Before and After: This 900-Square-Foot Condo Reno Has a $30K Price Tag

This condo’s new owner loved a lot of things about it—high ceilings, good bones, amazing natural light—but felt that the kitchen and living room were “dreary and grungy.” Nearly a year later, this “standard-grade apartment” could be mistaken for a gallery.

First, a little more info from reader Travis Smith about this condo’s strengths and weaknesses:

When I purchased the space (for a song, practically), the interior was the standard-grade apartment, decades-prior “remodel” with drab nylon carpet, white ceramic tile, and cottage cheese ceilings. While functional, the kitchen and bath were in poor condition. However, the spaces related well to one another. This mere 900-square-foot condo felt quite spacious, with 9-foot, 8-inch ceilings and northern exposure of all glass (bedroom and living room), and I saw the potential immediately.

The place had great bones and spatial relationships, was in a great part of town, but desperately needed an update. It looked dreary and felt grungy. Also, I wanted a project.

(Image credit: Travis Smith)

Is there anything more luxe than a Carrara marble accent wall? The marble countertops would have been impressive enough, but that wall is stunning. The expanse of stainless steel has a sleek industrial look while color coordinating perfectly with the gray-streaked marble. It does look like a lot of storage space was lost because of the removal of the upper cabinets, but there’s probably storage space in this island (as well as in the cupboards in the final photo below). As always, keep in mind that some people simply don’t need that much kitchen storage, and that there are hardcore cooks/bakers who work their magic in the teeniest kitchens.

The new shelves on the left really add to the gallery feel, and I envy reader Travis Smith’s ability to rotate objets in and out whenever the mood strikes.

(Image credit: Travis Smith)

This angle shows that the kitchen isn’t quite as elongated as it looks in the previous photo; the space isn’t huge but everything is streamlined and efficient. And the above-fridge wine storage is smart—it keeps the good stuff out of the rowdy reach of pets and kids.

Here’s what it took for Travis to completely remake this condo:

I started demo shortly after getting the keys. The process took the better part of one year, and when all was said and done, totaled approximately $30K. I saved a considerable amount of money by doing much of the work with my dad (demo, drywall, painting, plumbing, tile, cabinet install). Professionals were used for the flooring (bamboo), electrical, and countertops (Carrara marble). Fortunately, I did not experience any setbacks. I learned a tremendous amount about sequencing and install, as well as working with vendors.

(Image credit: Travis Smith)

This bathroom does look like it could use some work, but wow, that window! The natural lighting in here must be glorious.

(Image credit: Travis Smith)

The tub has been eliminated it from the shower, making it much more accessible, and the sparkling marble floor tile ties this room together with the kitchen. The vanity, wooden floor mat, and shower curtain add organic warmth to the newly white and shiny bathroom. The plant does the same, while contributing a splash of color as well, and will surely thrive thanks to that nice window.

After investing so much time, labor, and money in this home, Travis is (rightfully) pleased with the lovely results:

I invested more in important materials, like the countertops and flooring. I love the bright white, gallery-like aesthetic. I designed the bath vanity, and was able to build it with my dad, which was amazing.

(Image credit: Travis Smith)

I threw in this photo as a bonus to show how these two rooms fit into the aesthetic of the rest of the condo (the kitchen can be glimpsed there at the left). Here we can really appreciate the gallery-like look, which I always love. Each object looks so special and beloved, and the expanses of white walls feel so serene and peaceful, while the dark floors provide luxurious drama. I especially enjoy how each space flows seamlessly into the next, while the layout allows for tantalizing glimpses of other rooms. Travis may have cracked the code for that flow:

I think it’s important to be consistent with materials in smaller spaces, such as one type of flooring throughout. Start with a clean palette that can be added to mindfully. I tried to stay away from trends or “wow factors” that are more permanent to an interior, and that I might feel were a mistake later. I think I spent too much on the flooring, and would have done a material more durable than the bamboo.

Start clean and basic (think museum space) and let your artwork or a few unique furniture pieces stand out. Also, it’s more affordable to invest in quality materials in smaller spaces, such as marble countertops, so have fun with a few special details.

Thank you, Travis Smith!

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