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Before & After: A Gramercy Park Apartment Transformed

Two years ago, musical theater actress Mary Bolt bought a Gramercy Park apartment next door to her aunt, who had scouted the property and knew it had good bones (despite its downtrodden state). Courageously, Bolt jumped in headfirst and enlisted the help of architect Denise Lee—a member of the Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory—to redesign the space. The problems were apparent: The apartment lacked storage space and had a dysfunctional layout, but it had pluses, such as 12-foot ceilings and original 1870s detailing. “It was clear from the beginning that the place needed to be gutted,” Lee says.

The happy ending? She managed to turn the 1,000-square-foot apartment into a fully functional home with two bedrooms, a sleeping loft, one and a half baths. And in the process, she uncovered original details that had been hidden over time and added vintage character to the updated spaces.

Photography by Devon Banks, courtesy of Denise Lee Architect.

Throughout the apartment, walls are finished in hand-troweled natural plaster.
Above: Throughout the apartment, walls are finished in hand-troweled natural plaster.

“Because we were trying to blend a modern renovation with the historic details of the building, we chose materials that would complement the patina of the existing elements,” Lee says. Hence the plaster walls and ceilings, which lend a characterful look to the space.

The kitchen countertops and backsplash are made of concrete, and the custom cabinetry is reclaimed white oak. Lee chose the combination for its organic modern look.
Above: The kitchen countertops and backsplash are made of concrete, and the custom cabinetry is reclaimed white oak. Lee chose the combination for its organic modern look.
The kitchen faucet is Dornbracht Tara in chrome.
Above: The kitchen faucet is Dornbracht Tara in chrome.
During demolition, the team found an original column—from the 1873 building’s original life as a bank—and designed the kitchen around it.
Above: During demolition, the team found an original column—from the 1873 building’s original life as a bank—and designed the kitchen around it.
In the living room, a sliding library ladder is suspended from a custom rail over the bathroom door. The small access door above the ladder leads to a mechanical room.
Above: In the living room, a sliding library ladder is suspended from a custom rail over the bathroom door. The small access door above the ladder leads to a mechanical room.

The ladder can be moved to other rails throughout the apartment, like the one above the wine fridge and cabinetry. The green velvet sofa is a remnant from the former owners of the apartment next door.

When not in use, the ladder hangs on a storage rail in the living room. The coffee table is a custom design made from the same reclaimed white oak used elsewhere in the apartment. The navy blue wingback chair is from Ikea.
Above: When not in use, the ladder hangs on a storage rail in the living room. The coffee table is a custom design made from the same reclaimed white oak used elsewhere in the apartment. The navy blue wingback chair is from Ikea.
A custom storage staircase leads to the sleeping loft. The door to the half bath is on the right.
Above: A custom storage staircase leads to the sleeping loft. The door to the half bath is on the right.
Under-the-staircase laminate-faced cedar drawers store clothes, shoes, and accessories.
Above: Under-the-staircase laminate-faced cedar drawers store clothes, shoes, and accessories.
Bolt typically uses the sleeping loft as a place to read, but it doubles as an extra room when guests are in town.
Above: Bolt typically uses the sleeping loft as a place to read, but it doubles as an extra room when guests are in town.
 An additional three closets are installed below the sleeping loft.
Above: An additional three closets are installed below the sleeping loft.
One of two full bedrooms.
Above: One of two full bedrooms.

The architect retained the original window frames and wood paneling and stripped them of multiple layers of paint. The cast iron radiators are original.

 The second bedroom is for Bolt’s roommate, who is also a musician.
Above: The second bedroom is for Bolt’s roommate, who is also a musician.

The original wood floors were mostly intact, buried beneath engineered wood flooring. They required only minor repair work, plus sanding and refinishing.

A concrete countertop sits atop a custom white oak vanity. The wall-mounted chrome faucet is from Graff.
Above: A concrete countertop sits atop a custom white oak vanity. The wall-mounted chrome faucet is from Graff.
In the shower, white field tile from Heath Ceramics is installed vertically.
Above: In the shower, white field tile from Heath Ceramics is installed vertically.

Before

Before the renovation, the apartment had dated finishes and a dysfunctional layout.
Above: Before the renovation, the apartment had dated finishes and a dysfunctional layout.
Here the original window frames and paneling are covered in white paint, and the radiators are cased in wood cabinets.
Above: Here the original window frames and paneling are covered in white paint, and the radiators are cased in wood cabinets.

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