Things to Consider When Renovating a Condo


Renovating a stand-alone house and renovating a condo unit can produce similar-looking results, but the processes can be very different. Each renovation of a condominium space comes with its own limitations, possibilities, and strategies, all of which you should consider before beginning a project, even before purchasing a space. To make sure you aren’t hit with any unpleasant surprises, here are some things to consider before diving into your condo design project:

Know the rules

The first thing to understand before planning a condo renovation is the relevant policies of your condo board. Your board may or may not have policies that affect cosmetic decisions or material selections, but most likely it will have policies about what days and times renovations can take place, when materials may be brought into the building, which elevator can be used and so on. Not checking on these logistical details in advance can cause massive headaches later when trying to schedule deliveries or tradespeople. Your board may require a permit or approval to begin any form of work.

Policies such as these are in place to keep your neighbors happy, so overall they are a positive thing. However, they can slow down a renovation process, so you should give yourself a long timeline. Discuss a projected timeline with a knowledgeable board member and your designer or contractor, and then add at least two months to the timeline so your expectations stay realistic.

Know your limits

It’s important to know your project limitations before you fall in love with an idea that you won’t be able to turn into reality.

Tight condo spaces sometimes include odd-angled walls or intrusive columns, but that’s often because they cannot be moved structurally. It’s important to know which walls and other elements can be removed or opened and which ones cannot, so bringing in an expert to consult early is wise.

Move the eye, not your fixtures

Usually, bathroom fixtures cannot be moved any significant distance — at least not without a massive expense — which means you’re going to have to leave that toilet where it is, and you may not be able to add that second sink.

What you can do, however, is restructure how the eye sees the space. By choosing some finishes to blend away and others to stand out, you can make the eye focus on the most beautiful elements.

For example, install a glass shower panel or minimalist shower curtain, all white fixtures, and pale white or off-white tile. Then use a bold or rich vanity in a quality finish to act as the statement piece that defines the room.

Stay flexible

Clients often come into renovation projects with a lot of decisions already made about what they do and do not want, not just in a more general sense, but sometimes in very specific ways.

For example, clients often want a large fridge, or a king-sized bed, or a double sink. However, being flexible on some of these details is smart: When you see what you can get if you’re willing to make a trade-off, you may realize some of those priorities aren’t must-haves after all.

For example, being willing to use a smaller fridge can free up a lot of space for storage that you can then use for all sorts of luxuries you may not have thought of.

Have your rooms pull double duty

Your floor plan is concrete – often literally – in a condo. So if the number of rooms you have to work with doesn’t exactly allow for a desired space, create a multi use room. The easiest and best way to accomplish this is by installing a Murphy bed, or wallbed. A bedroom instantly becomes a combination bedroom and home office or guest room and yoga studio – whatever you desire. This preserves the comfort of a sleeping space while reclaiming all that floor space that you don’t need covered by a bed when you’re awake.

Don’t be afraid to paint

You may hate a dramatically dark paint job. Or you may love it but worry what the next owner would think. Ultimately, the risk in choosing an unusual paint color is overrated. While painting a whole room (with several coats) may seem like a big hassle to undo a dramatic paint hue, it’s a small part of the budget for an entire renovation.

When you eventually resell, you should assume that you’ll repaint at the time to update to a fresh coat in a trendy shade. In the meantime, painting the walls in hues you love will give a lot of life to the space at a relatively lower price than many other potential upgrades.

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