6sqft’s ongoing series “My sqft” checks out the homes of New Yorkers across all the boroughs. Our latest interior adventure brings us to the Upper East Side studio of real estate broker Michael Miarecki. Want to see your home featured here? Get in touch!
When Michael Miarecki moved from a huge house in Miami Beach to a 360-square-foot studio on the Upper East Side he knew he needed to get creative. As a busy real estate agent with Sotheby’s International, he says his space “is a good example of taking a small space and creating a big story in it.” By combining a beachy vibe of neutral tones, light fabrics, and comfortable furniture with clever small-space fixes like his custom-built bed platform, hidden shelving, and a carefully curated selection of mementos, he’s created a calming oasis that feels twice its size. He’s even worked out how to host eight guests over for a movie, six for a dinner party, and four to sleep. 6sqft recently paid Michael a visit to see how he does it and what a typical day uptown is like for him.
You moved from a house in Miami Beach that was several thousand square feet with indoor and outdoor dining and entertainment space. How did you make the transition to less than 400 square feet?
Before taking this apartment in New York, I was traveling for most of the last four years. My friends would joke that my clothes lived in Florida – not me. I split my time between Miami Beach, New York, and Rio de Janeiro for the most part with Europe a handful of times a year. Living out of a suitcase presents an extreme space challenge – especially when traveling between very different climates for both work and fun. One learns to pack clothing that serves multiple purposes and that we don’t need to have a quantity of things, but that well-chosen quality goes even further – and definitely weighs less!
Moving into this apartment was rather similar. There’s only so much space, but the reality is that most people who live in big square footage don’t use all of it. We tend to live in the kitchen, the bedroom and a room where the television is.
The wooden piece above the bed is from a trip to Thailand
Tell us about the process of conceptualizing and building the bed platform?
Apartments in these old Upper East Side townhouses were built with wonderful architectural features like high ceilings with beautiful wide-drawn plaster crown moldings, heavy paneled doors, leaded glass windows and deep window wells. Lots of character, detail, and charm, but this is still a studio apartment, so I approached it like a New York developer looks at building sites – there isn’t room to build out, so I built UP. The result provides two-fold benefits: aesthetically dividing the small space into two distinct living areas and delivering fantastic storage space out of sight.
I designed a 9’ x 8’ x 2’ platform that permitted me to create two defined spaces by building a five-foot pony wall with an opening across the front. A queen-size sofa bed sits against the wall covering the opening but provides easy access to about 150 square feet of storage space inside. The platform interior essentially gives me a place to put all the things I don’t use daily without the considerable expense and hassle of having the seemingly required storage unit that most NYC residents pay for. I keep half my wardrobe in bins underneath, switching out seasonally, and even have my folding yacht bicycle under the platform along with hiking gear, etc.
Michael had the small pillows on the bed made from horse hides from a trip to Buenos Aires; they’re naturally stain-resistant.
The platform structure is very solidly constructed so it feels as if it’s part of the building – even though it actually sits on rubber pads so no damage would be done to the apartment’s beautiful wood floors. Double sheets of drywall were screwed to the sheet plywood flooring on the platform with carpet tiles to add weight and give the structure rigidity. I built a decorative cap for the pony wall and used baseboards and moldings around the platform to mimic those that craftsmen installed in the apartment when it was built in 1910 to make the structure look less like something that was newly added – but rather an architectural feature that has always been there. A set of oak ‘doggy-stairs” from a pet supply company were stained to match the oak wood floors and provide easy access to the ‘bedroom’ area.
Under the bed, Michael keeps this sunglasses holder
Guests and some of my real estate clients [have asked me] to design and build similar platforms in their apartments. To create, as one friend calls it, a “duple” – not quite a duplex given it is a studio – but it does create a second “story” accessed by stairs! A contractor friend and I are now designing and building them for clients. We’ve added a number of features including a recessed television monitor into the bedside of the pony wall so the screen is flush and all the wires are hidden inside.
The stools do triple duty as bars, seating, and a coffee table
You haven’t let the small space stop you from hosting your famous “Sunday Suppers for Six.” How do you make it work?
Living in a little apartment doesn’t mean one cannot live big! When I first moved to New York, I think people thought it was a bit weird when I invited them to come over for dinner rather than go out. In Manhattan, everyone eats out and the oven is used for shoe storage or as a place to stack wine! In Miami Beach, I would often have 15-20 people for dinner when I was in town. I really enjoy cooking for my friends and bringing people together from different parts of my life. A smaller space in Manhattan just means fewer people but I still love cooking and hosting.
