An Apartment Combo Eases Growing Pains

A family of four didn’t have to look far to find their brand new home

They say that a little can go a long way, and that proved true for one Upper East Side couple who, looking to expand their living space, set their sights on a smaller one-bedroom apartment next door. Posting their project on Sweeten, a free service matching renovators with vetted general contractors, they were paired with both a Sweeten architect as well as a Sweeten contractor from a design-build firm. Together, they were able to turn 700 extra square feet into the master bedroom, den, closets, and living/dining room their growing family needed.

open living and dining roomGuest blog post by homeowners Mary and Derek

A few factors came together to set this project in motion: For one, 1,100 square feet can start to feel tight with two growing teenagers. Our boys had been sharing a room and the need for more personal space was apparent now that both were in high school and required designated areas where they could do things like homework. We were also looking to host friends and family more often, which we rarely did since our original living/dining room could only accommodate a few people at a time.

before and after floor planWhen the couple next door decided to sell their one-bedroom apartment and move back to England, it seemed like a unique opportunity and the perfect way to get the extra space we needed. Plus, it would allow us to stay in the building and neighborhood we really liked—a smallish co-op located on a lovely block in the East 70s on the Upper East Side of New York City. So we bought it.

before renovation (Above) The one-bedroom’s original living room and currently the sofa area.

open living and dining roomopen living room(Above) The living room wall was removed and the apartments were combined.

We were not first-time renovators—we had previously remodeled the kitchen—but the scale of this project was much larger than our earlier ones. Sweeten was invaluable in helping us attract several potential design partners that we never would have found otherwise. Our goal was to leave as much of our original apartment intact as possible, knocking out the separating wall and combining it with the one-bedroom that we purchased to create a den, closets, and a larger living/dining room, and a master suite on the opposite side of the apartment from the boys’ rooms so we could each enjoy our own space.

study(Above) The new den on the right sits along the now demolished dividing wall.

home office


The architect we chose was key in helping bring our vision to completion from visualizing the space to their thoughtful assistance in evaluating the contractors’ bids…

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The smaller apartment’s bedroom/bathroom/kitchen was converted into our master suite, including a walk-in closet and bathroom. We essentially removed the kitchen and converted it to a nice-sized bathroom, which included keeping the window so that it now sits on the side of our roomy shower. (We had intended to add a powder room but unfortunately, the placement of pipes, some of which were not movable, made this impossible.)

sweeten is in los angeles blog post image

What is now the TV room and den—a big favorite for watching sports or movies—sits astride with what was the wall separating the two apartments. We also made some modest renovations to the two bathrooms in the larger apartment including replacing the tile floors, adding in new sinks, enclosures, and toilets, one new medicine cabinet, and a fresh coat of paint. If we had a bigger budget, we might have done more.

entrywayAesthetically speaking, we lean heavily toward simplicity in design and function. The apartment already had traditional crown moldings and built-in bookcases, which are beautiful, but we used a mix of modern furniture and art for a look that combines both modern and traditional style. The dark floors we had in our original apartment were extended throughout the space—white oak stained in walnut with a satin polyurethane—contrasting the white walls for a clean, relaxing yet luxurious feel.

The Sweeten architect we chose was such a key partner in helping us bring our vision to completion, from helping us visualize the space to their thoughtful assistance in evaluating the contractors’ bids to helping solve problems, big and small, along the way.

before renovation (Above) The one-bedroom’s original kitchen and bath currently the master bath and suite.



bathroomThe oft-cited renovation maxims of “doubling the time you expect,” always seem to apply. We learned that when we opened the walls and ceilings and found that a previous renovation by the unit above had cut pipe channels and damaged the structural beams between floors. The building inspector required that this be remediated, even though it wasn’t part of our unit, and that added a few months and an undesirable sidetrack to the original scope of our work. But after the demolition of the dividing wall, which looks out onto 78th Street’s picturesque row of brick townhouses, it literally took our breath away to see the open space and the sunlight spilling through the windows.


showerNow that the renovation is done, we feel like everyone has space and everything has a place.  We are also pleased to be able to entertain (coffees, brunches, a dinner or two) in ways that we couldn’t before.

Thank you, Mary, Derek, and your family for sharing the expansion of your new home!

LIVING SPACE RESOURCE: White oak wood flooring in a walnut stain and satin polyurethane.

MASTER BATHROOM RESOURCES: Wall, floor, and shower tile in 3×6 and 12×24 marble in White Blossom: Complete Tile.  Corian Cameo white top vanity; polished chrome hardware; medicine cabinet, #RC2026D4-FP: Robern. Polished chrome shower fixtures: Kohler. Vero sink/faucet: Duravit. Toilet, #CWT43711MFG: Toto. Sconces: Sonneman 2430 Tubo slim 18″ LED bath bar in polished chrome.

Combining apartments? Here’s what you need to know.

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 on Sweeten.

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