Showcasing outside view is challenge in tiny apartment

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Photo - Courtesy photo by Sean Shanahan.
Courtesy photo by Sean Shanahan.
Real Estate

After a Washington homeowner bought this tiny apartment for its great city views the challenge became remodeling its spare 600 square feet of space to showcase the scene outside.

"The smaller a space is, the more demanding it is to get the details right, because every error shows," said the homeowner, who enlisted architect Michael Franck to transform a model one-bedroom apartment.

"The homeowner bought the place for the views. It looks out onto the Temple of the Scottish Rites, which is an amazing piece of historic architecture," Franck said.

The problem was when people entered the apartment they ran smack into a hallway wall that on the other side backed an L-shaped kitchen, with an awkward breakfast bar jutting into the living room.

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Franck & Lohsen Architects

"You didn't see the Greco-Roman temple at all, so we tore out the kitchen, opening up the view from the front door, as well as making the space brighter," Franck said.

Franck designed an open kitchen along one wall, adding an extra-deep Carrara marble counter, below which were scaled-down appliances including a washer and dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer drawers and a combination oven/microwave.

"I wanted the cabinetry to resemble a piece of furniture," he said. "It's black-paneled with a baseboard, and above it open shelves hold artwork along with glassware and dishes."

A sleek sculptural hood and overhead pot rack leave the area visually clean. The bathroom was redesigned to similar effect, with its ceiling gaining two feet of useable space and its cumbersome tub being replaced by a glass-walled steam shower.

"There was also a closet by the windows, making it hard to arrange furniture," the homeowner said. "The architect and I both appreciate symmetry in classical architecture, so we removed the closet, bringing balance to the width of the narrow room."

Next, Franck turned his attention to the wall opposite the windows. With the elimination of the closet and the need for storage, he took advantage of the room's length to design another option.

"I created a wall of built-in shelves and disguised cupboards, which have framed wall paneling for hanging artwork. The doors open to reveal floor-to-ceiling storage and are 16 inches deep," Franck said.

The homeowner's collection of architectural engravings from Napoleon's Egyptian campaign was hung on gray walls with crisp millwork instead of on the formerly bland beige walls.

Custom HVAC vent covers were made throughout, and standard light fixtures were replaced with higher-end solutions. The multitasking apartment, with furnishings arranged for dining, working and relaxing, was a challenge to decorate in an uncluttered, contiguous manner.

"Finding appropriately scaled furniture was important. My first piece was a diminutive 1920s sofa," recalled the homeowner, who placed that find beneath the bank of windows, where its curved arms echo the scrolls of the Ionic columns outside.

The X-motif on the temple's facade and the linear ridges on its columns are further reflected in aspects of the furnishings, providing thematic continuity. Classical architecture also finds its way into the Greek motif in accent pillows and curtain trim.

In addition to European Empire-style antiques, most furnishings are upholstered in menswear suit fabrics including pinstripe, flannel and velvet. The design seamlessly transitions into the bedroom.

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