In the market for an uptown fixer-upper with good bones and an affordable price tag? Check out this $379,000 one-bedroom co-op at 50 Park Terrace East in Inwood, which has lots going for it, according to Joe Eisner of Eisner Design, an architecture firm with offices in Manhattan and East Hampton.
“It’s large,” he says of the 775-square-foot apartment. “It’s got reasonably high ceilings. It’s prewar, so they’re probably nine-foot-plus. They make the place feel less boxy.”
And “it looks like it’s in good construction shape,” he says. “The walls look really clean. It’s an easy space to do work on.”
However, the layout is odd, he says, noting that you enter directly into the kitchen.
“There’s no real sense of arrival like you’d get with a foyer. It’s a strange, bad use of space,” he says.
Eisner has a lot of ideas as to how he’d fix up this apartment if given the chance. Here are his recommendations:
Eisner would begin by trying to make some sense of the kitchen, which currently occupies both sides of this large, strangely laid out room—but not the center.
“It’s just a lot of dead space,” he says. To change it up, he'd put everything on one side—probably the side across from the bedroom entrance.
He’d also get rid of the built-in shelving and the high table in the middle of the room between the arches and move the refrigerator there. He might even put some high cabinets above the fridge.
Speaking of the cabinets, he’d trash the current ones. He’d replace them with “something simpler—either a Shaker style with one inset panel or a very clean modern flush-panel.” He thinks that wood or lacquer in white or light gray would work well. He believes he could get IKEA cabinets for the entire kitchen for around $5,000-$6,000, plus $2,000 more for installation.
He’d dispose of the existing fridge and oven, which though serviceable, look old and outdated. Plus, he’d like to find a refrigerator that won’t stick out into the room as much as the current “ugly white box” does. This LG counter-depth stainless steel French door fridge is $1,600 at Best Buy. This Whirlpool free-standing gas range is $630, also at Best Buy.
Eisner would also offload the old-fashioned formica countertops and replace them with something durable, like Corian or Caesarstone, which he believes should cost in the $5,000 range. He thinks something white or with a gray concrete look would look good here. He’d use the same material for a three-to-four-inch backsplash so it’ll all simply work well together.
Eisner isn’t a fan of the honey-colored floor.
“I’d want to mute it down, so I’d sand and stain it to get the yellow out and either add a gray wash or a dark or even a clear coat,” he says, estimating the sanding and staining should cost around $3,000-$5,000.
As for the walls, he thinks he’d stick to white for most of the room (a gallon of Benjamin Moore’s Decorator’s White is $70), but he’d like to highlight the wall with the arches. As such, he’d recommend painting it a light gray, "or something stronger and more dramatic if that’s what you’d prefer,” he says. A gallon of Cape May Cobblestone, a shade of gray, is also $70.
To light the space, he says he likes the idea of a ceiling fan with lighting in it. It has one at the moment, but he’d get a newer, more contemporary piece, like this one from The Modern Fan Company, $364-$484 at Lumens Light and Living.
In addition, while he isn’t entirely sure where to put it, Eisner says he thinks this room would benefit from a built-in island. Said island would most logically go where the built-in shelving is currently, which would, of course, necessitate figuring out a new location for the fridge. He’d consider adding some cabinets to the island as well, to maximize storage space.
He’d also try to work a dining table and chairs into the room—most likely on the side of the kitchen where the refrigerator is at the moment—so that he can remove that element from the living room.
The living room
First, Eisner would remove the dining table and relocate it to the kitchen area (as noted above), so that this space can solely function as a living room.
Next, he’d turn his attention to lighting. He says that it appears the prewar unit has concrete ceilings, meaning you won’t be able to drill into them to install overhead lights, so he’d instead go with wall sconces—one on either side of the window and two on the opposite wall. These sconces are $169 each at YLighting.com.
Since the flooring continues from the kitchen, he’d simply treat it the same by sanding and staining it in order to remove the yellow undertones, and then adding either a gray wash or a dark or clear coat, which he estimates should cost $3,000-$5,000 for the entire unit.
He’d also do something similar with the walls—keep them mostly white, but treat the wall with the arches as a feature wall and paint it gray so your eye will naturally be drawn to it. And while gallons of paint are just $70 each, he estimates that the actual labor involved in painting the walls—including a potential skim-coat, depending on the condition of the wall—could cost $15,000 or more for the entire apartment.
Eisner suggests adding storage to the room with built-in shelving and cabinets along the arched wall, which he believes should cost around $10,000.
Moving over to the heater, Eisner says he doesn’t love it, but doesn’t want to draw attention to it, either, which, he believes, would happen if he were to put a radiator cover on top of it. He also doesn’t want to build into the room. Therefore, he’d simply clean it up by stripping off the many layers of paint that he presumes are on it in order to make it more presentable. He’d also recommend putting a small horizontal table in front of it “to hide it a little.”
As in the kitchen and living room, Eisner feels the floors could benefit from sanding and staining.
Next, he’d focus on lighting. Since there is a fixture in the ceiling, Eisner would simply swap it out for something newer and more modern, like this dish-shaped flush-mounted light, $98 at houzz.com.
“It’ll provide soft overhead lighting,” he says, adding that the new owner can bring in lamps, too.
Finally, he says that while he’s okay with painting the walls a neutral white. If the owner would prefer a little color, he wouldn’t be opposed to a warm gray or blue. Either of these should cost $70 a gallon at BenjaminMoore.com.
“It’s tight in here,” Eisner says. As such, he wouldn’t recommend changing any of the fixture locations, but he would change out some of the fixtures themselves, which seem old.
First, he’d get rid of the white formica vanity, which he says, “is not really in keeping with the room” and takes up too much space. He’d replace it with a pedestal sink, like this one for $772 at build.com. He acknowledges that that means you’d lose pretty much all your storage space in here, but he’d add some shallow shelves to the wall, like this triple shelving unit, $149 at Pottery Barn, in order to try and rectify that. He’d go with a black-finish faucet like this one, $230 at wayfair.com, to match the black soap holders in the wall. He’d get black fixtures for the shower like these, $170.07 at efaucets.com, also.
Eisner says he'd keep the medicine cabinet and all the tiling on the walls since they look like they’re in decent shape, but he recommends losing the laundry hamper as it sticks out a little too far into this already tight space. Replacing the tile "could get challenging" if you can’t match it exactly, he says.
He doesn’t love the flooring, but he doesn’t think it makes sense to replace it if you’re on a strict budget. The paint color on the wall looks fine, too.
As for lighting, he’d replace the current fixture with a linear horizontal vanity light like this one, $249 at Lumens, which would "better light up the room.”
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