before and after

Before & After: Guest Studio Renovation

by Kate Pruitt

Our apartment was built in the twenties, and we’re constantly reminded of this fact when we uncover quirky little details, big and small: a phone niche, a crazy looking (and terrifying) old fuse box, antique glass knobs and a hidden opening in our living room wall where a murphy bed once lived. I boarded up the space as soon as we moved in. I’ve always considered murphy beds to be outdated, but I’ve been coming around to them in recent years, and this studio renovation has clinched the deal: When done right, murphy beds are awesome!

The owners of this home wanted to use this tiny room for both a guest space and an office, and they hired Sarah Zames of General Assembly to tackle the problem. Sarah designed this ingenious multipurpose unit that houses everything you could possibly want in a workspace and a guest room, all neatly stowed inside this sleek, modern wall unit. I love everything about it — from the composition of drawers and shelves to the hardware and the smart color palette. It’s an amazing use of a small space, and thanks to this project, I’ll never scoff at the idea of hideaway beds again. Lesson learned. — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

See more of this guest room renovation after the jump . . .

Time: 8 weeks

Basic Steps: Because the room is so narrow, it was important that the built-in unit became part of the space and not just a piece of furniture in it. We also needed to keep the costs down and make sure that the unit felt like something that could be lived in and used. In other words, we weren’t interested in using expensive wood veneers or drawer pulls that couldn’t withstand a little bit of paint spilled onto it on occasion. The finish of the piece ended up being a shop-sprayed lacquer primarily finished in white to match the surrounding walls and accented with pops of bright blues and reds to set off the three dimensional aspects of the design.

Take some time to think things through and really figure out what will work for your needs and space. In this case, we went through the client’s art closet and measured individual items to be stored, making sure that every paintbrush and oversized sketchpad had a place to go. Most designers are excited to have a challenge and will be happy to work out a design to make you feel like your finished product is something unique to your home.

Take advantage of your designer or fabricator’s skills by giving them some time to come up with ideas and suggestions. Also, if possible, invest in quality hardware. The last thing you want to do is invest time and money in a beautifully finished piece, only to see the door get jammed a month later! In this case, we insisted on using Hafele Hardware for the Murphy Bed System, which cost a little bit more up front but will result in a bed that functions properly and holds up over time. — Sarah

Sources: Everything for this project was custom designed by General Assembly and fabricated by a local millworker (Tribeca Woodworks in Williamsburg, Brooklyn). The only piece of furniture in the photographs is an Eames Eiffel Side Chair (purchased from DWR).

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  • This looks awesome! Wish we could do this in our apartment.

    What is the red gap behind the unit in that 3rd to last pic for? And as a computer person, I would have liked to seen how they did their cable management and lighting in there. Do they have a more nitty gritty detailed post somewhere?

    • Bailey,

      The red gap is actually a thin inset shelf with a painted interior. These are the photos we received, but you can visit Sarah’s company website (linked to her name) to see more of the project.

  • This post brings back fond memories from my childhood! My Grandpa built a similar wall storage unit for my Grandma’s sewing and craft room, complete with a fold out table, drawers, cupboards, and storage for her sewing machine that enabled her to slide it out onto the table. I haven’t thought about this in so many years, so thank you for inspiring some very happy memories!

  • I love the multiple moving parts: the fold-down table and murphy bed in the same built-in section is very smart. The pops of color inside the shelves are the perfect accent to the unit’s clean lines. I think it’d be fun to work in here. And is that red slot a hide-away area for storage of tall skinny things, like artwork? If so, what an added bonus!

  • I have wanted a Murphy bed ever since I was little. And now with these cool transformable built-ins coming into fashion, I want one too! I live in CA, anyone know who I could contact out here to make that happen?

  • The transformation is amazing! I love smart design and I believe correct use of space is vital in the dense cities of today. The colors added make the the build-in look even more three dimensional and sculptural…and of course the unexpected ….a murphy bed!

  • Love it!
    The red narrow shelf is great! It’s a brilliant idea for storing artwork folders and papers.

    Love fold-out table! My father was partial to them and made a few of them in my parents’ home.

  • OMG – This is IN-credible! Can anyone do this in Melbourne, Australia??? If so, PLEASE do get in touch!!!

  • It is incredible. We have also exactly a room like this one. We want a bed for our guest and a working room. Our room is also narrow, we will have to think about something similar. I am lucky my husband is carpenter, now I have only to persuade him to do it. That could be a bit dificult, I have allways new ideas to do!

  • Absolutely fantastic. My only suggestion is that the shape of the table leg, inset in the table top, inset in the bottom of the bed creates such a perfect frame shape that I’d love to see the bottom of the table another solid color and a print on the leg! Built-in artwork would be so cool, or instead of a print, the leg could be a whiteboard!

  • Every small space owner/artists dream! The canvas/sketchbook cubby in the side is pure genius…This designer is thoughtful and totally focussed on their client for sure. And the pops of color are perfect!

    Just curious…that custom built-in unit had to cost over 10,000.00 how is that watching the costs? I guess if it is the only furnishings purchased then it is cost effective?

  • It’s a beautiful transformation!! I am going through home renovation right now, so I am looking for inspiration everywhere. I love designs that use up all that wall space for storage! And it doesn’t look like there is a lot going on. I also love the pops of color here and there. Wish I can have that at my home!

  • Fabulous use of space yet still so fun! I agree with Stevie…they could have made the closed desk/murphy bed a piece of art as well. I’d love to have a fold down desk like that!

  • Absolutely incredible! One question though…. How much did this cost? If you don’t mind me asking…

  • Omigosh… a bed and a desk in one?! That’s amazing :)
    I also loooove the painted cubby holes- they look georgeous!!

  • Well congratulations for a job well done. For all we know renovation thing is never easy, the labor, the costs, and of course time however after all the hard work if you see a beautiful outcome then its paid.