City Boomer’s Bathroom Makeover: How We Did It and What We Learned

We had a typical NYC apartment bathroom with a bathtub, sink and toilet and not much else.  Getting in and out of the tub was no problem yet, but my husband and I are planning to stay in the apartment for the long haul, so we gave  the bathroom a city boomer makeover.  The tub was out and a walk-in shower was in!

We had been planning this renovation for over a year. We found a designer through a neighbor whose apartment he had done. We found a contractor who was doing a major renovation in an apartment 3 floors above us. We shopped for hardware, tile and light fixtures.  We filed the paperwork with our co-op’s board and after their architect had reviewed the plans we received the permission to start in May.

The project was scheduled to last 7 weeks, including a smaller refresher of the second bathroom. The final piece of mirror was installed on week 21!  As the project progressed we made a number of changes, including doing a much more extensive renovation of the second bathroom. Meanwhile, some items ordered from online sources had to be exchanged.  Each change stopped the work for days or even 2-3 weeks as we waited for more tiles or replacement vanities or re-templating of countertops.  Also, the contractor’s people were not always available as we made changes.  With the exception of one day we did manage to have at least one partially finished but usable bathroom available throughout the ordeal.

Friends who live in suburban houses cannot imagine why it took so long, but doing anything in a city highrise is slow going.  In our building, the work can only take place between 9 am and 4:30 pm. The use of service elevators to move workers and building materials can be slow when there are several renovations going on at the same time.  Any water shut-off for plumbing work has to be scheduled at least a week in advance, so that neighbors on the same line can be notified.

Master bath on June 15

Master bath on June 15

The work started on June 16 and the demolition was completed by June 17.

Bathroom demo

Master bathroom on June 17

The master bathroom was completed on November 3rd. The second bathroom was completed on November 10th. We are thrilled with the result, but have no plans to do renovation work ever again!


Master bathroom on November 3

So, what are the lessons learned:

1.) Hire a knowledgeable designer.  Ours was Dan Casto who had already worked in our building and knew the process we had to follow. He drew  up the plans, including extremely detailed instructions for the contractor to follow. He gave us excellent advice on selecting glass, hardware, medicine cabinets and vanities.  For example, without Dan’s advice we would not have known to specify low-iron clear glass for the shower enclosures. It turns out that standard shower glass has a green tint, which would have been very noticeable in an all white bathroom.

2.) Find a patient contractor who calmly accommodates all the changes you’ll inevitably make. Our contractor, Henry Castrillon, took all the changes in stride and was very reasonable on extra costs.  For example, we decided to tile the walls all the way up, after they had already been done half way, according to the plan, and we decided to do a much more extensive renovation in the guest bathroom than we had initially planned. Henry was also very good at correcting any problem areas.

3.) If you can, move out while the work is being done. We could not, so for about two months we lived with zipper walls and sealed closets, but still dust got everywhere. (We did manage to escape for a 2-week vacation and on weekends.)

4.) While we did not make the bathroom fully handicapped-accessible, we did keep in mind that we are planning for long term. We installed safety bars, bright lighting and small mosaic tile with a lot of grout for a good grip on the master bath floor.

5.) While all the changes we made during the renovation delayed the completion, we are happy we made them. It’s better to live with a few more weeks of construction than for years always saying “we should have…”

Our key supplies were:

Designer: Dan Casto
Contractor: Henry Castrillon
Plumbing Hardware, Medicine Cabinets: Davis and Warshow, Inc. (Drew Vandewart 212-680-9000)
Cabinet Maker/Vanities : Scott Soden 973-616-1377
Tile: Manhattan Stone Industry (Jane)
Bath accessories, lighting, misc. small items:,,, Gracious Home, Home Depot, Bloomingdale’s.

Author My First Apartment
Seija Goldstein

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Seija Goldstein has lived in New York City for 40 years and has no intention of ever leaving. After working full time in media and raising two wonderful children, she is now planning to sample everything that her favorite city has to offer. She will be reporting her experiences on this blog and inviting other New York City Boomers to join in the adventure.

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