Should You Hire an Architect When Renovating Your NYC Apartment?

JULY 6, 2012

Whether the listing says “bring your architect,” or you’d just like to spruce up your current apartment, create space or add value, the question remains the same: The Rockefeller Apartments at 24 West 55th StreetShould you invest in an architect to assist in your condo renovation project?

While basic renos and kitchen/bath updating may just require good craftsmanship and a competent contractor, more complicated changes to your apartment’s design or structure would benefit from an architect’s expertise. Having an architect draw preliminary designs is an important first step.You’ll also want one on board when it comes to navigating permits and zoning regulations. Architects know how interiors and buildings should be arranged and can find the best way to optimize your space both functionally and visually. If you’ve got air rights, for example, the sky’s the limit, and an architect can help you design an airy aerie that not only attracts attention and admiration, but also sun and open views.

For those mulling hiring an architect, consider the “glass cube” penthouse in the Skylofts condo building at 145 Hudson Street in TriBeCa. When the developer converted the building, the company dismantled the existing penthouse and created the proverbial “cherry on top” by hiring noted architect James Carpenter to construct a 7,500-square-foot glass exterior. The unit was recently listed for $48 million – not a bad return on investment.

On a more personal level, examples of architect-designed interiors appear frequently in magazines such as Architectural Digest; a pied-a-terre at the classic Rockefeller Apartments at 24 West 55th Street was given a total re-do by an architect and designer with whom the apartment’s owners had worked over the years. On an even smaller scale, a tiny 560-square-foot studio – known as the “transformer loft” – which started out as a dilapidated pre-war apartment was transformed into a spacious-feeling loft by the architects at Studio Garneau, who created an open plan layout and plenty of multifunctional storage options (via Inhabitat).

If your budget is more limited, you can hire an architect to consult on an hourly basis – to draw up preliminary designs and help navigate through the necessary maze of approvals and permits, for example – rather than paying a full commission. You may not need a licensed architect to execute the plans once that step is covered. The best way to find a good architect is to get references; you’ll find recommendations for architects and other building design pros on real estate sites and in online forums.

Read more on this topic from Inman News.