Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mid-Century NYC Apartment: House Tour

The Building
Our building was built in 1946 and designed by architect Philip Birnbaum, who went on in his later more seasoned years to design Trump Tower. He was an architect better known for his interiors -- his thoughtful use of space and devotion to creating "livable" spaces. Even so, I quite like the exterior of our building.

The Floorplan

The Foyer

I love that this apartment has a formal entryway - a space that is not intended for anything more useful than getting one's bearings upon entering the apartment.

A foyer is one of the hallmarks of the midcentury apartment design. Though it would be considered wasted space in most floor plans today, there's much to be said for having a place to hang your coat, toss your keys, put down your bags when you come in the door. 

I admit that I don't really know quite what to do with this space. Right now I have an awesome mod settee that I inherited and am having reupholstered, so more on that later. And this sweet little midcentury console table that I found at Beall and Bell in Greenport and could not resist. Coming soon, a Sputnick light fixture that seems to be on permanent back order. (I have a paper sphere holding it's place.)

 The Living Room

The living room is a 12 x 20 ft rectangle -- the perfect layout for a back-facing sofa aligned with a library table. And given the bookshelves that replaced the infamous Wall of Mirrors referenced in NY Times "The Hunt" -- how appropriate.

The Dining "Area"

The floorplan draws attention to the dining area with this raised platform. I don't know what the thinking was back in 1946, but the raised platform just screams mid-century, doesn't it? It creates a distinct area for eating, and I appreciate the graceful transition from room to room.

The Kitchen

My first instinct was to rip out the wall, level the raised dining platform, and create an "open floor plan". It would have made the room look immediately spacious upon entering the apartment. But at the time, all of the Renov8or budget was going toward the more needed upgrades in the bathroom.

You know what? I'm so glad that I waited.

Now that I've been living with it, I have come to like this enclosed galley kitchen. It keeps cooking smells in and mess out of sight. For under $4k, we added upper cabinets, painted all of the cabinetry a neutral cream color, replaced sink fixtures, and tiled the backsplash in cream subway tile. The rich cream color has subdued the busy coral granite to the point where I not only don't hate the pinkish stone anymore, I admire it's natural beauty. 

So, this Reno8or learned something by being budget constrained. I learned that simple changes make a world of difference. And it's best to live in a home a while if you can. (It will tell you what it needs.)

The Office/Second Bedroom

Having a second bedroom in NYC is a luxury that was beyond our imagining. And of course it wouldn't have been affordable if we had stayed in Carroll Gardens or moved to Manhattan. This is what makes Queens such a great fit for us.

I found a mid-century style sofa bed for the office/second bedroom. Mom and Dad tested out the bed when they visited the week after we moved in. They said it was comfy (but maybe they were being tactful?).

I made good on my promise to Ross -- a room to keep his guitars in. However, I am definitely eyeing that corner window for my desk!

The Master Bedroom

I have to laugh when I say the words "master bedroom". Our bedroom is HUGE. Really. It's 12 ft x 20 ft. I've seen entire apartments this size in NYC. I barely know what to do with all the extra space (but trust me, I'll figure it out!).

The bedroom has an inviting "bay window" facing east and a fire escape window facing north. I commissioned this fire escape security gate by iron works artist Valessa Monk. You can read about it in my post Security Gates Can Be Pretty. The best part? We face a row of two-story Tudors, so there's nothing blocking the light, and no real reason to have window treatments unless we just want them.

I love waking up to the light streaming in the window and glancing off the metal petals of these ironwork flowers. It is a real work of art.

The Bathroom

Well, if you followed the big reveal, you've seen our new bathroom in all its glory. This room was gut renovated -- taken down to the rafters and beams. Then rebuilt and tiled in beveled white subway tile with a Dwell collection floor by Heath Ceramics (that I just LOVE!). The sink was a big surprise. I took a chance on the Mason Console from Signature Hardware -- an online store that has no bricks and mortar location where you can actually see and touch the products. It was a leap of faith to be sure, but I am not disappointed. It is as high quality as the Kholer fixtures and has exactly the timeless look that I was going for. 

The tub is the Kohler Tea for Two deep soaking tub. It is undermounted. I designed the double apron and deck, fabricated by Empire Cabinetry and Marble in Brooklyn.

The shower is simple subway tile in charcoal gray with light gray grout. We have two showerheads from the Kohler Purist line, an overhead and a handheld, adjustable on the bar. (Great for showers when you don't want to get your hair wet!) The shower door is vintage -- one of the few things the former owners left intact. I had it relazed with clear glass. And where we raised the ceiling in the shower stall, I just left it open at the top.

The chrome medicine cabinets and sconces are from Restoration Hardware, and the quality and heft could not be better. RH's white glove delivery was excellent -- even when I had to return them for a different size.

And so concludes our house tour. I hope you enjoyed it. Leave a comment. I WILL reply.


  1. Um, WOW! Looks truly fantastic, Sally! Bravo!!

  2. Thanks, Margaret! I have enjoyed it. Even the stressful times -- like when the first tub arrived chipped. :-/

  3. It looks fabulous, Sally. I see all the mirrors and artwork have been hung. I hope you two are enjoying all that room. Mom

    1. Mom, we are loving it! We just got our parking space. We are quickly acclimating to the new luxuries of ample space and building amenities. No turning back! We are spoiled,

  4. Amazing but I'd expect nothing less! I love that big comfy chair and ottoman in the living room -- where are those from?

    1. So, back when we purchased these pieces, Mary and I were room mates just out of college. We bought them together -- two sofas, a chair and ottoman. When we each bought our own place, we split the furniture. She had a bigger livingroom so she housed the chair and ottoman. Fast forward a decade or so and i,moved to a bigger place just as she was changing her decor. I sent her a giant painting. She sent me the chair, ottoman, and library table. We have revolving furnishings it seems!

  5. Lovely Sally! It looks terrific, love your sofa, dining area and bathroom and shelves!! It's all fab, nicely done.

    1. Allen! Thanks so much! When will you come and see it? Pick a day. I'd love to see you.

  6. Gorgeous! Just moved into a unit with a similar layout. Finding plenty of inspiration in your posts, including the ingenious wall of bookshelves. Great job!

    1. Hi Kate, sorry I missed your comment. I seem to have missed quite a few on this post. Thanks so much! Did you do a Billy built in? I'd love to see pics!

  7. where did you get that yellow dresser? love it!

  8. Hi Stephanie! How did your move go? Ours was grueling -- but no bad surprises. Just a lot of hard work pacing and unpacking.

    This dresser was a street find. With a twist. While living on Clinton street in Carroll Gardens, I came across it a few block away. My room mate and I hauled it down the street and down a flight of stairs nearly crushing ourselves beneat it's weight. I later bought the apartment that I found it in front of -- my first purchase. So I like to say it found me. I replaced the rather ornate handles with milk glass knobs. I very had it for about 15 years. The markings say Thomasville.