One Last Before and After

It’s been a whirlwind of a year, finishing the renovations on our brownstone after 6 years of work and then selling up and leaving NYC.  Now that we’ve had the chance to take a breath, we felt that we owed it to our readers to post some final before and after photos.  Because who doesn’t like some good before and after renovation photos?!

The house was built in 1899 and had only three owners before us.

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The Front Exterior

When we first saw the house back in 2012, we knew it had potential.  The bones were good and the karma felt right.  It was calling out to have a family grow up there again.

Front of Building

Although we took down some walls and put others up, we did overall lighten the load on the upper floors, stripped off years of old paint and tore up layers of linoleum.  At the time, we could almost hear the house sighing in relief as each old layer was peeled off.

Although it doesn’t look like we did much to the front exterior, it sure was a lot of work, time  and money.

  • We replaced all the windows with the Marvin brand and were pretty happy with the noise reduction.
  • We had the stairs re-done with the finish that is meant to look like brownstone.
  • We also had a contractor repave the front area but we did the planting area ourselves.

Other DIY projects included replacing the front and downstairs doors as well as sanding and painting the original fence and railings.  In fact, we feel tired just thinking about all the work we did out there.

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During out first walkthrough we thought we’d put the kitchen and living room on the garden level where the original kitchen was.  After suggestions from a high-end architect (that we did not end up using – we hired Matthew Cordone), we put those on the parlor level, which is a no brainer really because that is where all the light and high ceilings are.  The garden floor was perfect for our bedrooms.

The Garden Floor

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Our daughter’s room was in the front of the house.  The photo above is the view facing the back of the house.  We gained a few inches after removing the drop ceiling.  The room looks dark and small here.  We believe this was originally the dining room.  On the left is a hallway that leads to a pantry and the kitchen and on the right is another pantry with a window to pass dishes through from the kitchen.

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The room facing the front of the building during demolition.  Our contractor wasn’t the tidiest.

After

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Although on the garden level, this room has lots of direct sunlight.  We kept all the original molding around the windows and the chair rail but the ceiling could not be saved without prohibitive costs.  The new molding looks almost exact to the original.

Our only DIY in this room was stripping the lead paint off of the fireplace mantle and the double doors leading into the bedroom.  We could not get the gold paint off of the center piece on the marble mantle.  Lesson: don’t paint marble gold, people!

We removed the second hallway (on the first before photo above) and the pantries (on the right of the built in) to add a closet for the bedroom and a second bathroom.

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It never looked this white in person!  And, we don’t recommend white tiles on the floor.

Below, we took out the original kitchen for the house and extended the house 10 ft to make room for a media room and master bedroom suite.  It is hard to grasp with the before photos.  Below is from the perspective of the front bedroom looking to the back of the house before they took out the outer wall.

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Afterwards, walls were put in the middle of the house for the media room, forever referred to as the “middle room.”  It is a small but mighty room that houses the washer dryer and the kitty litter too.  Our DIY was installing the cabinets and the floors.  We hired someone to wallpaper because we’d seen bad wallpaper DIYs before.  Loved this Urban Chic Big Apple wallpaper from York Wall coverings.

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The old kitchen leading out to the backyard below.  To the right there is the added bathroom that was made out of doors.

Kitchen

And the after ….

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The majority of the master bedroom is the new house extension so there is no original architectural detail in the room.  In the bathroom, below, the original brick fireplace remains behind the shower wall.  The room was not big enough for the dream separate bath and shower but coming from a one sink tiny apartment bathroom, this was luxury.  So much white!

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The Second Floor

The rental apartment was mainly a DIY job except for the ceiling restoration (in bedroom) and replacement (in living room) in addition to some help with the floors.

The floors in the apartment were too damaged to restore and were so creaky that we needed to reinforce and put in some soundproofing.  Other than that, the bedroom, below left, was mainly a clean up job.  We put in new windows in year five.

The bathroom was a full DIY gut.  Pink tiles were someone’s dream once upon a time.

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The living room and kitchen area involved removing a lot of linoleum and wallpaper during a memorable humid NYC summer.  We also took out the half wall to open up the kitchen.

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A little exposed brick and some chalkboard paint helped give it a little more personality.

After

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The Back of the House and BackYard

Before

Extension

Yowza! The back of the house was pretty sad looking.  We are not sure what year they added the shed on the right or the bathroom bump out on the left but it did not stand the test of time.  The bump out turned out to be constructed with old doors.

