This Top-to-Bottom Home Reno’s Secret Weapon: A Space-Maximizing Mom


This Top-to-Bottom Home Reno’s Secret Weapon: A Space-Maximizing Mom

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Name: Dana and Dan Asadorian, our pup Annabelle
Location: Ditmas Park, Brooklyn
Size (in square feet): 925 square feet
Years Lived In: 2.5 years, owned

After renovating the kitchen and bathroom of our first apartment in Windsor Terrace, we were confident that we could take on a bigger project. This apartment was massive compared to others we’d seen, but it didn’t show particularly well due to its blindingly white walls and unused space in the kitchen, bathroom, and entryway. But the bones were solid, and we loved the neighborhood, so we went for it.

When it was time to renovate, we had a secret weapon: my mother. When I was a kid, she was constantly sketching out new ideas for our home and directing kitchen upgrades. One of the contractors she worked with in 2005 said, “Hey, you’re really good at this,” and offered her a job. She learned quickly, and in 2011 she founded Kitchen Visions, a kitchen and bath design firm in the Boston area that’s been going strong since. She’s a wizard when it comes to maximizing space and storage: She reconfigured all of the closets, extended the bathroom for a washer/dryer, had the brilliant idea to build out a pantry across from the kitchen, and helped us chop up the layout to create an entirely new room that we now use as an office.

This was a family affair all around. My husband, Dan, was interested in learning what goes into a renovation, so he worked alongside our contractor doing a bunch of the actual labor for a small discount on our costs. He touched everything in the apartment, from beginning to end (initial demolition to final touches on molding) and top to bottom (installing new recessed lights all the way down to sound-proofing the sub-floors). The entire renovation took about 3.5 months while we sublet another apartment in our building. During that time, we were living with all of our boxes and furniture and the sublet owner’s stuff, only able to move around through tiny pathways between piles. (We do not recommend this. In retrospect, I wish we had sprung for a few months of storage).

My job was more cosmetic: picking out cabinetry, tiles, lighting, paint, and layouts. We suspected we’d only be in this apartment for a few years (which is true, because we’re moving to San Francisco next month!), so I chose fairly safe finishes that would make the apartment easier to sell. That included oak floors, off-white walls, quartz countertops, and yes, white subway tile in the kitchen. Those made for a neutral base to build off of; we added the bulk of the character with art, furniture, and plants. Visit Dana’s website for more inspo.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: We can’t commit to one style. When I look at our furniture and decor, we’ve got industrial, country Shaker, contemporary, mid-century, and Scandinavian all situated in the middle of an Art Deco building from the 1930s. Somehow it works. It helps to keep a few threads running throughout the space: black metal, wood, and a few choice accent colors. I also tend to gravitate toward teals and blues. There’s something really nice about blending traditionally feminine and masculine energies such as welded metal with soft abstract art or angular glass with earthy textures.

Inspiration: Family is a huge one! I’m so proud of the business my mom has built, and I often run design ideas by her. Our parents are actually all small business owners, which has definitely imbued us with a sense of appreciation for independent makers, artists, and businesses. I follow a ton of artists and designers to keep the inspiration flowing: Dani Schaefer, Cristiane Spangsberg, Maja Dlugolecki, Meg Lavalette, Sarah Sherman Samuel, Vonnegut Kraft, Boston Pollen, Tappan Collective. (I could keep going…)

Favorite Element: The art I inherited from my Great Aunt Melva. She was one of my favorite people on Earth: a magnetic, opinionated, fiercely feminist woman who lived in NYC until she passed in 2010. We missed overlapping in NYC by mere months, but feel fortunate that we can surround ourselves with her art to bask in her creative energy. Sometimes we get an eyebrow raise at some of her quirkier pieces, like the vintage carousel horse in our bedroom, but I still plan to lug that thing cross-country to our new apartment in SF.

