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Many young families start out in two-bedroom apartments, thrilled with their space (rooms for all!). The arrival of a second child is manageable at first (many NYC kids share), but if those sibs include a brother-sister combo, the days of happy co-existence are numbered. Here, how one family of four—including an 11-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son—solved their own room-splitting conundrum.
We live in a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment in Kips Bay. It’s about 1,200 square feet of space, and our son and daughter shared the second bedroom, a large rectangular room about 11 by 15.5 feet, with two floor-to-ceiling windows at one end. This worked out well until Isabella was about 11 and Alfredo was 8.
She kept running into the bathroom to change her clothes and she was tired of stepping on his Legos that were always scattered across the floor. She needed privacy and started asking for her own space. He, on the other hand, was not ready for his own space. He didn’t really want to separate from her.
My husband, Nico, is a multimedia and web designer so he’s really familiar with web-based design tools. He grew up in our building (and in our apartment, but that’s another story!) and had sibling friends in the building whose architect father had successfully divided their bedroom.
Inspired by their room(s), he did a CAD design of the new space using SketchUp, a 3D modeling program. The new design created three rooms out of the old one. It’s based on a letter “T” with two long and narrow spaces, each with its own window and a pocket door, running down each side of the stem of the “T,” and a common area at the top that we call the “foyer."
The renovation itself took only about three days—one day to build, a second to caulk and sand, and a third to finish. But I spent several weeks (and gave up my spring break) to pack and purge everything in their bedroom. That was actually the hardest and most rewarding part of the whole project. We had to give things up to have more space, and it was so good to pare down. What’s left is truly the stuff that is most meaningful and relevant to them.
We had a contractor build the actual walls and doors, and Nico painted and lay down the carpet tiles. We built the Ikea pieces together but ended up needing professional help to secure them to the walls. Our cost, including construction, paint, carpet, Elfa closet components and Ikea pieces was about $10,000.
Each of the bedrooms has a twin bed, an Elfa closet and storage system with a desk and shelves, plus a cork board for artwork and the like, all on the permanent wall side. The beds are from Gothic Cabinet Craft. I bought them years ago in anticipation of this renovation and I chose them specifically because they were narrow and had built-in storage. We installed carpet squares from CB2 in a checkerboard pattern to create the illusion of space.
The common-foyer area has the same carpet squares and pattern on the floor. It also contains the room’s two existing closets, and we installed a pair of Ikea Pax cabinets (mirrored, again to create the appearance of more space). Both wardrobes have a dresser at the bottom and room for hanging stuff on top. Hers is larger, his is shallower. Beside hers is a closet for toys and next to his is a bookcase that they share.
They each got to choose the color of their own rooms and hers is a bright pink while his is a tropical blue. When friends sleep over they either sleep on an air mattress in the foyer or on the Murphy bed in the living room.
The final product:
In the end we couldn’t be happier with the results. There’s no doubt that the kids’ rooms are dorm-like (we tell them this is the way it is in college, so they might as well get used to it now), and because the AC is on one side of the room, Alfredo’s side is arctic in the summer while Isabella’s is just cool enough.
But the kids are thrilled to have their own spaces while still being physically close to one another. And we were so inspired by the redesign of their room, we ended up redoing the master bedroom and the living room soon after. Now my husband says this is the first time the apartment truly feels completely different from the one he grew up in. We’re so happy because our two-bedroom really feels perfect for our family of four. We’ll be able to stay here comfortably for a long time.