Thursday, May 16, 2013

Upper West Side challenge

Manhattan's Upper West Side appeals to me more for some reason than any other Manhattan section.  It could be that this part of the island has a more lived-in feel and is a healthier mix of beautiful houses, apartment buildings and amenities.  I've been contemplating doing a project there for some time now, so when I got this opportunity I jumped to it.

This condominium apartment is not very big but has a certain spaciousness to it, with an open plan living-dining areas and a potential for an open kitchen.  The clients are a really nice couple with a great vision and lots of design ideas.  The biggest challenges are moving a bathroom and installing a central AC system.  Once I had my task laid out in front of me, the work has begun.  Here's what we are starting out with:
The existing living room features panel moldings and a non-working fireplace:

There is a huge window in the dining area facing a courtyard, but at seven floors up all you see are the opposite walls...

 The kitchen has been remodeled some years back (new cabinets and appliances) but it doesn't fit my clients' needs or their aesthetic requirements, so we're not keeping it.

The plan was to move one bathroom to make more room for the kitchen and breakfast counter.  According to New York City law, we have to make it ADA accessible.  This means, in a nutshell, that a door leading into it has to be 34" wide (32" is a minimum clearance for a person in a wheelchair) and there has to be a 60" diameter turn-around inside the bathroom.  Aside from that and a wall-mounted sink, it's a regular bathroom.  Creating an accessible bathroom is always a challenge in the City because if there's one thing we don't have here it's space!  Fortunately for us, this apartment did not present too much trouble in terms of planning this bathroom.  We quickly came up with the plan:

 We have to get an approval from the condo board and the management company before going for a building permit, so we sent the plan in.

While all this is going on, we're exploring different options for the central AC system.  The roof and the courtyard are off-limits and we can't sacrifice a window for a conventional system to be installed in a mechanical room inside the apartments.  Mike from EMC ( recommends a high-velocity system.  I've had very good experience with them in the past, especially with Unico (  They're quiet, economical to run and have very small outlets, round or rectangular.  Now we have to wait for Mike's proposal to assess the cost.

In an off-chance that our initial plan does not get approved, I came up with an alternative solution.  This plan doesn't allow for a breakfast area, but other than that, I almost like it better.  I should probably explain what the general design idea is.  We're creating a traditional, almost Baroque, envelope (walls, doors, trim) and then stuffing it with an eclectic mix of furniture, fixtures and finishes.  With that said, Option B offers better opportunity for introducing traditional elements.


To be continued...