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.

1940's

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

before channel install

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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Shopping for Kitchen Cabinets

Below is our latest post for BrickUnderground.com containing our advice on buying kitchen cabinets.

But first, here is a bit more detail on our shopping experience at Home Depot and IKEA for those trying to decide where to purchase cabinets.

We started out first looking at IKEA cabinets and for the rental unit and although the price was right there was little design assistance, their computer software (which you can download on ikea.com) is rudimentary at best (but good for planning) and there was a limited selection in cabinet sizes.  With our irregularly high ceilings we couldn’t design them to fit.  And don’t forget, the cabinets do not arrive assembled.

That being said, we have friends who installed IKEA high gloss cabinets in a very modern newly constructed kitchen and ten years and two children later they’ve stood the test of time with only minor replacements, so whether IKEA is right for you is relative.

When we renovated the kitchen in our previous apartment we went to the 23rd Street Home Depot in Manhattan to check out several kitchen designs and materials in person We dealt with a different person at each process.  Someone who is not the designer came to our home to measure the space and later when we needed a cabinet door replaced because it was warped we dealt with someone completely different in customer service.

Also they subcontract installation to a third party, which lead to a problem when we installed our cabinets because our kitchen was measured with the old cabinets and drywall in place.  We handled demolition and had the room re-drywalled.  During this process one of the dimensions of the room increased by two inches.  As a result our cabinets did not fit the space as designed.  Thankfully, the installer was able to add filler pieces to solve the problem but it did not look exactly as we designed.

We purchased full-overlay cabinet doors but see the gaps between the cabinets on the right and left below.

Cabinets from Home Depot

Cabinets from Home Depot

While we were satisfied with the cabinet quality and service overall, we chose to go the small shop route this time because we wanted to work with one person for the entire process.  For both our kitchens, the designer at Park Slope Kitchen Gallery came by and measured our space twice to make sure it was accurate before finalizing the order.

For more information about what style and type of cabinet to buy see our post below.

BUYING NEW KITCHEN CABINETS? WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Our kitchen cabinet odyssey involved a lot more decision-making than you might imagine.

Longtime New Yorkers Angela Tiffin and Andrew Nichols bought their first brownstone in South Park Slope in May 2012, and have spent two years renovating—first, their own duplex apartment and in recent months, a third-floor rental unit—much of it with their own hands. You can read more about the project at their blog,Brownstone Cyclone.

We recently purchased new kitchen cabinets for the rental unit in our brownstone, after buying them last year for our duplex, which may seem like an easy decision. In truth, however, there are a dizzying array of choices when it comes to picking the style, the substance and the construction methods, not to mention where to shop in the first place. Below, what we learned in the process:

 

 

It sounds crazy but it might just work…

Because of hurricane Sandy, we are behind schedule about a week and a half, due mainly to transportation issues for the crew.  Although demolition was almost complete, they were not able to haul away the debris yet because alternate side parking rules were suspended and it was too difficult to get a dumpster right in front of the house.

Our second bit of disappointing news was that our contractor quoted us a price to rebuild our neighbor’s shed that we have to tear down.  A whopping 13K to replace a 50 year old box!  While we want the lady’s shed to be replaced a little better than it was, we do not want to provide her with a state of the art solarium.  What pains us most is that it mainly houses old cleaning supplies and the like.  

Nevertheless, the crew started the excavation for the extension in the back.  At the end of last week we  attended a status meeting at the site with our architect, structural engineer and foreman.  As we have mentioned before, if you are planning on major structural work to your home you will need to hire a structural engineer.  His or her price tag will be high and you will think, oh man.  Well last week our engineer (along with our architect) earned his paycheck.

During the meeting we all took a close look at the shed wall abutting our property and determined that instead of demolishing her entire shed we could simply incorporate the wall into our extension. The plan was for our extension to use CMU blocks (concrete masonry unit) with an EIFS (external finishing insulation system) with a stucco coating. Under this new plan we’ll continue to use CMU blocks and EIFS but in the areas of the wall abutting her wall (top photo, right side) we’ll leave out the stucco and apply a metal flashing over the top of her wall to water proof it.

We will have to give up about 2 inches of space in our bedroom (sadly from our closet) but we will have saved the cost of the new shed and when it’s complete we won’t be able to tell the difference.  Like most things with renovation–it is a wait and see game.  They will go forward with this new plan until or unless some unknown factor prevents it.  In the renovation game, it’s the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men.