This article advocates for prioritizing your experience when doing a gut renovation. We demonstrate that when you elevate your pleasure, you increase value.


In New York City, real estate is precious, and this 450-square-foot studio apartment takes advantage of its valuable space, which is bathed in morning light in the fashionable Gramercy Park neighborhood. Located just south of the Upper East Side.

The term “Pied à terre,” literally meaning “foot on the ground” in French, refers to a secondary home, used less frequently than a vacation home.

Our client saw her apartment as an investment in her own pleasure and as an asset. She achieved her goals by enhancing her visits to NYC with a beautiful environment and elevating the coop’s market value to the top tier of comparable apartments in this neighborhood of similar size.

The Story

The Challenge:
Located south of the Upper East Side, the apartment presented several challenges – limited space, a charming but obstructed casement window, insufficient closet space, and outdated finishes. Our mission was clear: create a functional, eco-friendly, and cost-sensitive design that maximizes the use of available space.

The Client:
Our client, a chic bi-coastal businesswoman passionate about art, desired a stylish sanctuary for her frequent visits to Manhattan. The goal was to transform this compact studio into a modern and welcoming space where she could feel at home and entertain.

The Transformation:
We removed unnecessary elements to enhance light penetration and create a more spacious feel. We reused existing cabinetry, refinished the floors, and kept the bathroom fittings and configuration. We designed built-ins and carefully selected furnishing to optimize storage, flexibility, and entertainment possibilities. We made the large East-facing window the focal point the moment you enter the apartment.

The result is a 450-square-foot studio that feels expansive.

Dark floors set off a white bed adorned with vibrant, multicolored pillows and covered with a view through the apartment to the large window and living area beyond.

The apartment opens before you, with more storage hiding in plain sight: in the headboard and under the mattress.

An inviting kitchen with drinks and food on the counter, a table set for four with a sofa, a large window, and art on the walls beyond.

The dining table opens to seats 4-6; the interior shade separates the sleeping nook from the more public spaces.

An inviting kitchen with a table set for two with a sofa and a large window and art on the walls beyond.

A full kitchen with a refrigerator and freezer below the counter keeps the studio open and airy. The table is now folded to seat two.

The Results

We used the following key design elements to achieve our client’s desire to invest in her experience and the asset value of the apartment.

  • Strategic Storage Solutions: Custom closets were designed, and furniture was selected to maximize storage, ensuring ample room for the client’s wardrobe and possessions while keeping the floor open and available.
  • Multipurpose Furniture: Dual-functionality was vital. A dining table that doubled in size, a daybed transforming into a peaceful sleeping nook, and double-sided curtains for privacy allowed for easy transformations based on the client’s needs.
  • Bright and Airy Aesthetics: Unnecessary elements were removed for more light penetration, creating a bright and airy ambiance. The kitchen integrates into the main entertaining space with full amenity appliances.
  • Art: The client’s art collection found its place in the studio, illuminated by museum-quality lighting, turning the apartment into a gallery of her collection.
  • Bathroom Upgrade: Marble wall tiles, accessories, and a utility closet accessing hard-to-reach storage areas added a touch of luxury to the upgraded bathroom.

Looking the other way toward the front door, the all-white kitchen is below the counter, allowing your view to extend through the apartment.

To make the apartment feel more extensive, we removed an extraneous partition, soffit, and cabinet to make the space more expansive.

Sleek, compact white kitchen with an expandable cafe table and two chairs.

This minimalist kitchen integrates into the main entertaining space with full amenity appliances below the counter.


This studio showcases maximizing storage, embracing eco-friendly practices, and creating a spaciousness uncommon for its size. The transformed apartment now perfectly aligns with our client’s lifestyle.
Takeaways for Small Space Dwellers:

  • Strategic Furniture Choices: Opt for furniture that serves multiple purposes to make the most of your space.
  • Lighting Matters: Enhance natural light whenever possible to create a brighter, more open atmosphere.
  • Personal Touch: Incorporate elements that reflect your personality, like a curated art collection, to make your space uniquely yours.
  • Storage Optimization: Invest in custom storage solutions to keep your belongings organized and easily accessible.
  • Flexibility is Key: Embrace designs that allow for easy transformations, adapting your space to different needs.

A cozy, curtained sleeping alcove white with red accents on the bedding. A small painting and light slot personalize the space. A built-in dresser and a wide closet are on the far side.

The apartment starts narrow as it passes the bathroom. Customized storage defines the dressing and sleeping area.

A floor-to-ceiling built-in closet with sizeable flat panel doors and a multi-drawer built-in dresser is set off against an almost-black floor.

A quiet wall hides a large closet.

The larch closet opens to become a walk-in closet, with full-height show storage on both doors and multiple height clothes bars holding clothing.

The second layer of doors reveals 15 linear feet of multilevel hanging and over 30 linear feet of shoe storage!

An all-white minimalist bathroom with a wall-mounted sink, toilet, and a frameless fixed glass shower panel. The walls and floor are tiled in narrow 1.5”x 4” marble tile in a stacked pattern for a sophisticated look.

The bathroom was “re-skinned” with new tile over the bright-red mosaic to create a calm experience. We retained All other elements with the combined intention of saving money and reducing construction waste.

Moving Forward:

Focus on the experience of a space to create value. Unlock the potential of a small space with clever creativity and increased investment in solutions with more than one function. When turning a compact area into a stylish retreat, remember it’s not just about size—it’s about blending beauty functionality and maximizing your space. The effort and investment will expand small spaces.

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About Us:

At AKA, we specialize in transforming homes to increase light views and experience; we focus on our clients’ delight!

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Allegra Kochman

Allegra Kochman

About the Author

Allegra has a BA with Honors from Dartmouth College and a Master of Architecture from Columbia University. She aims to write straightforward and practical content for those who want to gut renovate their homes.