Marilyn Moedinger’s clients, a thirtysomething couple who live in a 1,075-square-foot condo overlooking Boston Common, craved more living, working, entertaining, and storage space. How do I do that, the principal of Runcible Studios in Medford recalls thinking. I can’t bust out a wall into the next unit.
Her solution? Create flexible spaces with storage at every turn. The architect likens her design approach to multipurpose rooms to creating a machinist chest. “When closed, it is a clean, compact box with a handle,” she says. “When opened, it reveals specialized compartments to organize the machinist’s tools.”
First, Moedinger gutted the unit before digging into the design. “To plan, I’ve got to see what we can move and what we can’t, and I knew I’d need every inch,” she says. Once she identified the structural beams and columns, plumbing chases, and such — all of which remained in place — she determined the best location for each room and the elements within it.
Moedinger built the kitchen around one of those columns, and snuck a shallow cabinet into it. “Wherever we could find storage, we did, even if it was just six inches for cans,” she says. A peninsula topped with Vermont soapstone extends from the column, offering seating for four and dividing the kitchen from the living space.
Glazed ceramic teal tiles and walnut cabinetry line the back wall. Moedinger describes it as the first of several “dark, carved out spaces.” A faceted walnut ceiling accentuates the moody vibe and provides cover for more of the condo’s systems, as well for as lighting.
A pantry and a utility closet/laundry are tucked into the corner. Not coincidentally, this is the farthest point from the bedroom. “Sound is a big consideration in a small space,” Moedinger says. “You want to separate noisy functions with spaces needing quiet.” There’s also a wet bar and coffee station to eliminate clutter in the kitchen and let guests help themselves without interfering with the cooking.
The limestone tile floor transitions to darkly stained oak planks in the living area. Removing the drop ceiling made the space feel open to step into from the kitchen. “The height change creates a sense of compression and release,” Moedinger says. The space becomes brighter thanks to floor-to-ceiling sliders with a spectacular view of downtown Boston, the Charles River, and Cambridge.
A niche with black concrete tiles and floating walnut shelves anchors the seating area. While the tableau is decorative, there is also function: The bottom portion is actually a bench and each of its walnut slabs flip up to access a storage cavity.
The other half of the space can morph seamlessly into three different types of rooms. Most often it’s set up for dining. Woodworker Seth Bournival, who is responsible for all the cabinetry except for in the kitchen, crafted the table. It can seat up to 10 or be reconfigured into a console table and be pushed aside. “The clients and their friends like to dance,” Moedinger says.
It is also a guest room and an office. Painted birch plywood built-ins conceal a Murphy bed and, next to it, a standing desk. “When you live in a small space, you can’t give over an entire room to visitors,” Moedinger says, pointing out that “this bed only comes into play when needed.” A shoji screen that can be arranged around the bed for privacy lives behind the gray doors above the headboard, as do extra dining chairs and table leaves.
The adjacent frosted glass wall lets sunlight into the guest bath behind it. Press a button and the glass turns transparent so bathers can enjoy the city view from the claw-foot tub.
In the bedroom, everything is built in for a streamlined feel and maximum efficiency. The bed, with an oak live edge footboard and headboard, has storage in the base. His-and-hers closets flank the bed, seasonal storage runs overhead, and oak-lined niches with charging ports act as nightstands. “Everything doesn’t have to be exactly the same in a small space,” Moedinger says in reference to choosing a different wood. “Contrasts can make a home feel bigger by providing a variety of experiences.”
Moedinger’s most critical advice for smaller space living is more mundane: She advocates assigning a spot for absolutely everything. “If you don’t discuss the nitty-gritty,” she says, “the space isn’t going to function well.”
Architect and Interior Designer: Runcible Studios, runciblestudios.com
Contractor: GDI Custom Homes, gdicustomhomes.com
Built-ins: Bournival Woodwork, bournivalwoodwork.com
Marni Elyse Katz is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.