Apartment Renovation In New York City: Do's & Don'ts

NYC apartment renovations include a lot of moving parts plus complex processes. Prep properly with these do's and don'ts.

January 25, 2024


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Apartment Renovation In New York City: Do's & Don'ts

Home remodeling projects include a lot of moving parts and complex processes. In New York City, that statement rings especially true because of the high number of vendors and regulatory bodies involved in the process. If you don’t know how to prepare for a remodel, you’re bound to waste time and money on a project that’s more stressful than necessary


Embarking on an apartment renovation in New York City is an exciting opportunity that allows you to transform your home into a personalized sanctuary equipped to help you thrive for years to come. However, without careful planning and execution, the process can quickly become overwhelming and the final product may let you down. 

As a full-service design-build firm in New York City that handles everything from interior design and architectural services to expediting and construction management, we understand the full scope of intricacies involved in apartment renovations of all shapes and sizes. In this article, we’ll guide readers through the essential steps to plan a comprehensive NYC apartment renovation, ensuring a seamless and successful transformation that aligns with your vision - whatever that may be.

[#Goals]Assess Needs and Goals[#Goals]

Start by evaluating your needs and goals for the renovation. A significant home renovation shouldn’t be taken lightly, so consider the functionality, aesthetics, and overall vision for your apartment. Do you need additional storage? Are you looking to create an open-concept layout? Are kids coming into the equation? This is the time to identify the big picture objectives that will serve as a foundation for the rest of the planning process, because requesting change orders later in the renovation process will set back your timeline and cost significantly more. 

Dining room from Manhattan apartment renovation at 130 E 18th. View the full renovation before and after.

[#Scope]Determine the Scope of the Renovation[#Scope]

Once the conceptual goal of your renovation has been established, do yourself and your potential renovation partner a favor and spell out the specifics. Whether you're focusing on a single room or undertaking a comprehensive overhaul, a clear scope will streamline the planning process. Formally define the areas of your apartment that require renovation, creating a list that will serve as the tipping point to conversations with your design-build firm, which can be ironed out accordingly once budgets are established and feasibility has been determined. Consider the specific elements within each area, such as lighting, flooring, cabinetry, and fixtures, to ensure a cohesive design throughout your apartment. 

[#Set]Set A Realistic Budget[#Set]

Establishing a realistic budget is crucial to ensure your renovation stays on track. Before partnering with a firm, create a baseline budget you’re comfortable with. If possible, have a range in mind, in case costs scale during the scoping process. You never know when an opportunity to improve on your design could sprout, or on the other hand, when an unwanted issue that needs to be rectified prior to renovation may arise (which is especially common in older pre-war apartments, where shotty and unstable work may have been done prior to building codes being established). Learn more about Common Surprises When Renovating A NYC Apartment. 

Kitchen from Manhattan condo renovation at 252 Seventh Ave. View full renovation before and after.

[#Collab]Collaborate with Design Professionals[#Collab]

When renovating in New York City, where square footage is gold and red tape is abundant, working with an established and credible design-build firm is essential to a comfortable process. They will bring your vision to life while considering the unique constraints and opportunities presented by your space. A reliable, veteran partner will offer firm and transparent feedback in effort to create a customized design plan that maximizes functionality and aesthetic appeal. Read more about the benefits of a full-service design-build firm and why this all-inclusive approach is the ideal solution for your upcoming NYC renovation. 

[#Explore]Explore Design Concepts[#Explore]

One benefit of working with a design-build firm is that interior design is included in your renovation estimate, so hiring and managing additional outside parties isn’t necessary. Instead, once scope has been determined and the estimate is approved, you collaborate with in-house design professionals to explore different design concepts that align with your vision. They will present you with mood boards, sketches, and 3D renderings to help you visualize the proposed changes. This stage allows for discussions and revisions until you’re satisfied with the design direction.

Kid's bedroom from Manhattan pre-war apartment renovation at 255 West 108th. View full renovation before and after.

[#Material]Material Selection and Sourcing[#Material]

Once the design is determined, a design-build firm will guide you through the selection and sourcing of materials that best suit your design goals and budget. At Gallery, we work with reputable suppliers to provide a wide range of options for flooring, fixtures, finishes, and appliances. We prioritize quality, durability, and sustainability, ensuring that the chosen materials enhance the overall aesthetic and functionality of your apartment. Whenever possible, we also include a personal touch into the material selection process, making sure the choices reflect our clients as much as possible - whether that be from an overall aesthetic basis or within the details, such as these 100-year-old Swedish tiles our clients had that we incorporated into the kitchen backsplash during their Manhattan Condo Renovation at 91 Central Park

[#Obtain]Obtain Permits and Approvals[#Obtain]

Navigating the necessary permits and approvals can be a complex process, especially in New York City. As part of our full-service design-build process, we serve as the expeditor for your renovation, handling all the paperwork and liaising with the appropriate authorities to ensure compliance with local building codes and regulations. By taking care of administrative tasks, we streamline the process to save you time and stress. 

