As an existing unit in an existing historic landmark building with communal utilities, the opportunities for improving efficiency in unit #9 were limited but wherever walls were opened, new insulation was added; where existing windows were restored, seals were replaced; incandescent bulbs replaced with LEDs; and new appliances were chosen for their small size and low energy usage. Additionally, as befits a unit originally constructed of salvaged materials, all new work (except for applicances) used materials recycled from within the unit or building, from trades for used materials with subcontractors, or purchased at reuse shops. Polished to meet the demands of life in today's world, this compact gem is proof that living in a small space can be stimulating and inspiring rather than a sacrifice.
Unit No.9 in the landmark Carl Street Studios, completed in 1932, was the last unit that Edgar Miller designed there and clearly demonstrates his mastery of light and decoration. But 80 years of wear, tear, and insensitive remodeling combined with Miller's characteristic disregard for utilitarian spaces had left it needing extensive but judicious attention; an evolution rather than a revolution.
The first and perhaps most impactful work was the restoration of the north facing window where original translucent panels had been replaced with transparent glass. The installation of new glass from the original manufacturer was so successful that adjacent unit owners were persuaded to follow suit restoring privacy to the interior and the street facade to its original glowing glory.
The fireplace, awkwardly modified in the 70s by the removal of mosaic work and addition of a hood featuring random zodiac tiles, was re-imagined using salvaged tile and marble reflective of the rigorous geometry which underlies Miller's seemingly whimsical original work. A refurbished 1932 light fixture hangs above.
The rudimentary kitchen was completely re-energized simply by moving the entry not only creating more workspace and room for cabinetry but bringing light from the window further into the apartment. Honoring the spirit of salvage with which the building was originally constructed, a radiator grille was fabricated from castoff scraps while antique tiles from the building's basement stash were mixed with donated samples of discontinued tile to create an artful blend of old and new; which is what evolution is all about!
P.K. VanderBeke, Architect