Interior Design Tips To Consider When Renovating Pre-War Apartments In NYC

Revitalize your NYC pre-war apartment with these considerate tips, celebrating historic charm, modern comfort, and preserving architectural elements for a perfect blend of elegance and convenience.

January 26, 2024


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Interior Design Tips To Consider When Renovating Pre-War Apartments In NYC

Renovating a pre-war apartment in NYC offers challenges and opportunities that should be considered before starting your home overhaul.

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When considering the purchase of a pre-war apartment in NYC that requires renovations, there's always a way to revitalize the everlasting historical charm of the space. Whether your potential pre-war home needs extensive restoration or the space has been relatively well-kept and now needs modern amenities, our full-service design-build approach allows clients to maximize their pre-war space with an added proficiency that sets us apart from alternative renovation solutions. We leverage thoughtful interior design elements, ranging from practical to luxurious, ensuring a seamless blend of historic charm and contemporary comfort.

Explore everything from intricate crown mouldings and immaculate mantels to choice hardware selections and color recommendations via our exclusive guide to the subtle art of interior design for pre-war apartment living in NYC.

Kitchen from Brooklyn pre-war co-op renovation in Prospect Heights. View full renovation before and after.

[#High]Showcasing High Ceilings and Decorative Mouldings[#High]

In the grandeur of pre-war apartments in NYC, one of the most captivating features are the soaring ceilings lined with intricate decorative mouldings. These distinctive design elements not only add vertical spaciousness but an air of refined sophistication to your home. As a premier design-build firm catering to the ambitious taste of our NYC audience, we recommend leveraging the unique opportunities presented by these elevated canvases as follows:

Embrace Verticality

With ceilings that touch the sky, your pre-war apartment provides a unique opportunity to play with vertical space. To accentuate the height, consider utilizing drapery that extends from ceiling to floor, creating an illusion of elongated windows that emphases the majestic height of the room. Choose furnishings with vertical lines to draw the eyes upward, enhancing the sense of openness. Our design philosophy revolves around creating balance, so while we celebrate the lofty ceilings, we also ensure the space feels intimate and inviting.

Highlight Decorative Mouldings

Decorative crown mouldings framing the ceilings and walls of pre-war apartments are distinctive signatures of pre-war craftsmanship. Our approach is to celebrate these intricacies by incorporating lighting fixtures strategically. Well-placed sconces or discreet uplighting can cast a gentle glow, accentuating the depth of detail. Additionally, consider a soft, neutral color palette for the walls to allow the mouldings to take center stage, creating a canvas where classic charm meets contemporary allure.

Customization is Key

Every NYC pre-war apartment is unique, and we recognize the importance of tailoring our designs to enhance the individual character of each space. Our team of design and construction experts work in tandem to create tailor-made solutions, ranging from custom-designed mouldings that pay homage to the building's history to tailored lighting installations that seamlessly integrate with the architecture. By infusing personalized touches, we help bridge the gap between the historical heritage of your pre-war home and the future goals of your family.

Brizo Litze faucet from kitchen renovation at Upper West Side pre-war co-op renovation at 801 West End Ave. View full renovation before and after.

[#Infusing]Infusing Elegance with Choice Hardware[#Infusing]

Attention to detail is crucial in the interior design of pre-war apartments in NYC, and naturally, identifying choice hardware is a vital part of the process. Let’s review various ways we help our clients enhance their pre-war homes with personalized and meticulously picked hardware selections. 

Harmonizing Styles for Cohesive Design

A cohesive pre-war design is born out of the careful orchestration of various elements, and hardware is no exception. Our design team excels in harmonizing styles, seamlessly blending the old with the new. Whether your pre-war abode leans towards traditional, art deco, or a more contemporary aesthetic, our experts guide you in selecting hardware that complements your preferred design language, creating a cohesive and visually stunning result.

Curating a Selection of Signature Pieces

At Gallery, our design philosophy aims for timeless sophistication. When selecting hardware, we work with our clients to curate a collection of signature styles that exude both historic and contemporary flair, leaning into personal preference when appropriate and provided an adjusted course of action when potentially off the mark. From intricately designed doorknobs to bespoke cabinet handles, every choice is made with precision to enhance the aesthetic allure of your pre-war haven.

Embracing Quality Craftsmanship

The allure of pre-war apartments lies not just in their historical significance but also in the craftsmanship that defines them. When considering hardware selection, we prioritize quality craftsmanship that stands the test of time. Opting for materials like brass or nickel ensures not only durability but also a patina that enriches with age, offering an added layer of character to your living space.

Personalizing Spaces with Bespoke Accents

The heart of classic pre-war charm is found in the ability to personalize your space with distinctive touches. In the realm of hardware, this means custom-designed pieces that reflect your unique taste and lifestyle. From specially-crafted drawer pulls to one-of-a-kind lighting fixtures, these personalized elements not only elevate the elegance of your pre-war residence but also make a statement about your commitment to curated design. For instance, we procured hand-blown glass door knobs custom-made in England for a recent gut renovation we completed in downtown Brooklyn, simply because the client wanted them to resemble the ones from the pre-war brownstone she grew up in. 

