A Mid-Century Modern Living Room in Manhattan

A mid-century modern living room remodel in Central Park South adds a desk niche, fireplace, and a Carrara focal point

Electric fireplace in modern living room remodel

  • Homeowners: Geoffrey, an architect, and Alicia, who works in operations at a FinTech startup, posted their modern living room remodel on Sweeten
  • Where: Manhattan on Central Park South
  • Primary renovation: An updated living room creates custom zones with millwork and additional walls in their one-bedroom apartment
  • With: Sweeten general contractor
  • Homeowner’s quote: “Sweeten was an invaluable resource in helping us find an initial list of contractors. I had access to reviews and see their work, all in one place. It was also great to know that they had my back if something went awry.”

Written in partnership with homeowner Geoffrey. “After” photos by Kate Glicksberg.

An opportunity to invest in Central Park South

During the pandemic, we saw a lot of people giving up on New York, and thought it was the perfect time to double down. We drew a box around the southern half of Central Park and started searching. A lot of units had recently been taken off the market but we reached out to realtors to see if the sellers were still interested in making a move. We found our home in an ideal building and location, and made an offer.

Portrait of the Sweeten homeowners and their dog

Our 1,000-square-foot apartment is in an iconic mid-century building on Central Park South, which we felt offered us the best of all worlds. The Upper East and Upper West sides were easy to get to, and we love being able to spend our weekends alternating between the two.

A love of pre-war layouts

In the past, we’d always lived in pre-war buildings with architectural character and well-defined floor plans. You don’t get a lot of that in modern buildings like the mid-century one we landed in, so we created our own. We posted our project on Sweeten, and hired our general contractor. 

The empty apartment before renovation
Furnished apartment before renovation
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dining room and modern living room remodel

We wouldn’t be adding molding, chair rail, or opening up the kitchen, which are so popular these days. Instead, our plan was to define the layout in discrete ways that would create separate zones—a proper entry foyer, a generous space for dining, and a desk niche.

Our apartment’s original living room was 13 feet across and more than 30 feet long, so we had plenty of space to work with. Our goal was to create a more intimate and purposeful space that could be used for entertaining as well as a dedicated workspace for those work-from-home days.

Creating niches in a modern living room remodel

Like most New Yorkers, this was all about maximizing the available square footage. We had an opportunity to divide the extra-large living space for different purposes. By adding a small wall near the entrance to the apartment, we created a foyer on one side and an office area on the other. 

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In the living room, the focal point was a 14-foot wall with custom-designed millwork crafted from European white oak and marble. The single slab of Carrara marble houses an electric fireplace and a recessed TV. 

modern living room remodel with niche office desk

Home office with wood desk and open shelves

“[M]ake sure that you’re aligning your own expectations with the kind of money that you want to spend. You can’t expect million-dollar work on a thousand-dollar budget.”

During the winter, the apartment could feel a bit dreary (our courtyard views prevent us from getting a ton of natural light). Installing a fireplace would turn up the cozy-dial, and we designed the entire living space around that idea. We couldn’t do a real fireplace and weren’t interested in dealing with the hassle of gels or fuel logs. We chose a beautiful electric fireplace that was the most convincing artificial unit we could find.

The white oak used throughout the renovation featured strong horizontal lines echoing the building’s iconic mid-century exterior. The material also helped brighten up the space. Bump-outs of the walls near the window created a defined dining area. 

Marble slab realities

The single biggest issue during the renovation was with the large slab of Carrara marble that would clad the front of our fireplace and media wall. It was 7 feet tall and about 5 feet wide, and we insisted that it have mitered corners. We had no idea what an ordeal it would be—the mitered corners were fragile, and a slab that size was very unwieldy. Maneuvering it through the parking garage and up the freight elevator was a half-day exercise that culminated in hours of positioning, tweaking, and polishing. We were scared the entire time that this 500-pound piece of marble would break and we’d have to start all over!

Living and dining area with shag rug

Dining area with glass table in front of large window

Entryway with mirror and gray upholstered bench

Align your budget and your expectations

Sweeten was an invaluable resource in helping us find an initial list of contractors. I had access to reviews and see their work, all in one place. It was also great to know that they had my back if something went awry.

My advice to renovators? Really dig into the contractors you’re interviewing. Make sure that you’re 100% sure that they can do the kind of work that you want, and make sure that you’re aligning your own expectations with the kind of money that you want to spend. You can’t expect million-dollar work on a thousand-dollar budget.

In terms of our budget, we did pretty well and came within 1% of the projected cost. It was about $35,000 including the fireplace. Overall, we couldn’t be happier. The space is doing everything we wanted it to, and we’re excited to cozy up in front of the “fire” this winter. 

Thank you, Geoffrey and Alicia, for sharing your living room with us!

Renovation Materials

LIVING ROOM: Custom millwork and Carrara marble: Sourced by general contractor. Ignite XL 50” electric fireplace: Dimplex. George Nelson large Bubble Pendant light fixture: Herman Miller

Updated on May 25, 2023

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