A renovation overcame some bumps for a dramatic facelift
Lindsay, Nicholas, and their cat, Sibyl, returned to New York City after two years in Baltimore and landed on a 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom co-op in upper Manhattan. “Nicholas fell in love with the [art deco] lobby, and we both loved that it was right across the street from Inwood Hill Park and has a killer view of the Cloisters,” said Lindsay.
The apartment itself was so-so. It had some classic art deco features like a sunken living room with herringbone wood floors, which Lindsay and Nicholas wanted to mix with their mid-century tastes. A bland kitchen and bathroom needed some help. The molding, doors, and paint were also due for a refresh. And then there were those two things many New Yorkers consider an ultimate luxury—installing a washing machine and dryer.
The couple turned to Sweeten, a free service that pairs renovators with vetted general contractors. They posted their project and chose a design-build firm to execute the construction and the design. Lindsay and Nicholas were given a six- to eight-week timeline from start to finish and camped out in a sublet during the renovation. A few hiccups along the way stretched that timeline (more on that later).
The plan was to gut renovate the bathroom and make minor changes in the kitchen while doing mostly cosmetic updates to the rest of the apartment. A standout feature in the living area is the sliver of wallpaper that peaks out from the small hallway off of the living room. “Since it’s such a small space, we figured we could go a little crazy,” said Lindsay. That “little crazy” translated to a deco-style wallpaper with teal, purple, and gold accents. “Even our friends who hate patterns and bright colors love it,” she said.
Salvaging some of the kitchen turned out to be more work than a full gut. It would have been better to just pay extra and get what we really wanted.
In the kitchen, the current layout had a nook where the previous owners had placed a small breakfast table. Lindsay saw this as an ideal way to add more counter space. There was a miniature dishwasher “which made no sense since there was plenty of room for a full one,” said Lindsay. Rather than gut renovate the kitchen (a decision the couple later regretted), they refinished the existing “country-style” cabinets in a gray modern tone.
The dark grout in the backsplash tiles upped the modern feel. The only appliance they replaced was that tiny dishwasher. “We are happy with how it came out,” said Lindsay, “but salvaging some of the kitchen turned out to be more work than a full gut. It would have been better to just pay extra and get what we really wanted,” she said.
WATCH: Two-minute video from Sweeten founder, Jean Brownhill
In the bathroom, the only original feature that remains is the cast-iron tub with its detailed edges. Lindsay and Nicholas had it re-enameled so it matched the new bathroom. A new washer/dryer would replace an existing shower area and a shower would be added to the bathtub. For maximal storage, shelving lined the laundry wall in hard-to-reach places and double doors were installed to hide the clutter.
When the decision came to choose either a console sink or a vanity, they decided on a console. (The under-the-sink space became the new location for Sibyl’s litter box.) For storage, a large medicine cabinet, and niche shelves along the bathroom and shower walls did the trick. A matte black hexagonal floor tile became the new backdrop in dramatic fashion.
A feature the couple recommends to other renovators is custom storage. To remedy some oddly-placed shelves and a rod, their Sweeten contractor ripped everything out of the bedroom closet and installed a new system that can easily be changed later on as storage needs shift. “Custom designing the closets made a huge difference in how useful the spaces were,” said Lindsay.
The project hit a major snag when it came to the electrical work which pushed the end date back. Wiring dedicated to powering the washer/dryer had to be installed and ripped out twice from the ceiling. Despite this, it still shorted out the power after only a few uses. In the end, it was discovered there was a faulty part in the basement and the situation was fixed. Throughout the issue, Sweeten’s customer service, which checks in on renovations until projects are completed, stayed in communication until it was resolved and helped coordinate a new realistic timeline agreeable to all parties.
After their experience, Lindsay and Nicholas came out with a home they loved, but also some things they would do differently next time. “Always gut renovate,” said Lindsay. “We were trying to be thrifty by keeping the kitchen cabinets.” The other tip: plan for the renovation to take twice as long. But ultimately, the Sweeten contractor did a fantastic job,” said Lindsay—and enhanced the features of the apartment to turn it into a unique home for their family.
Thank you, Lindsay and Nicholas, for sharing your lovely home with us.
KITCHEN RESOURCES: Forged Brass Dome Knob cabinet hardware: House of Antique Hardware. Bistro hardware pulls: Restoration Hardware. Dishwasher, 800 Series: Bosch. Eastmoreland lighting: Rejuvenation. Paint, Decorator White for walls and Puritan Gray for cabinets: Benjamin Moore.
LIVING ROOM RESOURCES: Wallpaper: A Shade Wilder.
Read our guide on how long it takes to renovate an apartment broken down step-by-step.
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