Designer wins award for flexible use of a small space

New York designer Karen Rosen has just won a top design award for ingeniously managing to put five rooms in one in this small studio apartment in the heart of manhattan.

The decorating problem was not a simple one. The apartment belongs to a corporation executive who needed a pied-a-terre in town for himself, but which could become a weekend retreat for his wife and two children. He also needed it as a place to lend to occasional corporate visitors.

The executive gave Miss Rosen his requirements for the one-room apartment, which measures 22 feet by 12 feet with an additional 8-by-10-foot alcove. He wanted it to be simple in upkeep to sleep four people, to be comfortable for six daytime visitors, and to lend itself to entertaining up to 40 guests.

Miss Rosen met all requirements and, in a mere six weeks, presented the executive with an apartment that also came out looking cool, serene, and uncluttered, striking a distinct mood of New York glamour.

Designer Rosen says that, because of space limitations, it is the most difficult job she has ever undertaken She couldn't just "decorate" this small plain box in the usual way. She had to rethink and redesign it altogether, so that it became a complete architectural unit, with 60 percent more storage space but absolutely minimal furnishings.

She put the bedroom area on a platform seven inches above the rest of the apartment. She also angled the queen-size bed and mirrored room divider, mirrored several walls, and chose a strong contrast of textures for floors, walls, and upholstery.

The workable and unusual arrangement and the monochromatic color scheme of neutrals, ranging from sand beige to copper brown won for Karen Rosen of KMR Design Ltd. the first-prize award of $2,500 in the residential category of the S.M. hexter annual competition for the best interiors of the year. The jury, which looks for originality of design, adaptability of a room to its function, and coordination of color and other elements of interior design, especially cited Miss Rosen's "excellent utilization of a small space to create a flexible living environment."

To get this flexibility, the designer divided the space into several "use" zones -- for sleeping, conversation and entertaining, for executive work and conferences at home, and for dining. she then subtly defined each of these areas with a different floor level, or a room divider, and a series of lighting effects from different light sources. Separate dimmer controls for each zone mean that various parts of the room can have soft or bright illumination as the occasion demands.

A diagonally placed fllor-to-ceiling room divider, five feet wide by two feet deep, gives some privacy to the bedroom area. The divider opens from both sides and houses hi-fi, books, games, and clothes. A television set that swivels can be viewed from both the living room and bedroom sides.

The queen-size bed is upholstered so that it can double as seating by day, and the seats of the built-in sectional sofas in the living area can double as sleepers at night. Linens, pillows, and blankets can stored in the square built-in end tables in each area. Three additional three-cornered closets, camouflaged with their mirror facing, add hanging space to the existing closets.

The dining-work area near the entrance is separated from the living area by means of a wall-hung storage cabinet for china and glasses. Beneath is a wide cantilevered shelf that will seat four for dining or can be used as desk or work space. The two stainless steel cylinder tables in front of the sofas are easily mobile and add a smooth, gleaming textural contrast to the ribbed fabric wallcoverings and the deep waffle weave on the seating. The window wall is left untrimmed except for the tailored thin-slatted Levolor blinds, which are the same color as the walls.

It is a minimum-housekeeping apartment, says Miss Rosen. Even the plants -- a palm, a marginata, and a yucca -- are low maintenance and need watering but once a week.

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