I Just … Made This Out of a Dentist’s Office

Three years ago, Suchi Reddy was in the market for a new apartment when she found an ad online for a Fifth Avenue studio. It was within walking distance of the Union Square Greenmarket (a prerequisite) and fit her budget—but it was on the ground floor and measured a Lilliputian 375 square feet. Even worse, at first glance, the cramped space reminded her of a doctor’s office. In fact, it had been a dentist’s office in a past life. It had the wacky plumbing to prove it.

Still, Reddy was seduced by the afternoon light and the high ceilings—not to mention the spire views of the Gothic church across the street. And Reddy, who designs Manhattan apartments ten times this size for her clients, knew the place had great bones. She bought it for $400,000 and enthusiastically embarked on an eighteen-month gut renovation. First she constructed a dollhouse-size model of the space without partitions. For months she labored over squeezing everything in. She even included a scaled-down version of herself. “I tend to knock into things, so we had to see how I would be able to move around,” she says.

She began by recessing walls inside the originals, creating bookcases, picture shelves, and the seven electronically controlled blinds, evoking a sense of depth. Fifty-one drawers and closets were then tucked into the new walls and cooking area. Opening her platform bed on both sides allowed light from the bathroom window to filter in, vastly boosting the overall sense of illumination.

Illustration by Kate Francis

Realizing hard edges and surfaces showed up the apartment’s small scale, Reddy eliminated them. She opted for soft white-and-gray quartzite atop the counter between the kitchen and living area, lined bedroom walls with linen, and coated the wooden closet doors with plaster for a cushier texture. A monochromatic palette of cream and white opened up the space even more. Now Reddy not only lives there, but she often hosts dinner parties—for six.

Click here to see a video of the space, filmed by Ruth Somalo.

Reddy (reddymade.org) relies on art to distract from the studio’s size. James Osher’s Work Pair sits above the Hans Wegner Valet chair, while a prized drawing from Louis Kahn hangs atop the Luce di Luna quartzite countertop. Clear Vision by Bruce Nauman is displayed above the sofa, which was designed by Reddy. The walls were given a Venetian plaster finish, providing the softness Reddy needed to create an illusion of space. Photo: Douglas Friedman

When more space is needed, the table lifts toward the ceiling. Photo: Douglas Friedman

A curtain made from traditional Indian gold and linen, given to Reddy by her sister, rises electronically into the ceiling above. Photo: Douglas Friedman

When the curtain is lowered, it acts as a translucent room divider. Photo: Douglas Friedman

I Just … Made This Out of a Dentist’s Office