Unshackling Your NYC Renovation: Are Outdated Real Estate Beliefs Holding You Back?

Challenging traditional renovation beliefs, emphasizing personalization and modern design-build methods to create purposeful living spaces in NYC.

January 16, 2024


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Unshackling Your NYC Renovation: Are Outdated Real Estate Beliefs Holding You Back?

Looking past long-standing adages that may not be relevant to your respective NYC renovation.

Table of Contents

In the heart of New York City, where homes aim to blend history with innovation, a question often arises for those envisioning their dream home design. ‘Is this even allowed?’ In this article, we’ll discuss the influence of traditional real estate beliefs on NYC renovations, explaining which legacy principles you can comfortably ignore while also providing expert advice on realizing your ideal NYC renovation.

[#Evolving]The Evolving Real Estate Landscape in NYC[#Evolving]

Shifts in Real Estate Trends and Buyer Preferences in NYC

New York City's real estate landscape is in a state of perpetual flux, responding to the evolving needs and preferences of diverse city standards plus ever-evolving regulations. In recent years, we’ve seen a noticeable shift in the priorities and tastes of prospective buyers. Gone are the days when the focus was solely on spaciousness and classic designs. Today, buyers lean towards properties that align with a modern, fast-paced lifestyle—properties that seamlessly blend functionality, sustainability, and innovative design.

The Importance of Personalization in Renovations to Meet Modern Demands

Not only must properties be modern and accommodable as ever, personalization has taken center stage. Homeowners and prospective buyers alike seek spaces that not only cater to their functional needs but also reflect their unique identity and aspirations. A one-size-fits-all approach no longer suffices. The importance of tailoring renovations to the individual preferences of the occupants cannot be overstated. Modern renovations should encapsulate a personalized touch, ensuring the living space is an extension of one's personality and lifestyle.

Home office from pre-war Manhattan apartment renovation at 255 W 108th. View our full pre-war renovation portfolio.

[#Beliefs]Identifying Prevalent NYC Real Estate Beliefs That Can Be Disregarded[#Beliefs]

While there are various long-standing real estate adages and design trends that unnecessarily linger when considering a renovation in NYC, we’re asked to confirm the formality of these most often: 

Galley Kitchen Vs Open

Over the last few decades, open kitchens have become more prevalent than ever, but some believe galley-style kitchens are more practical in smaller NYC apartments. We find there is no true formal right or wrong route and the best decision usually comes from the homeowner’s personal preference and requirements. 

Am I Required To Have A Tub?

There was a time when having a bathtub was deemed essential in a property, but evolving lifestyles have shifted this belief, with many homes opting for spacious showers over tubs. A study by Houzz revealed half of the main bathrooms that underwent renovation did not include a bathtub, and the percentage of homeowners who reported regular use of bathtubs was on a continual decline, hovering around 50%. If space and budget allows, consider having a freestanding tub in addition to a walk-in shower, which is a more modern bathroom configuration. While often expected in sizable luxury NYC homes, a tub is not required. 

Can I Remove A Bedroom In Exchange For More Space?

The belief that a certain number of bedrooms is deemed a requirement has been challenged by those valuing open space or specialized rooms over a fixed number of bedrooms. Ultimately, while there is no formal requirement for a specific number of rooms, the ideal configuration depends on available space and preference. For instance, converting four rooms into three may not be considered detrimental as converting three to two. If all rooms in question are especially small, you may actually add value by consolidating the floorplan and upgrading the available space. 

Is A Closet Required For The Room To Be Considered A Bedroom?

In some states, having a closet is required for a room to be considered a bedroom. However, in New York, that is not the case and residents are not required to have a formal closet space in their bedroom if not desired. 

These adages, while rooted in historical relevance, may no longer align with the contemporary need for adaptable, multifunctional, and personalized living spaces. The evolving preferences of modern homeowners necessitate a departure from rigid adherence to such traditional beliefs to achieve a renovation that caters to today's diverse lifestyles and design sensibilities.

