The Design & Planning Process of a Full Apartment Renovation in NYC

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The Design & Planning Process of a Full Apartment Renovation in NYC

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The Design & Planning Process of a Full Apartment Renovation in NYC

NYC RENOVATION GUIDE: DESIGN & PLANNING

This article at a glance:

READ THIS FIRST: Our industry is still grappling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, from material shortages and shipping delays to rising labor costs and other changes to processes necessitated by the pandemic. If you’re planning to take on an apartment renovation in the next few months, our blog – Renovating In NYC Today: How To Navigate Delays, Increased Costs, and Other Covid-Related Concerns – serves as a COVID caveat to this Buyer’s Renovation Guide, designed to help you navigate all aspects of apartment renovations in New York City. For a free consultation, contact us today.

Now it’s time to start having a little more fun with your apartment renovation in NYC. It’s finally time to use the mood boards you’ve spent hours compiling as your project enters the design and planning phase of an apartment renovation. 

The Call 

The process typically kicks off with an introductory phone call. For the firm or contractor, this is to understand the full scope of the project and obtain necessary context such as property type, location, and renovation goals. For the client, it’s to come away with a more developed view of how the firm operates, who they are, and what their process looks like. Equally important for clients and firms alike is to gain an understanding of budgets and timelines, too.

The Site Visit

The next step is to schedule an on-site visit. If you choose to work with a design-build firm like Gallery, how this looks is that someone from our team (usually the designer and/or project manager) will come out and take a look at the actual space. They’ll walk through the entire apartment with you, having in-depth discussions room by room about everything from layout configurations and floor plans to specific design details.

Here comes that mood board! The design and planning phase is naturally very visual, so this is the time to share all your visuals with us, whether that’s project photos on Houzz or color palettes on Pinterest. Anything that provides insight into your desired look or aesthetic for the space is ultra-valuable. 

The site visit is also critical for scoping out the appropriate level of allowances per each room to provide you with options from the appropriate group of materials and finishes for your project. For example, a bathroom renovation where you’re looking to choose between porcelain or ceramic will have different allowances than one in which you’re asking for heated marble floors.

While a big chunk of the meeting is dedicated to understanding the level of finishes, it’s just as important to look beyond what the client is explicitly asking us to do, digging deep into all the ancillary questions: Is the circuit breaker box big enough to accommodate all the new circuitry? Will there be implications for the walls? 

Designers who are also contractors, as in a design-and-build firm, are particularly in tune with all the little things that a client may not immediately focus on that they will undoubtedly have an opinion on, such as moldings and millwork. The level of tolerance for imperfections when renovating older properties is different from client to client, but except for those who have been through a renovation before, it’s unlikely they will be on anyone’s mind from the beginning – except for ours, that is. 

It’s also crucial to use the design and planning phase to make sure that all the desired renovations are feasible. At Gallery, we’ll have our electrician come in to make sure that the electrical updates are attainable, determine whether there is asbestos testing on site, and all the other tasks we can do upfront to mitigate surprises along the way.

A note on material selection: This is not true of all firms, but it is true of Gallery: we're brand-agnostic and vendor-agnostic, meaning that we’re not limited in any way with our material selections. Some firms or contractors sell their own materials or have relationships with particular vendors, but our commitment is to our clients. We’ll work with any vendor, whether they're international or local, to procure the materials for our clients. It makes our ability to design for both taste and budget fairly flexible. 

The Proposal

All the major design decisions have been made. The next step is for the firm to put together a proposal for you with a detailed scope of the entire project. A proposal from Gallery typically comes with an all-in number for the total cost of the project. For the sake of transparency, it also includes all the finishes and fixture allowances by room: tiles, countertops, plumbing fixtures, flooring, etc. 

Next we review the proposal together. Essentially, it reads like a manuscript for the entire project, start to finish, room by room. If you decide to move forward with us, you’ll be assigned a project coordinator, as well as a designer/project manager, both of whom will stay with you for the rest of the project. The designer/project manager is usually the person who did the initial site visit, but at this point the team does start to grow. Once the contract is in place, the more formal design meetings can begin, which includes meetings to go over measurements, 3-D renderings, and get more specific with material selections. 

A rendering for a Brooklyn loft kitchen that we renovated.

While the designer/project manager is working on material selection and procurement, the project coordinator is simultaneously handling the board and building management approval process and working on drafting and permits with our architect, if required. You, the client, get to mainly deal with the fun stuff, the formal elements of design, while the coordinator from our team takes care of all the bureaucratic hassle. Further along in the process, the project coordinator also inspects all the materials and schedules shipments of finishes and items to the project site at appropriate times. (At Gallery, we never use the project site as a staging area. Materials are stored in our office location and then shipped to the site when needed.)

A note on Gallery’s approach: We work on a stipulated sum contract, which has an all-in price for the entire scope, meaning it is truly inclusive of everything. If anything that was not already accounted for in the scope comes up, Gallery assumes the costs. This can mean anything from extra plumbing work to an additional beam. The pricing won’t change unless the client requests a change after the fact. We spend so much time on the proposal upfront; this is why. 

A note on communication: At Gallery, streamlined communication with our clients is so important to us that we’ve invested in technology called JobTracker to maintain it to the best of our abilities. A great deal of communication takes place within JobTracker, such as uploading and sharing design options for material selections and daily updates as to what's happening with the building management approval process.

JobTracker is not intended to replace phone calls and emails, but it does make it infinitely easier to access selections, daily work logs, and a host of additional information at any given moment. 

The design and planning phase is usually complete by the time the building approves the plans. With all the permits secured, your sign-off on the renderings, and materials on their way, we should be ready within two weeks: the construction and project management phase!

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What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.