Introducing Jennifer's Small Space Kitchen Renovation

Renovation Diary

The kitchen, looking toward the bathroom door.
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Name: Jennifer Pade
Type of Project: Kitchen remodel
Location: West Village, New York, New York
Type of building: 300 square foot apartment in a co-op building

The Renovation Diaries are a collaboration with our community in which we feature your step by step renovation progress and provide monetary support towards getting it done in style. See all of our Reno Diaries here.

For the next project in our Renovation Diary series, we're focusing in on the kitchen of a 300 square foot co-op in Apartment Therapy's hometown of New York. The homeowner, Jennifer, has called this small space home for 13 years. She'd always meant to renovate the kitchen, but never really got around to it. It was only recently that things got really dire.

Another view of the kitchen, with some DIY storage solutions. This gives you an idea of how small it really is!
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From Jennifer:

When I purchased my apartment in a landmarked West Village building in 2001, the tiny (8’x6’) kitchen was in pretty bad shape, and super inefficient. My plan was always to gut-renovate it at some point, but real life always took priority and somehow twelve years went by! Recently, I discovered that the ceiling and walls had actually begun to collapse simply from the age of the building. This meant it was no longer possible to put off the renovation. I needed to start it before my kitchen fell in on itself!

The kitchen window and some crumbling plaster.
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The ugly-duckling galley kitchen is inefficient, lacks sufficient storage space, and is generally an eyesore. The floor beneath the sink is molded and crumbling. Decades-old red laminate countertops are stained and peeling. And they’re also only 17” deep, so the oven sticks out past them, making the space difficult to navigate.

The kitchen, looking towards the living room. 17" counters mean the stove juts out awkwardly into the room.
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A tiny, Barbie-sized sink can only hold only a few dishes before it’s full, the open shelving catches all the NYC dust possible, and the ancient single-bulb overhead fixture provides a minimum of light for the space. There isn’t a single drawer in the room, so over the years I’ve added makeshift storage for silverware and other cooking tools. And the single tall window that looks out over several pretty backyard gardens is half-hidden by a kitchen counter, limiting the view.

Not so pretty.
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There’s no dishwasher (not unusual for an older NYC apartment, but it would be nice!) and both the refrigerator and oven are over 20 years old. More worrying, however, are the huge pieces of concrete and plaster that have begun falling out of the walls and ceiling, leaving big holes and settlement cracks everywhere. So my two big goals for this project are to make the kitchen structurally safe and to update every inch of it to become more modern, efficient and beautiful!

The current sink is a little on the small side.
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The 103-year old building is beautiful but fragile (there are still existing gaslight pipes in the ceilings!). Accordingly, the co-op has strict rules regarding alterations, so there are restrictions in terms of what I can do. For example, if I want to move electricity or plumbing or to remove/relocate walls (and I plan to do all of these), I must submit detailed architectural drawings to the co-op board for approval. And the apartment has a limit of 110v electricity, which will have an impact on which appliances I can purchase for the project. Having no experience with these kinds of things, the first thing I did was hire an architect to create architectural plans, and to guide me through the logistical and design process. I chose the wonderful Jim Moorhead of SSK Architecture in Manhattan. Jim has helped me better understand the process, and has come up with some fantastic, creative ideas to make the most of the small space.

And the current shelving is a little overcrowded.
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My plan is to first repair the underlying foundation issues. Then I’ll open up the doorway/wall to bring the kitchen partly into the living room (creating a loft-like feel) and add as much new cabinetry as will fit, which should make excellent use use of the high ceilings. I also plan on adding new countertops, a small dining area, a pull-out pantry(!), new lighting, and all new space-saving appliances (including a drawer dishwasher.)

A close-up of the crumbling ceiling.
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While Jim has provided a modern design, I also want it to flow well with the rest of the apartment, which still has original early-20th century elements like crown molding and oak door frames. One way I plan to help meld the two spaces together is to replace the original (badly worn) parquet floor in the living room with the same ash-wood flooring being installed in the kitchen. Another is to extend the new kitchen cabinets slightly out into the living room. And to use some classic New York touches in the kitchen, such as subway tile.

Because my apartment is so tiny (300 sq ft,) I’ll have to move out for the majority of the renovation. So another part of the project for me is finding an affordable studio apartment in NYC for to the 1-3 months it may take to complete the renovation. That may be the biggest challenge of the whole project!

Want to hear more about Jennifer's renovation? Join us tomorrow as Jennifer shares her inspiration for her new kitchen.

(Images and Diary Text: Jennifer Pade)

More posts in this series

Renovation Diary: Jennifer's Kitchen

(Image credits: Jennifer Pade; number)

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