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Architecture Workshop PC

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dmadsen, hanley wood, llc

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400 sq. feet


Paul and Billie Andersson


  • Other: Resolution Expediting
  • General Contractor: Alb-Bros Construction Corp.

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Text by Katie Gerfen

The size of the average single-family home in the U.S. is on the rise again, post-recession, ticking upward to 2,678 square feet in 2015. But homes in cities run smaller, and homes in New York City run smaller still—in fact, the smallest legal apartment there is a mere 400 square feet. The Pivot Apartment is located in a coveted prewar building, but it squeaks by at that minimum size. To make the most of their not-so-big space, the owners brought in Brooklyn-based Architecture Workshop. Now the apartment can be reconfigured for any number of uses, smartly making a little space do a lot of work. The main agent of this change? A movable wall that swings open from a hinged point to reveal hidden functionality. The wall contains drawers, cabinets, and closets, providing all the storage the owners could need without the square-footage-eating addition of extra furniture. It even conceals a bespoke Murphy bed.

Light-colored finishes and recessed lighting make the space seem larger than its diminutive footprint, and Architecture Workshop’s sensible and inventive additions enable the small space to be as versatile as any multiroom abode. Planning to host a dinner party for 10? Close the wall, raise the drop leaves on the dining table, and the room becomes a spacious entertaining space. Craving some privacy? Open the wall, pull out a sliding pocket door from across the way, and the room splits into a living room and a bedroom. Want to wake up to morning light in the inboard bedroom? There’s even a hack for that: Shutters behind a recessed shelf in the pivoting wall open to admit light from the living area windows. The architects say they took their inspiration from a Swiss Army knife, but whatever the source, Architecture Workshop demonstrates with Pivot that creative design can provide the proper setting (or tool, for that matter) for any occasion.

Project Credits
Project: Pivot Apartment, New York
Client/Owner: Paul and Billie Andersson
Architect: Architecture Workshop, New York . Robert Garneau (partner)
General Contractor: Alb-Bros Construction Corp.
Size: 400 square feet
Cost: $250,000

This article appeared in the May 2016 issue of ARCHITECT magazine.

Read all of ARCHITECT's coverage of the 2016 AIA Honor Awards

Project Description

This single 400-square-foot studio apartment has multiple identities. It's a home with a cozy bedroom or a home with no bedroom or a dining parlor capable of hosting ten friends. The changes in personality are accomplished with the movement of a wall of meticulously designed custom cabinetry that can stand flat as part of a seamless main wall or pivot out from there to create a new wall that divides the studio.

Expertly crafted, the pivoting wall contains drawers, cabinets and openings. It can be configured as a partial divider that separates a study from the living room, as a full wall and door that shuts off a bedroom from the living room, or as any of a number of other possibilities. A bed concealed in the rear wall can be pulled down into the space or left hiding, to make the space a dressing room or study.

When the wall is flat, the visible facing is mostly a crisp, serene white. But when it pivots outward, a plywood finish is revealed on the now-exposed surfaces, for a warmer, homier look in the bedroom, dressing room or sitting room that it defines.

With the wall folded flat, out of the way, the studio opens up as one room amply day-lit from the vintage building's big windows. The client, who likes to entertain, can set up a large table for dinners, but when not entertaining a group, folds the table down to a smaller size for its spot next to the galley kitchen. There, it can be raised for food-prep work or lowered for dining. Nearby, the kitchen backsplash opens up to reveal more storage.

All around, the architects have created a yacht-like space that blurs the distinction between architecture and furniture.
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