With school starting, lots of leases renewing or expiring, and both green leaves and warm weather beginning to fade, September marks a time of change for many. That’s why it’s especially fitting that it’s Transformation Month on Apartment Therapy. Throughout the whole month, we’ll be taking a closer look at shifts big and small, from tiny tweaks to major renovations to personal routine changes.
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We’re kicking things off with the BIG changes. Apartment Therapy features one home project every day in its Before and After series, but it’s a little more rare to see whole-home transformations. After all, redoing an entire home takes lots of time, money, and patience! Thankfully, getting to peek at the rewards of that labor doesn’t take much effort at all — and it’s almost as gratifying. (Hey, I said almost.)
Whether you’re hoping to get some inspiration for your own future home redo, or you’re just wanting to marvel at some seriously stellar remodels, these 10 whole-home redos are worth a look.
1. A NYC Rental Apartment’s Transformation Uncovered Envy-Inducing Original Details
Upper West Sider Hattie Kolp might just have the greatest apartment luck of all time. First off, she’s lived in this 1910 1,500-square-foot apartment since she was 10, so it’s rent-controlled (a true win!). Second, the apartment’s full of original, beautiful architectural details. “The wall moldings, pocket doors, fireplaces, high ceilings, statement trim work, parquet floors, and the unique layout all make me feel like I’m living in a time gone by,” Hattie says. She’s spent the past two years making those details sing again in a space all her own, as her parents have now moved out.
“Growing up here, I never really noticed the beauty in the original details,” Hattie says. “Many of them had actually been covered up or taken away by previous tenants. The pocket doors, for example, were covered on both sides with sheetrock, and someone had built shelving units on top. I’m not sure if it was to create more wall space, or division between rooms — but my biggest challenge was getting to work on undoing the ‘improvements’ from over the years, and getting this apartment back in its original condition.” See more of Hattie’s restoration work in her apartment here.
2. This LA Apartment Is Full of Luxe-Looking (But Renter-Friendly) Ideas
When designer and DIYer Drew Scott of Lone Fox Home first toured this three-bedroom apartment, he actually hated it. It had popcorn ceilings, a bedroom with mirrors glued to the walls, and dated bathrooms — but it did have some great bones.
With dark paint choices, peel-and-stick wallpaper, peel-and stick tiles, and other clever DIYs (plus the approval a very friendly landlord), Drew has made the space his own. “We moved into our apartment right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, so it was the perfect time to really work on each room and makeover the apartment,” Drew says. “I had so much fun brainstorming and really working on my craft. It was my first apartment I could really transform and make my own.” See more before and after photos here.
3. A Designer’s ’70s Era Australia Beach House Got a Modern and Inspiring Update
The inspiration for this beachy Byron Bay, Australia home, owned by interior designer Catherine Armstrong and her husband Michael, was “a little bit Palm Springs and a bit Scandinavian,” Catherine says. Her home transformation involved pulling up layers of old tile and laying down new, gorgeous natural-toned ones, and much of the home’s footprint was kept the same.
Catherine’s DIY advice is this: Always use paint sample pots to try out colors on your walls, test curtain fabric samples on your windows by using sticky tape (and be sure to test them during the day and night), use masking tape or newspaper sheets to create a furniture layout without doing any heavy lifting, and scour Etsy for one-of-a-kind handles, hooks, and other hardware. Read more about how Catherine’s home came to life here.
4. A 1909 House With Victorian Details Has Its ‘Creepy, Sexy, Vintage Vibes’ Restored
Jennifer Laskey’s 1909 California home is Craftsman-meets-Victorian-meets-“creepy, sexy, and vintage.” Also known as the Historic Hobart Wallsworth home, Jennifer acquired it as part of the Mills Act, a California-based tax incentive awarded to a small number of applicants per year who wish to preserve the historic character of a home. In exchange for a property tax credit, homeowners submit a plan to spend the tax savings (and then some) on restoration.
“This was a huge plus to me and luckily scared away most other buyers,” Jenn says. “I am a big fan of these programs and protected enclaves… I feel really strongly that the design has to be partly based on the architecture and the bones of the house,” she says. See more of her history-filled home with glam touches here.
5. A 450-Square-Foot Studio’s Mirrored Closet Was Converted into a Clever Bed Alcove
Apartment owner Franco Cheng’s 450-square-foot Toronto apartment’s tight quarters “posed an interesting challenge for design and renovation,” he says. With clever space-dividing (and space-saving) changes, like knocking out the apartment’s wardrobe in the corner and replacing it with a bed, building a louvered barrier between the door and the bed, and adding a long shelf that floats all the way Across one wall of the apartment, he made the space functional for sleeping, eating, bathing, working, and relaxing.
