Before and After

“Before-and-Afters” are so fun, and I love the way they demonstrate that every room has potential.  Here’s a small sampling of transformational videos. It’s likely there’s a “before” photo somewhere in this mix that looks a lot like your house. 

 (Psst: If you prefer no music when the videos play, please lower the volume on your device.)

Talk about a room with a view. Steve had snagged one of the city’s prized apartments, overlooking Gramercy Park. But the last thing Steve wanted was a glitzy makeover. His goal was to create a calm, zen-like home – exquisite in detail but not showy. My favorite things about this renovation are what we did “wrong” (real-estate rules one is never supposed to break): we made a 1BR into a studio and replaced the tub with a walk-in shower. Yet after it was done, the broker who’d sold the place walked in, looked around for one minute, and breathlessly exclaimed that he could double the price of investment. Fantastic. But Steve’s not selling.

 

Mary’s garden-level Harlem home was beyond charming, with light flooding in from french doors at the back, and a lovingly curated collection of antiques. All she needed was a kitchen that fit the warm nest she’d created (plus some basics, like sorely-lacking storage and counter space, not to mention a dishwasher). The bridge faucet, curvy fridge and farm sink are right at home with Mary’s vintage dishes and canisters.

 

Susan has one of those wonderful, sun-drenched, high-ceilinged old apartments, filled with charming antiques and flowers from her country garden. It’s a warm and welcoming home, but her 1980s formica kitchen was on its last legs, and compared to the other rooms, an eyesore. It would have been a tragedy to install sleek new cabinets, which would have made the lovingly broken-in walls and floors look worn. It didn’t make financial sense to do a gut renovation; what was called for was a sensitive update that would make the whole place look fresh. When I walked in and saw her vintage sideboard, with its warm chestnut color, I knew we had our inspiration. New cabinets, made from reclaimed and hand-distressed Douglas Fir, look as though they’d been built back in the day. Now the kitchen fits with the rest of the home and makes efficient use of the tiny but tall space.

 

Cathy wanted a kitchen that lives in the here-and-now, but her husband had inherited a cache of beloved antiques that no one wanted to part with. How to resolve those two impulses? Nothing brings old furniture to life like a modern setting, and in this case, the answer really was black and white. Graphic rugs, tile, and sleek modern cabinets marry old to new using this simple palette. Meanwhile, previous “ruinivations” that had chopped off period details were fixed. We restored the moldings and doorways of this pre-war gem to their former glory and used shades of grey to highlight them.

 

Alex did what a lot of book lovers do: Each time he outgrew the available shelves, he added another bookcase. But then it kind of took over. An enthusiast of the cosmos and space exploration, his prized “Moonwalk” photo was buried in a sea of mismatched disposable furniture. He needed a relaunch. This gut renovation creates a modern library atmosphere, replacing random bookcases with carefully engineered built-ins that incorporate media equipment, lighting, a work space, and HVAC units. Reworked doorways and traffic patterns add a dressing room where there had been a cramped hallway, while ribbed-glass pocket doors offer both light and privacy. The new design gives his Astronaut-autographed photo pride of place, and a gilded star map is hand-painted on the entry wall. And – although you’d never notice them – space-age technology and aging-in-place safety features are seamlessly integrated throughout the home.

 

Pam and Rick’s duplex penthouse is nearly eye-level with many of the city’s art deco skyscrapers, and the family wanted to capture that famously optimistic vibe when they renovated two bathrooms and a kitchen. Custom touches are everywhere, including an ultra-deep soaking tub with waterfall overflow into the marble shower. This glamorous apartment pulls out all the stops, just like the city itself.

 

A few years back, TJ had refaced his kitchen cabinets in a quickie makeover he now hated. He needed a more streamlined look to better match his collection of classic modern furniture. We gutted the room and opened up a taller doorway, then did a budget renovation using Ikea cabinets. Angled corner cabinets are one of my pet peeves, so we straightened the layout and replaced the too-deep fridge and dishwasher with more integrated models.

 

Melissa started with a terrific color sense and a fantastic collection of flea market finds. The apartment featured high ceilings, an exposed brick fireplace, and a bay window, but an awkward 1980s renovation had made the space feel cramped and cheap. An inexpensive kitchen and bath update, plus reworked traffic patterns, brought out the home’s genuine style. The kitchen’s deep palette and stone counters are a great compliment to the warmth of brick, and the open plan makes the space feel expansive.

 

Christine just needed a simple facelift, which we accomplished with updated furniture, rugs, moldings and paint. We opened a wall for french doors from the living room into the bedroom, and built desks along the windows in both the master and guest bedrooms. A gallery wall in the entry hides the circuit breaker and shows off her photography. Ribbed-glass pocket doors and a slightly altered layout removed an oddly-placed coat closet that was an eyesore in the dining area.

 

Jim, a newly-single dad, needed to furnish a four-bedroom rental from scratch—and before the school year started. Given the short lead time and desire for a reasonable budget, this was a logical Ready-Made Decorating project. This bland box of an apartment became a warm home via a quick paint job, new door hardware, kid-friendly furnishings, and lots of family photos. Large rugs distract from the too-busy parquet flooring that couldn’t be changed. A custom TV cabinet with hydraulic lift floats in the middle of the room, making an awkwardly long space functional, and the large sectional is great for movie night with the kids as well as game day with the guys.

 

Having tackled three prior renovations at their city place, it was my pleasure to collaborate on a new kitchen for Mary and Rob’s country house. The woodsy cabin was just that: packed with original pine bead-board, ceiling beams, and a wood floor. It was too much of a good thing. The old kitchen tried to break out of all that wood with white cabinets, but they looked pasted on and overly fussy. Instead, we calmed things down with grey stained white oak cabinets, slate floors, and a stone counter that echoes the pines outside. The modern appliances include an induction cooktop, with a propane burner as backup for times when the power goes out. The enlarged island makes a perfect gathering spot for houseguests but preserves the cook’s traffic patterns.

 

Greg is not a messy teen, but since his bathroom is the one used by guests during dinner parties, his parents wanted a design that considered this dual purpose. The solution was to swap the tub for a shower—enclosed by frosted glass panels that transform the space into a virtual powder room and act as an amazing lightbox, day or night. Sleek glass and porcelain tiles play off a rough-hewn floor. Modern fixtures make this a bathroom Greg can grow into.