Home office from Manhattan pre-war apartment renovation at 255 West 108th. View full renovation before and after.

[#Honoring]Honoring Traditional Architectural Elements[#Honoring]

While introducing elements is essential to fully realized pre-war interior design, optimizing the current architectural features that make the property special through fine-tuned expertise and strategic restoration is vital. When renovating pre-war apartments in NYC, these are the areas we strive to honor whenever possible during the renovation process:

Preserving Original Moulding & Trim

The essence of pre-war architecture is found in the intricate moldings and trim adorning ceilings, walls, and doorways. Our dedication to classic charm starts with conserving these original features, restoring as needed. Whether delicate crown moldings, wainscoting, or ornate baseboards, our design approach is centered on honoring and elevating these architectural elements. The aim is not merely preservation but enhancement, ensuring each room radiates the grandeur envisioned by the home’s original architect.

Embracing Herringbone & Parquet Flooring

The underlying allure of pre-war living is often embodied by herringbone and parquet flooring. These classic patterns, characterized by a meticulous arrangement of wood planks, add an unparalleled sense of sophistication to your space. Our design team works to restore, refinish, or replicate these flooring patterns, allowing you to tread upon a piece of history while enjoying the warmth and character they bring to your home.

Enhancing Leaded Glass Windows

Leaded glass windows are iconic features that not only bathe your pre-war apartment in natural light but also contribute to its distinctive aesthetic. Our design philosophy involves preserving and enhancing these windows, whether through meticulous restoration or strategic additions of complementary treatments. 

Celebrating Fireplace Mantels

The fireplace mantel, a symbol of warmth and gathering, is a focal point that demands reverence in pre-war design. Our experts understand the importance of celebrating and preserving these architectural treasures. From restoring original mantels to sourcing period-appropriate replacements, we ensure the heart of your home retains traditional charm, providing a visual anchor for your living spaces.

Hallway from Manhattan pre-war apartment renovation at 91 Central Park West. View full renovation before and after.

[#Color]Color Schemes and Textiles: Bridging Past and Present[#Color]

When contemplating interior design for your pre-war apartment in NYC, the art of selecting color schemes and textiles is crucial in crafting a lasting narrative. Here are some ways our design team uses colors and textiles to blend the historic heritage of pre-war apartments with a personal, more modern appeal.

Embracing Timeless Hues

The color palette of a pre-war apartment in NYC is a canvas that reflects the elegance of a more simplistic era. Our design philosophy often includes embracing evergreen hues that honor the building's history. Soft neutrals, muted tones, and classic whites serve as a backdrop, letting architectural details shine. Yet, we also add strategic pops of color to bring life into the space - as we did with an orange-seated breakfast nook amidst the classic kitchen aesthetic in our Manhattan townhouse renovation at 529 East 87th, achieving a welcomed balance between tradition and modernity.

Layering with Luxurious Textiles

When chosen wisely, textiles are the tactile glue that hold a well-curated interior together. In pre-war design, we recommend in the richness of timeless fabrics such as velvet, silk, and cashmere, leveraging layers that add depth and warmth. From sumptuous drapery that frames leaded glass windows to plush area rugs that define seating areas, every textile should be meticulously chosen to enhance the sensory experience and evoke a sense of indulgence.

Fingerprint-free Fennix kitchen in our pre-war condo renovation at the Chelsea Mercantile at 252 Seventh Ave. View full renovation before and after.

[#Integrity]Modernizing While Preserving Historical Integrity[#Integrity]

When renovating any of the many pre-war apartments in NYC, the delicate balance of modernization and preserving historical integrity poses both a challenge and an opportunity. At Gallery, our commitment is to enhance our clients' living experiences by guiding their pre-war renovations towards practical precision, even if that involves introducing modern elements.

Embracing Smart Technology

While certain tech trends may seem like overkill, introducing smart technology into your pre-war apartment can do wonders for your peace of mind. At Gallery, we integrate smart technology discreetly into our pre-war designs, offering amenities such as intelligent lighting, climate control, and state-of-the-art security systems - without disrupting the pre-war design palette. The marriage of cutting-edge technology with age-old architecture ensures that your living space evolves to meet the demands of the 21st century while respecting its storied past. For more suggestions, read Renovations & Technology: 10 Smart Home Remodeling Ideas

Blending Tradition With Contemporary Open Concept Living

The allure of open-concept living can be seamlessly incorporated into pre-war spaces, creating fluidity without compromising on historical integrity. When crafting your ideal floor plan, our design team excels in removing non-structural walls, opening up spaces to create a more contemporary layout. However, we do so with a meticulous approach, respecting the original architectural intent and preserving key features like decorative mouldings, fireplaces, and leaded glass windows that define the classic charm of your pre-war design.


While buying a fixer-upper pre-war apartment in New York City may seem like a lot of work, the value updated interior design can provide is well worth the effort. With careful consideration, an open mind, and the right renovation partner, your pre-war apartment in NYC can be reimagined to offer the perfect balance of historic charm and contemporary convenience. 

Considering a pre-war apartment renovation in New York City? View our portfolio of apartment renovations in Manhattan or Brooklyn, 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 Big Apple renovations 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 Ushyarov

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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