Monday, February 13, 2012

NYC Reno: The Family Plan

I started working on this renovation project in New York City last June, the scope of work was extensive as it involved converting 3 adjoining apartments into one single family residence. (Check out some of the before photos and my introduction of this project here.)  At the very onset of a project I usually formulate a vision for the bones of the space very quickly.  In this case, my clients who are parents to three young kids were in synch with this vision, represented in the collage above.   Timeless elements like natural wood and marble, fresh white walls with panel molding for classic character, fixtures with clean simple lines and vintage patina - would become the backdrop for this family's busy city life in the Upper East Side for the next 20 years or more.  It reflects their affection for tradition but will exude a young and modern edge, just like them!

The 'Before' Plan

The existing three apartments had tiny enclosed kitchens and equally small bathrooms.  The biggest challenge in redesigning this space, aside from ALL the structural elements that couldnt' be moved, were the rules of the building.  It seemed the more layouts we came up with, the more the rules changed.  No problem.  I can design around anything - I was coming up with new layouts as fast as they were coming up with more rules.  : ) After weeks of marathon space planning the conclusion was -  NO kitchen or bathroom could extend beyond their existing footprint, NO plumbing drains or appliance locations could be moved, AND no additional bathrooms could be added.  Uh huh.  Did you look at the existing plan?  Soooo, Carol, good luck getting that dream kitchen into a closet, scrap the luxurious Master ensuite with double vanity, and forget about the convenient new powder room off the foyer.  : /  Discouraged yet?  My clients were.

I"m not gonna lie,,,the decisions from the Board were crushing to the homeowners.  As more and more restrictions were placed on them, they doubted whether this space could ever come close to suiting their needs no matter how extensively it was renovated.  Thoughts of scrapping the entire reno entered their minds,,,,,, until they found this plan in their inbox. 

The Proposed Plan

At first glance this plan may not look super impressive, but this really was a triumphant success. We have a 'spacious' open concept kitchen!!! A decision was made early on that the kitchen in the middle Apt. B would be the new kitchen, and the main entry would be thru Apt. C, this allowed for a split bedroom plan.  All good, except the kitchen in Apt. B had a column in the middle of it and no where to put a fridge if we took down the walls.  (It was so space challenged the existing kitchen only had an 18"wide dishwasher.)  

Two key elements allowed this plan to happen,,,,,,,#1 we were permitted to move the washer/dryer out of the kitchen to a closet within the footprint of the main bathroom, and #2, even more crucial - under counter refrigeration!!! I've been using under counter refrigeration for about 10 years and it's been the 'hidden' key to many successful kitchen redesigns.  I was able to place 3 fridge drawers and 1 freezer drawer in the peninsula, equivelant to a standard fridge.  All plumbing and appliances remained within the footprint of the original kitchen = Board approved!  The compromise as you can see, the column is still there and it falls right in the middle of the peninsula - but that's one small compromise in exchange for this expanded family style kitchen.

When my clients received this plan the single sentence response I received by email was "you are my hero"!  An exaggeration, a wee bit ; ) yes, but I was thrilled they liked it.  They loved it.  For me it was so satisfying to know I was able to help turn this space into everything they had hoped it could be instead of it becoming their biggest disappointment.  That's the value of design.    

Custom Details & Elevations

This plan indicates where all the custom built-ins and custom details will be located and identifies all the new interior doors.  Well planned built-ins and well appointed doors will take advantage of every square inch and integrate awkwardly placed obstacles into useable space. 

What I love most about this new layout;  the open concept kitchen lets mom interact with the kids and benefits from the natural daylight, the dining table can extend into the living room when needed, the master gets a luxuriously large dressing room and the kids have a separate lounge area, in fact the entire kids 'wing' can be closed off from the main living areas whenever the parents chose.  To make the most of a tiny master ensuite I created a spacious vanity area outside of the bathroom which will be finished in the same materials as the bathroom so it all reads as one larger space.  There's a lot of great features packed into this 2200 sf home.  A 4+ bdrm, 3 bath plan - in manhattan,,pretty sweet.

Preliminary Furniture Plan

This is how this new family apartment will be used.  To help clients visualize if the proposed layout will meet their particular requirements I draw up a general furniture plan so they can see if that king size bed will fit or how many dinner guests they'll be able to seat.  The furniture is generic and except for sizes, the pieces are not specific unless the homeowners have existing items that must be used.  Otherise I create a generic layout like this which then becomes the basis for the electrical and lighting location plans.

Each of the kids rooms will have built-in desks with storage and the Den will do double duty as a home office and guest bedroom, we'll be creating some open niches and shelves into the dividing wall in the Den but unfortunately it can't be moved. 

 All of the Interior Design plans were completed last September and construction started on site about 4 weeks ago.  Currently I'm finalizing the paint and wallpaper specs (yes there will be some colour and pattern!) and dealing with the daily issues and changes that come up.  That's the nature of a renovation,,,,expect the design plans to go thru a round of changes after demolition is completed.

Like the change to this small hall closet that apparantly will be even smaller due to the unexpected size of the column. yikes.  That's the contractor, with a set of my drawings, explaining to the homeowner why this framing is not jiving with my plans...  

I'll take you thru the design plans for the kitchen and the individual bathrooms in future posts. 

All images, drawings and photos are the property of Carol Reed Interior Design Inc. and may not be reproduced.


  1. Great post - I love how you were able to work with all the challenges to get the layout that the family needed. Thanks for sharing your process. Look forward to see the progress!

  2. Carol - You have no idea how informational and inspirational this post is to me. As an interior decorating student taking my final course I am working on a very similar (fictional) condo conversion project. Seeing each step of the design process through your eyes, as you walk through the merits of the space and the challenges, is so interesting and educational. Thank you for sharing your thought process. Cannot wait to see the final product!

  3. hi carol - the first shot of the mood board is fantastic, particularly the brass hardware. would you mind sharing where the recessed pulls and knobs are from (looks similar to deltana but i might be mistaken) also, is it terribly hard to install recessed pulls onto ikea kitchen cabinets? thank you!

  4. Thank you Sarah and Dayna! It really impossible to know whether any redesign is successful or not without knowing what the requirements and restrictions were. Its

    Victorianinbloom - the recessed pull is by Baldwin and it will be used for recessed pocket doors. I've not used recessed pulls on Ikea cabs before so can't comment, I would be inclined not to do it unless it was a solid wood panel.


  5. Thanks so much for sharing! I'm also an interior design student and am fascinated with space planning. Looking forward to updates! - Rachel

  6. Wow, this is incredible. Thanks for sharing your progess; I can't wait to read more!


  7. I am a huge fan of your posts and enjoys a lot seeing your own style shine through every challenge you take, but I am compelled to write to you when I see the column in the middle of the island .... exactly the same as I found hidden in my own kitchen, that cannot be removed too and now "rises" through the island. I would really like to see what becomes of your column in your design.

    Thank you for sharing with us all your outstanding jobs!

  8. I'm afraid I couldn't make it magically disappear. nothing much becomes of the column except that it will 'rise' from the island, clad to match the cabinetry. ~ C

  9. Hi Carol,

    What ever became of this project? I'd like to see the end result.



  10. Don@ ukbathroomguru.comFebruary 23, 2014 at 5:39 PM

    Great, you plan step by step, with the layout you can see the big project and truly manage


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