Launch Slideshow

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harlem hideaway

harlem hideaway

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    Frank Oudeman

    Light washes into the apartment’s center through an existing skylight and a sculptural stair opening to the second-floor roof deck.

  • Downstairs, sleek white kitchen cabinetry extends into the living area, where it drops to a low seating shelf with hidden drawers. A drop-down movie screen disappears into the ceiling slot.

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    Downstairs, sleek white kitchen cabinetry extends into the living area, where it drops to a low seating shelf with hidden drawers. A drop-down movie screen disappears into the ceiling slot.

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    Frank Oudeman

    Downstairs, sleek white kitchen cabinetry extends into the living area, where it drops to a low seating shelf with hidden drawers. A drop-down movie screen disappears into the ceiling slot.

  • The most dramatic gesture is a white steel staircase replacing the old one in the apartments center. The floating stair allows sunlight to wash down over both walls through cantilevered, wenge-topped treads and thin vertical railings.

    http://www.residentialarchitect.com/Images/tmp29BC%2Etmp_tcm48-1006532.jpg

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    The most dramatic gesture is a white steel staircase replacing the old one in the apartments center. The floating stair allows sunlight to wash down over both walls through cantilevered, wenge-topped treads and thin vertical railings.

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    Frank Oudeman

    The most dramatic gesture is a white steel staircase replacing the old one in the apartment’s center. The floating stair allows sunlight to wash down over both walls through cantilevered, wenge-topped treads and thin vertical railings.

  • The architect swapped out the dining nooks two double-hung windows with clean-lined casements and customized another opening that frames a tree limb.

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    The architect swapped out the dining nooks two double-hung windows with clean-lined casements and customized another opening that frames a tree limb.

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    Frank Oudeman

    The architect swapped out the dining nook’s two double-hung windows with clean-lined casements and customized another opening that frames a tree limb.

  • Light and views pass through the bedrooms transparent shower

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    Light and views pass through the bedrooms transparent shower

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    Frank Oudeman

    Light and views pass through the bedroom’s transparent shower

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    Frank Oudeman

    Removing a dropped ceiling revealed the underside of the steeply pitched roofline, and near its peak, a skylight. The left storage bank holds a colorful sneaker collection.

  • Ipe pallets, cut around skylights, create conversation space on the roof.

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    Ipe pallets, cut around skylights, create conversation space on the roof.

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    Frank Oudeman

    Ipe pallets, cut around skylights, create conversation space on the roof.

  • The apartment occupies the buildings top one-and-a-half stories.

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    The apartment occupies the buildings top one-and-a-half stories.

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    Frank Oudeman

    The apartment occupies the building’s top one-and-a-half stories.

  • Construction plans.

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    Construction plans.

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    Courtesy studio SUMO

    Construction plans.

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    Courtesy studio SUMO

One of the satisfactions of architectural intervention is bringing new vibrancy to vestiges of the past. Not that there was much former glory inside this Dutch Revival townhouse in a landmarked area of Harlem. It had been turned into three apartments in the 1980s, part of a HUD program to encourage home ownership in that part of the city. When architect Sunil Bald first encountered the two-floor unit his client had purchased, the assets it did have were humble, and virtually hidden.

Even after a gut remodel eliminated some of the apartment’s walls, the long, narrow floor plan posed a challenge: how to create flowing living spaces measuring just 14 and a half feet wide? Fortunately, neither separation nor privacy was important to the owner, a bachelor who’d come straight from a small English town. “He just liked the neighborhood but wanted a more downtown style of living,” Bald says.

The redesign neatly addresses spatial and acoustical concerns. Built-in storage consoles line the party walls on each floor, making a clean sweep of clutter. Downstairs, sleek white kitchen cabinetry extends into the living area, where it drops to a low seating shelf with hidden drawers. The shelf is topped with white back-painted glass that folds vertically to cover the kitchen counter. 

Bald knew that natural light would make a big difference to the interior quality. He swapped out the dining nook’s two double-hung windows with clean-lined casements and customized another opening that frames a tree limb. The most dramatic gesture, though, is a white steel staircase replacing the old one in the apartment’s center. The floating stair allows sunlight to wash down over both walls through cantilevered, wenge-topped treads and thin vertical railings. “We thought of it like a harp, where the stair stringers switch back on the same plane,” Bald says.

Most of the light reaching the main floor comes through a new window wall leading out from the second floor onto the roof deck. At the top of the stairs is an open bridge between the bedroom loft and the “junky New York rooftop,” now covered in 4-foot-by-4-foot ipe pallets and outfitted with a conversation pit and built-in bench. Across the way, the bedroom reads as a minimalist temple, albeit one in which 54 metal racks hold the owner’s shoe collection.

Bald says the redesign grants his client’s wish for a dwelling where even the private zones could be on public display. “The more everyday aspects of life were relegated to those linear consoles. The idea was, on one hand, to create an open environment with varied spaces he could experience by himself, and on another, to create something staged that visitors could enjoy.”

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