17 Spectacular “Before & After” Reveals of New York City Renovations

From Brooklyn townhouses to Chelsea lofts, these homes maximize city living.

Whether converting a former office into a light-filled apartment fit for a family, or injecting Art Deco glamour into a blandly developed loft, these projects embrace the best of what the Big Apple has to offer.

An Architect Takes Steps to Create His Dream Home in Brooklyn

Before: The staircase in architect Shane Neufeld’s Brooklyn row house was crumbling.

After: The new staircase was the starting point for streamlining the rest of the living spaces.

After: "There aren’t many row houses that treat vertical circulation and the relationship between public and private spaces the same way as [this house]," Shane says. White oak treads and a painted steel handrail make up the home’s signature staircase.

The remodel for this 19th-century row house in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood centers on the stairs. "The goal from the very beginning was to invert and open up the traditional row house by replacing a stacked stair with a switchback stair," says Brooklyn–based architect Shane Neufeld. Doing so allowed the architect to redefine the interior layout and, thanks to the addition of a skylight at the top of the staircase, bring light deep into the home. 

A TV Writer’s Chelsea Loft Is Saved From a Hodgepodge of Outdated Remodels

Before: Previous owners had turned this room into an ad-hoc closet.

After: The cozy room is now a library with custom shelving for the owner’s books and records. There’s a bar behind the sliding door, the chair is from Erik Jorgensen, and the vintage footstool is the client’s own.

This loft had a unique layout that included two double-height fireplaces and a mezzanine level, but beyond that, "the unit had been carved up into so many small, enclosed spaces, and then built out and over detailed," says architect Keith Greenwald. "So, there was just so much in this apartment that felt cramped and dated." A recent remodel converted the mezzanine into an office for the homeowner, a TV writer, the fireplaces were cleaned up, and the kitchen and bathrooms redone. Now, rather than holding onto vestiges of the lives of previous owners, the new home is an easy place to work, relax, and entertain friends. 

A Classic NYC Loft Ditches Its ’90s Look for Refined Minimalism

Before: The loft is located in an industrial building that had been converted in 1996. The finishes throughout the home reflected the era of the conversion.

After: Bleached walnut replaced cold concrete floors in this family-friendly renovation of a dated loft in West Chelsea’s late 19th-century Spears Building. To make the loft feel more welcoming, architects Ravi Raj and Evan Watts toned down the heavy industrial elements of the 2,700-square-foot loft with a warmer and lighter palette and added custom built-ins for a streamlined look. At the same time, the loft still preserves much of its historic appeal—from the exposed brick seen throughout the home to the oversized openings left intact.

This West Chelsea loft had many enviable qualities, like exposed beams and brick walls, but other features were less desirable, like the concrete floor and dropped ceiling. Architects Ravi Raj and Evan Watts—Raj leads RARARA, and Watts is a partner at D&A Companies—teamed up to help the homeowners, who are friends of theirs, with a remodel.

They reworked the floor plan to fit in an additional bedroom and bathroom, removed the drop ceiling to reveal the historic structural framework, and then introduced a palette of bleached walnut and concrete plaster to temper the orange tones in the brick. 

A Disjointed Loft in Brooklyn Now Luxuriates in the View

Before: An elevator deposited occupants directly into the loft, and the former galley kitchen is to the right. "We didn't have much control, like a lot of apartment designs, with how you enter the space because the elevator basically dumps you where you are and that's a given," says Worrell Yeung.

After: According to Yeung, in order to create an experience that didn't "give everything up at once," the firm shrouded the entry foyer in rich, dark materials, which inspires entrants to pause before stepping inside the apartment and catching sight of the skyline. "We wanted to take advantage of the explosion of light and view," says Yeung.

After: The architects defined the new entry sequence with black-stained paneling inserted within a white oak volume that has a vertical-raked pattern to the wood. A second white oak volume delineates the new kitchen.

Despite having spectacular views out its many windows, this Brooklyn loft had some problems. The elevator opened directly into the living room without a sense of entry. The kitchen was shoe-horned into a narrow galley space. And a main bedroom occupied a prime corner, bogarting the light and views located there.

The firm Worrell Yeung stepped in with a new plan, relocating the bedroom and taking out the dividing wall to reallocate the windows to the living spaces. Then they detailed two central white oak volumes to act as a new organizing principle. "We came up with these analogies of the two wooden boxes and volumes, kind of like fraternal twins that occupy the center of the floor plate," says Yeung. "It was more of a way to organize this space and anchor the programmatic elements of the project, and then create the perimeter to take advantage of the beautiful view." 

