Before & After:  A New York City Apartment Goes From Dark and Cramped to Daring and Capacious
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Before & After: A New York City Apartment Goes From Dark and Cramped to Daring and Capacious

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By Julia Brenner
A bold renovation turns an outdated apartment in Manhattan into a light and bright home.

"Prior to the renovation, the space felt dark, closed off, and very dated," state Christine Stucker and James Veal, principals of design firm and architecture studio, Stewart-Schafer. As the team behind both the redesign and renovation of this prewar apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Stucker and Veal were eager to help the homeowners realize the full potential of their home. 

The goal of the project, which lasted a little over five months concept to completion, was to create a modern home designed for living and entertaining. The result is a stunning apartment that balances smart, functional design with a warm, inviting aesthetic. 

The dining area is awash in natural light.

Originally built in 1925, the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom apartment had "a lot of dead zones" and was comprised of "small, cramped, poorly-lit rooms" according to Stucker. The "disconnected design," choppy layout, and dark color palette caused the 2,000-square-foot apartment to feel cramped, despite the unit's ample square footage. 

The Stewart-Schafer team set out to open up the floor plan and create a more cohesive aesthetic throughout the space. As the homeowners are a young couple who love to cook and entertain, the renovation also focused on maximizing the home's common spaces.

Before: Kitchen 

The "Before" kitchen lacked cohesion and felt dated, according to Veal and Stucker. Removing dead zones and improving functionality were two major problems the Stewart-Schafer team wanted to solve for the homeowners.  

The layout of the kitchen made it hard to entertain due to the lack of usable space.

"The dark wood cabinets and flooring, combined with a rough-cut stone wall and green polished marble floors gave the apartment a very old-fashioned look," according to Christine Stucker. 

Prior to the renovation, the home's design lacked functionality and visual interest. 

Pre-renovation, the home had a lot of "dead zones," or unusable space. 

After: Kitchen 

The renovated kitchen is an elegant balance of clean lines and luxurious finishes. Knowing that the homeowners are avid cooks, wine lovers, and entertainers, the Stewart-Schafer team used smart design to increase functionality and maximize space. 

The Stewart-Schafer team hand-selected each slab of Calacatta Vagli marble to be book-matched. "We love the beautiful natural veining and imperfections of marble against the clean lines of the kitchen design," noted Stucker.  To protect the marble, they used a trade secret sealing product that comes with a lifetime guarantee, which, according to Stucker "helps alleviate the hesitations some clients have with marble." 

Highlights of the new kitchen include custom cabinetry, a custom marble countertop with an inset drying rack, built-in chopping boards and storage—"so nothing needs to live on the counter"—two wine fridges, a larger panel-ready refrigerator, and an additional refrigerator drawer.  

They also slightly reduced the size of a spare bedroom to increase the size of the kitchen and added a storage closet to hide appliances.

The use of natural materials, such as the combination of stone and wood, evokes casual luxury that is also very livable.

"The simplicity of the kitchen really allows the luxurious materials to shine." 

—Christine Stucker 

Stucker and Veal custom designed and built the kitchen cabinets, finishing them in Farrow & Ball paint (Lamp Room Grey) to compliment the stone and wood. 

"We always prioritize functionality during our pre-design phase. We spend a lot of time learning the cooking style and flow of our clients and take stock of all existing kitchenware," says Christine Stucker. 

"The combination of the materials makes for a contemporary yet timeless kitchen that will last a lifetime. We aim to design kitchens that not only look good but are made to stand the test of time," says Christine Stucker.

  Before: Living Room 

The "Before" living room looked dark, felt cramped, and lacked a cohesive aesthetic. 

The mix of disjointed finishes kept the interior from feeling elevated. 

The interior lacked flow and felt smaller than 2,000 square feet of living space. 

After: Living Room 

While the "Before" living areas lacked flow or a cohesive aesthetic, the "After" living room is tailored and welcoming, with ample seating and streamlined storage solutions. 

While the homeowners kept their original sofa and various decor items, new custom storage, seating, and freshly painted walls completely revitalize the space. 

In addition to project architecture and design, Veal and Stucker built and designed many of the furnishings, including a custom shelving unit, light fixtures, and seating. 

Veal and Stucker created a stylish and functional reading nook off of the living room, complete with a custom shelving unit. 

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Before: Master Bedroom 

By removing carpeting, repainting, and layering on bold, custom light fixtures, the Stewart-Schafer team was able to take the master bedroom from dull and drab to bright and modern.

The original bedroom featured carpeting and a muted color palette.

After: Master Bedroom

Light hardwood, custom lighting, and bright textiles give new life to the once-drab master bedroom. 

Veal and Stewart often create custom lighting and furniture pieces for their clients. 

"We transformed the space into what a high end Upper West Side Apartment should be," says Christine Stucker.

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