Back yard

The good thing about the yard was its size.  The bad were the dead rat carcasses.

During construction

back of house

Once the building was done we removed the dead tree and installed wood borders and new grass.

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Next, we had our patio installed by the professionals because that would be hard to do ourselves and we needed proper drainage.  We replaced the metal fencing but since our flowers and vegetable garden needed light, we decided against a wooden fence all around the yard.

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We added raised organic vegetable garden beds and replanted bushes in the back.  We would have repaved also but ran out of time.  The rose bush is from the original owners, which we managed to protect during construction.

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We enjoyed a lot of summer days and nights in this space.

The Parlor Floor

The nicest part of the house and the biggest transformation is the parlor floor.  Below is the view towards the front of the house.  We removed this door and part of the wall and  the weird decorative archway to open up the room and allow more light in.

parlor facing south

parlor facing south

After

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It is amazing what new floors and paint can do for a room.  Flower photos by Leeta Harding.

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To the right is the powder room with an original glass etched door pane and high tank toilet.  I love this bathroom but it is really hard to photograph.

The final room in the house will always be my favorite.  We were able to save part of the tin ceiling, the original pocket doors and moldings.  We restored the fireplace to working condition.

The kitchen was once the bedroom.

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Back facing north before the extension.

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The closet on the left was built out and is now the powder room.

We tried to save the wood floors here because they were better quality but they did not match the rest of the floors in the other rooms and we decided that they should all be the same.

During construction

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After

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It was a long road  and there were many ups and downs.  We spent a lot of money, survived stressful situations and put in a lot of sweat equity but it in the end we were happy with the outcome.  It felt good to restore this beautiful historic home.

The house will be missed but we know that it is enjoying the laughter of new children and will hopefully continue to stand another 100+ years.

 

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Complete rental apartment renovation – check

Yes, it has been a while since we’ve written a post for our blog.  We’ve been in a frenzy trying to get the third floor unit into shape since we found out from our Expeditor that we can rent it out before we get the Certificate of Occupancy for the building, as long as there are no safety concerns.  We had him do a run through and we are good to go.

We did not have our contractor renovate the third floor because all it needed was cosmetic work, which we thought we could do ourselves.  We did hire someone to remove and drywall the drop down ceilings and install the new floors.  We also paid our electrician to do all the ceiling lights but the rest was us and our go to guy, Keith, who we met when he installed our floors.

Here are some before and afters:

Livingroom

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View from back of house into dining – living area

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We used the contractors for our duplex unit to put up fire resistant drywall in the hallway to meet with fire codes.  We decided to close up one of the two doors that lead into the apartment.  In retrospect, and there is always perfect hindsight in renovation, we should have moved the entry door to the left so it would be easier for prospective tenants to get their furniture through the door from the stairs.

Left side of the living area from the back.

Left side of the living area from the back.

We removed the 70s drop ceiling and plaster ceiling (and that added about 9 inches in ceiling height), recessed lighting and ceiling fans.  We demolished the cosmetic archway and that little half wall to the kitchen to give it an open floor plan.  If you recall, we removed all of the floors to soundproof them then installed laminate.  We chose it mainly because it is durable and inexpensive but also because we hated the look of the wood floors we could afford.  We replaced all the baseboard moldings with ones similar to the originals.  To the right, we stripped the plaster off the fireplace to expose the original brick and give the room a little architectural interest.  We couldn’t afford to get this chimney working so it is just decorative.

Living room

Kitchen

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Here we are (above) removing the old linoleum to expose the pine wood floors.  They were not in great shape and we wanted to do soundproofing so they had to go.  On the upside, we put them on Craigslist and sold them to homeowners in Bed Sty so they will have another life.  We removed the half wall and the wallpaper, which was no easy task.

We replaced the window by the refrigerator because it was broken.  We kept the original molding around the window but replaced the baseboard molding and the molding around the double window because it was just easier.  We replaced the permanently fogged glass in 1 sash of double window, which was amazingly cheap at $50 and it now looks like a new window.

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We originally were going to paint these old top cabinets and put in a new stand alone bottom cabinet from IKEA with an inexpensive counter top but the more we looked at them the uglier they got.  We thought as long as we are ripping the floor up we should redo the cabinets too and be done with it.  We used the same company down the street that we used for the kitchen in our unit.