Kitchen from Manhattan townhouse renovation at 529 East 87th. View full renovation before and after.

[#Create]Create a Realistic TimelinE[#Create]

A well-planned timeline is essential to manage expectations and keep the renovation on schedule. Our team will develop a detailed project timeline, accounting for each phase of the renovation, including design development, material procurement, construction, and finishing touches. Regular updates and clear communication will ensure you are informed about the progress throughout the project, which you can easily keep track of via our JobTracker app

[#And]Construction and Project Management[#And]

Our experienced construction team will bring your design vision to life, ensuring attention to detail, quality workmanship, and adherence to timelines. We will oversee the project from start to finish, coordinating all aspects of construction, managing subcontractors, all while working side by side with the design team who started the process to ensure the final product exceeds expectations.

Kitchen from one of our many Manhattan condo renovations. View full renovation before and after.

[#How]Do’s and Don’ts: How to Navigate the Renovation[#How]

Now that we’ve covered the practical and technical steps towards achieving a successful renovation, here’s a brief list of do’s and don’ts to help wrap your head around the human and emotive aspects of the project. While becoming well versed in the design-build renovation process will serve you well, taking stock of other facets of the project will make the experience even more comfortable. After years of projects and countless client interactions, we recommend taking the following into consideration:

stay realistic about what’s most important to you

Does the renovation need to be economical as possible, even if that means getting your hands dirty and managing a lot of it yourself? If so, then a traditional labor-only contractor might suffice. Keep in mind, that means you also have to purchase your own finishes, procure your expeditor, deal with your co-op or condo board, and coordinate all vendors yourself. If cost is less of a concern and you’d prefer to have someone else handle those logistics for you, plan to hire an all-inclusive design-build firm as step one.

DON’T act like you know everything

At this point, you should already know not to start by going into showrooms and picking out finishes before knowing who your renovation partner will be. Do your research online, speak with numerous firms, and identify the process that makes the most sense for your needs, goals and budget. A good design-build firm will take time to speak with you and will guide you in the right direction, even if you both determine your partnership isn’t a good fit.

ask a lot of questions

Start with a list and add to it as more information comes up. For example, how much does a NYC renovation permit cost? What will you be responsible for, and what will the contractor handle? Who else do you need to hire? What do you need to purchase? Will your contractor be able to suggest alternate finishes and fixtures based on your budget? Don’t be afraid that asking too many questions will signal that you’re new to the process. You should find a contractor willing to provide you with valuable information rather than offering only self-serving answers.

DON’T settle for mediocrity

So many clients admit to us that friends and family have warned them to expect problems like change orders during any renovation — as if it’s normal to get a quote for a specific time frame and cost only to end up with something completely different. This might be an industry norm, but that doesn’t mean it should be accepted. Your proposal should be clear and specific, leaving no room for interpretation. Ensure that you know exactly what is included, from board-imposed work to finishing touches. Don’t let your contractor get away with excluding work upfront to make your price look more attractive.

trust your gut

At the end of the day, we’re all human, and we’re all consumers. Even if you have no experience renovating apartments in NYC, your experience navigating other aspects of life can come in handy. Listen to your gut if it tells you someone isn’t a good fit for your project. If a contractor is skirting questions or giving vague answers, chances are you should move in another direction.

Kitchen and dining area from Manhattan loft renovation. View full renovation before and after.

Conclusion: Enjoy Your Transformed Space

Upon completion of the renovation, take time to appreciate and enjoy your newly transformed apartment. While you’re basking in the glory of your dream home finally coming to fruition, we will conduct a final walkthrough to ensure every detail meets your expectations. 

Considering an apartment renovation in New York City? View our portfolio of NYC apartment renovation before and afters, learn more about Gallery, or contact us today.

We are an award-winning design-build firm in New York City with a full-service approach to renovations in Manhattan and Brooklyn that includes everything from interior design and architecture services to filing permits and construction management. We’re experts in pre-war apartment renovations, apartment combinations, room creations, full gut renovations and all that falls in between. Let us bring your dream home to life.

Chief Revenue Officer

Alex Ushyarovhttps://www.gallerykbny.com/authors/alex-u

Alex Ushyarov is the Chief Revenue Officer of Gallery KBNY, a full service design-build firm specializing in the design and interior renovation of apartments, townhomes, and lofts in NYC. Recognizing the importance of differentiation in a competitive industry, Alex has developed a clear and compelling brand identity for the company. Through meticulous market analysis and a deep understanding of customer needs, he has honed the firm's unique value proposition, highlighting its ability to deliver innovative, sustainable, and high-quality design-build solutions.




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