How to Renovate an Apartment in 3 Weeks




NOTHING I love more than a quickie renovation. When a longtime tenant finally vacated the ground-floor apartment of my building in Boerum Hill on January 31 (never having dusted in 10 years, apparently), my son Max and his handy dad swooped in like a SWAT team to unhook the old kitchen sink, install a new one, move and re-plumb the stove, and build an L-shaped half wall that makes the kitchen an entity instead of three appliances floating in space.

p1020848I called a re-glazing company to make the pitted, rusty bathtub like new ($300), and hired an electrician to install a ceiling fan, hang new pendant fixtures in the living room and kitchen, and a sconce in the bedroom (all IKEA), and add grounded outlets in the kitchen and bathroom.

Then Max installed over 100′ of baseboard. He and his girlfriend Alexis (they’ll be moving in there this weekend) spackled and puttied; I primed; she painted two coats of a gorgeous sage green (Benjamin Moore’s Green Tea), exorcising all traces of the previous occupant’s salmon pink.


Total cost: just under $3,000.

In the process, I re-appreciated the ol’ place. The building is 1830s. The ground floor was originally a store; the ceilings are nine feet tall.

What’s left of the original architecture is practically nothing, but the exposed brick wall (very trendy in the early ’80s, when we first turned the former bodega into a rental unit) has a beautifully proportioned fireplace opening.


In the back bedroom, overlooking a garden the tenants share, are the most paint-caked window moldings ever, bottom.

They should be stripped. We didn’t bother, but as I lovingly stroked yet another coat of semi-gloss over them this past weekend (at least the fifth time I’ve done so since we bought the building  — as children! — in 1979), I was conscious of the whole Greek Revival thing: how these fluted columns, lumpy and chopped up as they are, were intended as an homage to ancient Greece, in days when the building and the neighborhood were a lot more elegant than they are now.

What a difference a base makes

That they’ve survived 180 years is miraculous; I’m not getting rid of them now.


About cara

I blog (for fun) here at casaCARA, and write (for money) about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites.
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1 Response to How to Renovate an Apartment in 3 Weeks

  1. JC says:

    BIG thumbs up on the paint job–the pink was very daring, but I prefer the new look. ;]

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