Living area from full condo renovation in Brooklyn. Full our portfolio of full interior renovations in NYC.

[#Wisdoms]Limitations of Traditional Real Estate Wisdoms in Renovation[#Wisdoms]

When renovating a residential property in NYC, don’t hesitate to critically examine and question the traditional real estate wisdoms imparted over the years. While these beliefs may have once served as guiding principles, they can inadvertently curtail creativity, hinder personalization, and ultimately limit the potential of your renovation. In this section, we’ll explore the constraining aspects of these traditional adages.

Restricted Renovation Creativity and Personalization

In the world of renovation, old mindsets suggesting "neutral tones increase property value" or "stick to timeless designs" have been prevalent for years. While there's some truth to these statements, taking them as gospel can stifle the creative process. Restricting oneself to a prescribed set of rules limits the opportunity to infuse personality, uniqueness, and innovation into the renovation. The modern NYC homeowner is seeking spaces that reflect their individuality and lifestyle. Tailoring a renovation to meet personal preferences, aesthetics, and functional needs can significantly enhance the quality of living. Embracing a more flexible and personalized approach enables homeowners to achieve a renovation that is a true reflection of their vision.

Missed Opportunities and Potential Setbacks

Adhering strictly to outdated adages can lead to missed opportunities and setbacks in a renovation project. For instance, a fixation on timeless designs may discourage exploration of innovative materials and technologies that could enhance energy efficiency and sustainability. By breaking free from rigid beliefs, homeowners can unlock new possibilities, ensuring their renovation remains progressive and in tune with evolving, fast-paced lifestyles.

Bathroom from Manhattan condo renovation at 252 7th Ave. View full renovation before and after.

[#Modern]Embracing Modern Approaches: A Design-Build Solution[#Modern]

In New York City's evolving renovation scene, a comprehensive design-build approach is emerging as a transformative renovation solution, freeing homeowners from the limitations imposed by outdated real estate wisdoms via guidance and flexibility. Read below as we discuss how our design-build approach navigates your renovation journey succinctly by considering all angles, fostering collaboration and creativity along the way.

Benefits of a Design-Build Approach in Contemporary Renovation Projects

The full-service design-build approach offered at Gallery integrates the design and construction phases under one roof, streamlining the renovation process from conception to completion. This integration cultivates efficiency, transparency, and a cohesive vision throughout the project. Here are key benefits that make this approach well-suited for modern renovations in NYC:

  • Seamless Communication: Having a single point of contact ensures effective communication between designers, architects, engineers, and builders, preventing misunderstandings and delays.
  • Faster Project Completion: Eliminating the need for bid-to-build transitions accelerates the project timeline, delivering a finished renovation in less time.
  • Cost Efficiency: With the design-build firm managing both design and construction, potential cost overruns due to miscommunications or design discrepancies are minimized, resulting in better cost control.
  • Innovation and Flexibility: A design-build firm is positioned to embrace and integrate innovative solutions and adapt to changes efficiently during the project, ensuring the final result is aligned with the client's evolving vision.

How a Design-Build Firm Navigates Around Outdated Adages

A significant advantage of engaging a design-build firm is its ability to navigate around outdated adages that may hinder creativity and personalization in renovations. With a more modern approach to NYC renovations, design-build firms view each project as a unique canvas, unburdened by preconceived notions. They challenge conventional beliefs by:

  • Encouraging Personalized Solutions: Design-build teams work closely with homeowners to understand their preferences, lifestyle, and goals, enabling them to tailor the design and construction to suit individual needs.
  • Questioning and Challenging Norms: Design-build professionals critically evaluate traditional wisdom, ensuring that every design choice serves a purpose and aligns with the modern demands and aesthetics of the homeowner.
  • Leveraging Expertise: With a diverse team of experts in various fields, a design-build firm combines collective knowledge to craft innovative solutions that address challenges and opportunities unique to each project. Furthermore, if a client request is made that doesn’t necessarily make sense, we’ll let them know why they may want to consider alternative solutions, before simply saying yes. 