Separating the sleeping area from the living and dining areas was the first step, then I found an unfinished wood table with a center leaf that allows seating for six when I need it. Buying unfinished allowed me to use the same paint and wood stains in the apartment so the colors blend in rather than fighting for space.
What do you love most about the space architecturally? What do you hate?
High ceilings and the architectural details like the crown moldings, the elaborate fireplace surround, and wood floors are wonderful. The deep window wells and leaded glass give the space style and character – something very often lacking in new construction.
The kitchen can be a bit challenging – specifically the under-counter half refrigerator and the “Barbie-size sink.” It takes some organized thinking and sometimes gymnastics to cook and clean up after a Sunday supper!
Michael find this piece–the end of an old theater seat–when shopping upstate to create a “speakeasy” for a Ferrari project he worked on in a past marketing career
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
After moving from a quiet beach cottage in Miami Beach to manic Manhattan, creating a personal space to retreat to at the end of the day showing apartments and touring clients to open houses was paramount. That extends to designing harmony in a space so nothing slaps or shocks – only soothes. If the colors are within a similar palette across furnishings and accessories, it’s possible to use different textures and materials to create interest and style while letting the eye and the soul relax.
When friends are over I want them to feel comfortable to put their feet up – to fall into the overstuffed furniture, pull a cashmere wrap around them and snuggle in (I am used to 360-degree constant air conditioning in Miami Beach and Rio so even in NYC I like my space kept cool to cold!).
A small space shouldn’t be formal; it’s already constricting to start with. Choosing furniture and textures that are comfortable and cocoon-like can make the small space in a big city a plus rather than a negative.
What’s your best advice for someone moving into a small space?
The area below and around a bed can provide huge storage, like my platform that can be further magnified. I put my mattress on a flattened futon frame on top of the platform to give me five inches of height all the way around, which translates to 25 pairs of shoes out of sight but easily within reach.
Place shelves where they can give you additional space that might otherwise be wasted, like above doors as I did in my kitchen and bathroom. Positioning the shelf bottom with the top of the door frame keeps a neat sight line so the space doesn’t seem cluttered. Use baskets or boxes on the shelves so the stored “stuff” isn’t seen. Keep the colors monochromatic so the shelves and boxes don’t stop the eye, but rather blend in with the walls.
Use corners as an opportunity rather than wasting the space. I used one 4’ x 5’ ¾” board of inexpensive melamine and had the home improvement store cut it into triangles that provided two big shelves behind my double-wide chair in a corner where I keep big pots and pans that I don’t need every day and won’t fit in my little kitchen cabinets. Three more shelves above feature items from my travels that I love. I faced the shelves with pieces of molding that matched the rest in the apartment to give them some additional visual weight. The total cost was less than $30 for the entire corner!
This piece came from the Crows’ Bar in Key West, where Michael lived for five years.
Do you have a favorite piece of furniture or art?
I love the double-wide chair. When guests are over it holds two people comfortably – especially if it’s two people whom I’m trying to introduce! The art in my apartment all has meaning to me; nothing is bought from a store. Each piece is part of my story and reminds me of a place I have lived and people I care about from around the globe.
Why did you settle on the Upper East Side?
My best friend lives a few blocks from my apartment so I was familiar with the neighborhood. Originally, I was a little concerned that it might be too sleepy, but I really appreciate the calm and quiet after running around during a busy day – that I can leave windows open at night and there is absolutely no noise at all.
And it is perfectly situated five minutes from Central Park where I run most days, close to my gym, shopping on Madison Avenue and a bunch of great restaurants and bars on Lexington and 3rd. To no one’s surprise more than me, I have really enjoyed using New York’s buses.
Michael enjoying a glass of wine (and eyeing up the prime rib!) at Orsay
What are some of your favorite spots in the neighborhood?
We’ve no shortage of choices when I am not in the mood to cook! Sant Ambroeus, the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park and Maison Kayser are some of my favorite places in the neighborhood, as well as Orsay Restaurant on Lexington. Stepping inside is stepping into a café in St. Germain in Paris. The interior is almost as delicious as their onion soup and impressive prime rib served from a silver cart tableside. The staff is welcoming and the terrace is a wonderful place to sit on a spring Sunday for brunch sipping a crisp rose and watching the people pass by.
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Neighborhoods : Upper East Side