Can you turn a studio into a one bedroom apartment?
It is possible to legally turn a studio apartment into a one bedroom apartment in NYC provided the studio has sufficient floor area and windows. An architect can obtain approval from the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) if the proposed alteration complies with all requirements for a one bedroom apartment.
I am Jorge Fontan an architect in NYC and owner of Fontan Architecture. At our office we have done many projects where we added a bedroom to an apartment or converted studio apartments into one bedrooms. I am going to review some of the issues and logistics involved in the process. Please be aware that not all studio apartments can be turned into one bedroom apartments and that an architect such as myself has to evaluate the proposed conversion on a case by case basis.
Bedroom Dimensions and Floor Area
The NYC Multiple Dwelling Law (MDL) and Building Code establish minimum dimensions for habitable rooms. These regulations can get a little complicated but I will provide a basic outline of the requirement.
A bedroom must be a minimum of 80 square feet and have a minimum dimension of 8 feet in order to convert a studio into a one bedroom apartment. The living room created must also comply with minimum room sizes. Every apartment must have a living room of a minimum of 150 square feet.
If the proposed living room and bedroom both comply with the room size requirements you are off to a good start, but there will be more requirements to contend with.
Light and Air
All habitable rooms meaning living rooms, bedrooms, etc… require natural light and air. Once again these requirements are fairly complicated but I will give a general overview of the basic rules.
A habitable room such as a bedroom must have at least one operable window or multiple windows that provide natural light and air in a proportion of 10% of the room floor area for light, and 5% of the room area for air. Windows under 12 square feet will not count towards this calculation.
The light and air requirement is a critical matter that will determine if the studio can in fact be changed to a one bedroom. I want to also point out that lot line windows do not count for light and air calculations. All plans provided to the Department of Buildings by an architect with alterations to a residential unit must show light and air calculations in order to receive approval.
Cannot Create a Noncompliance
The new room added to the apartment cannot create a new noncompliance. This means that you are not creating any problems to the apartment with the proposed work. I will give an example. If you have a pass through kitchen and you close off one of the openings you may be creating a noncompliance. Turning a pass through kitchen into a dead end kitchen will require a 5 foot turning radius.
This is a common deal breaker for many studio apartment that people come to me with in hopes of converting to a one bedroom. In some cases the kitchen can be reconfigured to accommodate the change but in many cases it cannot due to riser locations, ventilation, structure etc…
Another example of creating a new noncompliance is that you create a bedroom with a window by cutting off the window to the living room. This will not be acceptable. Both rooms must fulfill the requirement.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
When creating a new bedroom you will need a hard wired Smoke and Carbon Monoxide detector inside and outside of the bedroom. I always use combination units for simplicity. Be aware that I said hard wired, the battery is only to be used as a backup power source.
In order to have your new bedroom you will most likely be building a wall. In most cases this will require new electrical outlets. There are electrical code requirements for outlets in residential spaces. Within residences electrical receptacles must be spaced at most 12 feet apart and you must have one within 6 feet of a door on either side.
Building Management Review
If you are in a multifamily building your Condo or Co-Op board must approve your alteration. At our office we go through this process on a regular basis. They typically have another architect hired by the management company review our work prior to us filing with DOB.
The reviewing architect must give their recommendation to proceed in order for your board to approve the work. After this, you can file with DOB to obtain approvals and permits.
NYC DOB Permits for Converting a Studio to a One Bedroom
The NYC Department of Buildings requires an architect submit plans for approval to convert a studio into a one bedroom apartment. After the plans are approved a general contractor can obtain an Alteration Permit Work Type GC.
Turning a Studio into a One Bedroom in NYC
Not all studio apartments can be converted into a one bedroom but in many cases it can be done. You will need an architect and permits. This can be a relatively straight forward process but every project must be assessed on a case by case basis.
Thank You for Reading Our Blog Post on Converting a Studio Apartment into a One Bedroom in NYC.
I hope this was helpful. If you would like to speak with an architect about a potential project you can contact us at Fontan Architecture directly.
This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 15 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.