2018 Remodeling Design Awards
Whole-House Remodeling Under $500,000: Grand
Remodels inherently present challenges. Those challenges are amplified, though, when the space being remodeled is smaller than the typical master bedroom and the budget is only $20,000. These were the conditions that Jessica Miller and her husband faced when they took on the remodel of a 350-square-foot Chicago studio apartment.
“We were getting ready to renovate our home about a block away and it just so happened that this tiny condo came on the market,” Miller, president of Lark Architecture, said.
The initial space was a cramped, single room that needed to be transformed to serve all functions of Miller’s and her husband’s daily lives. The two were working from home at the time and needed discrete “office” areas. Their unusual situation put a greater emphasis on keeping costs low during the project.
“We used IKEA cabinetry, stock cabinetry that we reworked to fill the space as needed without getting into any customization,” Miller said. “We were able to save some money by using inexpensive, readily available cabinetry.”
The storage wall was built around a seldom-used door that led to the building lobby. Deep steps were added around the door to allow for pet beds for the couple’s three dogs. The cabinetry created badly needed additional storage while barely sacrificing space in the apartment. The wall also allowed for the design of a compact kitchen that was a significant improvement on the old one and freed up space to build a lofted bed with a closet, desk, and laundry unit below.
“[The bed] continued the idea of built-in storage and provided some separation in the space,” Miller said.
In addition to the size limitations, the eight-foot ceiling in the apartment presented difficulties for the lofted bed.
“We knew right away that the bed was definitely a feature that was a must in order to accommodate adding laundry and a workspace,” Miller said. “The bed was an area that needed to be precise on dimensions and designed down to the eighth of an inch while also maintaining adequate head height while in the bed.”
The judges were blown away with what was done with the limited square footage and tight budget, remarking that “every square inch is usable space.” Miller said the space was an absolute success and she and her husband know firsthand that the space is usable, comfortable, and spacious. After moving back into their home, the couple rented out the apartment before leasing it through Airbnb.
“I would hope for another opportunity to do a project like this [apartment],” Miller said. “It was such a unique space and it turned out so well in so many ways.”
FROM THE FIRM:
This condo began as a drab, abandoned studio unit, devoid of character. At only 350 square feet, it needed to accommodate two work-from-home adults, as well as their three dogs. As a second home to use while their primary residence was being built, the clients were extremely focused on keeping costs down and maximizing their long-term investment. They needed the space to serve all the functions of daily life, provide spatial delineation, and maintain marketability. The primary strategic goals were to maximize storage, improve function, and introduce privacy, all while sticking to a very tight construction budget of only $20,000.