a design plan, that is. that’s right, folks. above is the OFFICIAL CONSTRUCTION PLAN FOR THE APARTMENT I AM BUYING IN NEW YORK CITY.

sorry. just had to get that out of my system. but here she is in all her glory! above is what anjie prepared – all the notes are mine, obviously. let’s dig in, shall we?

i have big plans for my little apartment, including busting down an entryway wall to bring in more natural light, and relocating a hallway closet in favor of a little breakfast bar. i’m hoping to hang two of these above the breakfast bar, further creating the illusion of light and space in a rather small area.


showing my friends where the walls will get knocked down and the breakfast bar will magically appear.

all the kitchen appliances are staying in the same spot, which will hopefully save me both time and money. the back wall will be uppers and lowers, while the front wall will house the oven, sink, dishwasher, and bevy of reclaimed wood shelving. like what’s below, but with reclaimed wood instead of marble.


like this, but with wood.

in the main living area, i’ll be creating a small dining nook, mounting the TV and creating a cozy living room area where i can snuggle with penny and watch orphan black marathons til the cows come home. fingers crossed i have enough room for a slim bench along the window for extra seating, or maybe even two occasional chairs (!). the drawing above makes it seem like i might have room for some serious shelving (or maybe a chic sideboard) on the wall opposite the dining nook, but until i can get in there with my measuring tape, i can’t be sure.

in the bedroom, i’ll be adding a floor to ceiling closet (#clotheshorse), and maybe a reading nook if i can swing it. the room is relatively small, so it’ll take some finagling to figure out where the bed/dresser/etc fit best (especially keeping in mind that one of those windows will get a big ass AC unit).


the bedroom, which isn’t nearly as dark as it looks here. the unit is a corner apartment, which means it gets lots of eastern light.

lastly is my little bathroom, where my pride and joy (a refinished clawfoot tub) will live. i can’t recess a medicine cabinet, so it’s more likely that i’ll go for a statement mirror and some small shelves…but that remains to be seen.

will these plans change? probably. will i cry when they do? definitely. but for now, i can stare at this pretty little drawing with stars in my eyes and see not a shithole that needs a ton of work, not a place that requires mountains and hours or work, but my future home.

and that, my friends, is pretty freaking cool.




my architect anjie cho and her drafter measuring and taking notes to draw up the official renovation plans for the apartment

you know what’s really exciting? standing in your soon to be apartment with a real, licensed architect, and talking through the official “plans” for renovation. after the disaster that was my first interaction with an “architect” you could say i was a little weary of moving forward. B had quoted me $3k, all in, to draw up the plans, hire an expeditor, and get everything submitted to both the management company and the city. that number sounded REAL GOOD to me.

but then he went all donald trump on me and basically said, “YOU’RE FIRED (as a client)!” and that was that. it was on to plan B (or, actually, plan A). in this case, A stands for anjie cho, another name my contractor gave me after B fell through. unlike B, who i quickly learned wasn’t even a licensed architect (holy shit new york city what kind of place are you?!), anjie is the real deal.

and guess what?! SHE’S A WOMAN! hell yes. no dicks around here (literally and figuratively). my initial interactions with anjie were so painless, i could barely believe they were happening. i emailed her on memorial day while on the train back from massachusetts. i figured i’d hear from her later in the week, once she was back in my office, but gave my phone number just in case.

to my surprise (and delight!), anjie called about 15 minutes after receiving my email, and proceeded to fill me in on a few things:

  1. she’d heard of B. he was a well-known character in the lower east side real estate game. he got the job done, but he wasn’t exactly above board, if you know what i mean. in fact, he wasn’t even a licensed architect. WTF?
  2. real architects cost more than $3k. anjie’s fees, along with her expeditor, were going to put me around double that. but that was the cost to have things done right, and most importantly, by the book (aka the law).
  3. if i didn’t do things by the book, i could risk legal issues when i went to sell the grand apartment later on. HELLO, danger zone, nice to meet you…NOT.
  4. the first step in this process was the management company. they were the ones who decided whether or not city approval was required. and if it wasn’t, i’d save a hefty chunk of change.

it was basically like being baptized. unlike B, who had literally told me nothing and given me nothing, anjie filled a sista in. BIG TIME. she made me feel like i could understand the process, and that she’d help me through it–and that she would do it in a way that would ensure i wasn’t getting screwed. because who wants to get screwed by a guy who’s not even licensed? NOT ME.

anjie was such a breath of fresh air that i basically said YOLO to the increase in price and resolved myself to find some cheaper lighting fixtures and maybe give up my fancy bathroom tile. or at least, to find some freelance work to make up the difference (holla if you need a writer, friends!).

