The alcove has long played a supporting role in many post-war city apartments — a flexible, windowed nook off the living room that can pass for an office or a nursery, or turn a studio into an almost-but-not-quite one-bedroom. Lots of possibilities, but typically one big compromise: leave the alcove open and lose the privacy of extra sleeping space, or close it off and lose extra light and views. For a family moving from Washington, DC, to Washington Heights, a Sweeten renovation transformed a living room and alcove with some of the loveliest space-saving solutions we’ve seen yet. Read on down to see how this family of three made the move work.
Guest post by Deeksha Gaur, Manhattan homeowner and co-founder of Show-Score.com
In November of 2014, Joe and I moved back to New York City from Washington, DC. When we last lived in Manhattan, we were a young couple who had just moved in together, renting a place in Chelsea and living the New York dream. Three years later we were back, married, and with a three-month-old in tow. We hoped to buy our first home as a new family.
Before our move, we came up to NYC to explore our options and see just how unrealistic our wish list was! After a long and disappointing day of showings, we drove up to a co-op building in Washington Heights. The building was warm, unpretentious and full of families. The apartment itself was spacious, well-cared for, and had the most gorgeous views of the George Washington Bridge. The manager told us that the building was home to musicians, actors, and all sorts of artists and creative types. Now, I was pinching myself.
While the aesthetics of the apartment weren’t to our tastes, it was easy to imagine a set-up where the living area could be light and airy, a perfect palette for the art that makes our house a home wherever we happen to be living. We could imagine the perfect first bedroom for our son and we envisioned ways to make the dark kitchen a little brighter. In other words, it was clear that with a little work, this was the perfect first home for us.
First, while we were lucky to have found a great two-bedroom apartment, we regularly have friends and family come from across the globe to spend extended periods of time with us. We knew we could create a spare room from the foot of our L-shaped living room, but that part of the house has great light and views, and we didn’t want to lose it behind opaque drywall. So, we needed a unique solution for a partition that could afford both privacy and openness. Our dream solution was a sort of hybrid window wall that was part opaque partition and part interior window—but, we had no idea if this was remotely feasible.
Second, we have a lot of books and not a lot of storage. Plus, we needed a primo spot for the television. I have always been a big fan of the floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcases you see in old NYC apartments, and adding that kind of a feature seemed like the perfect solution—both practically and aesthetically.
Prior to dealing with these large carpentry projects, we had undertaken a few small updates and renovations—a widening of a doorway here, some paint there, fun wallpaper for our son’s first room, etc. We had been really unhappy with our contractor and so we were extra-nervous about jumping into an even bigger home improvement. This negative experience had left us paralyzed. We wanted to make the changes but didn’t know where to go next. Then, a friend told us about Sweeten. She’d had her kitchen redone and was beyond thrilled. You can see her Sweeten renovation here. So, we posted our project and crossed our fingers.
I don’t have enough words to communicate just how seamless this process was. We were connected with three people, all amazing! They were consummate professionals and visionary designers. We knew we would be in good hands with any of them. But in the end, we were thrilled to work with this Sweeten contractor. It was clear from the very beginning that he was a perfectionist and would help shape and execute our vision beautifully and with great care. And both he and his wife, Rachel, were very helpful and responsive to all of our questions and concerns.
We got to visit him at his workshop in Peekskill, NY, and see the impressive array of projects he was working on. But best of all, he grasped our needs right away. He was able to take our nascent design ideas and turn them into computer renderings that allowed us to see our vision come to life.
With a few alterations, we signed off on the design and our contractor got to building. A couple of weeks before the install, he worked with us to pick our own cabinet and drawer pulls for the bookcase, as well as the doorknob for our new third bedroom, all of which we got from Anthropologie. The install itself took a little under three days, and our contractor’s perfectionism came to the fore, as he perfectly placed each doorknob, and touched up every nick and scratch. He was so great, in fact, that we recommended him to our neighbors, for whom he also created a part-glass wall partition and built-ins.
Our Sweeten contractor’s amazing work transformed our house into a home. Every time I walk into the house and sit on our couch and look at the books or watch TV, I feel like there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. And with the partition, we have managed to retain the gorgeous views that made us fall in love with the place to begin with. Now we just need to install some window blinds to give our guests some privacy when they stay!
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