A NYC Bathroom Remodel Restores Prewar Beauty

For this prewar NYC bathroom remodel, tile and gold finishes reveal old-school charm

frameless glass enclosure for white bathtub in a white bathroom with white oval sink after renovation

  • Homeowner: Leah posted a project on Sweeten
  • Where: Upper West Side in New York City
  • Primary renovation: A rip-and-replace bathroom
  • Sweeten general contractor in Manhattan
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and secure payments—at no cost to the homeowner.

Written in partnership with homeowner Leah. “After” photos by Miao Jiaxin.

    Starting a renovation

    Leah, a lawyer in the finance industry, bought her prewar one-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side. She spent several years living in the apartment before embarking on a kitchen renovation. 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.

    bathroom before
    SWEETEN LeahCampbell Bathroom-Before-01
    frameless glass enclosure for white bathtub in a white bathroom with white oval sink after renovation

    Reaching out for help

    The renovation projects became 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. “I backed away because it seemed like too much to take on,” she said, but she finally took the plunge and posted her NYC prewar bathroom remodel on Sweeten to find a general contractor.

    glass enclosed tub

    Raising up a dropped ceiling

    Leah envisioned something that was reflective of her co-op building’s beautiful foyer with its marble and clean look. “I think my design was to let the space speak for itself,” she said. The Sweeten contractors she hired set out to raise the ceiling. “We didn’t know what we were going to find,” Leah said. Because they could not find any pipes or any other obvious reason for the dropped ceiling, 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.

    neutral bathroom

    gold bathroom faucet

    Adding warmth

    While Leah had planned for white and silver tones, she made a last-minute decision to bring in gold fixtures. “I wanted to add warmth,” she said of the 11th-hour choice. Luckily, she found the renovation process to be 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, like how far up the wall the tiles should go. “It was a very collaborative process,” she said.

    gold bathroom

    shower niche

    Saving for a renovation

    Leah decided early on where she would save money (like tile choices) with her remodeling budget and where she would spend more lavishly. Because of the small space, she decided on a custom bathtub, which 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 show stopping centerpiece of the bathroom and were well worth the wait.

    bathroom reno

    Resource materials

    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.

    Even small changes to a floor plan may free up enough square footage for an extra bathroom. Here’s how five Sweeten homeowners who added one.

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

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