comes as much from materials as composition.

The casual dining table is in solid teak and the cabinetry is all solid oak. Although this has been painted, the grain of the wood can still be seen close up. This kitchen also benefits from a glossy, feature backsplash.

Lighting can be another tricky issue in an apartment kitchen – for similar reasons to the plumbing, says Berman.

"For the first kitchen, we avoided entering the ceiling by running spot lights from three existing light sockets. For the second design, the wiring was more accessible. This kitchen has a lower ceiling than the adjacent rooms and recessed lighting gives the illusion of a larger space. I always try to have three light sources in a design – overhead, under the cabinets, and internal lighting if the cabinets have glass fronts.

"Under-cabinet lighting shows off a feature backsplash and also provides a subtle night light when all the other lights are switched off."

First published date: 15 January 2015

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Credit List

Architect Alan Berman AIA, Archetype Design Studio (New York)
Interior designer Juliana Codas AIA, Archetype Design Studio First kitchen
Kitchen designers Ingrid Rancier, S&S Architectural Design; Juliana Codas, Archetype
Kitchen manufacturer Elephants Custom Furniture
Window and door hardware Omnia pulls, Simons Hardware
Cabinetry Solid white oak frame and panel with white satin lacquer finish
Countertops Glassos, polished
Flooring Porcelain wood-look tiles
Lighting Tech Lighting
Backsplash White glass BeBop tiles from Artistic Tile
Kitchen sink Franke, stainless steel
Faucets Franke High Arc
Oven, cooktop Viking
Ventilation Wolf
Refrigeration Sub-Zero
Dishwasher Bosch
Kitchen designer Sharmiette Murphy, Juliana Codas
Wallcovering Farrow & Ball in Dorset Cream
Blinds Osborne & Little