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  • Deborah Emery

A Peek Behind the Curtain: A Designer's Renovation

I have a confession to make: Even though I’ve been running a successful interior design business for over 20 years, my New York City apartment has been in need of a serious renovation for some years now. I joke that I’m like the proverbial shoemaker.

Here’s the backstory: I moved into my husband’s apartment 20 years ago. It’s in a beautiful Beaux Arts building with 10-foot ceilings, crown mouldings to scale, and a living room large enough to use its grand fireplace without overheating. While its potential was clearly evident, and my husband who has great taste had decorated it nicely, it was already a few years past its renovation prime when I moved in. I couldn’t wait to start planning my

own renovation.


20 years later, I’m just getting started. You’re probably wondering why.


To be fair, it's not like I never use my design skills for my family home. We did a renovation on the house we bought outside the city 17 years ago, but it was a place we bought together...on the condition that we renovate.


Our apartment is a little different. It was his before ours, my husband resists change, and because I want everyone to be happy, I’ve made only minor tweaks here and there throughout the years, particularly for the kids as they went from babies to toddlers to little kids to teens. We neglected major renovations, even though they were needed.



Fast forward to the present, and the apartment is literally falling apart around us. Even my husband is starting to wonder when we’re going to begin the renovation. It has become a bit of a running joke in our family. I say “when we get the apartment renovated…” and my family smirks.

So why did this happen to the designer who’s known for her ability to get things done for clients and whose motto is, “We worry about the details so you don't have to”? In short, I just needed someone like me to hold my hand and help me overcome the same challenges my clients face with every renovation.


I now have a much better understanding of what my clients go through, and even though I always want my clients to enjoy the process, and want to do the same myself, I now realize sometimes it’s more complicated than that. For one thing, it can be costly to do a renovation, so decisions can feel momentous.

The good news is, the designs for our project are finally done, and even more crucially, they have been approved by our building and the NYC Department of Buildings. We have gone through every last item and purged, and the movers have come and emptied it out. We are actually under way! Now we just need to start ordering materials, as we are currently in the worst supply chain back up I have seen in my entire career (more on that in another post).


Stay tuned as I continue to chronicle the process. Transforming spaces is what keeps me passionate about this work after more than 20 years. In spite of all the hard work, expense, and how long it has taken to get here, envisioning the end product and getting to experience it in my own home is both a privilege and a joy.

Is there a renovation project you’ve been putting off? Please leave a comment and let me know how I can support you, so you don’t wait 20 years like I did!



Deborah Emery


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