A Rundown One-Bedroom in Manhattan Becomes a Two-Bedroom Full of Hidden Storage

It isn’t necessarily the norm in house hunting to look for a place that is “unloved,” but that was just the sort of space that could inspire a certain design power couple. For interior designer Caroline McKeough and her husband Tim McKeough, design journalist and contributor to the New York Times, finding a home that they wouldn’t feel bad about tearing everything out of was exactly what they were looking for.

“I started my firm recently and I love going into a forgotten space and seeing how it can transform,” Caroline says. Plus, like so many New York City dwellers, they were pressed for space as their family expanded and used to being optimistic about the lack of amenities. “We had rented a ground-floor apartment in Chelsea, and it had no natural light,” Tim says. “At certain moments there would be one sliver of light, so I would call Caroline over to look at it.”

“My dad is an antique dealer, and he would always pick things up for us, if he thought we would want it,” Caroline says. The rosewood dining table, which was sitting in the rain in rural Canada, was one of those lovingly restored finds.


As luck would have it, just around the corner from their previous apartment—on the same block in Midtown East—they stumbled on their unlovable gem. “It wouldn’t have been appealing to very many people,” says Tim, who lists the orange linoleum floors and low ceilings as just some of the unfortunate features. Yet they saw the potential in the rundown, 1,050-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment.

Caroline’s thoughtful redesign called for a complete gut renovation. They took down almost every interior wall and rebuilt the apartment from scratch. One of the main contractors from Caroline’s rolodex, Ciaran Strong, was an ideal candidate for the job. “There are always site conditions, so one thing I love about our guy is he’s a problem solver,” she says. “It was a one bedroom with a corner dining room, and we knew there were a lot of walls blocking the eastern light. So, we took the corner space and turned it into the [primary] bedroom.”

The chandelier in the foyer is a vintage Robert Sonneman piece from eBay. The vintage chairs are another find from Caroline’s dad.