September 2011

In the Clear: Designer Kevin Byrne makes the most
of a compact space in a Richard Meier glass tower

ELLE DECOR: This apartment is so pristine. Is it your primary residence?

KEVIN BYRNE: No. It’s a pied-à-terre. My partner and I also have a place in Florida and another out on Long Island, in Sag Harbor. This Manhattan apartment is an easy commute to Berkeley College in Paramus, New Jersey, where I teach.

ED: What made you choose this particular building?
KB: It’s a fabulous space. I have a passion for architecture, and there just aren’t that many architecturally significant residential buildings in Manhattan. We also find that our aesthetic is similar to that of Richard Meier, and we knew he was very much involved in this building and took a great deal of pride in it, so we were confident it would be well built.

ED: How big is the apartment?


KB: It’s 703 square feet, more than half of which is the main room. And it’s not the smallest place we looked at. When we first saw it, in 2008, the apartment was really just a big bedroom. But it also has floor-to-ceiling windows, great views of the Hudson River, and 11-foot-high ceilings. The architecture is subtle, but it’s masterful and elegant, with intelligent touches such as the small soffit—to which I added lights—that runs around the perimeter of the ceiling.


ED: How finished was the space when you purchased it?
KB: It was finished to Richard Meier’s specifications, right down to the hardware, almost exactly the way you see it now. The cabinets were matte lacquered; the countertops in the kitchen and bathroom are all Corian, and the floor is stained wenge wood. We added the ripple-fold sheers (solar shades came with the unit).

ED: What were your major innovations?
KB: I added a small wall to create the sense of a foyer and to separate the main living area from the front door, and I created a pass-through that opens up the kitchen to the living area. The biggest change was the storage wall with the Murphy bed in it. I matched the cabinetry to the wall color. The detailing echoes that of the kitchen cabinets.

ED: Why a Murphy bed?
KB: I’ve always thought they were kind of fun, and they are very efficient—especially in a small space. If we were just using the apartment for sleeping, a regular bed might be fine, but I like to cook, and I don’t like the idea of entertaining guests in the middle of my bedroom. When the bed is up, people just assume there’s a bedroom down the hall somewhere. I also find the bed to be very comfortable.