How to make a space feel bigger and brighter? It’s the perennial question of NYC dwellers and it was certainly the challenge with this 21-foot-wide townhouse in the West Village. There is no single formula, but it seems that every time we work on a narrow, windowless-on-two-sides space, we are reminded there are plenty of options. This project involved converting a two-family home into a single-family, with extensive renovations on the garden and parlor levels. Here are a few things we learned along the way.

Consider reorienting staircase to garden level

townhouse renovation before

Views of the parlor level living area and entryway before the renovation.

townhouse remodel after

After the wall in the entryway was removed and the staircase reoriented, the parlor level feels spacious and bright. (All photography by Zimmerman Workshop.)

By moving the staircase, we made it possible for more light to filter in downstairs, and we captured more square footage for the living and kitchen areas on the parlor level. We also gained some space by removing the walls that enclosed the vestibule.

Garden level renovation before

The garden level before …

garden level remodel after

… and after, with a fresh, lighter color palette.

Invest in Steam Flow Form radiators

If you have radiators, you know that they can take up premium wall space. For this remodel, we used the spiral-like Steam Flow Form radiators. Because they were only a few inches off the ground, we could install wall-mounted furniture above them.

Be wary of having too much storage

home storage renovation before

Some of the storage pieces in place before the renovation…

home storage renovation after

… and after! Wall-mounted shelves and full-length white cabinets create a slimmer, lighter profile.

Credenzas, armoires, and other storage pieces all do a good job of corralling and concealing your wares, but the downside is that they can be bulky and make your space appear smaller. Here, we pared down the furnishings and opted for wall-mounted, credenza-like shelving on both levels, and a slim coat cabinet near the entryway.

Try to do without upper cabinets

kitchen renovation before

The kitchen was partially enclosed and cramped.

kitchen renovation after

The new kitchen occupies the same footprint, but an island and full-length cabinets to the right make it more functional — and fun to work in.

Upper cabinets can also look bulky, even in an open plan. Of course, without them will likely have less storage, but you may find you can do with less. We encourage clients to do a “storage audit” and determine what really needs to be close at hand, and what can be tucked away elsewhere for occasional use. Here, we made up for the lack of upper cabinets with the cabinets to the right of the refrigerator, as well as those in the island. All that said, if you do need upper cabinets, opt for those that are shorter, rather than those that extend to the ceiling.

Balance, size and lightness

living area renovation before

The garden level before, when it was still a one-bedroom apartment.

living area renovation after lounge chairs

The lounge chairs have generous proportions, but are light enough that they don’t crowd the room. On the right, we used space-saving barn doors leading to closets, a bathroom, and a spare bedroom.

With this project, we were once again reminded that you can have pieces of furniture with more generous proportions, but they need some degree of lightness. The chairs on the garden level are wide and comfortable, but let light pass through. They also balance out the plush sectional nearby. Upstairs, we selected one of our favorite pieces — the Edward Sofa from Bensen — because it’s deep and lounge-worthy but elegant, and seems to float off the rug.

Use that small, slightly awkward spot to do something delightful, or very useful — or both

kitchen hallway outdoor terrace

The hallway beyond the kitchen, and the outdoor area before the terrace went in.

tasting room kitchen

A small space beyond the kitchen is a tasting room, has extra storage, and leads to the terrace.

outdoor terrace

Outside, a heavy timber bench mirrors the spiral staircase made with the same material.

Prior to the renovation, the area just beyond the kitchen was a powder room and a small bedroom. With the powder room moved to the far end, we were left with enough space to build out a tasting room and entryway to the small outdoor area. It also serves as overflow space from the compact kitchen, with storage and a spot for the microwave.