Opening a Kitchen in an NYC Apartment

by | Last updated Jan 3, 2024 | Apartment Renovations, Kitchen Design, Renovations

New York City has many older apartments built at a time before people wanted large open kitchens. These apartments often have small enclosed kitchens that are not on par with today’s living standards. If you want to modernize your home with an open kitchen, there are many factors to consider.


How To Open a Kitchen in an NYC Apartment

You must obtain approvals from your Condo or Co-Op Board and the Department of Buildings before removing walls to open a kitchen in NYC. You will need a licensed Architect and General Contractor to perform the work, which the architect will file as an “Alteration GC” with the NYC DOB.

Before moving forward with opening a kitchen, you will need an architect to assess the existing conditions and put together a game plan for how to execute the renovation. There are many options to consider, such as structure, utility locations, building codes, building management rules, and overall design.

At Fontan Architecture, we work on various project types, including residential interior renovations in New York City. The photos in this post (from our projects) will illustrate some of the most critical issues when opening a kitchen in NYC. 

Opening a Kitchen in Manhattan before and after

Opening a Kitchen in Manhattan before and after (UES Apartment Gut Renovation in Manhattan by Fontan Architecture)


Assessing the Existing Conditions

At Fontan Architecture, the first thing we do when starting a renovation project is assess the existing conditions. When opening a kitchen, we want to figure out where the utility risers are, structural elements, and ventilation ducts. When we know what elements we can remove, then we can properly design the new open kitchen open.

The existing conditions will play a significant role in your design. As will your building management house rules and building codes.

Architectural Kitchen Design Plans

Architectural Kitchen Design Plans (Fontan Architecture)


Expanding the Kitchen

If you want to enlarge your kitchen in NYC, this may be possible depending on your building regulations. Some buildings have a rule called “Wet Over Dry.” This rule prohibits the expansion of a wet space over a dry space on the floor below. A kitchen is typically considered a wet space, so bringing your kitchen over a living room below, for example, would constitute “Wet Over Dry.” 

Wet Over Dry is not a building code; it is just a rule some building boards and management companies impose. We have another post where you can read more on Wet Over Dry.

Expanded and Gut Renovated Open Kitchen

Expanded and Gut Renovated Kitchen (UES Apartment Gut Renovation in Manhattan by Fontan Architecture)


Kitchen Design

 The most important thing about renovating your apartment is a cohesive overall design. You don’t want things to look thrown together. When designing apartment renovations, we always look at multiple options and work closely with our clients to achieve a design that works for their aesthetic.

Below is an open kitchen from a full apartment gut renovation we completed on the Upper East Side. This kitchen is fully custom-made.

Open Kitchen Design Custom Kitchen

Open Kitchen Design Custom Kitchen (UES Apartment Gut Renovation in Manhattan by Fontan Architecture)


Protocols for Opening Your Kitchen

New York City has a lot of regulations and bureaucracy, so be prepared. After hiring an architect and having a complete design, your building will review the plans before filing with DOB. You will likely obtain an “Alteration GC” permit and a “PL” or Plumbing Permit if you are also doing plumbing work. You do not have to worry yourself much about this, the professionals you hire will handle it, but I want you to be prepared.

Once DOB approves the work, your contractor can pull permits and begin the kitchen renovation. Check out our post on How to Renovate Your Co-Op in NYC to learn more about the apartment renovation process. .

Open Kitchen Before and After

Open Kitchen Before and After (UES Apartment Gut Renovation in Manhattan by Fontan Architecture)


Planning Your Renovation

Opening your kitchen requires planning and preparation. It is never too early to get an architect on board to start the process. If you are interested in reading more about architectural services check out our post on The Architect’s Role in an Apartment Renovation. 


Thank You for Reading Our Blog Post on Opening a Kitchen in your NYC Apartment?

I hope this was helpful. If you want to speak with an architect about a potential project, contact us at Fontan Architecture directly.


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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.