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  • Deborah Emery

The Joy of Transformation

Updated: May 2

Spring is here and I cannot get enough of all of the blooming everywhere. The forsythia, the tulips, the cherry blossoms all seem particularly lush and vibrant after such a bleak year.


New York City certainly puts on a show, so much so that it is hard to remember what those same trees or plots of land looked like just a few short weeks ago. The change from drab and unremarkable to can't-take-your-eyes-off-it wonderful lifts my spirits.


Similarly, in the work I do, the joy for me is in the transformation. I love the process of getting there, but my very favorite day on each project is when the protection is removed and everything is revealed. The more wrecked and drab a space is, the more opportunity for transformation. Sometimes that involves moving walls around and reconfiguring spaces. Sometimes it is as simple as better lighting, fresh paint, some new throw pillows, or fixing things that are broken. We recently replaced a long broken storm door leading to our kitchen, and I feel so good every time I go through it. Of course, I love a whole space dramatic change, but the truth is, even the simplest things can lift your spirit and enliven a space.


When I start a new project I always make sure to take "before" pictures, so I can capture the changes. To highlight some of these transformations, I recently added a “before and after” section to the project gallery on my website.


Here are a few of our transformations. Note: my photographer is really talented so sometimes even the projects in the worst before condition are eerily beautiful, not that there are any regrets In doing the work! In fact, I like the idea of honoring the lives that went before there in a respectful way, before turning to the future.


Doctor's Office


Some projects take more work to find and reveal their beauty, but this one was easy to see its potential the moment I stepped into the space, in spite of its dated decor and awkward layout. It is located in a 1930’s era building with streamlined, south facing windows, set in curved walls typical of the Art Deco period. Even though the space was terribly dated and drab, and the previous tenants had covered those windows with heavy draperies and dark colors, I knew that if all I did was uncover the windows to let the light in and give it a new paint job, it would be a dramatic change.


However, as the space was also oddly laid out and did not work for this set of doctors, I reconfigured the space to create a better flow to meet their needs. In doing so, I was able to add 2 more exam rooms, a medical equipment/lab room, more storage, and an additional consult room, allowing all three doctors in the practice to have their own private office, each with views of the street and lots of natural light.


Original Layout


Reconfigured Layout



West Side Riverfront


Most people would say this pre-war riverfront apartment was in move-in condition when the clients purchased it. In fact, the husband, who first spotted the place, thought all it needed was a minor paint job. His wife, however, had other plans. She appreciated the views and the elegant pre-war proportions of the place, but was interested in something more updated and open.


Original Plan

Reconfigured Plan


Along the way, we addressed a number of awkward issues with the plan, and even added a fireplace in the living room in the process. What started as a simple paint job turned into an entire renovation.


The dining room and kitchen felt cramped and awkward with too many built-ins and not enough light. We had to deal with a gas meter and immovable pipes in the wall between, but we were able to remove all the unnecessary built ins in the dining room, open up the spaces to each other, while still keeping some closed areas for storage and a bit of privacy and elegance that separate rooms create. The master bedroom, bath and closet area was chopped up and awkward. I reconfigured it to create a dressing area, a huge walk in closet and a more open bathroom with a huge walk in shower and free standing tub, and found space for a separate laundry room as well, a rare thing in New York City.

Minimalist Bachelor Pad


There was something kind of wonderful about the old metal cabinets, vintage wallpaper and appliances in the original galley kitchen, but it was time for a refresh as much of it was broken beyond repair. The owner wanted an open plan kitchen but we discovered too many pipes in the main wall so no way to open up towards the living room, which was our first choice. However, we were able to open up towards the den at one end. This was enough to bring in more light and create a bar counter at the end to further connect the two areas. We brought in lighter, brighter colors, glass fronted cabinets, and backsplash tiles to create light reflection and further open up the space, and a better plan which included hiding the washer and dryer in a cabinet and creating more counter space.

Coming soon...


Connecticut Lake House


The Lake setting is spectacular, as is the original part of the house, designed by architect Alfredo Taylor. The challenge with the renovation here was how to respect the cherished work of a renowned architect, and rework the less appealing series of additions to bring it all together.


- Deborah Emery

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