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A Glamorous Studio Apartment in Auckland That Feels Like a One-Bedroom, Hack Edition

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A Glamorous Studio Apartment in Auckland That Feels Like a One-Bedroom, Hack Edition

September 4, 2017

New Zealand–based designer Karin Montgomery Spath has a penchant of transforming the tiniest of footprints into highly-efficient, but artful, spaces. We first heard about her work via her son, photographer Matthew Williams (he shot all of the images in our Remodelista and Gardenista books, plus our upcoming book on organization, coming out this fall), when, back in 2015, she transformed a 344-square-foot above-garage space into a quiet apartment with a neutral palette (see Small-Space Living: An Airy Studio Apartment in a Garage). Recently, we heard that she’d accomplished another feat in Auckland with even tighter constraints: a 323-square-foot studio. The goal: “To make it a fabulous place for my glamorous client to live and entertain,” she says. Here’s how she did it, plus a few small-space hacks.

Photography by Matthew Williams.

After

The entrance to the apartment.
Above: The entrance to the apartment.

Before starting work, the studio apartment was “a real tip,” Spath says. The client, a single woman living in Auckland, handed Spath a wish list, including: a kitchen with full storage, a dining area that could seat six, plenty of clothes storage, office space, a full bathroom, a washer, a prominent place to display collections, and a garden. But Spath was up to the task: “I like the challenge of making small spaces very livable and getting everything in that one would have in a larger space, thinking outside the square and asking how much space we really need,” she says.

Spath gutted the whole apartment, painting the walls (a color curiously called Half Black White by New Zealand brand Resenes Paints), and resurfacing the existing damaged concrete flooring. Now, upon entry, the requested living and dining areas are straight ahead. Custom-built shelving, at left, provides a place to display treasured items and encloses the area of the bedroom, for privacy.
Above: Spath gutted the whole apartment, painting the walls (a color curiously called Half Black White by New Zealand brand Resenes Paints), and resurfacing the existing damaged concrete flooring. Now, upon entry, the requested living and dining areas are straight ahead. Custom-built shelving, at left, provides a place to display treasured items and encloses the area of the bedroom, for privacy.
Despite its small footprint, the living room feels airy and open thanks to furniture with simple lines, a dark rug, and judicious edits: &#8
Above: Despite its small footprint, the living room feels airy and open thanks to furniture with simple lines, a dark rug, and judicious edits: “We went through the client’s possessions to choose what would suit the new space,” Spath says; the two chose a deep red rug for the living room. Spath had the chaise and ottoman custom-made. Almost-imperceptible baskets under the couch store magazines.
Spath tore out the U-shaped kitchen that was in the space previously. &#8
Above: Spath tore out the U-shaped kitchen that was in the space previously. “I find many kitchens too big for the size of the apartment,” Spath says. “But if they’re small they need a lot of storage.” The solution? Custom-built floor-to-ceiling cabinets, at right, that store pantry items and tableware. Per the client’s request, the table can convert to seat six (two extra chairs are stored on the balcony).
The new kitchenette is tiny but bold: Spath painted the cabinetry in Nero by Resene Paints; the tiles in the backsplash are from Tile Space in Auckland. In the spirit of tiny but efficient kitchens, Spath chose a small-space sink and range (see  Easy Pieces: Best Appliances for Small Kitchens).
Above: The new kitchenette is tiny but bold: Spath painted the cabinetry in Nero by Resene Paints; the tiles in the backsplash are from Tile Space in Auckland. In the spirit of tiny but efficient kitchens, Spath chose a small-space sink and range (see 10 Easy Pieces: Best Appliances for Small Kitchens).
Floor-to-ceiling cabinets conceal dinnerware and dry goods.
Above: Floor-to-ceiling cabinets conceal dinnerware and dry goods.
To create the illusion of a wall between living room and bedroom without building a wall, Spath added custom-built shelving. The client&#8
Above: To create the illusion of a wall between living room and bedroom without building a wall, Spath added custom-built shelving. The client’s collections—all “things she loves and didn’t want to part with,” Spath says—are a focal point and add further privacy.
The requisite office space is behind the shelving divider in the &#8
Above: The requisite office space is behind the shelving divider in the “bedroom.” To keep it small-space friendly, Spath sourced a regular desk (“from a very inexpensive store,” she says), removed the legs, and had it hung from the wall.
In the bedroom, a wall-mounted sconce found online provides reading light; a Prince Aha Stool by Kartell acts as a movable bedside table.
Above: In the bedroom, a wall-mounted sconce found online provides reading light; a Prince Aha Stool by Kartell acts as a movable bedside table.
The shelves from the bedroom side. A smart hack: Spath had a swivel installed to allow the TV to face either the bedroom or the living room, then added a discrete roller blind to conceal the back from the living room side when the TV is facing the bedroom.
Above: The shelves from the bedroom side. A smart hack: Spath had a swivel installed to allow the TV to face either the bedroom or the living room, then added a discrete roller blind to conceal the back from the living room side when the TV is facing the bedroom.
Spath removed a half-wall beside the toilet to open up the small bath. In lieu of a vanity, she sourced a wall-mounted sink (for something similar, see  Easy Pieces: Wall-Mounted Modern Square Bath Sinks), and topped the washing machine with a piece of marble from an old table that the client owned. Now it&#8
Above: Spath removed a half-wall beside the toilet to open up the small bath. In lieu of a vanity, she sourced a wall-mounted sink (for something similar, see 10 Easy Pieces: Wall-Mounted Modern Square Bath Sinks), and topped the washing machine with a piece of marble from an old table that the client owned. Now it’s a functional countertop.
A shower curtain replaces the clunky glass enclosure from before. A black and white palette keeps the small space clean-lined but a little edgy: Spath sourced the white white subway tiles from Tile Space and the matte black fixtures from The Kitchen Hub, both in Auckland.
Above: A shower curtain replaces the clunky glass enclosure from before. A black and white palette keeps the small space clean-lined but a little edgy: Spath sourced the white white subway tiles from Tile Space and the matte black fixtures from The Kitchen Hub, both in Auckland.
The new shower with sleek square drain; in the corner, a few pumice stones.
Above: The new shower with sleek square drain; in the corner, a few pumice stones.
On the 75-square-foot balcony, Spath added white butterfly chairs and a vertical garden of sorts. We offer tips to Steal This Look on Gardenista today. For more ideas, see Rental Garden Makeovers:  Best Budget Ideas for an Outdoor Space on Gardenista.
Above: On the 75-square-foot balcony, Spath added white butterfly chairs and a vertical garden of sorts. We offer tips to Steal This Look on Gardenista today. For more ideas, see Rental Garden Makeovers: 10 Best Budget Ideas for an Outdoor Space on Gardenista.

Before

Before, the living room and bedroom was one open space, with cinderblock walls, dreary paint, and damaged cement floors. Photograph courtesy of Karin Montgomery Spath.
Above: Before, the living room and bedroom was one open space, with cinderblock walls, dreary paint, and damaged cement floors. Photograph courtesy of Karin Montgomery Spath.
The former kitchen was clunky and large for the space. Photograph courtesy of Karin Montgomery Spath.
Above: The former kitchen was clunky and large for the space. Photograph courtesy of Karin Montgomery Spath.
The bath, before, closed-in shower and half-wall included. Photograph courtesy of Karin Montgomery Spath.
Above: The bath, before, closed-in shower and half-wall included. Photograph courtesy of Karin Montgomery Spath.

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