How an Interior Designer Made Do With Only 475 Square Feet


Alex Kalita, who had spent years renting in Brooklyn, was ready to purchase in 2017. “I was looking for an experience, and I made it difficult for my Realtor to find that,” said Ms. Kalita. “I didn’t have hard-and-fast criteria, like it has to have 1.5 bathrooms, a minimum number of square feet or any of those categories you would use in a filter on StreetEasy.”

She did know that she wanted to live in Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill or Boerum Hill. There wasn’t much inventory. “I was willing sacrifice square footage which gave us an edge,” she said. “I’m single and don’t own a lot of things.”

After a year, she finally found the perfect co-op in Carroll Gardens: a fourth-floor, one-bedroom apartment of 475 square foot with a view of treetops. The first thing she did was do some exploratory demolition. The middle third of a wall in the living room was brick. The rest was drywall. “I was able to pick up four inches of extra living space,” she said, noting that she added a simple, plaster-covered mantel as a focal point, although there’s no fireplace.

Knowing that her living room would need to serve many purposes, Ms. Kalita set it up with multifunctionality in mind. She kept the cushions after the movers destroyed the sofa and worked with Aaron Black to create a plywood daybed for them. The wall opposite of the faux fireplace is where Ms. Kalita reconfigured her Vitsoe Universal Shelving System to be a desk, media center, and library. She added space-saving pieces of furniture such as a vintage footstool that could be turned into a coffee or side table, a sprightly table that was just big enough to hold a beverage, and a Flos Parentesi lamp that suspended a light bulb from a thin cable. When that happens, she has a children’s play mat she unfolds as a durable picnic blanket.

“It’s a home gym as well,” she added. She keeps a weighted basket, resistance bands, resistance blocks and a yoga block in a basket that she purchased at Salter House. )

For the kitchen, which is in a narrower part of the apartment, she added Reform cabinets with integrated finger pulls along one wall, topped by a shallow countertop.

“Usually, you want the counter overhang to stick out farther than the hardware,” she said. She was able, because her cabinet doors were not equipped with hardware, to have the countertop flush against the front of the cabinets.

“It saved an inch but it matters,” she said. She recessed the pantry at the end of the room. She worked with Mr. Black to design a Shaker peg rail with a hanging mirror, which kept the floor space open. It was the largest apartment that I have ever lived in. I designed the storage space to meet my needs.