Renovating a home means making a million decisions and hearing conflicting opinions at every turn. Sometimes, you have to ignore the suggestions of the experts and go with your gut instinct. Other times, you have to trust the professionals and heed their advice.
We asked six Brooklyn homeowners who have come out on the other side of a renovation to recall a decision they were unsure about but, in hindsight, are happy they made. They recalled features that were expensive but worth it in the long run, from air conditioning to strategic use of high-end tile.
Rachel Kash, Carroll Gardens: “The one decision we heavily contemplated, but which I’m really glad we made, was opening up the extension in the back of our home and putting in a large, casement-style steel window. We hesitated on the decision due to the fact that the work required a structural engineer (hence more money), plus the window was pricey to fabricate and had a long lead time. But in the end, it gives our living/dining space a dramatic look, one that nearly everyone comments on when they enter our home. In addition, the window really brightened up our entire garden level, which has low, beamed ceilings. Definitely worth the time and energy.”
Skei and Jeremy Saulnier, Prospect Lefferts Gardens: “This seems a little ridiculous when I think about it now. When we renovated almost 10 years ago Jeremy insisted on installing central A/C. I grew up without A/C and it was a silly point of pride for me. The house we bought didn’t have any vents, so our contractor would have to install all the ducts. They centralized the ducts in the hallway, essentially dropping the height of the ceiling, but didn’t run any duct work in the rooms, where I was worried we would damage the coved ceilings and border moldings. In the end I got on board and every summer I am SO glad I did.”
Justine Fludgate, Carroll Gardens: “We maintained the original wood floors from the house against the advice of others who thought they were too soft and would damage easily. We love the original wide plank, longleaf yellow pine floors and maintained them throughout most of our house. Our contractor removed the floors, refinished them and reinstalled them and we love the outcome!”
Claire Ellis, Park Slope: “Our architect thought we should have an L-shaped kitchen with a sink on the back wall beneath a large window, but I wanted the sink and cabinets all on the side wall. I held my ground, but our architect came back one more time to push for the L-shaped kitchen — since we wanted light and had young sons who we might want to watch easily out the window. I took it to heart, and we got the L-shaped kitchen, and it’s the best decision we made. It’s my favorite part of our house. I love to look out the window as I wash dishes.”
Ashley Gold Kanfer and Jordan Kanfer, Park Slope: “We were on the fence about building a coffered ceiling in our bedroom. We needed a structural beam installed and had to figure out how to make it work in a decorative way. This choice turned out to be a great way to combine form and function. It was a splurge to go with the coffered ceiling, but it’s now one of our favorite design elements in the house.”
Stacie Billis, Clinton Hill: “The thing that comes to mind is finding creative ways to splurge on finishes that I love. So, for example, I fell in love with some really expensive bath tile, but using it to tile the whole shower area, as originally planned, came at an exorbitant cost. Instead, we used the tile strategically and tiled other areas with simple, but modern, clean, and inexpensive penny tiles. All I have ever noticed in my bathroom is my gorgeous tile, which I still love. It’s not everywhere, but it’s where it matters and never fails to make me happy.”
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