Collaboration and Creativity Under a Modern Renovation Methodology

Collaboration is at the heart of a design-build approach. By fostering open communication and teamwork between architects, designers, engineers, and builders, the modern methodology promotes creativity and innovation. Here's how collaboration thrives:

  • Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration: Professionals from diverse backgrounds collaborate to brainstorm and synergize ideas, ensuring a comprehensive and well-rounded design that accommodates functionality, aesthetics, and feasibility.
  • Real-Time Problem-Solving: Immediate collaboration allows for swift problem-solving during the project, ensuring that any unforeseen challenges are addressed promptly and effectively.
  • Client Involvement: Clients are encouraged to be active participants in the renovation journey, sharing their ideas and aspirations. Their input is valued and integrated, resulting in a space that truly reflects their vision.

The design-build approach liberates homeowners from the confines of outdated adages, facilitating a renovation experience embodying creativity, personalization, and successful collaboration.

[#Case]Case Studies: Successful NYC Renovations Challenging Traditional Beliefs[#Case]

Brooklyn Co-Op Gut Renovation With Custom Galley Kitchen 

  • Location: Downtown Brooklyn
  • Traditional Belief: Open floor-plan kitchens are preferable 

In this case, a client with very specific design choices in mind challenged conventional kitchen standards and opted to modify her open kitchen space for a more closed-off layout. She does a lot of cooking and hosts frequent dinner parties and while she wanted more of a communicative environment, she didn’t want the space completely open. To meet the client’s request, we created a modified galley kitchen that is partially open and then relayed that entire footprint of the kitchen to accommodate the update. The pendant lights from Restoration Hardware set the ideal mood to help blend the spaces, while the Dornbracht fixtures offer sleek elegance alongside the state of the art Sub-Zero refrigerator. View the full renovation before and after. 

Personalized Kitchen With Commercial Touch

  • Location: 91 Central Park West, Manhattan, NYC
  • Traditional Belief: Residential kitchens shouldn’t have commercial features 

Contrary to popular belief, a residential kitchen doesn’t need to prioritize vanity and can indeed lean into commercial-grade features. For a recent Upper West Side renovation, our clients made it known they love to cook and bake, prioritizing the kitchen amidst their renovation. With an enhanced layout in place, our goal with the kitchen space was to create something that could take a lot of abuse. This meant Gallery's design team needed to conceptualize a chef-quality kitchen that balanced architectural aesthetics and commercial toughness. To accomplish the juxtaposed look, we integrated a stainless steel sink and countertops specifically requested by the client, then complimented the tactile design further with a splice of butcher block countertop integrated into the stainless steel countertops, on the corners. We also updated all kitchen flooring with a durable European white oak to sustain maximum traffic. View the full Manhattan renovation before and after. 

[#Case2]Case Studies: Showcasing Innovative, Personalized Renovations Through Modern Approaches[#Case2]

Perma-WFH Office With Custom Murphy Bed & Storage  

  • Location: Upper West Side, Manhattan
  • Traditional Belief: Spare bedrooms cannot double as home offices 

After being thrust into a permanent work from home schedule, our client decided to incorporate more of a formal home office into her guest bedroom - a space also requiring additional storage. The problem was she didn't want to give up the practicality of a spare bedroom. To maintain the added bedroom availability and also provide proper office space, we created a one-of-a-kind Murphy bed to mask the sleeping quarters when not needed. This modern approach to the throwback NYC staple was built amidst custom millwork offering enhanced organization, which is nestled next to a perfectly narrow personal desk space. View the full Upper West Side renovation before and after.

