5 renovations that will make your pre-war co-op shine

Pre-war co-ops are a staple of real estate in New York.

These stately buildings rose in popularity between the 1880s and 1940s, and their magnificent brick and scrollwork facades characterized the Manhattan residential market for years. Today, you can find many of these historic buildings on the Upper West Side and Upper East Side, where their unique interiors exude a charm not found in modern high-rises.

Yet while these historic buildings have an old-world charm and typically sell for less than most comparably sized condo units, buying a New York City co-op and renovating it can bring in these older dwellings into the modern era.

To help inspire New York co-op owners, the team at Prevu Real Estate has put together a quick guide to the most popular co-op renovations right now.

Update that old kitchen

Kitchens are a remarkable facet of pre-war living, and they come in all shapes and sizes.

Some are kitchen-style, with a slim walkway flanked by countertops and appliances. Others have larger spaces, with enough space for a kitchen-dining room or a small, light-filled breakfast nook.

But before embarking on any renovation project, make sure your construction follows the co-op’s building modification agreement to get council approval.

For example, you might want a gut renovation to change the layout of the room, but any wet-on-dry kitchen and bathroom rules your building may have in place can scuttle your plans. Luckily, there are other renovations to update your cooking space.

Soft-closing cabinets dampen noise when storing dishes, and sleek high-end countertops breathe new life into the room. In addition to luxury appliances, you may want to refresh backsplashes to add your personal touch without breaking the bank.

Reinvent the dining room

A common feature of most pre-war co-ops was that the dining room was separate from the kitchen. While that may have been the style when these units were built, many apartment owners in New York seek open concept living.

If possible, some new co-op owners will have contractors knock down the wall separating the two rooms, creating an open floor plan.

Before you start reconfiguring your layout, be sure to speak with an architect and your building to see if these types of changes are allowed or have already been done on other units in the same line.

Touch up the living room

The living room is one of the fascinating parts of a pre-war cooperative.

With high ceilings and built-in shelving and cabinetry, this living space can transport guests to a bygone era in New York. Additionally, these rooms usually have large windows that let a lot of light into the space, which can show the age of the room.

Take a top-down approach, starting with crown mouldings. At the time, builders used plaster of Paris to glue moldings to the wall and ceiling. Over time, these can use a paint job to liven them up.

Depending on the condition of the walls, you can recoat the walls with finishing plaster and apply a fresh coat of paint. A light sanding and gloss paint for shelves and built-in cabinets can make these historic pieces shine.

Create a bathroom oasis

Sometimes stepping into the bathroom of a pre-war unit can feel like stepping back in time, but not in a good way. For example, some pre-war co-ops had toilets that use a lever to flush them, and if your bathroom has one, it’s time to bring your toilet into the 21st century.

A complete renovation can transform your bathroom, so start by adding new tiles and replacing that outdated tub. You can create a spa-like experience with a modern tub or even a walk-in shower with a rain shower head.

And don’t forget the vanity, mirrors and light fixtures. If you’re upgrading the room, don’t cut corners trying to salvage rooms that will look out of place.

Refresh the floors

After years of shuffling and scraping, even the best hardwood floors wear out.

Years of use and sun will cause fading and ruin the effect of any other home upgrades you undertake. To combat this, you can bring in an expert to refinish your existing floor, as sanding off the top layer and choosing a new stain can rehabilitate the floor throughout your home.

But if you want to get rid of outdated designs, you can ask an installer to help you design and bring the rooms in your home into the modern age.

Rethink lighting

There’s nothing worse than poor lighting in a co-op, where outdated light fixtures flatten your home’s light.

But by going room by room and replacing garish ceiling lights, you can brighten up your home. Even if you don’t want to replace every light fixture, review your unit and consider replacing all existing lights with LEDs, as these add more light than older bulbs.

It’s hard to replicate the vibe of a living room with an older chandelier, but a soft light switch combined with new LEDs in a restored chandelier will wow your guests at the next dinner party.

Interested in buying a co-op apartment in New York? Browse the listings and see how much you can save with Prevu’s Smart Buyer Discount.

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