Apartment Renovation Tips

by | Last updated Dec 31, 2023 | Apartment Renovations, Renovations

If you own a Condo or Co-Op apartment you may be considering a renovation. This post will focus on some tips for apartment renovation design and the process of completing a renovation.

Knock Down Walls 

Don’t be scared to knock down a few walls. This can be a great way to open up a space and enlarge a room. Sometimes you can keep most or all of your walls and the apartment works great. Sometimes you need to knock them all down to get a layout that works for you. Removing a wall is serious business, make sure you have an architect determine this is ok.

Architect Jorge Fontan at renovation job site

Architect Jorge Fontan at apartment renovation job site

Raise The Ceiling

If you have a drop or suspended ceiling you may be able to raise the ceiling in your apartment. I the picture below you will see an industrial apartment renovation where we removed a suspended ceiling. This added height to the entryway but also exposed the utilities. You need to take structure and piping into consideration when raising the ceiling in your apartment. This will not always be an option.


New Floors

I anything can transform an apartment it is replacing the floors.

This picture below is of a Loft Apartment in SoHo NYC where we installed a new 10″ Rift Cut White Oak Floor. Installing a modern and beautiful floor is one of the best apartment renovation ideas I can share with you.

Loft Flooring Ideas - Wide Plank Floor

Flooring Ideas – White Oak Wide Plank Floor in SoHo Loft

Open The Kitchen

Many old buildings have small kitchens and almost always they are enclosed with walls on all four sides. Today people like opening the kitchen and often the kitchen becomes the centerpiece of the apartment. I think today people are spending a much larger percentage of the total renovation budget on the kitchen renovation then people did historically. Kitchens have much nicer designs now and are far more important to apartment owners.

Opening the kitchen will help make the space feel bigger. If you have an open kitchen you will want to put more attention and potentially more budget on the kitchen design as it will be on display.

Open Kitchen Design

Open Kitchen Apartment Design in a Tribeca Loft, NYC

Open Kitchen Renovation NYC

Open Kitchen Renovation in Brooklyn, NYC

Showers Vs Tubs In Your Bathrooms

One of the biggest apartment renovation trends we have noticed is people removing tubs and putting in showers. Although I personally prefer a shower to a tub I do not always recommend this. I think it is good to at least have one tub in an apartment. Bathroom renovations need careful thought about what types of fixtures you want. Please make sure to think this through and see what works for you. Of course remember small children need bathtubs.

Below is an apartment renovation in Manhattan where they had 2 bathrooms with tubs. The client decided to remove one tub and replace it with a shower and keep a tub in the other bathroom remodel.

Modern Bathroom UWS NYC

Modern Bathroom UWS, NYC

This next bathroom is one where we removed the bathtub to put an ultra modern concrete curbless shower.

Concrete Bathroom

Concrete Bathroom

Closet Design Is Important

Closets are important, so make sure when planning you apartment renovation that you have enough closets. You may want to look into built ins, closets can be custom designed and built or you can work with closet manufacturers.

Modern Closet Design

Modern Closet Design in a West Village Apartment renovation in NYC.

Go To Showrooms

Our architecture firm is located in NYC. There is no shortage of showrooms to visit here where you can get ideas and see examples of different apartment design features. We take our clients to showrooms not just to pick things out but for our clients to experience the products and for us as the architects to get a better sense of our clients taste. Talk to the people there in most cases they are very knowledgeable, but not always, so be careful who you take advice from. See what suggestions they have for you but remember it is your apartment.

Architect Jorge Fontan and client at a showroom

Architect Jorge Fontan and client at a showroom

Understand Your Design Services

Wen you hire an architect or contractor make sure to understand the services included. My favorite question to ask is not only what is included but what is not included. See what services your apartment renovation architect is and is not including.

Is your architect including finish drawings specifying all materials and products? Are electrical and lighting plans included? You also want to make sure if the architect will perform site visits and how many. Architectural renovation services are complicated and not everyone includes the same things in their prices.

High end apartment architect NYC

Apartment architectural details for a kitchen in SoHo, NYC

Communication and Coordination Is Key

If the architect and contractor do not meet before the renovation begins this is a really bad sign. Everyone should be on the same page. The renovation should proceed with transparency and coordination. Make sure everyone on the team is in communication and agreement. Issues will arise and problems may happen. These are no reason to panic and nobody should go around playing the blame game. The team needs to work together to sort out any issues in a manner that is best for the apartment and for you.

Ask your team how often they will be on the job site. Your architect and contractor cannot be there all day everyday, but they will need to visit often enough as is needed to complete the project on time and with the highest level of quality possible.

Architect Jorge Fontan at a renovation jobsite meeting

Architect Jorge Fontan at a renovation jobsite meeting

Plan Your Furniture

You need to think about your furniture. With our clients we often get the exact dimensions of the furniture they want and block it out on the plans. This will help you figure out how much space you will have. You can also use tape to layout the furniture on the floor before you purchase it. Make sure to use tape that doesn’t stick too much so you do not damage the floor finish.

Apartment Renovation NYC

Apartment Renovation NYC

Keep It Simple

Sometimes the best apartment renovation strategies for an owner is to keep it simple. Do not overdo it when redoing your apartment.

Simple Modern Bedroom reno

Simple Modern Bedroom in a Condo Apartment renovation

Read Your Alteration Agreement

Your Co-Op Or Condo will have a contract known as an alteration agreement. Make sure you and everyone on your team reads the alteration agreement. this will instruct you on your obligations and on miscellaneous building rules and regulations. there may be technical aspects to the alteration agreement that you do not understand. Your architect or contractor should be happy to help explain these to you. You may want to have a sit down with the architect to review it together.

NYC Apartment Renovation

NYC Apartment Renovation

Its your Apartment

Everyone you know is going to have an opinion on your apartment renovation. People are going to tell you what you should do. Your friends, family, architect, interior designer, and contractor will all tell you what to do. Remember its your apartment. You have the final say on everything. Design your apartment to make you and your family happy.

Professionals are here to give you help don’t let anyone push you into a design that you don’t like. Speak up and make sure your opinions are taken seriously and your concerns are addressed. you are the most important force in your apartment design.

Quirky Home Decor

Quirky Home Decor

Thank you for reading our apartment renovation tips blog post.

We wish you the best of luck with your apartment renovation. If you want to discuss your renovation with an architect you can contact us at Fontan Architecture directly.

Contact Fontan Architecture

Jorge Fontan

Jorge Fontan

This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.