The best thing about this $429,000 top-floor one-bedroom at 140 West 71st Street in Lincoln Square is that it’s south-facing, “so it’s going to get a lot of light,” says architect Anjie Cho. Also, she notes that the prewar building, the Danielle, allows owners to sublet their units without any residency requirements—a rarity for a co-op.
That said, the apartment definitely has a few issues, most notably “the weird wavy column on the wall in the living room,” says Cho, mentioning that she supposes it might be some sort of drain. “It could be hard to work with.”
Here’s what she’d do to deal with that peculiar pole, as well as the rest of this outdated Upper West Side residence that she calls “a major major fixer-upper.” Her recommendations:
The living room (pictured above)
The first thing Cho would do is make sure the electrical system is up-to-date. If it isn't, an overhaul is in order since “it could be quite old,” given that the building dates back to the 1920s. And if you are required to get it up to code, you’ll need a permit, which, she says, "could be costly.” But it’ll be worth the expense, removing the danger of the system shorting out when you want to plug in your hair dryer, for example, or worse. Safety is, after all, paramount.
After that, she’d take on the aforementioned crooked column. “It’s a real challenge,” she says, remarking that “it looks like a noodle.” She suggests boxing it out and then adding built-ins on either side for books or other storage.
Next, she’d tackle the floors, noting that they seem to be in decent condition, but “could stand to be refinished.” Cho thinks that they look to be red oak, which “just isn’t in style anymore,” she says, noting that “many people don’t like it because of its orange-y tone.” If the buyer would prefer to rip it out and put in a new floor, she’d suggest white oak or walnut, which will give a more contemporary look to the space. If the budget's limited, however, refinishing the existing floors is the way to go.
She’d also remove and replace all the base moldings since it seems like “they’ve been painted over a million times,” as well as the moldings and picture rails on the walls and the molding around the bedroom door, which she says don't appear to be in top condition.
Cho believes that the ceiling is probably a concrete slab, which means that “you can’t put new stuff in the ceiling without dropping it first.” As such, she’d simply use the existing center hook-up to put in a light fixture that’s a little more modern, and junk the birdcage-like contraption shown in the photos. She’d add a floor lamp or two, as well, for maximum illumination.
Next: the window. “Window treatments could be nice here,” she says, noting that the radiator is just underneath so “you can’t really do drapes successfully.” Instead, she’d recommend “a simple solar shade,” which can be especially helpful at reducing glare in this south-facing unit.
There are two options for the radiator: “You can get a cover to hide the heater,” she says, perhaps a custom-made one that goes under the window and becomes a window sill. Cho would keep the cover “a somewhat neutral” white or beige so it doesn’t stand out too much. A second option is to strip the current paint off the radiator and repaint it (and the neighboring heat riser) with black or clear heat-resistant paint “for more of a prewar look.” It all depends on the buyer’s personal tastes.
Next, she’d rid the walls of their strange half-purple/half-white hues. Since the room already gets lots of natural light, Cho says you don’t need to paint the walls white (which tends to bring in more light because of its reflective nature). Instead, she’d opt for a soft gray instead (she likes Benjamin Moore’s Silver Half Dollar or Gray Owl) to warm up the space, and paint the moldings white so they stand out. She’d go with white for the ceiling, too.
She’d replace all the bedroom, bathroom and closet doors with matching single-panel doors, which she likes because “they’re very simple,” says Cho. Also, she'd swap out all hinges and doorknobs, as well as the covers on the light switches, dimmers and electrical outlets since “they look pretty old.” She prefers Lutron covers since there are no visible screws and they therefore have a cleaner look. She’d also “bury the cable and Internet lines in the wall” so you don’t see them sticking out all over the place.
Cho would also strip the paint off the front door and put on a clear finish. That way “you’ll be able to see the metal,” she says. “It’ll look really nice.”
Last, Cho says that if the buyer would prefer a slightly larger living room (and doesn’t mind getting a slightly smaller bedroom in the process), she’d move the wall back by a foot or two to create a bigger room. “Ninety percent of my clients would rather have a very generous living space and a smaller bedroom,” says Cho.
Price: Updating the apartment’s electrical system could be anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000, says Cho. Boxing out the column and adding built-ins should be around $1,000, says Cho. Refinishing the floors should cost around $10 a square foot. New floors should be between $20 and $25 a square foot. New moldings should be between $2,000 and $5,000 for the entire apartment, she says. This FLOS pendant light is $525. This floor lamp is $995. Prices for these solar shades from The Shade Store start at $196. A custom-made radiator cover could be $1,000 or more, according to Cho. Stripping it down and repainting it should be about the same. A gallon of Benjamin Moore Gray Owl paint is $79.99 on Amazon.com. White Benjamin Moore paint for the walls and ceilings are $69.99 each. This single-panel door is $218.76 at The Home Depot. This Baldwin doorknob is $43.97, also at The Home Depot. This Lutron wall plate is $4.90 at Amazon. This socket cover is $8.99. Burying the cable/Internet wiring in the wall should be about $2,000 or so, says Cho. Stripping the front door and adding a clear finish should be “about $1,000,” says Cho. She estimates that moving the wall back two feet should be between $5,000 and $10,000. Labor will obviously be more.
As in the living room, Cho would refinish the floors, as well as swap out the moldings and picture rails for new ones. She’d also have the walls skimmed since “you can see the cracks and see that the wall’s all janky,” she says.
