Sunday Oct 01, 2023

This Interior Designer Turned His 250-Square-Foot Apartment Into His Saving Grace

The first thought he had was to get rid of his queen-sized bed for something more efficient. “As a 30-year-old man, I opted to downsize from a queen to a twin,” he explains. “I was single and living alone through a pandemic, but I told myself there were worse things.” He pictured a custom daybed that would fit snugly in the nook carved out by the two closets, with a matching headboard and a built-in nightstand. He drew what he had in mind, and a friend built it as three pieces that fit together as one. “It’s the simplest version of a Murphy bed, and I didn’t want there to be any other technology besides using my hands,” he said. “All that happens is that I take the cushions away and put sheets on the mattress.”

“When I have friends over and we’re all eating takeout or whatever, the screen acts as a way to divide us from the kitchen and complete the room,” Armando says. He drew up a custom sketch for the screen in plywood to match the daybed. The vintage “cinema” armchairs by Gunilla Allard were re-upholstered in Pierre Frey cotton and velvet. The side table is a custom piece from Green River Project.

With the bed in place, Armando turned his attention toward the adjoining living area. “Since I was making a sacrifice with my sleeping arrangements, I wanted to have a fully-realized living space,” he says. “I’ve always loved these cinema armchairs, so I sent them out to be re-upholstered in burgundy velvet and cotton after seeing a small sample.” He took the same approach to sourcing the two-toned square table beside one of the chairs. “Green River Project usually makes this with a cushion on top, but I wanted a table with a flat surface so that it could be flexible,” he continues. “I called to see if they could do this for me, and we went back and forth with ideas.”

From the start of the pandemic through the fall, Armando completely transformed his apartment with thoughtful sketches, numerous phone calls, and occasional excursions outside to pick up the items he’d dreamt up. He tasked a colleague with building the self-watering aluminum vase beside the dining table and commissioned artist friends to enliven canvases along the walls. Armando was alone but still surrounded, propped up by others who were mutually intent on collaborating during a trying time. “Because of my background in interiors, I have relationships with various artisans, fabricators, and workshops,” he says. “I always knew exactly who to call, and the trust was already there.”

“This is artwork from my friend John, he goes by J.G. Thies, and it says ‘cold beer,’” Armando says. “It’s a series on bodega signs, and as soon as I saw it, I loved how specifically New York it was.” The art hangs above a vintage BCS cabinet by George Nelson.

The apartment was completed at the end of last year, and Armando celebrated with the one thing he’d been waiting to do for some time: invite friends over for a so-called “opening night.” He hosted dinner and drinks with more than enough seating, and everyone was there to take in all that he had done with his hideaway. When a friend accidentally spilled some wine, it didn’t even matter. At least she was there in person.

“When I think about 2020, I entered it with a lot of promise, as everybody did. But then one thing happened, and then another, and then another. It was chaotic, to put it mildly,” Armando says. “I used this apartment to distract myself from everything that was going on, so that I could cope. And when my friends came over, it felt like I could finally slow down and enjoy it.”

Julian Pace also created this piece above a vintage barrister cabinet from the General Fireproofing Company.

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