A New York City Apartment Goes From Dark and Cramped to Daring and Capacious 

Before: The layout of the kitchen made it hard to entertain due to the lack of usable space, notes Christine Stucker of Stewart-Schafer.

After: 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."

After: Stucker and Veal custom designed and built the kitchen cabinets, finishing them in Farrow & Ball’s Lamp Room Grey to complement the stone and wood.

The previous kitchen in this 1925 apartment had too little counter space and too many "dead zones," which just didn’t work for the couple that lived there as avid cooks, wine lovers, and entertainers. Christine Stucker and James Veal, principals of design firm and architecture studio Stewart-Schafer, eked out more function in a remodel. "We spend a lot of time learning the cooking style and flow of our clients and take stock of all existing kitchenware," says Stucker.

The new design enlarged the kitchen by borrowing a little space from a spare bedroom, then utilized every square inch with custom cabinetry that conceals everything from built-in chopping boards to an inset drying rack— "so nothing needs to live on the counter"—leaving the clients with much more room to do what they love.

An Italianate-Style Brownstone in Brooklyn Rises Above Years of Ad-Hoc Remodels

Before: Urban Pioneering Architecture estimates that a renovation in the 1920s or 1930s created a central foyer between the living and dining rooms.

Before: These windows in the previous formal dining room were modified to create access to the backyard.

After: The space is now defined by a contrasting coat of Benjamin Moore’s Witching Hour. The cozy niche contains a vintage Overman loveseat and Pholc wall sconce.

After: Now, glass-and-steel doors from A&S Window open onto a deck and significantly brighten the combined kitchen and dining room with natural light.

This 1860s brownstone in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill "had seen countless, ad-hoc renovations that left it in need of a total overhaul," says Urban Pioneering Architecture. The firm led a top-to-bottom remodel that unified its old and new elements and created a garden-level apartment and top-floor guest suite. 

A Converted Office in NYC Ditches Bland Interiors for Brick and Steel 

Before: The former office in the Financial District was shrouded in drywall, so the design team dug beneath it to unearth the structural elements.

After: The firm used the revealed steel to demarcate different areas in the new home. Glass-and-steel-framed walls now enclose the primary bedroom, and an office nook with built-in storage is tucked off the primary circulation paths. The firm designed the custom bed platform; it’s white oak with a smoked finish.

By the time Brooklyn-based firm StudioKCA stepped inside this former office in an 1869 building in the city’s Financial District, it had been remodeled many times over. Its original brick and steel features had long been concealed by layers of chicken wire, sheet rock, and plaster. Fortunately, the clients were fine with StudioKCA doing exploratory excavations. "They trusted us and let us dig into the walls and find the hidden structure that was there and work hard to expose it," says designer Jason Klimoski. The question became, "How much can you peel away to get at the essence of what was once there?"

Turns out, quite a bit. The firm reorganized the floor plan so it now includes two bedrooms and two baths. By taking down a wall and encasing the main bedroom in glass and steel, the entire apartment benefits from the unit’s 13 windows.

A Gut Reno Restores Gatsby Glamour to This Art Deco Brooklyn Loft

Before: The top-floor unit was rather bland, and the layout didn't work for the owners. The kitchen was upstairs, and the remodel relocated it to the lower level.

After: Since the home is something of a pied-à-terre for the clients, its design is geared more toward short-term stays than full-time living. That means spaces like the kitchen are set up for entertaining. Notice the curve on the cabinetry, counter, and backsplash, which is Calacatta Macchia Vecchia marble. All of the appliances are from Fisher & Paykel, and the wall sconce is a Gabriel Scott single Welles pendant in smoked glass and brushed brass.

With demolition underway in this Brooklyn apartment at the top of a landmark 1929 Art Deco building, interior designer Nina Garbiras of FIG Interior Design and architect Joseph McGuier of JAM Architecture made a delightful discovery: more usable space. Because of the way the previous developer had built out the unit, "When we took down the perimeter walls, there was a lot more space between what was the interior wall and the exterior of the building," says McGuier.

This gave the team up to an extra foot in some places, and helped them create a more well-proportioned home, one that now shines with sweeping Deco curves and brilliant, jewel-toned colors. 

