Before & After / By Carol Wang / July 20, 2017
Two Designers Make Upgrades to Their Loft Apartment
Concrete floors and oak closets transform the former home of a storied local Queens newspaper
Michael and Chenta had been looking for a new place for about six months when they visited a duplex apartment in the former home of the Ridgewood Times, a local newspaper of record in the area. They fell in love with the space and saw a lot of potential in it. The creatives—Michael designs sweaters and Chenta is a director in web design—were drawn to a warm but minimalist look, and knew immediately how they could alter the apartment to achieve their desired surroundings. The prewar industrial building was situated in Ridgewood, Queens, right on the border of Brooklyn, and dated back to 1932. It also briefly housed a school, and then was converted to condos in 2009. The structure’s original industrial elements, including steel beams and wood materials, concrete floors, high ceilings, and great expanses of windows, were preserved in the conversion. The space was everything that Michael and Chenta were looking for, with an interesting history to boot.
While they were in contract on the property, Michael and Chenta began reaching out to general contractors independently, but felt overwhelmed. They would call contractors and hear nothing back. Michael then posted his project to Sweeten’s site, explaining they wanted to reveal the concrete floors under beaten-up hardwood planks, and to create a new closet system for the master suite. The couple was matched with several experts, and ultimately decided on their Sweeten general contractor. The contractor and her team worked with the duo to achieve the right combination of concrete, wood, metal, and paint colors to produce what Michael called a “modern Scandi style, but without the Boho elements.” They wanted “clean and simple lines, but we’re also trying to not make it look too cold or sterile.”
In terms of the biggest changes, the contractor’s team first ripped up the wood flooring to expose the concrete floors underneath on both levels of the duplex. They next applied an Italian product called Wall2Floor, a concrete-based mineral coating that had to be applied by hand to the existing substrate. The application creates a seamless surface and is usually used in luxury spaces. It gave the apartment floor a polished, sleek texture and paired nicely with the wooden banister and kitchen cabinets.
To continue the streamlined effect, Michael and Chenta asked their Sweeten contractor to remove baseboard moldings and door frames. This accentuated the gallery-like feel of the loft space: walls were floated—meaning that the drywall stops short of the floor, and is not covered with base moldings, and when closed, doors were completely flush with the walls that surrounded them. Their choices of warm white paint in the living area and dusty pink in the living room provided a warm contrast against wood, metal, and concrete.
(The new wall behind the TV separates the clothes closets from the bed area creating a “walk-in” closet feel.)
For the master suite, they made layout changes to accommodate a walk-through (rather than walk-in) closet. The existing closets on the left wall were demolished, and a floating wall was created to section off the closet area without closing it completely. “It’s all very open with a lot of natural light,” Michael explained. New custom closets were designed with metal framed interiors and floor-to-ceiling oak doors and placed to face the new wall. They also opted to paint the walls inside the closets dark gray for more depth. All the hardware was finished in a matte black. “We didn’t like any of the standard finishes, so our contractor made the changes to help us achieve the clean lines and simplicity that we were looking for,” said Michael.
Throughout the process, Michael and Chenta worked with their Sweeten team to ensure that each step was smooth. But like many renovations, there were some hiccups: they had to move in before the renovation was finished since they didn’t want to continue paying rent when they had started paying their mortgage. They waited until the concrete floors were finished (and protected with a plastic sheet), and then lived through the rest of the work. “All our moving boxes were stacked in the middle of the living room, and we were sleeping on an airbed in a construction site,” describes Michael. Despite this, the couple felt that their contractor “was great from the beginning. She understood our vision and always had great ideas. She was the kindest person and talked us thoroughly through the process, even when Chenta and I had meltdowns.”
Michael’s advice to would-be renovators? “Stay calm and put some money aside. It will work out in the end, but you will be over budget. It was a system that we weren’t familiar with, and although I understand how to create a product, I didn’t realize just how complex it would be to renovate an apartment. It takes so many steps to even properly paint a wall! And all these little things need to be done to create a great end result, although they seem unnecessary when you are not familiar with the process.”
Thanks to Michael, Chenta, and their cat Taiger for sharing their showcase apartment with us!
RESOURCES. Concrete floors: Wall2Floor. Oak closet doors: custom. Berenson black closet hardware: Build.com.
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