El Pequeño Apartamento Convertible

A Murphy bed and flanking closets disappear into the living room walls when not in use.CreditLinda Jaquez for The New York Times

How do you transform a dated 400-square-foot studio into a modern home with room to hold a dinner party and welcome an occasional overnight guest?

That was the challenge Kseniya and Ryan Merritt presented to Robert Garneau, an architect in Brooklyn, a few years ago when they decided to overhaul their ground-floor studio in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan. Also on the list of demands, said Ms. Merritt, 35, who works in commercial real estate, was “comfortable closet space” and an “open and roomy layout.”

When a contractor introduced the couple to Mr. Garneau in late 2014, it was kismet. Not only does Mr. Garneau specialize in small spaces, but the couple also realized that the pictures they had found online and saved as examples of what they wanted were photos of his projects. “We loved both the style and aesthetic of his work,” said Mr. Merritt, 41, an executive vice president of human resources at a financial services firm in Manhattan.

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Mr. Garneau had his work cut out for him. The apartment, which the Merritts bought for about $340,000 in 2012, was long overdue for an update. The closed-off kitchen and bathroom were dark and out of date. A mezzanine that cut through the apartment was a big a waste of space. And the entire place had been painted mint green by a previous owner.

To complicate matters further, a new management company had recently taken over the building, so the couple had to submit everything twice, creating lengthy delays.

After nearly a year of paperwork and co-op submissions to get the project going, the apartment was taken down to the studs. The kitchen was opened up and reoriented to face the living area, with walnut-finish cabinetry and textured slate-colored tiles. To take advantage of the 13-foot ceilings, the bulky mezzanine was replaced with a compact storage loft that doubles as a sleeping area for overnight guests.

A queen-size Murphy bed was also added in the main living space, and sliding pocket doors allow the kitchen, bathroom and foyer to be closed off from the main space to create a more intimate bedroom suite when the Murphy bed is opened. Folding up the bed and sliding open the doors makes room for dining or entertaining. When the bed is tucked away, the sleeping area becomes an extension of the living room, creating a loftlike feeling.

Photo

Sliding pocket doors allow the bathroom to be closed off for privacy.CreditLinda Jaquez for The New York Times

Then there is the furniture. An adjustable table with metal legs can be raised up to bar height for a cocktail party or for more kitchen counter space; when lowered and extended, the table can seat up to 10 people for a dinner party.

With the push of a button on a remote control, a large flat-screen television rises from behind a flickering ethanol fireplace in the entertainment console. Thirsty? Grab a beer from the hidden mini-refrigerator on the other end of the cabinet. With another push of a button, the television vanishes and a projector appears across the room, casting moving pictures across an entire wall.

“That was always the big finale,” Mr. Merritt said. When he showed off the apartment to his friends, he said, their reactions were typically, “Oh, that’s pretty neat.” Then, he added, “I showed them the big-screen projector, and everyone was like, ‘Whoa, that’s really cool!’”

In the bathroom, the tub was traded for a double sink and walk-in shower with a glass door that pivots so that one sink is always accessible. “If we open the door and someone is taking a shower, you can still get in the bathroom and brush teeth,” Ms. Merritt said, demonstrating the flexibility of the space for a visitor on a recent tour.

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Ryan Merritt climbs a ladder to reach a storage area over the entryway. Credit Linda Jaquez for The New York Times

Hidden storage includes a wall of floor-to-ceiling cabinetry, closets on either side of the Murphy bed and built-in drawers in the dressing area. The foyer is lined with closets, and there’s even a built-in shoe rack on the back wall of the deep coat closet.

None of this, of course, was cheap. In all, the couple spent about $235,000 — a figure that includes the renovation, the custom-made furniture, the lighting, the new air-conditioning system, the low-flow plumbing fixtures and the sound system that is wired throughout the apartment. “We ended up going all out,” Ms. Merritt said.

But in the spring of 2015, when the project was finished and the couple took in their transformed space, Ms. Merritt said, “It was breathtaking.”

She added: “I remember looking at my husband, and he was opening one of the cabinets, and just thinking, ‘Wow.’ It looks like out of some Norwegian design magazine. I was so excited.”

Or, as Mr. Merritt put it, being in the apartment “felt like we were in a high-end hotel.”

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