Landmark Door Workaround Turned Enhancement 

  • Location: Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
  • Traditional Belief: Every aspect of a landmark property must be restored 

For any brownstone that has landmark status, all renovations need to be approved by the Landmarks Preservation Committee - including updates to the front door. Since the dated door wasn’t worth updating in full and possibly wouldn't be approved by the landmark committee, we created a templated new door for our full gut renovation in Carroll Gardens that matched the old historic door perfectly, which we then painted a landmark-friendly constitutional blue to earn our LPC approval. View the full brownstone renovation before and after. 

[#Clients]Testimonials from Satisfied Clients Who Broke Free from Conventional Renovation Wisdoms[#Clients]


"Gallery Kitchen & Bath did a wonderful job renovating my "builder grade" kitchen and transforming into a modern showstopper. After a terrible experience prior with another contractor, I was put to ease by Gallery’s honest approach and all-inclusive pricing model. Gallery had a specific team member assigned to my project who kept in constant contact with me so I never felt left in the dark. If there was a problem or delay it was remedied immediately. As a professional chef, I was very involved in the design and selection of the materials of my project. Gallery was able to accommodate all of my requests and needless to say I am thrilled with the results. I would like to give special mention to Colin for all of his hard work making sure that I was happy throughout this process.”


“Worked with the Gallery Team to do a full gut renovation of our home. As a young family we wanted a more modern and open layout but needed a practical and functional layout which the Gallery Team worked with us to design. They were very helpful through the entire process and worked with us each step of the way with great responsiveness and care for our project. They were helpful but not pushy through the design process and efficient through the construction process. They maintained open lines of dialogue and we are very happy with the way our home turned out. Thank you Gallery!” 

When you partner with us to create your dream home, we listen every step of the way. That doesn’t end when your project is over. View our full page of client testimonials.

Kitchen from Manhattan loft renovation at 419 West 55th. View full portfolio of loft renovations in NYC.

[#Expert]Expert Insights: Advice From a New York City Design-Build Firm[#Expert]

To shed light on the transformative potential of breaking free from outdated real estate wisdoms and embracing personalized renovations, consider working with a design-build firm who not only offers a full-service renovation approach but can also navigate through traditional beliefs to achieve a renovation that accounts for both personal needs and nice-to-haves.

Insights and Tips for Homeowners Embarking on a Renovation Journey

When embarking on a renovation journey in NYC, consider the following insights and tips:

  • Define Your Vision: Clearly articulate your vision for the renovation, considering how you want the space to look, feel, and function.
  • Find the Right Partner: Select a design-build firm that aligns with your vision and has a track record of delivering personalized renovations.
  • Effective Communication: Communicate openly and regularly with your design-build team to ensure your ideas and preferences are understood and incorporated.
  • Prioritize Functionality: Focus on functionality and how the space will enhance your daily life, balancing aesthetics with practicality.

Navigating Through Traditional Real Estate Beliefs for a Personalized Renovation

To ensure your renovation meets your personal needs and desires, consider these steps:

  • Question Preconceived Notions: Challenge traditional real estate beliefs and question whether they align with your vision for the renovation.
  • Work with Professionals Who Listen: Collaborate with a design-build team that listens to your aspirations and is willing to adapt designs to suit your preferences.
  • Stay True to Your Vision: Hold onto your vision and preferences throughout the renovation process, ensuring the end result reflects your unique personality and lifestyle.
  • Be Open to Innovative Ideas: Embrace modern approaches and innovative design ideas that may deviate from conventional norms, potentially enhancing your renovation outcome.


In the forward-thinking landscape of New York City real estate, traditional beliefs and adages no longer dictate the direction of renovation projects. The contemporary homeowner seeks personalization, adaptability, and functionality, embracing innovative designs that challenge the status quo. To embark on your own renovation journey, remember to define your vision, find the right partner, prioritize functionality, and stay true to your unique aspirations. By doing so, you can transform your living space into a personalized haven that truly reflects your personality and lifestyle in the ever-evolving heart of NYC.

Considering a residential 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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