“Small space requires foresight and planning to maximize its potential,” Franco says. “My advice is to take stock of your storage needs and take advantage of wall space and multi-purpose furniture to have your needs met.” Mirrors can also make a small space feel brighter and larger, he adds. See more of his efficient apartment in the sky here.
6. A 1920s Bungalow Gets a Groovy, Earthy Update Fit for a Family of 3
Musician Jacki Warren, who shares this Michigan home with her partner, Jacob Bullard, and their son, Benji, says one of her biggest obstacles as a renter is working within a limited budget to make space feel more personalized, but she doesn’t let those constraints stop her.
Her design secret? Powerful punches of black and white. “I find that strategically using white and pops of black bring depth and create some dynamic and drama in an otherwise flat space,” she says. In her kitchen, for instance, while her landlord wouldn’t allow her to paint the cherry wood cabinets, she used renter-friendly black contact paper and painted the walls white to create a crisp, clean-looking, high-contrast space. See the rest of her renter-friendly home transformation here.
7. A Decaying House Built in 1881 Was Transformed with a Moody, Maximalist Remodel
This Missouri home is over 140 years old, and it once belonged to a brick mason. It makes sense that the home’s original brickwork was pretty impressive, but it took a lot of work to restore and uncover, homeowner, artist, and antique collector Mick Whitcomb says.
He and his partner, Paige (also an artist), spent two years restoring the 1881 brick beauty by adding beautiful built-ins, chandeliers, and hardwood floors, and adding tons of antiques from their collection. Mick’s favorite DIY detail is a custom bar he built behind a picture frame. Click here to check it out.
8. A 500-Square-Foot Rental’s Budget Update Includes a Now Unrecognizable Entryway
One of renter Abigail Sherrod Sykes’ biggest inspirations for her home (and life)? “Little Women.” Her 500-square-foot midtown Atlanta home, which she shares with her husband Casey, is full of cottage-y vibes, most of which there were they moved in, like the exposed brick walls, the quaint kitchen, clawfoot tub, and huge windows. They’ve spent the past two years changing the home to their liking without losing any of that coziness.
The couple’s favorite change is the one they’ve made to the entryway, which is now an office with a “built-in” desk that Abigail helped design and that Casey and Abigail’s executed dad. “The before of the office was your basic entryway — credenza for some storage, coat rack, mirror, catchall,” Abigail says. “It was fine, but it wasn’t visually exciting, nor did it serve much purpose, and when you live in such a small space, you need every square foot to serve as much purpose as possible.” Read here to see how they created the new home office plus other updates.
9. A Dated Queens Co-op’s Stunning Reno Includes Budget Hacks, Custom Built-Ins, and a Divine Dining Nook
This once-green-carpeted co-op in Queens underwent a major change from 2020 to 2022. “It was covered in dust and had lime green carpet throughout, except for the paths [the previous tenant] must have walked everyday, where the carpet fibers had completely worn away,” designer and owner Meng Ai says of the “before.” Meng and his partner, Andrew, have since learned from their co-op neighbors that the previous tenant, named Rosalind, bought the apartment with her husband before the building was even completed in the mid-1950s.
“We imagine that all the sharp lines, the boxy aesthetic, the giant square pillar in the middle of the living room, must have looked exciting and new for them,” Meng says. “Suddenly the simple post-war architecture started to feel like a blank canvas for us to give the apartment a second beginning, as its second occupants. We aimed to transform the space into a timeless, functional, and comfortable home.” Check out their full transformation here.
10. A 720-Square-Foot House Untouched for Decades Got an Incredible Remodel
Interior designer Isabelle Dahlin and her husband, Brandon Boudet, share a teal-and-white beauty in Los Angeles was once a lot more beastly. When they first bought it, it had been untouched for decades.
“Everyone thought we were crazy to buy it, but I could see it had great bones,” Isabelle says. “After 13 odd years of living in our previous house, I was looking for a new project and this was something I could really sink my teeth into … We knew the place was going to be a total fixer-upper. The house was very dark and dingy so we also ended up opening up the ceilings to expose the original beams and put in skylight windows, which completely transformed the place. We also had to put in a new foundation, which we did not expect.” Isabelle’s favorite addition is a deck and outdoor hangout they are added to the back of the home. See their full home here.
This piece is part of Transformation Month, where we’re showing off amazing home makeovers, brilliant tiny tweaks, inspiring before & afters, and so much more. Head on over here to see it all!