Unfolding Apartment

Bigger than furniture, smaller than architecture. A renovation of a 420 square foot studio in Manhattan.
The client is a young single man who entertains frequently, has houseguests, and works occasionally from home. The challenge is to incorporate all of the aspects of a larger space for work and entertaining within a compact studio apartment.

Rather than the typical Manhattan approach of dividing a small space into even smaller individual rooms and spaces, a strategy of extreme density and flexibility is employed. A single oversized custom cabinetry piece is inserted along one wall. The cabinet is packed with all of the functional components of a larger apartment including a bed, a nightstand, a closet, a home office, a library, kitchen storage, and most of the lighting for the room.

When these elements are packed away, the open space of the apartment is airy and loft-like. The domestic spaces of the apartment can be expanded progressively and adjusted via a reconfigurable series of doors and panels that can slide and pivot open and closed creating all of the individual spaces of the apartment and to transform it for various uses. Spaces can be calibrated to be private or more porous with via reflective secondary panels that open to reveal perforated lacquered metal screens.

The mass of the blue cabinet is broken by a series of aluminum billets recessed into the surface. The width of the aluminum elements varies according to body positions and heights, creating grips and handles with which to operate the cabinet. They function to subtly choreograph movement across the surface.

Lighting is consolidated within the top of the cabinet, providing an even illumination without any visible fixtures. Kitchen items are collected onto custom stainless steel shelving and concealed by a backlit sliding red resin panel.

Other images can be seen in the gallery down below


Photography: Alan Tansey

About Michael K Chen Architecture (MKCA)

Michael K Chen Architecture (MKCA) is an architecture practice headquartered in New York City. The studio is widely recognized for buildings, interiors, and objects that embrace material expression, elegant spatial choreography, and innovative and thoughtful approaches to craft. Through a process that is considered, collaborative, and inclusive, MKCA is invested in linking the aesthetic, technical and social worlds, based on the belief that design creates impact through its participants, materials, and making.

©Max Burkhalter

Our approach is deeply informed by curiosity and a love of tinkering, of drawing, of discourse and of making. Our methods and technical capabilities are at the leading edge of design, analysis, manufacturing, and construction, enabling us to move fluidly across the realms of beauty and function. We strive to produce spaces and experiences that are unexpected, intelligent, and full of delight, through processes that value diversity, environmental stewardship, and workers.
As an experienced New York City based practice, we are comfortable with complexity and treat adversity as an opportunity. We are a diverse team who bring a wide range of experiences to the design and making of each project, and we draw upon an even broader multidisciplinary network of collaborators, including artists, designers, craftspeople, scientists, advocates, and community engagement leaders to create unique and thoughtful work for our clients.
MKCA has received honors for design excellence, research, social good, and for contributions to the design disciplines and has been featured in Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, New York Magazine, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, The New York Times, Vogue Living, and Wallpaper*, among many other publications.