A Cramped Prewar Apartment in Manhattan Gets a Glowing Makeover  

Before: The client loves to collect books and unique objects, and the home’s existing built-in shelving did not accommodate them well. The haphazard nature of some of the previous built-in elements threw off the proportions of the rooms.

After: The firm installed an interior window between the hallway and this room to spread light. New built-ins better accommodate the owner's things, and the threshold is defined in a modern manner. Plus, a pocket door can now sleekly disappear, creating a nice big opening between the rooms.

After: A close-up of the deep built-in shelving, which creates flexibility for displays.

Lack of storage is a common enough problem in New York City apartments, and this Manhattan pad in a pre-war building was no different. Format Architecture Office came up with a thoughtful solution by specifying custom built-ins throughout that create a new rhythm. "The owner was making it work [before]," says architect Andrew McGee, "but I think she was interested in something that was a little bit more understated that still had some richness, and modern details that were also deferent to the history of the building."

A Park Avenue Prewar Apartment Gets a Multihued Makeover

Before: The dining room was drab with plain walls, dark flooring, and a single bulb jutting out of the ceiling.

After: Chen painted the walls a desaturated pink and brought in an 11-foot-long custom table in high-gloss lacquer, steel, and gold leaf by L.A.-based designers Alex Drew and No One. Around it are vintage Joe Colombo dining chairs in their original fabric, and a pair of leather and steel lounge chairs. Above the vintage Henry Glass sideboard from Converso is a vintage chinoiserie panel.

This Park Avenue apartment had wonderful bones, including herringbone wood floors and a fireplace, but it needed more personality. The owners worked with Michael K. Chen Architecture (MKCA) to make strategic changes: inserting a glass wall to spread sunlight, bringing in a plethora of colors, and juxtaposing modern sculptural furniture pieces against the traditional backdrop. "We wanted the existing spaces to retain their gracious formality—it is Park Avenue, after all—but tempered that with bright colors, playful and graphic forms, and varied textures," says Chen. 

A Traditional Brooklyn Brownstone Receives a Chic Makeover Inside and Out

Before: The designers kept the existing clawfoot tub for use in the new design.

After: Colorful, patterned tile provides the perfect backdrop for the revamped clawfoot tub. Stewart-Schafer added new plumbing fixtures to make the tub double as a shower.

In reimagining their personal residence, a 1901 Brooklyn brownstone, designers James Veal and Christine Stucker, co-principals of Stewart-Schafer, deftly balanced old and new. They refinished the floors, spruced up the living room fireplace, repainted trim and kitchen cabinets, and kept the rusty-colored clawfoot tub in place. New insertions, like modern wood display shelves, stylish midcentury furniture picks, and a graphic and colorful tile backsplash behind the tub, playfully contrast with the existing historic elements. 

A Brooklyn Townhouse Is Adeptly Reorganized for Its Extroverted-Introvert Owner 

Before: Previously, the primary bedroom had a single door that accessed the backyard.

Before: There was wasted space in the bedroom, and the storage could have been better utilized.

After: Now, a large glass door connects to the new tiled patio. A custom vanity activates an empty niche created by the fireplace column.

After: The walls of the nest room "are custom-designed panels with a linear stitch pattern (to mimic the groove patterns in some of the millwork) that follow the curvature of the wall," says Ryan Brooke Thomas. The spot suits many different needs: It can act as dressing room, clothes storage, media room, and extra sleepover space. A custom-made felt curtain allows for privacy or connection as needed.

Planning a remodel for a self-described "extroverted-introvert" client, designer Ryan Brooke Thomas of the Brooklyn firm Kalos Eidos managed to accommodate a range of moods in the new arrangement of space. Public space stayed on the upper level of the two-floor apartment, with a fluid interplay between living, dining, and kitchen that makes for good socializing. Then downstairs, the designer squeezed in a self-contained ensuite, for guests or renters, connected the main bedroom to an outdoor nook, and carved out a "nest room" for cozy alone time.

A Remodel Connects an Isolated Kitchen to the Rest of a Pre-War Brooklyn Apartment

Before: The kitchen was isolated at one end of the apartment.

Before: The hall jogged around to the dining room, which had generous proportions, and great windows and floors.

After: Custom cherry cabinetry with integrated handles and sliding doors brings a furniture-like component to the open kitchen. Three 1960s Scandinavian flush mounts by Arnold Wiigs Fabrikker brighten the soapstone counter, while two cognac leather stools by Afteroom for MENU are tucked beneath.

