A Studio Alcove Finally Fits
A Manhattan home renovates with the right materials and storage
Christina had wanted to remodel her circa 1959 studio co-op in Murray Hill for the five years she’d been living in it. The kitchen and the bathroom were dated, lacked storage space, and were poorly lit. Each year, she’d revisit the idea of remodeling—even meeting with contractors—but the timing never seemed right between personal and professional commitments (she’s a financial executive). Hearing so many renovation horror stories also made her hesitate. She discovered Sweeten, a free service matching homeowners with vetted general contractors, and took the big step forward. Christina posted her project, was matched Sweeten contractors and made her selection. Here, she tells her story.
Putting all my renovation fears aside, I felt my 550-square-foot studio space was not an accurate reflection of my style. The kitchen and bathroom were not well thought out, and the apartment really lacked adequate storage space. For the kitchen, I just used to ignore it by avoiding it altogether, but I couldn’t keep doing that. When I finally met the right contractor through the help of Sweeten, I felt the time had arrived to move forward with updating the space.
Even though it was the kitchen and bath renovations that drove me to get started, there were other things that needed updating. The walls were slightly bumpy in some areas, so I had them skim-coated [spreading a thin coat of joint compound or “mud” on the wall, and then scraping it away to leave a smooth layer] to make everything look as sleek as possible. Also as an artist, I have several of my oil paintings hanging throughout the apartment, so the walls were not all that noticeable, but once you update one thing, the flaws in other areas really start to show. Although not part of the original plan, the floors were changed. Upgrading the weak lighting was also a high priority.
My vision for the whole apartment was to look serene, timeless, and glamorous—without overdoing it. I wanted to keep things relatively neutral because my artwork adds pops of color; I didn’t want to create additional “noise.”
The small kitchen didn’t support the existing full-size appliances and was awkward to move around in. The refrigerator was too big and the kitchen lacked counter space, mostly due to a huge sink. That was the number one thing I wanted to correct. With little room to put anything (six inches of usable workspace), I ended up using a foldable table hung on the wall. I could not wait to remove that! The cabinets did not go up to the ceiling—another waste of a significant amount of space that could have been used for storage. The overall configuration became more efficient with a smaller sink and new ceiling-height cabinets. Mission accomplished!
In the bathroom, there was an old pedestal-style sink, leaving no storage space underneath. I have a ton of stuff and am also a neat freak, so I needed all the storage space I could get. I love mirrors that double as storage and insisted on having a larger medicine cabinet. This was a challenge because we had building pipes running behind where the cabinet would be fastened. We found a solution by combining two different-sized ones together; it looks amazing. In both the kitchen and bathroom, I paired Calacatta marble with wood-looking floor tiles for continuity. I knew that was the look I wanted even before shopping for materials. My contractor played an integral role in selecting the materials, offering a lot of ideas on what would look good and what might not work. He also helped customize the kitchen cabinets.
I admit I have expensive taste, and sometimes I got carried away with wanting very high-end materials. My contractor helped me stay on track and we found a lot of reasonably priced options at Home Depot for things like light fixtures.
The original floors were damaged by water from a pipe bursting. I wanted a high contrast between the floors and walls and couldn’t believe what a huge difference it gave to the look and vibe of the apartment. A soundproof layer was included per the building’s request. The entire removal and installation was surprisingly a relatively fast process.
I was most excited about redoing the kitchen; that was the area that bothered me the most. The thought of having everything finally the way I wanted it (within the constraints of the building requirements and existing structure) made me very happy. I was also really excited to be involved in every aspect of the project and learning about construction in Manhattan. After investing a lot of time and energy into the new finishes and design, I feel a greater sense of emotional ownership towards everything in my home. I’ve been traveling a lot lately, but I can’t wait to leverage the new appliances and kitchen to their full potential.
The space is now an accurate reflection of my style and personality. It makes me feel at peace and happy to come home every day knowing every single thing is exactly how I wanted it. I feel a great sense of pride in the final product.
Thank you, Christina, for sharing your renovation journey with us!
BATHROOM RESOURCES: Vermont series Anthracite floor tile and Calacatta polished wall tile: Galactic Tiles. Shower fixtures: Delta. Levity shower door: Kohler. Sink/vanity: Royal Stone in Queens. Faucet, #ML102: Miseno. Toilet: American Standard. Lighting: Home Depot. Medicine cabinets: Kohler.
KITCHEN RESOURCES: Floor tile: Galactic Tiles. Kitchen cabinets/drawers: Custom by Sweeten contractor. Cabinet hardware: Home Depot. Calacatta-style quartz countertops, backsplash, and sink: Royal Stone in Queens. Faucet, #MK003: Miseno.com. 24″ counter-depth refrigerator: Liebherr. Elite 20-inch stove: Avanti.
LIVING AREA RESOURCES: Ebony Brazilian cherry semi-gloss floors: New York Hardwood Floors. Wall paint in Subtle Touch, #790E-1, Baseboard paint in Maui Mist, #BL-W10: Behr. Oil paintings (coming soon): Christinamaral.com.
Nancy remodeled her studio apartment on the Upper East Side in Manhattan.
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