The pandemic had a way of making every home feel just a little bit too small — and an NYC apartment that required a couple’s two sons to share the same bedroom was no exception. While this living arrangement had made sense back when the boys were younger, it started to feel uncomfortably cramped now that they were growing up. But when the family of four’s search for bigger, three-bedroom digs turned up little in their price range, they decided to reconfigure their current abode instead.
Looking to carve out bonus sleeping quarters — not to mention revamp their kitchen and introduce some extra entryway storage — they turned to Ideas of Order Studio. Founded by architects Jacob Esocoff and Henry Ng, the two-year-old practice builds on the duo’s experience working alongside one another at WorkAC and Foster + Partners.
Esocoff and Ng soon discovered that their clients had no shortage of eclectic inspiration in mind — and weren’t afraid of a little colour, either. Indeed, the reno really started to take shape once the apartment’s owners provided two unexpected points of reference: first, the rainbow-hued stained-glass window from Maria’s bedroom in the movie version of West Side Story (a favourite of the wife) and second, the modernist — and similarly colourful — Parisian homes that the pair had observed during their five-year stint living in France (where the husband grew up). “We like to really mine our clients’ history for design inspiration,” says Esocoff.
To help these ideas gel within the context of the couple’s Hudson Heights home, Ideas of Order was also committed to honouring the art deco identity of the 1942 apartment building that it was working within.
The outcome of all these different directives? An incredibly space-efficient design that is divided into a trio of distinct yet complementary zones.
Splashed in bold hues, the project’s custom millwork successfully manages to evoke both stained glass as well as the polychromatic designs of French modernists Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand. Granted, settling on the project’s final palette was no easy feat. “We had some background in colour theory classes from when we were in school, so we drew from the Josef Albers way of thinking about colours and the relationships between them,” Ng explains.
“One of the reasons why I love secondary and tertiary colours is because they’re so layered, and your perception of them changes as the light changes,” adds Esocoff. “We use a blue, but it has a lot of red in it that really starts to come through when it’s paired with the magenta — a red that has a lot of blue in it. I think especially for a living space where you’re going to be every day, it’s important for colours to have that visual interest so that they don’t become flat.”
Meanwhile, by preserving key elements of the original interior — namely, the sunken living room, parquetry flooring, and arched passageways — Ideas of Order Studio helps maintain a clear visual record of the unit’s overall design evolution. Walking into the home, the firm’s contributions clearly register as contemporary inserts within the apartment’s historic shell.
While there’s a group dynamic at play between all three of the reno’s spaces, each area also succeeds on its own individual merits. The bedroom (which explores the tension between two similar yet subtly distinct shades of green) manages to pack a desk, a bed and storage space into an ultra-compact footprint. A sliding glass door closes the space off from the lower living room in front of it, and an opaque curtain can be pulled shut for extra privacy. “If you want to, you can still shut everything out,” says Ng. On the other hand, shutters on a small porthole window can be opened up during the day to allow light to pass into the adjacent kitchen. “There’s so much rigid geometry in the millwork that the circle window provides a playful counterpoint,” Esocoff notes.
For its part, the newly enclosed blue-and-magenta cooking area delivers hyper-optimized storage space as well as a dramatic bar that’s perfect for entertaining. Custom pulls add another fun layer of visual interest. Finally, the new pink-and-grey coat closet in the unit’s entryway keeps clutter to a minimum with four slide-out drawers — one for each family member.
Along with addressing the clients’ present-day needs, the reno is also meant to anticipate a future life stage when the couple’s kids may be off at college. Sure enough, Ideas of Order Studio envisioned the new bedroom as a “flex space” that can later be easily adapted into an office or guest bedroom. The result is a functional, uplifting renovation as timeless as West Side Story — or a Charlotte Perriand bookcase.
Custom millwork in bold hues makes the most of a compact Hudson Heights space.