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before and after

Before & After: A Hoboken Row House Apartment

by Annie Werbler

Hoboken may have a slight reputation as a party town, but its prewar charm and proximity to New York City make it an ideal escape with an easy commute. Photo editor Zoey Klein lives in the northern New Jersey hamlet in a wonky but charming apartment with her boyfriend, Paul Butler, and their cat, Smudge. Zoey realized she could get a little more space for her money here, and wasn’t afraid of a place that needed a bit of work, coming from a family of extreme DIYers and construction pros. The place had previously served as a crash pad for local grad students disinterested in anything interior design-related, but the unit had great bones and ample space for a classic, 1890s brownstone studio row house.

The place hadn’t been painted in years, and the resulting finishes were peeling, gloppy, and a collection of colors that resembled “varying shades of baby poo.” There were holes and hooks in every wall besides those in the walk-in closet. In a three-month whirlwind, Zoey set about painting crisp greys and whites to clean up the decorative surfaces, then layered in artwork and furniture for warmth. Now two years later, and with Paul’s help, she’s redoing everything again — only this time trying to be thoughtful instead of making the situation less horrible as quickly as possible. The next round of changes will unfold over six months as the pair finish their bedroom and work toward the living space and kitchen. Zoey would love to do more substantial renovations, but that isn’t quite financially responsible — nor feasible — in a rental. It’s really the little things that seem the most challenging to her — lots of bad paint jobs that have left closet doors hard to open and close, an ancient radiator and no central air, doors that don’t hang straight, and not a level wall or square corner in the whole place.

Zoey thinks the building had been divided into SRO units for many years of its long history. There is a sealed second door in the bedroom that exits into the hallway, and many nonsensical wires and phone jacks that are more trouble than they’re worth to remove. She also suspects the kitchen might have been a porch at some point, and was later enclosed — the window between the dining area and the kitchen has the original pulls and sashes buried deep within the paint. You can read more about the transformation and discoveries at Zoey’s personal home improvement blog, 3rd & PARK. —Annie

Photography by Zoey Klein

Before & After: A Hoboken Rowhouse Apartment, on Design*Sponge
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In Zoey Klein's Hoboken apartment, a yard sale dresser that was covered in layers of paint was stripped and updated with modern hardware. The bits of remaining paint add character, while the natural wood tone helps warm up the whitewashed space.
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Peeling paint and an unsightly radiator made the bedroom feel dark and sad, but big windows, a giant closet, crisp white walls, and black-painted trimwork highlight the architecture and make the space seem lighter and larger.
Before & After: A Hoboken Rowhouse Apartment, on Design*Sponge
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An Etsy macrame plant hanger and painted pot by Zoey contain a bit of green life in the bedroom.
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Smudge the cat oversees all design projects in the apartment.
Before & After: A Hoboken Rowhouse Apartment, on Design*Sponge
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Zoey's dad helped her build out closet storage using pieces of her former bookshelves. To her, a walk-in closet in the NYC area is priceless!
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Before, the walk-in closet was an empty room without even a single hook.
7/16
A simple sleeve-style cover makes the old but functional radiator less of a focal point.
8/16
A mid-century modern dresser houses some of Paul's clothes as well as the couple's television. Shelves above the door and the dresser store a vast amount of books and give the room a library vibe.
9/16
The formerly peeling green and brown paint was the least of Zoey's problems - she worried that the living room was too small to be outfitted with any real furniture.
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An overview of the whole space from the apartment's entryway, through the dining area.
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Zoey's grandmother's landscape painting overlooks an antique farm table from her home as well.
12/16
Zoey carved out a dining area in a previously-unused spot - a luxury in a small apartment.
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The built-in cupboards offer a lot of storage, but are unfortunately covered in about 15 sloppy paint jobs.
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The large but oddly-planned kitchen was covered in yellow paint and cooking grease, but an island made of metro shelving and an IKEA butcher block top enhances its functionality.
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The kitchen dish rack was handmade by Zoey's stepdad's grandfather in Sri Lanka. He later modified the base to drain water directly into the sink below.
Before & After: A Hoboken Rowhouse Apartment, on Design*Sponge
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The apartment's efficient layout makes use of every nook and cranny in the space's 482 square feet.

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