It takes an expert eye to turn something good to great – and for this very reason we enlist interior designers to transform our spaces.

For Michael K. Chen Architecture (MKCA), this historic Park Avenue apartment built in prewar era was a challenge accepted.

The historic apartment
The historic apartment's original living area. (Photo: Courtesy of MKCA)

A circular sofa custom-designed by MKCA sites in the living room, upholstered in a bright blue synthetic textile from Naharam. Poufs upholstered in mohair surround a vintage brass table. Far left, a sculptural chair by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The rug is custom-made by MKCA featuring two forms of broadloom synthetic silk, joined together. (Photo: Brooke Holm)
A circular sofa custom-designed by MKCA sites in the living room, upholstered in a bright blue synthetic textile from Naharam. Poufs upholstered in mohair surround a vintage brass table. Far left, a sculptural chair by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The rug is custom-made by MKCA featuring two forms of broadloom synthetic silk, joined together. (Photo: Brooke Holm)

The original 2,800sqft abode, home to a young family, was blessed with well-proportioned formal spaces as well as a generous entrance gallery and living and dining rooms – all of which could, however, benefit from less segmentation and more brightening up.

The original fireplace in the living area. (Photo: Courtesy of MKCA)
The original fireplace in the living area. (Photo: Courtesy of MKCA)

A new grey onyx and bronze fireplace mantel was installed, flanked by turquoise glass sconces. Above, a vintage Fontana Arte mirror. (Photo: Brooke Holm)
A new grey onyx and bronze fireplace mantel was installed, flanked by turquoise glass sconces. Above, a vintage Fontana Arte mirror. (Photo: Brooke Holm)

Dark and crowded storage and service areas could also use conversion into more functional elements.

Across the living room
Across the living room's sitting area, a sculptural stainless steel shelving unit by Francois Monnet, next to a game table. (Photo: Brooke Holm)

To that end, the firm set out to enlarge the apartment's openings, enhancing circulation between its various areas.

The former dining area prior to renovation, with the door opening to the side leading to the living room. (Photo: Courtesy of MKCA)
The former dining area prior to renovation, with the door opening to the side leading to the living room. (Photo: Courtesy of MKCA)

The elegant dining room, dressed in pink, is anchored by an 11ft custom-designed table in high gloss lacquer, steel, and gold lead, by Detroit designers Alex Drew and No One. The table is surrounded by vintage Joe Colombo dining chairs in original fabric. (Photo: Brooke Holm)
The elegant dining room, dressed in pink, is anchored by an 11ft custom-designed table in high gloss lacquer, steel, and gold lead, by Detroit designers Alex Drew and No One. The table is surrounded by vintage Joe Colombo dining chairs in original fabric. (Photo: Brooke Holm)

"Drawing from our experience designing micro apartments, we start every project with a very flexible spatial organisation, where spaces can slip into and overlap with one another," says Michael, founder and principal architect at MKCA. "Not only is that how most of our clients actually live, but it's a way to make sure that every space in a project is utilised."

Off to the side of the dining room, a custom-built bar. (Photo: Brooke Holm)
Off to the side of the dining room, a custom-built bar. (Photo: Brooke Holm)

Contemporary furniture and artwork, including some picked out by the owners, were also incorporated, rejuvenating the space for an altogether chic and modern look.

The original kitchen before renovation. (Photo: Courtesy of MKCA)
The original kitchen before renovation. (Photo: Courtesy of MKCA)

Overheard cabinets were replaced by multiple full height cabinets in the pantry. (Photo: Brooke Holm)
Overheard cabinets were replaced by multiple full height cabinets in the pantry. (Photo: Brooke Holm)

A lacquer and ebonised oak pantry links a smaller dining room and kitchen, which feature three-dimensional tiles from Ann Sacks and a pale wall covering from Flat Vernacular. Beneath the glass partition is a counter made of striped Kenya black marble. (Photo: Brooke Holm)
A lacquer and ebonised oak pantry links a smaller dining room and kitchen, which feature three-dimensional tiles from Ann Sacks and a pale wall covering from Flat Vernacular. Beneath the glass partition is a counter made of striped Kenya black marble. (Photo: Brooke Holm)

A wall delineating the living room from the dining area, initially fitted with a small door, was replaced with a black metal-framed, sliding glass partition, enlarging the portal between the two spaces.

A gorilla print by Enzo Mari hangs above the dining table, flanked by fabric sconces by Erich Ginder. (Photo: Brooke Holm)
A gorilla print by Enzo Mari hangs above the dining table, flanked by fabric sconces by Erich Ginder. (Photo: Brooke Holm)

Colours also served a supporting role in the update, with the kitchen dressed in saturated pink; one of the children's room a youthful, mint green; as well as bold pops of blue and yellow creating interest in the living area.

In the daughter
In the daughter's bedroom, sheepskin pillows sit on a CB2 daybed with a custom cushion, upholstered in a botanical print by Josef Frank. (Photo: Brooke Holm)

The tall shelving is from Hem; the animal footstool pieces are from Kinder Modern. (Photo: Brooke Holm)
The tall shelving is from Hem; the animal footstool pieces are from Kinder Modern. (Photo: Brooke Holm)

The vintage teak rocker is by Finn Juhl. (Photo: Brooke Holm)
The vintage teak rocker is by Finn Juhl. (Photo: Brooke Holm)

"When we are working in spaces without abundant natural light, we do everything we can to create a feeling of illumination – without having to resort to visible fixtures."

A vintage shelving unit by Frederick Weinberg, sourced from eBay, display ceramics and books collected by the couple. (Photo: Brooke Holm)
A vintage shelving unit by Frederick Weinberg, sourced from eBay, display ceramics and books collected by the couple. (Photo: Brooke Holm)

(Photo: Brooke Holm)
(Photo: Brooke Holm)

(Photo: Brooke Holm)
(Photo: Brooke Holm)

"Every surface is considered for its properties relative to light. We tend toward contrast in both colour and sheen, to keep the spaces feeling visually lively, and we make ample use of LED strips that provide focused illumination where it counts."

MKCA created a new cloakroom across the gallery, featuring pink lacquer built-ins, integrated LED lights, and a flamingo wallpaper backsplash. (Photo: Brooke Holm)
MKCA created a new cloakroom across the gallery, featuring pink lacquer built-ins, integrated LED lights, and a flamingo wallpaper backsplash. (Photo: Brooke Holm)

"The very best kinds of client collaborations are when we are asked to push the clients a little past their comfort zone," says Michael, "and when they do the same to us."

(Photo: Brooke Holm)
(Photo: Brooke Holm)

(Photo: Brooke Holm)
(Photo: Brooke Holm)

See more: Inside This Gallery Owner’s Five-Storey New York Showroom – Where He Also Lives

Park Avenue Pre-war New York MKCA

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