5 Ways To Streamline A Funky Floorplan

Using dynamic seating, savvy storage, and cool neutrals, a Manhattan-based interior designer gives new life to a pent-up kitchen in Brooklyn.

An airy, linear space reimagined by designer Johanna Rich.
An airy, linear space reimagined by designer Johanna Rich.
Gotham Photos.

The railroad apartment. This nostalgic style of dwelling, characterized by its straight-down-the-middle floorplan, is usually a red flag for apartment-hunting New Yorkers. But when interior designer Johanna Rich was enlisted to revamp a Brooklyn couple’s linear-leaning kitchen, she willingly accepted the challenge. The designer’s goal was to eliminate the room’s thruway feel, and design a space that felt dynamic and comfortable, using cool-toned neutrals, strategic lighting, and accessible counter space.

“The potential energy of the space is what really attracted me to the project,” says Rich, who recalls the kitchen’s original wall-facing countertops and cabinetry. Her first order of business was to bring those shunned work stations toward the center of the space – perpendicular to the wall – making interaction easy, and natural. In keeping with this new flow, Rich traded the couple’s rectangular dining table for a round tulip table from Design Within Reach, and added an open-ended center bar, where a closet once stood. 

Casual barstools and lightweight furniture frames hint at the room’s ability to quickly change its seating arrangements depending on the occasion. Rich kept the palette light and crisp, choosing honed Calacatta white marble countertops, and cool gray and white tones from Farrow & Ball for the cabinets; reclaimed white oak on the floor and bar offer its warmer counterpoints. Because of the limited horizontal space, the designer took advantage of the kitchen’s height, implementing smart vertical storage and dropping in pendant lighting from Barn Light Electric. Here, we sit down with Rich to get more of her expert tips on how to turn a usually limiting plan into a stylish space that’s comfortable and inviting. 

5 Ways To Streamline A Funky Floorplan
Gotham Photos.

1. Direct Energy Inward 

"In such a linear space, my goal was to create surfaces perpendicular to the length of the room to direct energy inward. So, no matter where you’re sitting or standing you are comfortable facing the center of the room, to facilitate interaction."

2. Ground Your Colors

Keeping darker color tones lower in a space tends to make you feel a little more grounded. Here, we did gray base cabinets and a lighter shade on the upper cabinets. This can definitely help a space feel open and airy, but also cozy.

3. Offer versatile – and comfortable – seating options.

“Having comfortable seating areas is important for entertaining. Give people different options, like a decorative chair in the corner to pull up if you have an unexpected guest. This is also a good way to add an upholstered piece or a pop of color. I really like to use storage benches and trunks as multitasking seating in a space.”

5 Ways To Streamline A Funky Floorplan
Gotham Photos.

4. Use Light To Create Space

“I’m really a fan of using lighting to create gathering spaces. You can drop down pendants over a surface to visually demark a space, much like rugs do on the floor. Here, everything is on dimmers so the homeowner can control the mood of the space with the lighting. There’s nothing worse than spending time in a room with horrible lighting.”

5. Get Creative With Storage

“Creating good storage solutions so that you don’t have a lot of clutter, especially when you have a small apartment in Brooklyn or New York, is really important. Vertical space is often underutilized in a home – and that was something that was really important in this project. Also, adding different types of storage makes a space more dynamic.”

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