For many of us, it's easy to fall in love with an old building, quirks and all. Likely, it's those odd nooks and historic details that make a place really feel special-that is, until you need to fit a sofa around a curved wall or an inconveniently placed beam.
BEFORE: “The space is so unique, with split levels, an old bell tower, wood beams and brick; we didn't have any precedent for what we were trying to do, and so trusted Sarah and our designer to help give shape to our instincts,” says the homeowner.
AFTER: “It was important to us that the space get renovated but not lose its original feel,” the owner adds. “It's still a comfortable, relaxed, fun space that she has injected with a lot of lightness and purpose.” The fireplace hearth tile is Clé Belgian Black Reproduction Tile and the surround tile is Clé Glazed Brick in herringbone. Ty Cole
Thus was the case when Sarah Jacoby was tasked with renovating an apartment in an old New York City school. “The building was originally designed as an elementary school, and then it was converted to residential in the 1980s,” explains Sarah. “So, because it was not purpose-built for condos, there are all sorts of idiosyncratic spaces. The floors don’t fully align, for example, so one of the big challenges was to make this a cohesive environment. There were a lot of odd, leftover spaces, so we worked to make those more livable.”
BEFORE: The hardest part of the reno was in the details. “Often making things happen was a game of literal inches, and we had to be precise and aware of the trade-offs, giving a little here and taking a little there,” says the homeowner.
AFTER: “In the 1980s, the space had been renovated in a Craftsman style, so we were determined to take that off and to reveal some of the building’s original features,” says Sarah. The inspiration was simplifying and paring down. The cabinets are painted in Farrow & Ball Railings.
AFTER: “We feel so at home in our bedroom,” says the homeowner. “It's a real retreat from the city after a long day-and lately it's even been a retreat from the rest of our home during quarantine.” The storage is composed of IKEA cabinets with Semihandmade doors, which are custom-painted to match the walls.
The homeowners had fallen in love with the space years before and had always had their eyes on it as a potential dream home. “We loved the old school house feel, the brick, the tower-it had great bones. We knew the living spaces needed a new layout and wanted to gain an additional bathroom for guests,” says one of the owners. “The most exciting part was stepping back and realizing how much we could actually do. We expected more of our ideas to be categorically out of the question, but Sarah and her team always leaned into hard problems and came up with incredibly creative solutions. She was always finding new spaces to reclaim and coming up with incredible ideas, big and small.”
AFTER: “One of my favorite spaces on this project is the kids’ bathroom,” says Sarah. “It was a priority for the client to add a bathroom, and we had to really carefully consider a tough existing condition to make that happen. So I consider it a real triumph over logistics. That we managed to get a super cute bathroom in there is a miracle. It’s such a stolen space.”
BEFORE: The previous iteration used the angles beams in very different ways.
AFTER: Sarah and Kelly O’Connell, an interior designer, worked together to achieved a more refined look.
One of the main priorities for the homeowners was to add another full bathroom, taking it from two baths to three. “We did a lot of re-routing of the plumbing, which, in an historic building, was a challenge. But now, my clients have an en-suite master bath, an en-suite bath in the children’s room, and an additional full bathroom,” says Sarah.
AFTER: “Our guest bath is far prettier than anything we deserve,” says the homeowner. The wallpaper is by Pierre Frey.
The changes have proven to be perfect in the time of quarantine. “We hoped this would be true, but we really have given ourselves a lot of private spaces for people to use independently of each other,” says the homeowner. “One of us can be in the office part-way up the stairs, another relaxing or working in the living room, the kids can be playing in their room. Even with our in-laws' long visits from the West Coast, nobody feels on top of each other. It's a real achievement in a NYC apartment.”
BEFORE: The bones of the space were good, but needed a refresh-the pale yellow had to go.
AFTER: “Because this space had so many unusual nooks and alcoves, we treated these as opportunities to introduce custom storage,” says Sarah.
The project was a real collaboration with Sarah, the homeowners, and the interior designer, Kelly O’Connell. “We would send images and drawings back and forth to each other, and we would make in-person visits to see materials and fixtures," says Sarah. “We had a clear sense of where we wanted to head, but the approvals process was incredibly long. We could have sped things up by compromising on design choices, but we chose not to.”
AFTER: The owners love the view they have seeing out across Brooklyn.
When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.