When I set out to write The Little Book of Living Small, my book about small spaces, there were a few homes I knew I just had to photograph for the book. Among them, a studio apartment that I had seen in O at Home magazine (Oprah’s now-defunct decorating magazine). I’d saved the photos of this perfectly-designed studio apartment for more than a decade because I found them so inspiring. So, I was delighted when I was able to track down the owner, Alisa Regas, and was especially thrilled when I found out she still lived in the same studio all these years later—and she had barely changed a thing (talk about classic design choices!).
When Regas bought her West Village apartment nearly twenty years ago, she wasn’t the least bit worried about its size. Before the advent of tell-all-renovation blogs, Regas, like me, had been the kind of person who clipped space-saving ideas from magazines and books for years, and had even tracked down architects to ask them for their sources.
For her own renovation, she hired architect Kenny Payero, who helped her reimagine every inch of the 355 square feet into a one-bedroom, complete with a dining space and even a dressing “room.” Alisa also brought in an interior designer to help with the furnishing choices and layout. The collaborative effort resulted in a space that is as efficient as a ship’s cabin, but just as stylish as an expansive loft.
The apartment only began to feel small when John, Alisa’s boyfriend (now husband), came into the picture. In an only-in-New York story, a second, equally tiny studio in the building became available, and the couple snapped it up—even though it did not adjoin the original apartment. The extra space, referred to as “the parlor,” is used for entertaining and for visiting guests. Alisa is a performing arts producer, so she also lends the space to artists who have made the parlor their New York base while working on new projects. While it’s an unusual set-up, they’ve stayed in the studio because the neighborhood and their life there outweighed the appeal of a larger space. Here’s a glimpse inside Alisa and John’s small-but-stylish living space.
The dining nook’s built-in banquette has storage beneath the cushioned seats: a space for linens on the left and filing drawers on the right. The transom window above the dining area lets light into the bathroom beyond. The Eames chairs and Saarenin tulip table are mid-century icons.
Almost everything is miniature in Alisa’s kitchen: the sink measures twenty inches, the dishwasher eighteen inches, and the range twenty inches. Because the space is small, Alisa could afford custom cabinetry, cherrywood counters, and the faucets and fixtures on her dream wishlist—one of the many benefits of renovating a small space.
By opting for a now-discontinued eighteen-inch-wide refrigerator, Alisa was able to fit in a tiny pantry cabinet that keeps her small kitchen from getting overwhelmed with clutter. The metal front door acts as a memo board.
By opening up the walls, the architect found space to build in corner shelves for cookbooks and an alcove that holds a dozen wine bottles.
Demolition revealed space behind the original medicine cabinet and Payero designed a new one that is a full foot deep. An all-white palette and a minimalist glass enclosure help make the bathroom feel spacious.
A custom floor-to-ceiling bookcase, designed in collaboration with Brooklyn-based cabinet maker Patrick Weder, holds all of Alisa’s books and doubles as a bedside table. The built-in wardrobe separates the bed from the closet/dressing area. One of the closet doors unfolds to become a bi-fold mirror. The side of the wardrobe that faces the bed is solid, and the side that faces the closet has drawers and cabinets.
Carefully chosen furnishings give the small living room the feel of a grander space. Leaving the windows bare (Alisa lives on an upper floor on the garden side of her building) also expands the feeling of the room. With doors on two sides of the bedroom, Alisa was left with just a small stretch of wall that necessitated a custom sofa to fit the space. The two small cocktail tables offer more flexibility and take up less space than a traditional coffee table.
And, for all of you that have been asking, here's a floor plan:
Photography by Weston Wells from The Little Book of Living Small by Laura Fenton. Reprinted by permission of Gibbs Smith.