It isn't necessarily the norm in house hunting to look for a place that is "unloved," but that was just the sort of space that could inspire a certain design power couple. For interior designer Caroline McKeough and her husband Tim McKeough, design journalist and contributor to the New York Times, finding a home that they wouldn't feel bad about tearing everything out of was exactly what they were looking for.
"I started my firm recently and I love going into a forgotten space and seeing how it can transform," Caroline says. Plus, like so many New York City dwellers, they were pressed for space as their family expanded and used to being optimistic about the lack of amenities. "We had rented a ground-floor apartment in Chelsea, and it had no natural light," Tim says. "At certain moments there would be one sliver of light, so I would call Caroline over to look at it."
As luck would have it, just around the corner from their previous apartment-on the same block in Midtown East-they stumbled on their unlovable gem. "It wouldn't have been appealing to very many people," says Tim, who lists the orange linoleum floors and low ceilings as just some of the unfortunate features. Yet they saw the potential in the rundown, 1,050-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment.
Caroline's thoughtful redesign called for a complete gut renovation. They took down almost every interior wall and rebuilt the apartment from scratch. One of the main contractors from Caroline's rolodex, Ciaran Strong, was an ideal candidate for the job. "There are always site conditions, so one thing I love about our guy is he's a problem solver," she says. "It was a one bedroom with a corner dining room, and we knew there were a lot of walls blocking the eastern light. So, we took the corner space and turned it into the [primary] bedroom."
The new layout incorporates clean-line details and extensive concealed storage at every opportunity. "Life necessitates stuff," Caroline says. "We didn't want to look at a lot of stuff, so I made the entry closet deep enough for a stroller." As their kids have grown, the storage has evolved with the family's needs.
Light was another nonnegotiable-especially after living for many years in a low-light apartment-so it was an important aspect in their renovation. With southern and eastern exposures, and a view of the East River, the apartment made it fairly easy. They opened up the home, transforming it into a true two-bedroom apartment with an open kitchen, a hidden home office that goes completely unnoticed-tucked behind a paneled wall-and a spacious room for both boys (ages seven and nine) to share.
The apartment plays on a minimal but high-contrast palette of hard-wearing finishes suitable for a busy family: wire-brushed blackened oak cabinetry, whitewashed oak floors, vein-cut Danby marble, and chrome and blackened iron hardware. An assemblage of vintage and sculptural furniture adds a soulful layer, and the integrated storage throughout ensures everything has its place. "There are times where we are all here and we are all able to find our own space," Tim says. The unloved apartment has become an ideal home.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest