Reno Ready

With some (reasonable) updates, this $550,000 Gramercy studio could easily be a one-bedroom

By Leah Hochbaum Rosner | March 9, 2017 - 8:59AM 

There are lots of appealing things about this $550,000 Gramercy studio at 201 East 21st Street, according to architect S. Lindsay Klein of Lindsay Architecture Studio. “It’s east-facing so you’ll get good morning light,” she points out, for starters. Plus, “it has a wide entryway. And if you look out the window you can see a white brick building across the way, meaning that you’ll get reflected light in the living area.”

Despite that seeming profusion of pros, the co-op unit still has a number of cons, too—most notably, that the sleeping area isn’t really closed off from the rest of the apartment. “I’d want to create a bedroom that’s more private and tucked away and isn’t smack in the middle of the room,” says Klein.

Here’s how she would carve out a separate sleeping space, and update the remainder of the unit:

Living area/dining area/foyer (pictured here and above)

Klein isn’t a fan of the way the apartment is currently furnished: The second you walk in the door, “you smack into a table,” she says. As such, the first thing she’d do here is move the table and chairs out of the foyer and relocate them to the living space—where there’s currently a closet (the second one after you walk in the front door). She’d prefer a six-seater round table there so “you can invite people to dinner” or sit and have a leisurely brunch in the actual living room—where you’ll be closer to the light streaming in the windows.

Behind the table, against the right-hand wall, she’d add two two-seater couches that face each other, with a coffee table between them. She’d demolish that closet (in favor of the table), but acknowledges that anyone living in this studio apartment would still need extra storage. After all, “you’d probably have to fit your entire life into those closets,” she says. Therefore, she recommends building a new closet in the entryway where the table and chairs used to be.

The floors look to be in fine shape, she says, though she isn’t fond of what she describes as its “honey color.” She’d prefer “sort of a distressed white, instead, as it’s modern and fresh and elegant.” As such, she’d “pickle” them—“sand them down and run Benjamin Moore white floor stain over them to make them look pale.”

She’d take down the current window treatments—brown blinds—and opt for solar shades, which are “simple roll-down shades [that] lets light through, but people on the outside won’t be able to see through them,” she says. She’d get three separate ones—one for the first two windows, another for the windows in the middle, and one for the last two windows. That will further separate the bedroom area from the living room since both spaces will each have window treatments.

Klein would also junk the ancient-looking chandelier in the foyer. To light up the space, she offers a couple of options: either add track lighting or standing lamps that deliver “uplight”—a beam of light that’s directed upward—because, she says, “it feels more like daylight.” If the client prefers the former, the tracks would originate from the point where the chandelier is currently and run throughout the living space parallel to the closets. She’d add a number of lights at various points along the track throughout the unit, including near the couches and new dining area. She’d like to illuminate some paintings on the walls, too. She’d choose white tracks so “that they aren’t too visible” and won’t attract the eye.

As for the walls, Klein says she’d go with Benjamin Moore’s Cloud White, which she describes as “a creamy white with a little warmth.” She feels that it’d bring a “gentleness and calmness” to the space. For the ceiling, she’d go with a typical ceiling white.

Price: Getting rid of the closet and relocating it to the entryway should be “a few thousand.” Klein adds that the floor stain should “only be a couple of dollars.” This solar shade is $59.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond. This brushed steel floor lamp is $67.49 at Prices for this lighting track from vary between $20.47 and $74.14, depending on length. This track head is $47, also at A gallon of Benjamin Moore Cloud White for the walls is $69.99. A gallon of white for the ceiling is $39.99. Labor will be more.


An actual bedroom that’s closed off from the rest of the unit would be a  major improvement, says Klein. 

First, she’d move the bathroom door from the wall opposite the window into one facing the living area so guests won’t have to walk through the new bedroom to get to the bathroom. She’d then close off the current opening and make a real wall. Then, she’d back the bed up against the window-facing wall “so you can lie in bed looking out the window.”

Next, a custom-made bookcase (facing the living area) would double as a partial wall between the alcove and the living area. Since many buildings won’t allow you to build an actual wall due to fire code issues, it wouldn’t go all the way to the radiator by the window, but would end a few feet earlier. It also wouldn’t reach all the way to the ceiling. The bookcase could double as a media cabinet, holding a TV and cable box.

“There’s room for a Queen-sized bed,” she says. “And there will still be two feet on either side” for shelves or a bedside table or two.

Klein advises leaving the mirror on the wall behind where the bed used to be because “in small apartments, mirrors are always a good thing. It makes [the space] look bigger and spreads the light around.”

She’d also add a desk in the corner next to the built-in drawers by the window facing the mirror.

As for paint, she’d simply keep the walls the same color as in the living room to keep things consistent. The ceiling will also be white.

Last, she’d get rid of the chandelier in favor of a ceiling fan as she feels it’ll circulate the air better in the bedroom space. If the ceiling is a concrete slab, though, table and floor lamps will do.

