harlem lab renovation: ‘before’ photos

I’ve been circling the story of the transformation of ‘the improvised life’s new Laboratory from vin ordinaire apartment to its new incarnation of fluid, morphable, multi-use space for living and improvising (a glimpse above), wondering how to tell it. Having shown the early sketches and plans, it seems like the best bet would be to show BEFORE photos of the place as it was when I first found it, along with notations of the immediate challenges I saw, so you can get your bearings. I’ll get into the wild specifics of planning and renovation in the months to come.

What I loved immediately:
-that the apartment was a top floor, high enough to be in treetops, low enough to watch local action and not induce vertigo, with no one above to stomp around over our heads
-that every window looked out at a wonderful view
-many more things about building security, the cool neighborhood etc.

The apartment was essentially a box in a nondescript 12-year-old building in Harlem. Two bedrooms and the living room were lined up side-by-side, with all their windows facing the park.

Here we go, the apartment as it was just a few months ago:

The living room was only 11′ wide. Because the developer cut corners, the living room wall ran right up to the window, making the room feel off-kilter and cramped. It was a challenge to “see” past the owner’s massive furniture to its potential.

Here’s the living room looking from the windows. You can see the entrance door, and the beginning of the kitchenette on the right.

Directly next door to the living room (and sharing one wall) was a narrow second bedroom 9′ wide by about 13′long, not including the closet.

…the closet in the second bedroom creates something of a tunnel to the doorway, wasting a lot of good storage space. The proportions of the room make it difficult to place furniture; even a narrow bookcase stands out.

The semi-enclosed kitchenette was positioned on the back wall adjacent to the living room and second bedroom:

Early on, I imagined combining the narrow living room and second bedroom along with the enclosed kitchen into one big room to make the apartment feel spacious and expansive (top photo). This room would include a workspace, living room, dining room and kitchen. How exactly this would happen, I wasn’t sure. You can see some of the ideas I tried out on the original floor plan here.

Here’s the hallway going to/from the master bedroom and bathroom to the living room.

The proportions on the master bedroom, at 11′ by 15′, were more spacious than the second bedroom. The room suffered from large furniture, and a wall color that “closed” the space in and drew attention to the lowish 8′ ceiling. Window treatments obstructed the fabulous view.

In the hallway from bedroom to bathroom there was a lot of storage potential,  though the small doors bring the ceiling ‘down’. H-m-m-m

The bathroom would be a challenge to renovate as there was a fixed 5′ tub space and a good bathtub was a priority.

…The vanity, lights, medicine cabinet and heater made the small room look very busy. I started to think about how to create a bathroom that would do everything it should, yet look minimal and pleasing, on a budget. (Get a glimpse here.)

The gist was a perfectly pleasant apartment that was not my style at all. BUT it had the elements I was hard-pressed to find or afford elsewhere – top floor, a view, good security and transportation; the bones were great. I knew that sheetrock walls could easily be removed or rebuilt, that the paint color can work magic, that there are always solutions to constraints of low ceilings, layout, budget…though at the time, I didn’t yet know what they would be. I would spent the next few months figuring it out.

Stay tuned.

Related posts: introducing ‘the improvised life’s new ‘laboratory’
sneak peek: improvised life’s new space + our cool optical illusion design solution
project + reno lesson: embrace the unexpected……… things won’t go as planned
makeshift solutions via a spool of red twine
instant chic lighting: the lunette shade
chic, minimalist gorilla tape cabinet door pulls
stylish toilet roll holder out of rocks
…24 hours after ‘all hell broke loose’
home planners and other ways to envision a space
desktop (+floor +wall) inspirations from unlikely sources

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