After: In the dining room, Tang installed a built-in reading bench under the windows. It’s upholstered in ikat fabric and anchored by bookshelves at one end. The vintage Danish cabinet belongs to the owners, while the brilliant, deep orange pendant was sourced by Tang’s team. It’s a 1960s Equator pendant by Jo Hammerborg for Fog and Morup.

The meandering layout in this pre-war Brooklyn apartment was a relic of times past. An old service area had been converted to a tiny galley kitchen at the end of a long zig-zagging hallway, and the maid’s quarters-turned-laundry room wasted precious space in between. Frederick Tang Architecture was enlisted to streamline the layout and unite the kitchen with the dining room. Now, the old service area is a separate guest suite with laundry and an office space, and the kitchen glories in more natural light and counter space, as well as custom cherry cabinets and soapstone counters. 

A Traditional Facade Hides a Dream Home With Emerald Green Accents

Before: The kitchen was previously located in the rear addition and separated by a door, but the designers relocated it to a space accessible to the dining room. "As the kitchen sits in dialog with unrestored portions of the 19th-century interior, we sought to avoid an ‘over-renovated’ appearance," say the architects.

After: Modern green cabinetry contrasts brightly with the home’s historic shell. Custom triangular brass pulls designed by the architects echo the brass accents on the nearby threshold between the living and dining rooms. The island top is Marmoleum, while the counter along the wall is stainless steel, which syncs with the Bertazzoni range.

When tasked to remodel this historic townhouse from front to back, the firm GRT Architects took a "gradient" approach: "As landmarked buildings require a literal approach to facade preservation, we set a gradient from invisible improvements facing the street, to obviously new elements towards the rear." To that end, the firm took a light touch to the exterior, and the interior received a blend of treatments, from restoring the original parquet floors to installing emerald green kitchen cabinets. 

A 19th-Century Brooklyn Brownstone Is Saved From Utter Disrepair 

Before: The brownstone's former exterior blended in with its neighbors and required restoration and repairs.

After: The original brownstone exterior was given a bright refresh with Farrow & Ball’s Skimming Stone paint on the facade and Benjamin Moore’s Black for the trim, door, balusters, and handrails. The architectural designers also added new windows and doors.

In 2017, this 1890 brownstone received a top-to-bottom remodel. With architecture by Frances Mildred and interiors by nune, the overhaul sought to modernize the tattered home, mixing key historical features, like rehabbed fireplaces and woodwork, with contemporary flair.

A Humdrum Home in Brooklyn Receives a Stylish Revamp

Before: The original kitchen had uninspired, standard finishes.

After: Now, the kitchen has access and views to the backyard, thanks to an expansive wall of glass and steel. The new kitchen features a mix of IKEA and custom walnut shelving. The gray subway tile is from Nemo Tile.

Built in 2010, this 4,167-square-foot Brooklyn brownstone was a "developer special," thanks to generic finishes and an overall lack of character. The owners worked with architect Frederick Tang to inject more personality. Tang reorganized the floor plan for better flow, installing the principal suite on the top floor so the parents had private access to the roof deck, relocating the living room to the second floor to enlarge it, and connecting the kitchen to the backyard via a steel and glass wall.

A Historic Tribeca Townhouse Gets a Magical Makeover

Before: The biggest architectural maneuver in the renovation was moving the staircase to allow for a more spacious kitchen. In this view, you can see the little volume at the center that housed the refrigerator.

After: The kitchen features custom millwork with opal glass pulls, recycled glass terrazzo countertops and backsplash, copper plumbing, and a show-stopping Lacanche range in Provence yellow.

In the 1960s, this Federal-style townhouse in New York's Tribeca neighborhood was saved from the wrecking ball and given landmark status for its uniqueness. It was noted that it was one of "a group of intact houses characteristic of late 18th-century scale and profile which did not exist anywhere else in Manhattan."

More recently, the townhouse’s newest owners reached out to Susan Yun of YUN Architecture and interior designer Penelope August—they had worked together previously at Selldorf Architects—for help on a remodel. The newest incarnation would celebrate the home’s historic features, getting things like the wood windows and fireplaces in good working order, while also weaving in a dash of vibrant color and unexpected decor moments.

Related Reading:

10 Stunning "Before & After" Midcentury Renovations in Los Angeles

9 "Before & After" Cabin Renovations That Will Make You Look Twice

12 Outstanding "Before & Afters" of Century-Old Buildings

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