We have one particular print of hers in the middle of our living/dining room that depicts 80 Green Street in Soho as it used to be—a bright blue building called Telmak Fabric Mart. (It’s now the Saint Laurent store and has been painted white.) Our distant family, the Kamlets (Telmak backward!), apparently ran it when SoHo was a major garment district. As the story goes, my Aunt Melva saw the print at a street fair and scooped it up, knowing she had a personal connection to it. I have tried to research the history of the building to prove this, but have come up completely empty-handed. For now it remains a New York mystery…

Biggest Challenge: Living in a crowded sublet during renovation? Keeping plants alive? Hiding the giant subwoofer speaker my husband insists on?

Proudest DIY: Our bookshelf was the first project of several that we did with our friend Andrew McNay at his shop, En.Zo Metal. Like much of our home, it was a team effort: Andrew did the design and welding, Dan sanded and prepped the wood, I painted and applied a chemical patina to blacken the steel. We used scrap metal lying around the shop and raw stair-risers from Home Depot to save ourselves the trouble of cutting them down to the perfect size.

Biggest Indulgence: Our king-sized bed with storage drawers. Will take all the extra storage space I can get in New York.

Best Advice: With renovations, expect that things will go wrong! If you build in that assumption as part of the process, it’s a lot less painful when things go awry. Add a buffer to a renovation budget and timeline to deal with unexpected complications. Also, don’t be afraid to do things yourself. It’s made our home feel truly ours and has given us an understanding of the work and skill that goes into all things made by hand.


Walls — Benjamin Moore Silver Satin
Bathroom — Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray
Window trim, doors, molding — Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace

Plant Stand – Vintage from Other Times Vintage
Ladder – Design Ideas Takara Ladder

Couch – Younger + Co James Sectional
Coffee Table – Fontana Arte, Tavolo Con Ruote (partial DIY – rebuilt with new glass top)
Armchair – Vintage, Other Times Vintage (partial DIY—rebuilt and re-upholstered)
Console – Custom, Mt. Hood Wood Works
Rug – Vintage from Beniouarain Carpet
Throw – Slowdown Studios Mooney Throw
Bar Cart – Unknown (taken from mom’s house)
Side Tables – Craigslist find
Art Shelf – Repurposed from unused molding for kitchen cabinets
Art – Inherited and travel finds
Pillows – DIY (turquoise velvet) and Millbrook Co on Etsy
Lamp – West Elm, CFL Industrial Task Lamp (discontinued)

Standing Desk – Wedding gift, by Andrew McNay at En.Zo Metal
Photography — By Nicol Claroni. A cool young photographer we met at a show in Lucca, Italy

Chandelier – Lindsey Adelman reproduction from L Modern Lighting
Shaker Dining Chairs – holy grail Craigslist find by Ian Ingersoll
Tabletop – DIY with Andrew at En.Zo Metal
Bookshelf – DIY with Andrew at En.Zo Metal
Art — Inherited

Custom Cabinets and Pantry – Designed by Jodi Swartz at Kitchen Visions

Bed – Pottery Barn Reynolds Storage Platform Bed (discontinued)
Dresser – refinished vintage by Martha Leone Design
Wool Blanket – Geysir
Duvet — 100 percent Hemp Duvet by Jungmaven
Sheets – Linen from Target
Rug – Matisse Rug from Pocoapoco’s Mexican artist pop-up
Rug – Emerald Dhurrie by Bohem
Watercolors – by Dani Schafer
Planter Shelf – DIY with Andrew at En.Zo Metal
Moon Print – Library of Congress free archives, framed by Dorian Color
Carousel Horse – Inherited, cast Herschell-Spillman, probably from 1940s
Mirror – Inherited
Bedside Tables – Sidewalk find, painted and added quartz surface
Bedside Lamp – West Elm Half-Round Mini Task Lamp, Bronze (discontinued)

Sink Vanity – Fresca bath
Glass Doors – Kohler
Bathroom Vanity Light – Amazon made by Designers Fountain
Glass Shelves – Amazon made by KES

Thanks, Dana and Dan!

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