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A Two-Week, $1,000, 500-Square-Foot Rental Overhaul by a Design Student in Bushwick, Brooklyn

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A Two-Week, $1,000, 500-Square-Foot Rental Overhaul by a Design Student in Bushwick, Brooklyn

April 3, 2019

This just in: what might be the most ingenious, scrappy rental renovation we’ve seen. It came in from Kristina Line, a 25-year-old Norway native studying art and architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (she’s taking her exams this spring) and her partner, Anton Bak, from Copenhagen, a spatial designer at the Royal Danish Academy (who also works at cabin start-up Klein).

The pair put their studies to the test when Line landed a coveted internship with Danish designer Søren Rose Studio in New York City but found that her loft apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn—in a former textile factory—lacked the aesthetics to match her design-forward life, to put it mildly. “The only furniture in the room was the quintessential, typical, cheap, manufactured, dysfunctional kitchen in brown colors,” Line says. But the apartment had good bones—including large industrial windows, a luxury in New York—and the couple saw an opportunity to flex their design muscles. Line promised the landlord she’d improve the design (and rentability) and moved in for cheap, then Bak flew in to help revitalize the place. The deadline: two weeks. The space: 500 square feet. And the budget: $1,000 (and lots of odds and ends found for free in their industrial neighborhood). Here are the nitty-gritty, DIY-only details.

Photography courtesy of Kristina Line and Anton Bak.

After

The most dramatic part of the renovation: the apartment&#8
Above: The most dramatic part of the renovation: the apartment’s tiny kitchen in one corner of the main room. When Line found it, the “kitchen” consisted of a wall of dark cabinetry with a sink, and a freestanding stove and fridge on the adjacent wall. Line and Bak scrapped all of the cabinetry but, keeping to their tight budget, kept the appliances.

With the cabinetry gone, the couple set about creating a kitchen from scratch. Their trick: They placed the fridge, sink, and range on one wall and built out a plywood frame around them, then painted the interior blue to set the space apart from the rest of the room. “We wanted to somehow divide up the big, open loft space into smaller areas, to implement a more interesting spatial sequence and to break things up a bit,” Line says. “The plywood also functions as a room divider to the hallway.”

The simple stainless steel sink was salvaged from the original kitchen and placed in a new wooden frame that was designed and built by Bak, inspired by Danish farmhouses &#8
Above: The simple stainless steel sink was salvaged from the original kitchen and placed in a new wooden frame that was designed and built by Bak, inspired by Danish farmhouses “where everything was built to serve a function,” Bak says. The slats under the sink double as storage and as a dish-drying rack; a rod stores tools and essentials.

The hanging lights are from Søren Rose, and the marble slab, repurposed as a backsplash, was salvaged from a nearby stonemason. “It is funny that all of these high-end manufacturers in Bushwick mainly focus on the big money jobs, which we figured out could benefit young designers like ourselves,” Bak says. “They don’t see the beauty in the broken leftovers, or what in their eyes is trash.”

The main room is anchored by a long wooden shelving system, inspired by the Japanese idea of wabi-sabi and designed and built by Bak from leftover timber from the couple&#8
Above: The main room is anchored by a long wooden shelving system, inspired by the Japanese idea of wabi-sabi and designed and built by Bak from leftover timber from the couple’s other projects. It consists of a frame of horizontal and vertical posts that hold interchangeable shelves and hooks, depending on the need. Here the shelves morph into a kitchen counter that Bak made of metal sheets, found as leftovers at a construction site. Hanging shelves over the range have the same design; when metal shelves are set in the frame, they double as a dish-drying rack. The mismatched counter stools were bought vintage and painted.
The shelving unit as it continues into the living space, where it becomes a low counter, fitted with more found marble slabs. &#8
Above: The shelving unit as it continues into the living space, where it becomes a low counter, fitted with more found marble slabs. “To live in an industrial area like Bushwick feels like being invited behind the scenes of everyday life,” Line says. “Here, the stonemason is the next-door neighbor. We wanted the DNA of the apartment and shelving system to be an open invite to what ever materials we found or got. Sometimes we design to plan for the unexpected.”
Above: Found marble and wood pieces on the wooden frame. Plus: an S-hook holds a slim speaker.
Line and Bak in the modular living area. &#8
Above: Line and Bak in the modular living area. “All of the objects were either found somewhere in Bushwick or brought home from my recent study trip to Japan. There is a story behind every object we bring in to our home,” Line says. For example: Bak made the wooden bench/table, topped with a handmade cushion. The blue-striped pillow is from Ikea. The couple scored the rattan chair for free; it was missing its seat, so Line DIY-ed one.
A houseplant on a black-painted cork base disguises a gas heater in the corner. &#8
Above: A houseplant on a black-painted cork base disguises a gas heater in the corner. “The heater was a boring brownish color,” Line says, but a coat of pink paint makes it almost appealing. The coffee table is made of unlikely materials: two ceiling lamps that the couple took down, topped with a piece of glass.

Note the interior window on the right, the only major architectural change: It brings extra morning light into the small bedroom.

A surprising DIY: the couple built the marble shelf that rests on the windowsill out of plumbing pipes and marble. &#8
Above: A surprising DIY: the couple built the marble shelf that rests on the windowsill out of plumbing pipes and marble. “We learned after several attempts that it’s easy to cut marble with a Stanley knife and some body weight,” Line says.
The small bedroom is just big enough for a bed, but plenty of light and minimal furniture make it feel bigger. Note the deconstructed closet, made of a dowel hung from the ceiling, at right.
Above: The small bedroom is just big enough for a bed, but plenty of light and minimal furniture make it feel bigger. Note the deconstructed closet, made of a dowel hung from the ceiling, at right.
The couple built a small wooden shelf to make the sloping windowsill functional as a bedside table.
Above: The couple built a small wooden shelf to make the sloping windowsill functional as a bedside table.
The bed stretches from wall to wall for maximum lounging.
Above: The bed stretches from wall to wall for maximum lounging.

Before

A typical New York loft turned apartment: the kitchen area, before.
Above: A typical New York loft turned apartment: the kitchen area, before.

More renovations in Brooklyn:

N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on February 2, 2018.

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