A Gut Reno of a Glam NYC Apartment

updated Apr 30, 2019

A Gut Reno of a Glam NYC Apartment

updated Apr 30, 2019
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Name: Sarah Jacobson
Location: Lower East Side — New York, NY
Size: 750 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year, owned

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“Above all, I believe in comfort—in a home that makes you feel more relaxed the second you step through its doors,” describes Sarah of her style. You can feel and see that sense of comfort in features like the two-person breakfast nook or the living room area, at least once you get over the stunning style of the apartment (specifically the kitchen!). Creating beauty and comfort in her NYC apartment took a lot of hard renovation work—actually it was a total gut job!

The transformation required taking down walls, pulling up floors, putting down new floors and exposing a hidden brick wall. According to Sarah, she invested “literal blood, sweat and tears (so many tears!)” into transforming her apartment into a space she would want to come home to everyday. In the end though, all of those tears were worth it as Sarah designed herself a grand apartment equal parts glam and warmth—with a light and airy kitchen, enviable breakfast nook, and (also enviable) exposed brick feature wall. “And now, I don’t just have a home, I have all the chutzpah a girl could ever dream of,” says Sarah looking back on her renovation experience.

Apartment Therapy House Tour Survey:

My style: This is such a hard question to answer! I’d like to believe that I’m a neutral minimalist, but any time I try to design that way, I end up adding ALL THE THINGS. The end result is usually a modern mishmash that’s a little bit bohemian, but still feels calm and cozy. I keep my basics (large pieces of furniture, cabinetry, countertops) quiet, so that my finishing touches (pillows, rugs, art, wallpaper) can be loud. Above all, I believe in comfort—in a home that makes you feel more relaxed the second you step through its doors.

Inspiration: That magical place where Jamie Meares meets Jessica Helgerson meets Studio McGee.

Favorite Element: Hands down, my exposed brick wall. When I moved in, the living room was a rather dreary blank space, with nary a brick in sight. It wasn’t until my electrician started hacking away at the back wall to run the new electrical that I saw it peeking out: a tiny little square of red.

As any good New Yorker knows, exposed brick is the holy grail. So it’s no surprise that when I saw that little square, I basically hyperventilated, then promptly demanded (nicely, of course) that they continue to hack away until they exposed the WHOLE DAMN THING.

Biggest Challenge: Word to the wise: if you’re going to attempt a renovation as a single woman in your 30s in New York City, gird your loins. Because the men around you (and they will all be men, at least 95% of them) will second-guess every decision you make. “Are you sure you want that fancy tile in the kitchen?” they’ll say. “Simple is better for resale value,” they’ll remind you—even though you’ve told them you’re not planning to flip the place; rather, you’re making it your home.

Doing a gut renovation on my own—no husband, no boyfriend, just me—wasn’t easy. It was literal blood, sweat and tears (so many tears!). It was many a moment of fear, of thinking I wasn’t good enough, of thinking I didn’t know what I was doing, of thinking I’d bitten off more than I could chew. But guess what? I did it anyway. And now, I don’t just have a home, I have all the chutzpah a girl could ever dream of.

What Friends Say: That I should be proud of myself. That it’s beautiful. And my favorite compliment of all: that it feels like me.

Biggest Embarrassment: Though I love my kitchen tile, my contractor skimped on that part of the work. Instead of taking down the subfloor to accommodate how thick the cement tiles I purchased were, he simply laid them down on top. The result? My kitchen is about an inch of a step up from the rest of the floor. The first time anyone comes over, they inevitably a) trip or b) stub their toe.

Proudest DIY: Remember that brick wall I mentioned above? Well, my contractor ran out of time at the end of the project (of course), and I had to move in before certain things were finished. One of the things I let slide was sealing the brick. I figured it wasn’t all that big of a deal. Boy was I wrong! For months, the whole living room was consistently covered in a thin layer of red dust. About six months after I moved, I got my shiz together, did a serious amount of research on protecting exposed brick, and enlisted my mother and sister to help me seal it. It wasn’t a huge “DIY”, but it took thought, time, and planning. And now, there’s no more dust!

