Turning the tables on tight space

Space is so tight in the New York apartment of one young professional that he has to anchor his coffee table against the ceiling when it's not in use. The table, a 4-by-4-foor square of solid wood that is four inches thick, can be lowered to any desired heights by means of an electric pulley arrangement.

The second table in the single 15-by-13-foot room, is hinged to the wall where it can rest unobtrusively flat, or by means of one leg, pull in place to become a dining table for four people.

These are but two of the ideas carried out by Manhattan interior designer Juna Montoya when he was called in to make the 200 square feet of space function efficiently for living, sleeping, eating, and entertaining.The apartment is a tiny one-room penthouse, plus kitchen, entrance foyer, bath, and small terrace entered by a door that is two steps up.

To eliminate one of the steps to this terrace door, Mr. Montoya had a 12-inch high bed platform and ledge built against the window wall. This provides built-in sleeping, sitting, and lounging areas, plus storage space underneath for such things as luggage and out-of-season bedding, clothes, and equipment. The designer wrapped the ledges around two other walls, as well, to provide a place to put books, television, radio, clock, and a few choice art objects and plants.

Because the doors of the two closets swung into the room, they were replaced with sliding doors, and one closet was left for clothes and other completely shelved for household and personal storage. Mr. Montoya had a floor-to-ceiling storage cabinet built between the windows and installed the floor-to-ceiling thin-slatted blinds flush with the cabinet's edge.

The three free-standing chairs in the apartment are metal tubin and linen and are both comfortable and collapsible, in case things get crowded. Since the owner of the apartment loves the Orient, the room is done with white walls and built-ins are painted with red or black lacquer. The wood floor has a shiny coat of black paint. Two 17th-century Chinese vases set a tone of elegance.

The jury of the 1979 S. M. Hexter "Interiors of the Year" competition gave Mr. Montoya an honorable mention award for this apartment, citing his "functionalism and ingenious use of space to attain a flexible living arrangement."

The designer, who has become a specialist in dealing with cramped urban spaces, shares the following general ideas for alleviating the feeling of smallness:

1. Instead of decorating with an array of little plants, choose one or two large, tall trees to reduce plant clutter and give vertically.

2. To give more vertically, use only floor-to-ceiling blinds or shades or curtains.

3. Again, to emphasize vertical space, choose lower furniture with lower backs. He advocates 26-inch party-height tables and correspondingly lower chairs instead of the normal height of a 29-inch high dining table and usual dining chairs.

4. To get a focal point in even the most minuscule space, place one loved object such as a sculpture or a vase on a pedestal and invite it to draw attention from all sides. The pedestal can be plain or fancy, or just a tall rectangle of unfinished wood that can be painted or lacquered to match the room.

5. Paint walls white or one of the new "1930s" pastels such as peach or apricot. If you use wallpaper, pick it for texture, not for big splashy patterns.

6. Leave floors, too, as uninterrupted as possible. He prefers wall-to-wall carpets in neutral colors like charcoal gray or lighter stone gray.

7. Make a small entrance foyer into a dramatic transition point by painting it a dark color like black, dark brown, dark gray, or dark green and picking out a painting or an object with lighting.

8. If you have a closet to spare, take off the door, and convert it into a home office area, or study alcove, or some other small but change-of-pace extension of the main living area.

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