A Bathroom Restores Its Prewar Beauty

by Serena Solomon

Tile and gold finishes reveal old-school charm in Manhattan

prewar bathroom renovation

Project: Reverse a bathroom’s outdated look on the Upper West Side

Before: Leah, a lawyer in the finance industry, bought her prewar one-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side in 2007. She spent almost three years living in the apartment before embarking on a kitchen renovation in 2010. She also redid the floors. “The decisions I made after really living in the space were just better—how I moved in and out of the kitchen, how the rooms communicated with each other,” she said.

The projects were exhausting, so she took a break even though the bathroom was disjointed from the rest of the apartment, with its beige tones and frumpy ’70s aesthetic. It also had a dropped ceiling for seemingly no reason, which cramped the small space. She started to look into a possible renovation in 2015. “I backed away because it seemed like too much to take on,” she said, but in 2017 she took the plunge and posted her project on Sweeten.

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After: Leah envisioned something that was reflective of her co-op building’s beautiful foyer with its marble and clean look. “I think letting the space speak for itself was my design,” she said. She found her contractors through Sweeten, a free service connecting homeowners with vetted contractors, and they set out to raise the ceiling. “We didn’t know what we were going to find,” Leah said. With no pipes or any obvious reason why the ceiling had been dropped, they were able to raise it again.

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She selected classic subway tiles for the walls and a marble top for the vanity. With the floors, the Sweeten contractors made a reassuring discovery—the original tiles were still underneath and matched the new creamy hexagon tiles Leah had chosen. It was a confirmation that her design choices were in line with how the bathroom was originally meant to be.

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While Leah had set out with white and silver tones, she made a last-minute decision to add gold fixtures. “I wanted to add warmth,” she said of the 11th-hour choice. And the process was far less taxing than she had anticipated. She was in daily communication with her Sweeten contractors, who helped solve problems and helped her make those nuts-and-bolts decisions, such as how far up the wall the tiles should go. “It was a very collaborative process,” she said.

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Bonus: Leah decided early on where she would save money (her tile choices) with her budget and where she would spend more lavishly. Because of the small space, she decided on a custom bathtub. It took six weeks to make in South Carolina. “Every bathtub that was standard was made for bigger spaces,” she said. “I needed something that fit my dimensions.” The shower enclosure and tub combination became a showstopping centerpiece of the bathroom and were well worth the wait.

Style finds: Casa Vogue porcelain wall tile in glossy Snow White, hexagon floor tile, and white chair rail: Kohler. Bathtub: MTI Baths. Shower and sink fixtures in French Gold: Kohler. Empire Windsor vanity: Kitchensource.com. AiO Cabinet and mirror: Robern. Vanity light fixture: Restoration Hardware. UltraMax toilet: Toto. Glass surround: Alpha Glass.

Kasey restored the prewar charm of his Murray Hill apartment, aiming to reflect the traditional design of the building and block.

Refer your renovating friends to Sweeten and you’ll both receive a $250 Visa gift card when they sign a contract with a Sweeten general contractor.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, and scope, helping until project completion. Follow the blog for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.

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