Before & After / By Serena Solomon / October 26, 2017
An Art Deco Co-op Reaches Its Potential
A renovation overcame some bumps to dramatically update a co-op
Lindsay, Nicholas, and Sibyl the cat returned to New York City after two years in Baltimore. Rather than renting this time, the couple was bent on owning and creating a home. They 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 homeowners with vetted general contractors. They chose a design-build firm to execute the construction and the design since this was an important part. 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. Lindsay and Nicholas were given a six- to eight-week timeline from start to finish and camped out in a sublet while the renovation got underway. A few hiccups along the way stretched that timeline (more on that later).
Let’s start with the kitchen. Other than the cosmetic issues, 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 chose to refurbish the existing “country-style” cabinets. The new gray finish added a modern touch while keeping with the black, gray, and white theme of both bathroom and kitchen. 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 renovation. “It would have been better to just pay extra and get what we really wanted,” she said.
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. As the shower area was slated to be the location for the washing machine and dryer combo, and the bathtub was set to double as a shower, a gut renovation was in order. To maximize storage in the laundry area, the couple and their Sweeten contractor figured out creative ways to add shelving in hard-to-reach places. Doors to cover the units weren’t in the plans in favor for easy access, but at the urging of their Sweeten contractor, double doors were installed to contain the area.
To boost storage, they got a large medicine cabinet and installed shelves in the bathroom and along shower walls. Those all helped when the couple decided on a console sink rather than a vanity. (That under-the-sink space became the new location for Sibyl’s litter box.) For style, Lindsay and Nicholas chose matte black hexagonal floor tiles for the overall black, white, and gray look of the bathroom.
The changes in the bedrooms and living room were largely cosmetic. The couple chose a dark gray color palette for the bedroom and teal with mustard yellow accents for the guest bed. A standout feature 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.
One of the features in the new apartment that 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 closet and installed the Elfa system from the Container Store. This system 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 and 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. After reconfiguring their bathroom for the units, the couple was told they may not have enough electricity to run them. In the end, it was discovered there was a faulty part in the basement and the situation was fixed. Because Sweeten monitors projects until completion, a project advisor kept tabs on the situation until it was resolved.
Other factors delayed the project as well, including some work needing to be redone. When the couple couldn’t get a clear end date with all the delays, their Sweeten advisor intervened to produce a realistic timeline agreed to by 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.
BATHROOM RESOURCES: Toilet: Perrin & Rowe. Washer and dryer: Miele.
BEDROOM RESOURCES: Slate Teal and Amherst Gray paint: Benjamin Moore
LIVING ROOM RESOURCES: Wallpaper: A Shade Wilder
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