Friday, September 16, 2016

Before and After tour of my own apartment!

Four years ago now I purchased a charming old apartment from an estate that had great possibilities but had languished on the market for months because it was dirty and dated.  Now I'm ready for my close up so join me for a before and after tour!
The apartment is located in a charming pre-war building in the DC neighborhood of Cleveland Park and had great bones: super solid construction, tall ceilings, many windows and multiple exposures (in every room included kitchen & bath!), lots of square footage, and loads of charm. One of the first things I did was to rip out the dusty wall-to-wall carpeting and refinish the original oak floors. To keep the natural light wood color I used a water-based finish coat but no stain. Part of me wishes I had bleached them for an even lighter appearance!
The fireplace and mirrored surround are original to the 1929 construction as is the small crystal chandelier. Those were the details that I kept.  Gone were the fussy, dusty curtains and scalloped wood valance which hid the beautiful park view across the street.  I added some of my favorite black accent by painting the window sashes and the fireplace box and surround. Much better! I painted all of the walls in the entire apartment (with the exception of the bedroom) my favorite greigy / beige by Sherwin Williams; SW1038 Architectural Gray.
The biggest change seems counter-intuitive but made a world of difference.  A previous owner had removed walls between the living room, dining room, & foyer to open up the apartment.  Sounds like a good idea right? Above you can see the floorplan as it was when I purchased the apartment.  In theory I am in favor of making better flow in any space but it was impossible to furnish any of the rooms as everything became circulation! Plus I have an extensive art collection and needed some wall space.  Where you may ask?  Admittedly these photos are staged with 3/4 of my belongings (mostly art and books) in storage! 
Adding back in the original walls and arched openings between rooms as seen in the plan above actually made the space feel larger and function better.  Don't just take my word for it lets look at some pictures.
Before the end wall of the living room had 2 very different openings side by side which was awkward in many ways (say hi to my adorable realtor Anne!).
Filling in the square opening made the room feel twice as large and infinitely easier to furnish. Circulation now has a clear route instead of just vast open space with no purpose.
The other part of this exercise was re-installing the original arched opening between the foyer and the dining room (used by some apartment owners in the building as a den or nursery).
 The clearly defined spaces work so much better and the arches turned out beautifully.
Before you felt as if you entered directly into the dining room and now the separate foyer is a lovely entry to my home.  I also painted my front door (seen in the vestibule below) my favorite blue as an accent. The large mirror helps open up the tight entry vestibule and reflect light.
High on my priority list was getting rid of the hideous 80s chandelier and the shutters which were in bad shape.
The addition of silk curtains and a period appropriate light fixture from Artisan lighting make the cozy dining space truly elegant.
The kitchen is a separate space.  Without spending a gazillion dollars, which I realized I would never get back upon resale, I could never create the "open concept" "gourmet" kitchen that everyone asks for on HGTV (queue massive eye roll).
The kitchen had solid wood cabinetry, lots of natural light, tons of storage, and Caesarstone counter tops going for it. Otherwise it was pretty depressing. And who, may I ask, wants to watch themselves in a mirror as they wash dishes? After removing 5 layers of increasingly disgusting linoleum, I had the original pine wood floors refinished.
 Light and bright was the theme and so I painted the original cabinetry, changed out the grungy hardware for new nickel knobs and hinges but retained the bright white appliances which help reflect light. Having had stainless steel appliances in former homes I didn't want to spend time everyday wiping off fingerprints and was happy to stay with the white dishwasher and range.
However the scalloped trim HAD TO GO! As did the dumpy refrigerator and odd cabinets above the appliance wall. Rather than spend money moving gas and electric lines I simply bought a narrower, counter-depth refrigerator (which I adore, definitely look into Blomberg appliances from Germany) and added a vintage narrow metal cabinet to give counterspace next to the stove.
These were small changes but they added up and it functions so much better now and is so bright and light! Why is my microwave on top of the fridge? I never use it is my answer. There is ample counter space for it (such as the acres long counter seen on the left above). The door to the left of the range is the old service door into the corridor, useful for taking out the trash without having to pass through the rest of the apartment.
Around that corner and next to the service entry is my favorite aspect of the kitchen: the original floor to ceiling enormous pantry!  
Another previous owner had removed most of the original 6 panel doors with charming glass & brass hardware and replaced them with cheap louvered closet doors!  Luckily they were found in storage and I gladly reinstalled them after painting the doors black and cleaning up the original brass hardware (I wrote about that in 2013 which you can read HERE).
The east facing bedroom is located off the living room and is on the corner of the building affording 2 exposures and tons of light.
The bedroom got the same treatment as the rest of the apartment but here I added crown molding for added detail. The dusty pelmets were removed from the windows and I painted the very nice wooden ceiling fan for a little less contrast.
I found that moving the bed wall made a world of difference to how the room felt and functioned.  The asymmetrical window above the bed bothered me at first but then realized it was just a little old-building quirk that I was happy to have.
The walk in closet also had the same ugly louvered doors and the storage was poorly laid out. The hanging clothes blocked entry to the shelves behind!
I installed Elfa shelving which works much better and provides twice as much storage.
The light filled bathroom off the bedroom had the charming original mirrored door so that was one less thing to worry about.  The squatty old toilet however and floral vinyl wallpaper had to go!
Love this blue/gray wall color in the bedroom: Tiffany Blue SW0093 by Sherwin Williams.
Squatty toilets and floral wallpaper weren't the only problems.  Shiny gold fixtures and a tiny scalloped sink and mirror were in dire need of replacement and the blue lace shower curtain was gone within the first 5 minutes of taking possession!
Now here's the plug: the time has come to move on from this lovely apartment and it is available for sale and can be YOURS! See the listing online HERE. Let me know if you have any questions or would like to stop by for an in-person tour!
Thanks to my friend, Architect Erich Stanley, for his gorgeous after photos of my apartment!


David said...

It's lovely Stefan, such handsome rooms. Bet it's a quick sale!

Joni Webb said...

wow!!! love what you did - especially putting the walls back in and the floors and the doors!!! can't wait to see where you go. Good luck Stefan!

Hels said...

A comparison between the first and second photos shows a] the enduring importance of tall ceilings, large windows and quality oak floors and b] the impact that simple, light carpets and smart curtains can have.


columnist said...

You've done a great job in your renovation, and in your staging for the sale. Should sell asap, I would imagine. Very nice looking building and environs, not that I know DC at all. Good luck!

home before dark said...

All the best as you move on. Some lucky space awaits your touch!

Dean Farris said...

Wow, what a nice job you did on the old place. Reminds me of a NYC Park Avenue flat. Let me guess- you're moving into Georgetown! When I lived in DC, I rented a cute "English Basement" at 29th and Q St near Dumbarton Oaks. I was so happy living there since I was so in love with the neighborhood. The apartment left a lot to be desired, but it was cheap for the location so I took it. Can you say "CHARM"? I painted the floors white, had white exposed brick walls, also heavily painted, and hung white cotton on the wall behind the bed (mattress/box on the floor) in front of a built-in bookcase, leaving the middle open by tying back the fabric. Then I had a round table in the bay window which I covered with copies of "Vogue" magazine! It was fun. Good luck with the sale and your new place, and thanks for posting this interesting piece on your personal residence!

The Peak of Chic said...

Stefan, You did such a wonderful job with your apartment! I have a feeling that it will sell quickly. I'm sure your new home will be just as lovely.