Next, she’d either get a cover for the radiator that has built-in clothes storage on either side, or she’d strip it down and paint it black or clear. She’d probably mimic whatever the buyer wants to do in the living room.
She’d opt for solar shades for the windows here, too, and would add in a desk/office area underneath the shorter window. She’d also offload the bright red light in the middle of the ceiling in favor of a newer, less kooky, less dated chandelier.
Cho would also get rid of the closet with the picture on it that doesn’t reach all the way to the ceiling (or, as Cho terms it, “that weird cabinet thing by the window”) and move the bedroom door to that area instead. She’d then merge the other two closets into one and “blow out the walls at the top” so that the closet can have full-height doors and “you can access all that the space at the top of the closet” and ultimately have more storage space. She also suggests adding “flat-slab full-height doors with offset pivot hinges” and minimal, hard-to-spot handles to the closet. In other words, unless you know there’s a door there, you probably won’t be able to see it. Cho likes the minimalist look of it.
As for the walls, Cho says she’s “actually been really into wallpaper lately” because “it’s a fun and easy way to change up the feel of a room and it’s back in style.” As such, she’d go for a “serene textured wallpaper” either for the entire room or for a single feature wall at the back to draw the eye. If she only does the single wall, she’d paint the rest of the room’s walls (and ceiling) a neutral white.
Price: Refinishing the floors should cost around $10 a square foot, says Cho. New moldings should be between $2,000 and $5,000 for the entire apartment, she says. A custom-made radiator cover should be $1,000 and up, according to Cho. Stripping it down and repainting it should be about the same. Prices for these solar shades from The Shade Store start at $196. This pendant light from FLOS is $197.50. The flat-slab doors for the closet probably cost about $1,000, according to Cho. Wallpapering even a single wall in Calico wallpaper could be upwards of $3,000. This Koroseal wallpaper is a bit less pricey. Gallons of Benjamin Moore paint for the walls and ceiling are $69.99 apiece. Labor, including skimming the walls, moving the bedroom door, demolishing one closet, blowing out the walls of the other closet, and putting up the wallpaper, will tack on to these prices.
“I’d redo the whole kitchen,” says Cho, citing the antiquated look of practically everything in the room.
Since there’s minimal space, she proposes an L-shaped kitchen, with the bottom of the “L” on the wall to the left of the front door. There, she’d put a full-height 24-inch refrigerator rather than simply installing a new under-counter fridge in the empty space next to the oven. She’d also get a new 24-inch stove and a new 18-inch dishwasher to replace the ancient-looking one currently in the space. She’d also get a new sink and faucet.
Next, she’d get new cabinets—“possibly white Shaker style”—that go all the way to the ceiling in order to maximize storage space. She’d add some under-cabinet lights, too. “That’s all it really needs,” she says, “because it’s basically in the living room, anyway.”
She’d then add quartz countertops (“because they’re durable”) and a matching backsplash “so it looks seamless.”
She’d also dispense with the tiled floor just beneath the kitchen appliances and simply extend the wood floors underneath.
Price: This 24-inch LG refrigerator is $629.99 at Best Buy. This Bertazzoni 24-inch gas range is $2,099 at AJMadison.com. This 18-inch Bosch dishwasher is $719.99 at Best Buy. This stainless steel undermount sink is $134.89 at The Home Depot. This Delta faucet is $189.45, also at Home Depot. Cho believes that you can purchase all the cabinets needed for this space for around $4,000 (“if you go the IKEA route,” she says). If you’re looking to spend a little more—around $10,000—you could probably find what you’re looking for at Manhattan Center for Kitchen and Bath. Under-cabinet lights, like these from IKEA, should be about $40-$50 per light. Quartz countertops and a backsplash should be around $2,500 from a place like Pental Quartz. New wood flooring is roughly $20-$25 per square foot. Cho estimates that the entire kitchen—including architect and labor—should cost “around $10,000 and up.”
Although you can’t really tell much about the bathroom from the photos (all you really glimpse is an old-fashioned vanity in the above kitchen pic), Cho says that judging from the rest of the unit, the bathroom also “probably needs a gut reno.”
She’d advise getting a new vanity, a new sink, a new toilet, a new shower curtain rod (and shower curtain), a new door and new floor and wall tiles.
But if the bathtub is salvageable, she recommends keeping it and simply reglazing it since it can be a pain to install a tub—especially if new pipe needs to be laid. But, she cautions, “it’s just like nail polish, so it will eventually chip off” and need to be redone.
As for the walls, she’d “do something fun, like a dark gray” because the room gets a lot of light from a window above the toilet, so you can go afford to go a little darker on the walls.
Price: Cho believes it’ll probably cost between $5,000 and $10,000 to do the entire bathroom. This wall-mounted vanity from BathroomPlace.com is $740. This faucet is $160, also from BathroomPlace.com. This Toto toilet is $430.17 at The Home Depot. This new shower curtain rod is $19.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond. This curtain is also $19.99, also at Bed Bath & Beyond. Reglazing the tub should be between $700 and $1,000, she says. This single-panel door is $218.76 at The Home Depot. New tiles should be around $1,000 for both the wall and floors. Gallons of Benjamin Moore paint for the walls/ceiling can be purchased for $69.99 each. Labor will be more.
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