A Rustic, Industrial Rental Unit

This New York rental unit is transformed into a one-bedroom apartment that features an open floor plan and smart storage solutions.
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November 24, 2014
By: Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien

A New Start

With years of experience in real estate, Tom Bencivengo was after this multi-family apartment to transform. The first unit to get a gut remodel was this one-bedroom apartment on the first floor of the building.

Taking Down the Walls

Tom removed the two non-load-bearing dividers in the rental unit that originally boxed in the kitchen, living room and bedroom. "Everything stayed in its same spot, just without those silly divider walls," says Tom. He didn't find much that was worth saving when they started the remodel.

Bad Beginnings in the Bathroom

The bathroom was the biggest space-planning challenge for Tom. "The original bathroom was simply a toilet in a 3' x3' shower with a drain on the floor," says Tom.

Through the Sliding Glass

Tom custom-ordered the glass door that divides the living room from the bedroom. He had it installed so there was enough room for a reasonable-sized bedroom. "The glass door was simply a way to maintain the one-bedroom status of the apartment while introducing as much light and openness into the apartment as possible," says Tom. "It's a very utilitarian apartment given its tight size, so every inch counts!"

An Open Floor Plan

The living room flows into the kitchen and home office area. There used to be kitchen cabinets where the home office desk now sits.

Keep It Clean

The kitchen was completely gutted in the remodel. "I tried to keep things as bright as possible, so I used white cabinet faces," says Tom. "Just keep it modern, simple and clean was the plan."

Starter White

Tom had the entire rental unit painted an eggshell white. "I don't go too crazy with paint because people generally like to do their own thing when they move in," says Tom.

Bring in the Light

With the divider walls now gone, the living room fills with light from the kitchen windows. The original lighting in the apartment was adequate, so Tom simply updated the fixtures.

Where to Go Green

During the remodel, Tom found it was difficult to efficiently source green materials and rein in the cost. "I remember going to a couple of kitchen deconstruction places, and they were expensive," says Tom. "I came to terms that I didn't have the funds to afford reclaimed denim insulation, nor the time to find the perfect-sized stove on Craigslist for the apartment."

Energy Efficient Elements

Heating is provided to the rental unit via hydronic radiators through a tankless gas-fired boiler in the basement. The HVAC unit also makes hot water for the apartment on demand. It's very efficient. "There's no central air, but perhaps someday I'll get around to installing one," says Tom.

Rustic, Industrial Style

Tom had a good sense of the general apartment style that would attract people in the neighborhood. His tenant built this shelving unit from reclaimed wood and pipes. Tom designed the entire apartment with a similar modern industrial style to fit in with the creative, artsy vibe of the neighborhood.

Sealing the Space

Tom had energy efficient windows installed in the bedroom, which makes a difference in the utility bill. The floors are hardwood.

Salvaged Brick Walls

One element that was worth saving was the exposed brick wall that was hidden behind plaster when Tom purchased the building. The warm red brick infuses character into the space and captures the quintessential Brooklyn charm of the apartment.

An Open Closet

The original apartment had closets that were torn out during the remodel. This built-in closet was part of the remodel project. "I would have liked to have made more closet space in hindsight, but it's just hard in such a tight space," says Tom. His current tenant painted the closet black.

Sliding Doors

The custom glass sliding doors create a sense of privacy for the bedroom and make the apartment marketable as a true one-bedroom. Unlike a divider wall, the translucent glass lets light into the living space.

The Pricey Porcelain Toilet

The wall-mounted toilet looks sleek and is a true space-saver. The tank and the flush mechanism are hidden behind the wall, so all you see is the toilet bowl. But the fancy toilet came with a hefty price tag. "I'll never spend that much on a toilet again," says Tom.

Expanding the Bathroom

The bathroom was the toughest challenge in this remodel, since it was so small. The shower, sink, toilet and tile are all new. "The bathroom simply had to be enlarged — there was no other option," says Tom. "So I built it out into the apartment by a couple feet so at least one person could fit in there."

Shelf Storage

Tom had shelving built into the bathroom to double as a medicine cabinet and linen closet, since the sink space was too small to install a vanity. The shelves act as a great storage solution and they don't take up space in the teeny bathroom.

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