Margarita McGrath, associate professor of architecture in the School of Architecture + Design, and her partner in noroof architects, their New York-based architecture firm, have designed a space-saving interior for the Finger apartment, a family of four's 540-square-foot living space.

The Finger apartment occupies the top floor of a five-story walk-up in New York City. The existing plan is a dumb-bell configuration, with two 16 feet by 11 feet rooms bridged by a long, narrow space.

McGrath and her partner’s challenge was to shift the kitchen and bath from the back room into the narrow middle zone, freeing up the light-filled perimeter for living spaces. This enables private and public zones in the apartment to cross, in order to create a knuckle. Two existing skylights and a sloping roof set up a strategy to activate the interior. Daylight floods the shower and kitchen (the knuckle), while perimeter light coves highlight the air-foil-like, bat-wing ceiling section. A shallow, floating deck under the bathing and sleeping areas sets off a private precinct within the apartment, and provides under-floor storage.

The design has received a New York American Institute of Architects (AIA) merit award and is featured on the cover and in an article in the June issue of Dwell magazine.

McGrath, of Blacksburg and New York, received a master’s in architecture from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a bachelor’s of architecture from Rice University.

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