KitchenWe went with basic modern wood cabinets so that they would not go out of style too soon. Before you say it, we know the white appliances with the stainless steel dishwasher is not the best look but the fridge and stove were in great shape after a good cleaning.  If they ever fail, we will replace them with stainless, which is why the dishwasher is in that finish.  We extended the cabinets to the ceiling so there is a lot more cabinet space than before and we removed the washing machine to add drawer space.  We were able to get a quartz countertop from a remnant piece from the supplier used by Park Slope Kitchen Gallery and that saved us a lot of money.  It may be white but it is manmade from quartz so it is the most durable.  We were also able to save the tin ceiling with a good coat of paint, some bending and a little painter’s caulk.

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For the bedroom it was all basic cosmetic work.  The previous owners had already removed the fireplace mantels and the brick was covered in plaster so we left it. The best news was that we were able to save original plaster ceiling.  We skim coated it to smooth it out and left the crows completely intact. It is amazing what a little paint and new floors can do.

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The ceiling before

ceiling after

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We replaced the floor, repaired and painted the ceiling and crown molding.  We installed new entry, closet and bathroom doors.  We re-plastered some of the walls, painted, replaced the baseboard molding and wire brushed and painted the radiators.  We still haven’t found a ceiling light we like, so please ignore that dangling lightbulb.

Bedroom

Below is that small room off of the bedroom that you see in so many brownstones.  The previous owners, whose family owned the house for two generations, told us that when they were growing up two of the children slept in there.  I think that was the norm back then.

Small room off bedroom

When our house was built in 1899 it did not include bathrooms so the bathroom in the rental was carved out in the middle of the unit, and thus was a bit wonky. For some reason (probably to accommodate the plumbing) the installers decided to raise the floor up about 8″ resulting in an awkward step to enter. It’s only door was to the outside hallway which was not fire rated so it had to be removed. We add a new one one into the bedroom–so the tenant’s doesn’t have to go outside his or her apartment to use the loo. Unfortunately there was nothing we could do about the step except make it look better with a marble saddle.

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Bathroom

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Right after we closed on the house we purchased a new modern toilet and vanity sink for a great price from a woman who was combining two condo apartments in Boerum Hill. The original plan was to reglaze the tub and try painting the tiles but when it came down to it we thought now is the time to replace the tub and tiles. We had an incident in our previous condo where the tub in the apartment above us rusted through around the drain and caused damage to our ceilings in three rooms before the source was discovered. The tub was old and we did not want to take that chance so we renovated the whole room with the help of our handyman and now everything is shiny, new and clean.  Much to our chagrin, we did a better job installing the tiles here than our contractor did in our unit!

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Finally, we added a stacked washer and dryer to the laundry closet that used to only have a dryer.

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We are so happy the apartment is finished but sad that we will no longer be able to use it for our daughter’s slumber parties and as a laundry suite.  Now the next challenge is renting it out to a good tenant!

The Little Reveal

When we first started our renovations we pictured the big ta-da moment when everything would be done and we’d move into our perfectly designed, painted and furnished home like on Houzz or HGTV.

The reality is that we moved in when there was not even a kitchen and now that we have been here for over a year, there is still a punch list that needs to be completed and an endless list of ongoing projects not to mention the rental unit upstairs.

We thought we’d take advantage of our clean house to show all you faithful followers a few good before and afters with at least a little, ta-da!

Parlor facing south before.

parlor facing south

After.

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As for decorating we pretty much just have our old furniture because we can’t financially justify buying any new furniture until the house is completely don’t and we have a tenant paying rent.

Parlor facing north

Parlor facing north

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parlor facing south

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Here we took out this door and partial wall to make the living area a bit larger since it is only a 16ft wide building.  We did not need the hallway behind the door because we were closing it off to separate the our unit from the apartment upstairs.  The building was a two family shared by the same family so they never officially block access between the two.

This awkward chair will be moved once we give it a design update some day.

This awkward chair will be moved once we give it a design update some day.

A little vision and a lot of patience (plus money) can go a long way.

Back facing north before the extension.

Back facing north before the extension (with the realtor).

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My dream kitchen

We love that we were able to save the ceiling because they don’t make that pattern of tin anymore.  Ours is a modest kitchen compared to some “dream kitchens” but for NYC and for a small family, it is perfect.  We will write an update on the drawbacks to marble counter tops and white cabinets later.

The closet on the left was built out and is  now the powder room.

The closet on the left was built out and is now the powder room.

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