Price: Moving the bathroom door and closing off the doorway should probably be a few thousand dollars, says Klein. The bookcase/partial wall should also be a few thousand. This Casablanca ceiling fan with light is $269 at Lowe’s. This floor lamp is $361.25 at A gallon of Benjamin Moore Cloud White for the walls is $69.99. A gallon of white for the ceiling is $39.99. Labor would, of course, be more.


If possible, Klein suggests putting the toilet where the sink is and putting a two-bowl sink by the wall where there’s a little more room “so two people can brush their teeth at the same time.” She’d add a Corian or cement undermount counter (she recommends a narrow counter, around 21 inches or so) and a matching backsplash. She’d also get wall-mounted faucets because they’ll save space and look clean.

Next, she’d replace the existing medicine cabinet with a more modern one. She’s “fine with the light,” so she’d leave it and maybe add a sconce or two if the space seems dark in person.

She does, however, “hate the metal shower doors” because it’s hard to bathe a baby or a pet when you can only move the doors a couple of feet. She’d install a rod and shower curtain, instead. She’d also add a hand-held showerhead because “it’s so much easier to clean with them.”

The tiles on the wall appear dingy, but Klein says that if they just need a good cleaning, she might keep them—especially if the client’s on a stricter budget. If not, she’d go with a light-colored herringbone because “she doesn’t want the bathroom to feel too dark.”

As for the walls, she’d repaint them with “a warm white, something complimentary to a person’s skin tone.” She’d go with the same shade for the ceiling.

It’s impossible to tell the condition of the floors in the photo, so this might need addressing (and additional funds in the budget).

Swapping out the swinging door for a pocket door to the bathroom will make things feel less cramped.

And, finally, just outside the bathroom, there are two closets, and Klein proposes turning that space into a separate dressing area. Instead of the closet closest to the tub, she’d install drawers for socks, underwear and the like, and a space for hanging clothes up top. She’d also add a swinging door to the dressing area that would open into the living area.

Price: This Kohler Caxton undermount sink is $64.64 at She thinks the Corian countertop should be around $300-$400. This Dornbracht wall-mounted faucet is $1, 035.72 at This Kohler medicine cabinet is $200.30. This shower curtain rod is $39.99 at This shower curtain is $19.99, also at This hand-held showerhead is $69.99. This tile from Porcelanosa is $23.50 per square foot, so Klein estimates that retiling the tub area in a bathroom like this should be about $1,700 (for both the tiles and the labor). A gallon of Benjamin Moore Cloud White for the walls and ceiling is $69.99. This pocket door frame is $138.65 at The Home Depot. Labor, including swapping out the toilet and sink, will add on to these costs.


First things first, Klein would get rid of the dated, faded, checkered wallpaper. She might just replace it with new wallpaper. “Maybe something graffiti-like since this is New York City,” she says. “Or something with a lovely texture.”

You can’t really see much of the flooring in the photos, so Klein says she isn’t sure whether or not it would need to be replaced. However, judging from the condition of the rest of the kitchen, she thinks it’s more than likely that you’d need to redo it. She says she’d opt for “a tile complementary to whatever I’ve done to the wall.”

The lighting situation is also impossible to discern from the photos, but Klein says she’d go for LED track lights, which are “cheap and flexible.”

Next, she’d replace the countertops with the same Corian that she used in the bathroom (“to get more bang for your buck”) and replace the current sink with an undermount one that’d look cleaner in the space.

Klein says she’s ok with the old-fashioned metal cabinets as they’re extremely “sturdy.” She’d just move them up a little bit to create some space underneath for a shelf.

She’s also perplexed by the fact that there isn’t a microwave here. So she’d add a combined microwave/recirculating hood above the stove.

She thinks the stove looks “fine,” as in it appeats to be in good working order, but says that if the client has the money, she’d encourage him to get an electromagnetic cooktop. “They’re really energy-efficient and you can’t burn yourself on them,” she says. She’d also get a new Sub-Zero fridge/freezer “because you can store so much in it.”

Since there isn’t really a whole lot of elbow room in the kitchen as it’s currently configured, Klein recommends “pulling the kitchen out a little bit” by knocking down the wall closest to the foyer and building it out a little (so you’d still have room for that closet she spoke of building there). In that newly created space, the tenant could add more countertops and cabinets, or a tall storage cabinet with adjustable shelves. “This way, you’ll have a nice open kitchen with a sort of pantry space,” she says.

Price: This graffiti wallpaper is $4.83 a square foot at This four-light LED adjustable fixed track lighting is $97.99 at This Kohler undermount sink is $479. This combined microwave/recirculating venting is $419 at The Home Depot. This 24-inch Wolf induction cooktop is $1,530. Prices for this stand-up Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer begin at $9,870. This tall pantry/storage cabinet is $429.99 at And yes, labor will cost extra.



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