How a 'Luxe Pantry' Transformed This Designer's Cramped NYC Kitchen

Lauren Jones
Photo credit: SEAN LITCHFIELD
Photo credit: SEAN LITCHFIELD

From House Beautiful

In New York City, space always comes at a premium, so when interior designer Amy Courtney came across a 600-square-foot apartment—palatial by Manhattan standards— overlooking the Hudson, no less, she didn’t think twice before making an offer. The catch? The home’s quirky layout included a tiny, five-foot-long kitchen with a two-burner stove and no freezer—meaning a renovation would be a must.

Photo credit: SEAN LITCHFIELD
Photo credit: SEAN LITCHFIELD

“Everyone who looked at it saw those [oddities],” says Courtney, “but it also had water views, tall ceilings, and was on the 16th floor.” Located on the Upper West Side near Lincoln Center and Juilliard, the rest of the pre-war apartment was set up to take full advantage of its square footage as possible, with a large bedroom and a bathroom, and was cheerful and bright. “Light is so important to us and helped draw us to the space. It’s a big mood-changer,” the designer says.

Courtney’s first challenge upon moving in was giving the kitchen a dramatic aesthetic update. In order to avoid having to pull permits and hire an architect to break through the walls and move the existing gas and water lines, she decided to keep the basic floorplan intact, troubleshooting in other creative ways. “I had to make certain sacrifices for practically but felt I could still have the outcome I wanted,” she explains.

Photo credit: Left: Amy Courtney. Right: SEAN LITCHFIELD.
Photo credit: Left: Amy Courtney. Right: SEAN LITCHFIELD.

The designer ended up creating two separate kitchens: The existing kitchen, which already had gas and plumbing, was transformed into what Courtney dubbed the "luxe pantry," and holds the sink, dishwasher, and stove. A coat of dark, teal-gray paint makes the tiny space feel extra cozy. Using part of the adjacent living room, she built an additional kitchen area, with a refrigerator, oven, and a marble waterfall counter with seating.

Because she avoided knocking down any walls, Courtney “was able to spend more on finishes like the marble, large mirrored backsplash and the concealed fridge,” she says, and elevated the painted IKEA cabinet doors with high-end hardware.

Photo credit: SEAN LITCHFIELD
Photo credit: SEAN LITCHFIELD

The remainder of the apartment, in need of some minor edits like fresh paint and new light fixtures, came together with ease. Courtney drew inspiration from her love of all things vintage and her impressive art collection, which includes abstract Peter Kiel paintings and works by Dorothy Robertshaw. (Her favorite source for one-of-a-kind finds is Showplace, an auction house that hosts weekly sales featuring clothing, decor, and of course, plenty of art.)

From an uber-modern Bertoia chair to a vintage illuminated mirror to a saffron-yellow sofa purchased from a friend, each piece was layered to add an eclectic, lived-in feel. The life-sized dog statue in the living room was a must-have find that Courtney transported to her apartment via Uber; the overscaled vase, which she bought in Greece, flew home with her in a carry-on suitcase. Says the designer, “Everything in my apartment has a story!”

Kitchen

Photo credit: SEAN LITCHFIELD
Photo credit: SEAN LITCHFIELD

The kitchen renovation, which was completed in just a month, made a big impact on the small apartment. Countertop: World Class Granite. Backsplash: Sio Glass. Barstools: Showplace. Blue painting: Gerald Liang. Sconce: Wayfair.

Photo credit: SEAN LITCHFIELD
Photo credit: SEAN LITCHFIELD

The designer painted the “luxe pantry” in Benjamin Moore’s Kitty Gray. Chandelier: Anthropolgie. Drums: Housing Works Design on a Dime. Candlesticks: CB2.

Living Room

Photo credit: SEAN LITCHFIELD
Photo credit: SEAN LITCHFIELD

Courtney filled her apartment with unique antiques and vintage pieces. Sofa: Robert Allen. Wire chair: Bertoia. Bust: vintage through Fleur De Lis in Redding, CT. Rug: ABC Carpet.

Bathroom

Photo credit: SEAN LITCHFIELD
Photo credit: SEAN LITCHFIELD

“When you’re in the shower and look up, you feel like you’re in a jungle,” says Courtney. Wallpaper: Cole and Son. Artwork: Alison Causer. Sink: IKEA.

Bedroom

Photo credit: SEAN LITCHFIELD
Photo credit: SEAN LITCHFIELD

A pink-painted ceiling and faux picture rail molding in terracotta orange draw the eye upwards. Headboard: Wayfair. Lamps: Barbieri e Marianelli for Tronconi Italian Modern. Art: Peter Kiel.

Photo credit: SEAN LITCHFIELD
Photo credit: SEAN LITCHFIELD

Courtney also uses part of the bedroom as her home office. “All of my furniture choices were intentional so it doesn’t look institutional,” she says of the vintage Karl Springer desk (a savvy find from Regency Auction House) and fringed ottoman. Chair: vintage Cerner through Showplace. Art: Peter Kiel.

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