The Overhaul of This Upper East Side Kitchen Made Room for Magic

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Every once in a while, a simple cosmetic renovation becomes something much more special. That’s precisely what happened when these homeowners—a doctor and a creative producer—purchased an Upper East Side co-op ripe for an overhaul and brought on Idan Naor (founder of Inworkshop, a New York–based architecture and design firm) to bring their vision to life.

The apartment’s small rooms and closed-off floor plan didn’t make sense for the couple’s lively lifestyle—planning for a post-pandemic future, they desired multifunctional spaces in which to host friends for craft cocktails, lush meals, and vibrant conversation. With very little light, outdated ornamental columns, and cloistered location, the kitchen was not conducive for entertaining. “They were interested in pivoting the visual language of the existing space,” Idan explains. “Opening things up and getting rid of those clear demarcations,” he adds.

The Inworkshop team took down the large wall that closed off the kitchen and living areas, leaving only the essentials that had to remain for the structural systems, which allowed the floor plan to begin a more harmonious dialogue. “That’s when the design narrative developed towards a place where we allowed the slippage between spaces and began to see materials overlap in an exciting way,” Idan shares. “We really geeked out on that idea,” he adds. Rounded stone and millwork reinforce the concept of visual fluidity, bolstered by the unexpected yet organic invasion of one flooring material into its adjacent program. Gestural details and a blurring of boundaries illustrate the couple’s aspiration for a dynamic environment. “These static features work to create a kinetic character that encourages you to experience the space differently,” Idan says.

With sight lines now connected throughout the entire floor, you find yourself rooted in the openness between kitchen, dining, and living areas. The built-in bookshelf anchoring the main wall of the living room becomes an integrating focal point. Light wood and geometric lines imbue the home with an overall sense of serenity—a backdrop that serves as a necessary respite to the couple’s bustling Manhattan lives.

In addition to having soothing angles, the bookshelf becomes a cabinet of curiosities of sorts, according to Idan. Beloved favorites from their extensive book collection sit among eclectic sculpture and art pieces picked up along their far-flung travels, punctuated by prized objects and family photos. “For me, it also became an analogue protest to our hyper digital existence,” Idan says, noting the distinct absence of a television in the main living room. “We created a space that prioritizes physical objects, books, and the physical gathering of people, which feels very refreshing,” he adds. Plus, with some shelves intentionally left spare at the onset, the design is meant to kindle an evolving of aesthetics and memories over time, becoming a breathing organism at the heart of the home.

The neutral color palette accented with warm tones only adds to the “blank canvas” appeal, allowing the homeowners to introduce pops of color and more vibrant art as they continue to grow. “The idea was not to be too overbearing with any one architectural component,” Idan says. It’s a holistic and full circle return to the couple’s enduring search for movement and fluidity throughout every area of the home. “Sometimes, when the right alchemy of the appropriate client, timing, and contractor all align in a certain way, you can push the envelope a little bit, even when it’s not a grandiose project with an outsized budget,” Idan says. “For me, this transformed from a mere kitchen renovation to an elevated exploration of craft and, in turn, some kind of humble quest for something more magical.”

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