Biggest Indulgence: My kitchen tile. It wasn’t cheap, it may not have the best resale value, but I love it oh so much.

Best Advice: One day, when I was bugging my contractor ahead of move in day, he got annoyed with me. I apologized, and said I wasn’t trying to be difficult. He knew that, he replied—he thought I was, “very mature, very responsible, and a little bit too nervous.” Immediately after, he reminded me that I needed to be patient. It’s such simple advice, but when it comes to renovation (especially in a New York City co-op), it’s the only way to make it through to the other side.

Dream Sources: Anything and everything from Jayson Home, with a little bit of Schoolhouse mixed in. Plus a side of allll the antiques from Brimfield.


All walls except the bathroom are Benjamin Moore—Stonington Grey
The bathroom is Benjamin Moore—Simply White

Persian runner – Vintage, from a rug dealer near my hometown of Northampton, MA
Large gold gilt mirror – Vintage, purchased secondhand from a neighbor in Stuyvesant Town for $25!
Mirrored star pendant — Worlds Away Moravian Star pendant in the antique mirror finish
Entryway closet unit was custom designed by me, and built by European Closet (go see Henry! He’s the best!)
Throw pillows on closet unit bench – Rebecca Atwood (purchased at a sample sale)

White sofa — Pottery Barn (old, but similar to this one)
Chippendale dresser — vintage, it was my grandmother’s
Bookshelf — All Modern
Smart TV – Samsung
Side tables – Target (old, no longer available)
Brass cantilever floor lamp – Target
Crosby desk lamp – Target
Adjustable brass curtain rods – West Elm
Ceiling fixture (a knock off of the real thing) – Lex Mod
Bleached Ivory Basket Weave Jute Rug – World Market
For Like Ever poster – Super Rural
Asher Bar Cart – World Market
Wegner wishbone chair – Wayfair, but similar (and less expensive!) here
Pillows – Leif (purchased at a sample sale)
Throw blanket – Anthropologie (old, no longer available)
Marble slab coffee table – CB2
Leather pouf – Furbish (old, no longer available)

Docksta table – Ikea
Vienna chairs in black – Crate and Barrel
Brighton faux cowhide rug – Lulu & Georgia
Light fixture – All Modern (no longer available)

Alden breakfast bar stools – West Elm
Luna pendant with 12″ clear shade – Schoolhouse Electric
“Work hard” poster – Anthony Burrill

Cabinets – made locally in NYC
French door refrigerator – LG
Oven – Samsung (last year’s model, similar here)
Lagoon Countertops – Silestone by Cosentino
Cement floor tiles – Purchased through Chelsea Arts Tile and Stone
Geometric ceiling lights — Young House Love for Shades of Light
Domsjo double bowl sink – Ikea (double no longer available)
Bamboo blinds – Overstock

Minka Aire Roto Ceiling Fan – Bellacor
Bronze eyeball sconces – Urban Outfitters
Metal panel bed – Wayfair (similar here)
PB Essentials sheets – Pottery Barn
Mattress – Tuft & Needle
Adjustable brass curtain rods – West Elm
Matilda curtains – IKEA
Wood dresser – Vintage
Tork brass dripping mirror – CB2
Cape photograph – Jenny’s Print Shop

Gold feather ceiling fixture – One Kings Lane
Gold mirror – Vintage
Princeton Mid Sconce in natural brass – Schoolhouse Electric
Clawfoot tub – Vintage
Karla shower curtain – CB2
Small dip dyed stool – Serena & Lily
Victorian Faucet – Delta via Home Depot
Memoirs Stately Pedestal Sink – Kohler via Home Depot
Memoirs Stately 2-piece Toilet – Kohler via Home Depot

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