did i want to pay double the original quote? definitely not. but do i want it done right, and only done once? YOU BET. i won’t be able to confidently say this until i’m on the other side, but my gut tells me that when things are suspiciously cheap, it generally means there’s some under the table BS going on. and when things are on par with industry standards, price-wise (and i should note here that i got multiple quotes beyond anjie’s and she was by far the most reasonable, and the one i liked the most), there’s usually a reason for it. it means you’re getting good work done by good people who know their shit. given that i do not know my shit at all, i need someone who does.

so i signed the contract, handed over my deposit, and we GOT TO WORK. well, really, anjie got to work. i just let her into the building.

tomorrow, the fruits of her labors (and my super high level design plan, eeep!).




lots of work to be done here. hence, the need for an architect.

when i first started this process, i figured i’d have to deal with an asshole or two. this is new york, this process is complicated, the industry is filled (mostly) with me. assholes were bound to be a part of the puzzle.

still, i hoped to be wrong. and for the initial six months, i was. my broker, eric, is nothing short of an angel. my lawyer andy thinks i’m the most obnoxious person ever placed on this earth, but he has yet to yell at me. and doug, the mortgage broker eric referred me to, is a man with a never-ending supply of patience. he has answered approximately 5,000 questions, assured me that i’m capable and smart, and promised me that not only will he not let me fall flat on my face, he’ll see me through all the way to closing.

those are the good men. but the bad ones–well, let’s just say they’ve made me question my faith in dudes. one of these bad ones is an “architect” (quotes are necessary, i will explain why in a bit) we’ll call B. B was referred to me by my contractor, Shmulik, who has, thus far, also placed himself firmly in the “wonderful and helpful and very much not an asshole” category.

but let’s back up a bit. why, you might be wondering, do i even need an architect? that’s a good question. it’s one i had myself. turns out, when you want to renovate an apartment in new york city, you can’t just bust down walls and go all peter paul and mary “if i had a hammmmmmmer” on this bitch. quite the opposite, actually. first, you have to get approval from the management company in charge of your building, and by virtue, their engineer and architect. then, once management has approved, they can (and usually, will) dictate that your plans are submitted to (and approved by) the new york city department of buildings. you know those permits you see pasted on the windows of construction zones? if you want to renovate your teeny little totally not important to anyone apartment, you’ll need some of the babies below.


and guess what? you can’t do any of that on your own. first, you have to hire an architect, who will draw up the plans for renovation, and help you prepare what you need to submit to the management company. then, you’ll also need an expeditor, a person whose sole purpose is to go down to the DOB and wait on line for you, moving your shit along so that you don’t have to wait 6-8 weeks for DOB approval. your expeditor usually comes from your architect, as does an asbestos inspector (also needed for DOB approval).

{for more on this process, see this nytimes article – which nearly gave me a heart attack}

in short, an architect is pretty important. you can’t do it without them. so it’s important you find one that you a) like, and b) can do the job and do it right.

now that we’ve got the basics covered, back to B. B was, i was told, a guy who could draw up the plans and help me submit to the board. he was fast, and he was cheap. those two things alone should have been a giant flaring WARNING WARNING symbol to me, but as a girl who knows she likes pretty things, anywhere i can save money and reallocate it to, say, a lighting fixture, i’m inclined to do so.

i first spoke to him on a friday morning. he was the epitome of a fast talking new yorker, a guy that seemed determined to “educate” me on the phone about all i didn’t know. i wanted to work with him, so i kept my mouth shut when he talked down to me like a stupid child who didn’t know her ass from her elbow. he said he had plans of my unit in his files, and he’d send me something by the afternoon.

the afternoon rolled around, and guess what? nothing came. he’d asked me to email him some info; i’d done it first thing. no response to the email either. i waited until monday to follow up, at which point he made an excuse about being busy and said i’d have it first thing tuesday.

by friday, i still didn’t have anything. that was week 1. the same thing happened in week 2. i’d follow up, he’d promise to get the plans to me, i’d receive nothing. by memorial day, i was fed up. so when i got him on the phone that morning, two weeks after his initial promise to get something out to me same day, i told him if he couldn’t get it to me when he said he was going to, i would find someone who could.

i meant it to come out as a firm but respectful missive. just because i was a woman didn’t mean he could walk all over me. i might be new to this process, but i know when i’m being jerked around.

to say that B did not respond well to being threatened is an understatement. he inhaled deeply, and then said, practically vibrating with anger, “GIVE THE JOB TO SOMEONE ELSE. I DO NOT WANT IT.”

and then he hung up on me. HUNG UP ON ME! what is this, kindergarten?! the only person who ever hangs up on me is my mother, and she’s allowed because, well, you know, she birthed and raised me.

i was so shocked that i literally stood on the street with my phone in my hand, staring at the screen, wondering if that had actually just happened. i waited a few minutes for him to call back and apologize. he did not. so i called my contractor, and told him that if he didn’t mind, i’d need another recommendation for an architect.

lucky for me, he had another name. to read part 2 (and to see the renovation plans!), come back tomorrow.