New York, New York
The clients, a couple with no children, wanted a pied-á-terre evoking a room at a boutique hotel, albeit with a hidden bedroom and ample space to accommodate cooking and entertaining.
Designed by Messina O’Rorke, The Jewel Box project recently won a 2020 American Architecture Award from The Chicago Athenaeum and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.
In its original state, this was a typical studio apartment, with a bed in the living area, a galley kitchen, a bathroom with a tub, and two built-in closets. What it lacked in layout, the 13th-floor apartment more than made up for in views: west-facing over the West Village with the iconic Jefferson Market Library Clock Tower in the foreground, and New Jersey in the distance.
The goal was to maximize the physical and atmospheric size of the apartment by designing multiple spaces that fit efficiently into an organized structure, creating the illusion of a larger space. The architects found inspiration in everyday objects that are similarly simultaneously beautiful and efficient: jewelry boxes, steamer trunks, and even RVs.
All walls, plumbing fixtures, appliances, and interior finishes were removed, leaving a bare open space. White oak plank flooring was used throughout to create a calm and cohesive space. Custom-designed European fumed oak-faced storage was installed along the north and south walls (which also acted as a layer of sound-proofing between apartments). The northern storage unit contains books, clothing, and a television; the southern unit cleverly conceals the entire kitchen, including appliances, and associated storage.
The bed “container” clad in unlacquered brass, was inserted into the space 3 feet from the entry door and 3 feet from the northern storage unit, achieving the client mandate of a hidden bedroom while also creating an entry vestibule and a hallway. The inside of this gleaming structure is lined in grey Italian cowhide; the base of the bed is raised, creating additional storage underneath, and allowing the clients to take in the aforementioned views from the bed.
The living area now functions as just that, with a custom oak table spanning the length of the window, acting as both a “front porch” (overlooking the city and amazing sunset views) as well as a desk that can be reconfigured as a dining table when entertaining guests. The reimagined bathroom, now sans tub but boasting an impressive collection of designer fragrances, is an homage to, and completely covered in Carrara marble.
Project: The Jewel Box
Architects: Messana O’Rorke
Design Team: Brian Messana, Toby O’Rorke. Viktor Nassli, and Juan Espinosa
General Contractor: UC Construction and Management
Photographers: Eric Laignel