written by:
photos by:
November 5, 2011
Originally published in Smaller & Smarter

To maximize every square inch in this Manhattan apartment, LOT-EK knocked down walls, added dozens of recycled doors, and built in a bevy of secret compartments.

Modern painted red tunneled kitchen
By inserting a tunnel made from 36 reclaimed commercial doors and tearing down a handful of walls, LOT-EK and contractor Andreas Scholtz brought light into the formerly unused dark hallway in Maurice Russell (right) and Jorge Fontanez’s apartment. The glossy Safety Red paint by Benjamin Moore catches the light by day but “becomes a richer, darker, very relaxing red at night,” Fontanez says.
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Courtesy of 
Copyright: 2010 Nicholas Calcott. All rights reserved.
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Modern customized small space kitchen with metal countertop
The former dining room is now home to Russell and Fontanez’s custom kitchen, designed by LOT-EK and fabricated by Chef Restaurant Supplies. “We love to entertain,” Russell says. “Before, the galley kitchen was in the hallway; now we can cook and still be a part of the party.” The space-saving setup, which adjoins the living room, features stainless steel–paneled cabinets, DuPont Corian countertops, Onda stools by Jesus Gasca for Stua, and fixtures and appliances by Grohe, Liebherr, and Miele. To maximize space, the designers specified that the cabinets be built around a former fireplace in the kitchen. “Because there’s a bump out where the chimney is, we turned the sink lengthwise,” Lignano says. “The cabinet directly overhead is only four inches deep, so it’s just a huge spice rack.” The island provides ample additional storage.
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Courtesy of 
Copyright: 2010 Nicholas Calcott. All rights reserved.
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Modern kitchen tunnel with foyer
Moving the kitchen out of the hallway and rotating the front door 90 degrees and into the tunnel created a much-needed foyer. “Before, when someone entered, they walked straight into the living room,” Russell says. “The lighting from the staircase would ruin the buzz of the party inside.” The new entrance opens into the narrower of the two corridors, from which individuals can access the storage-and-laundry closet, shower room, and powder room. In the kitchen, a 9.4-cubic-foot, 24-inch Liebherr fridge and freezer is tucked into the wall. “I freaked out when I saw it for the first time because it was so tiny,” Russell says. “But it hasn’t been an issue at all; it was just a mental thing. We’ve learned how oversized our old fridge was.”
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Courtesy of 
Copyright: 2010 Nicholas Calcott. All rights reserved.
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Door made out of recycled materials
Lignano, Tolla, and Scholtz left the ends of the doors unpainted to show off the recycled material.
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Red doorknob cutout overhead lights
The original doorknob cutouts now act as openings for overhead lights
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Courtesy of 
Copyright: 2010 Nicholas Calcott. All rights reserved.
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Dining room with hidden benches for storage
The reused doors serve as more than floor, walls, and ceiling; several are still functional. In the dining room, the benches lift up for storage, and doors on either side of the banquette open to reveal closets.
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Courtesy of 
Copyright: 2010 Nicholas Calcott. All rights reserved.
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dining room with painted red walls
Eazy side chairs by Whiteonwhite line one side of the custom-designed table by LOT-EK. Castore suspension lights by Michele De Lucchi for Artemide hang above, and a custom rug by Liora Manné lies below.
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Modern bedroom with ceiling fan
“Two-bedroom apartments are coveted in Manhattan, but the reality is that we are just two people, and the second bedroom had become neglected storage space,” Fontanez says. Combining the two into one reaped big rewards. “Now we wake up to a row of four windows and a variety of birds singing,” Russell says.
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Courtesy of 
Copyright: 2010 Nicholas Calcott. All rights reserved.
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Watercolor portrait on painted white brick wall
The peaceful space is accented with art, like the watercolor portrait gifted to the couple.
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Courtesy of 
Copyright: 2010 Nicholas Calcott. All rights reserved.
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Narrow hallway hidden closet with metal walls
Fontanez solved LOT-EK’s conundrum of how to situate the bed against the center wall while still maintaining closet access by suggesting an automated dry-cleaning rack in the narrow closet. He and Russell access the closet from opposite ends. “We just have to make sure we don’t spin it at the same time,” Fontanez says.

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Photo by 
Courtesy of 
Copyright: 2010 Nicholas Calcott. All rights reserved.
10 / 10
Modern painted red tunneled kitchen
By inserting a tunnel made from 36 reclaimed commercial doors and tearing down a handful of walls, LOT-EK and contractor Andreas Scholtz brought light into the formerly unused dark hallway in Maurice Russell (right) and Jorge Fontanez’s apartment. The glossy Safety Red paint by Benjamin Moore catches the light by day but “becomes a richer, darker, very relaxing red at night,” Fontanez says. Image courtesy of Copyright: 2010 Nicholas Calcott. All rights reserved..
Project 
Russell / Fontanez Residence
Architect 

New York design firm LOT-EK is known for incorporating recycled industrial materials—shipping containers, truck beds, even airplane fuselages—into its projects. So when Maurice Russell and Jorge Fontanez asked their friend Giuseppe Lignano, a principal at the firm, to renovate their 1,100-square-foot apartment in New York’s East Village, it came as little surprise that Lignano hauled in a truckload of recycled commercial doors.

The apartment had issues. In the mid-1980s, the building co-op combined each floor’s two narrow units into single dwellings encircling the central staircase, which resulted in wasted space, awkward connections, and dark interiors. In 2009, Russell and Fontanez gave LOT-EK three requirements for their renovation: Maintain the apartment’s circularity, bring more light into its middle, and maximize every inch for storage.

Lignano and his LOT-EK partner, Ada Tolla, put their industrial aesthetic and upcycling expertise to work. “We wanted to turn the problem on its head so that the forgotten and least-interesting areas—the two dark corridors—became the most important, most beautiful spaces,” Lignano says. With the help of contractor Andreas Scholtz of Craft Workshop, they tracked down 63 reclaimed commercial steel doors from Build It Green! NYC and built two tunnels through the apartment. What was formerly dead space is now packed with action. “We compressed everything functional or mechanical into the middle portion so the living room and bedroom could be open spaces,” Lignano says. “It was a puzzle—and a bit of a masterpiece—how we wedged everything in.” Now there’s a brightly lit place for everything.

To see more images of the residence, please view our slideshow.

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