Cobble Hill Real Estate Veteran Julie Cohen Asks Herself: Renovate or Move?


    What if you had a remarkable and unique home and rather than moving, you decided to take on the challenge of customizing the space to fit your changing needs?

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    Julie Cohen, a licensed associate real estate broker at Compass, is in the business of moving people, but in this instance, she is staying. She’s rejuvenating her loft-like condo in Cobble Hill, a former parochial school, optimizing storage, adding vertical square footage — and stylishly increasing market value. Here is her story:

    Adding More Storage

    Storage is a priority for everyone in New York City. “When you run out of room, you need to think vertically,” said Julie, who’s been a broker for 25 years. Her contractor, consultant and “guru,” Guillermo Grasso, owner of Wilman Custom Design, stresses that you need to consider reclaiming space that is already there. “In the 1980s and earlier, developers just put up walls and dropped ceilings,” said Guillermo. “They did not care about space or square footage.”

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    Photo via Julie Cohen

    When Julie is showing apartments to clients, she tells them to look behind walls, between beams, and in the ceilings for “hidden” space. She found some in her kitchen, a dropped ceiling she’s converting into overhead storage.

    Photo via Julie Cohen

    In an oversized bedroom, she’s adding a floor-to-ceiling walk-in closet with storage compartments and a transom for light, using repurposed antique doors. “Everything you’d put in cabinets or dressers that clutters the apartment belongs in a walk-in closet,” said Guillermo.

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    Photo via Julie Cohen

    In the living room, wall space framed by two columns is being reimagined with two floating 96-by-40-inch custom shelving units that will house her collectibles, art, books and more.

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    Picking the Right Colors

    Previously, Julie was surrounded with neutral grays but realized that it was time for a change. “I think people become numb to their apartment paint colors,” she said. “They choose them, they get used to them, and then they linger on the walls for years.”

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    After reading interior design blogs, looking through hundreds of colors, and sampling, Julie chose Simply White. “Its subtle tone give this award-winning color a warm luminous richness.” For a whisper of color, she selected a cool blue along the exterior wall of the bedroom. “Breath of Fresh Air, just like it sounds, is a cheerful blue like sea glass or a beautiful, clear afternoon sky,” she said. “From the bed, you could look through the transom window and see what looks like the sky behind it. How playful is that?”

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    Choosing Your Floor

    If you cannot move out during a renovation and you need new floors, Guillermo suggests eco-friendly, sustainable, non-toxic engineered hardwood flooring. They went with Kährs of Sweden, a leading manufacturer of engineered wood. “These floors are perfectly engineered, beautiful with an easy to install floating click system that lays on top of the existing floor,” said Julie. “And there’s no dust!”

    Guillermo is leveling the bedroom’s concrete floor and the living room floor. “A clean line always makes a space look bigger,” he says.

    What’s next? Julie has to make choices about lighting, window treatments, furnishings, and perhaps the kitchen! Stay tuned…


    All photos via Jonathan Grassi unless noted otherwise

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