Bed Stuy Reno: Renovating and Decorating a Brownstone on a Budget

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It seems that every time a brownstone is listed as a House of the Day, the debate begins. How much will it cost to renovate and decorate? Estimates of $500,000 and over a million are common numbers thrown around. But what about those of us who want to renovate a brownstone and aren’t sitting on $2,000,000?

The naysayers will say if you don’t spend several hundred thousand dollars, then you’ll be living in a Home Depot special. I will say that renovating and decorating a brownstone can be done nicely and on budget with a lot of research and patience.

I also understand that having this entire debate is from a position of privilege — if you’re in the market for a brownstone in Brooklyn these days, whether your renovation budget is $50,000 or $2,000,000, you’re doing fine. But with that being said, here are some tips to help with renovating and decorating.

*Talk to your neighbors. Many of them probably know someone who took care of these houses before the current boom. People who can strip your doors and fireplaces at a reasonable rate.

*Most of the furnishings in my house were purchased at a discount. Those Herman Miller lamps — 50 percent off. I have a friend who worked at MoMA and the museum store gives employee discounts. Most stores also give architect and interior designer discounts. If you use an architect, have him or her put in tile and furniture orders. I got a 15 percent discount on my bathroom tile using this approach.

*Have your contractor line item everything. If you don’t like the price of the electrical work, bid the work around. Word of warning: Be prepared to manage the project tightly because if something goes wrong (and it will), no one will take responsibility.

*As mentioned in a previous post, look on eBay for appliances. eBay has excellent buyer protection and many of the appliances sold still have warranties.

*And I love LV Wood floors and fancy kitchen design stores as much as the next person, but there are some very good and less expensive alternatives. Lumber houses will provide custom cuts for a fraction of the price of the design flooring stores. Again, a little searching online and you’ll find several. And buying directly from the fabricator will literally save you thousands.

For all of you with limited budgets who are renovating a brownstone: Keep the faith.

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