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Name: Jill and Todd Simmons Location: Brooklyn, New York

Square footage: 1,079 Years lived in: 12

Jill and Todd Simmons renovated their three bedroom Brooklyn Brownstone apartment with storage and efficiency in mind, using materials that would wear well.

Improvement Center: What was the main goal of your renovation?

Jill Simmons: To organize and design. We’ve done it in waves. We started by reconfiguring the space to allow for more light and openness, then put in new flooring since it was sub-flooring and a mismatch when we moved in. We also added a laundry room since the shared washer and dryer were in the basement. We later renovated the kitchen and then the bathroom and then turned an office into a third bedroom.

IC: How would you describe your style?  

JS: Contemporary chic with French country and mid-century accents.

IC: Which home features are most important to you and why?

JS: Storage. The cabinetry. Storage and efficiency (living in a small space – 1,079 square feet) has driven the renovations in each room. We used reclaimed wood in several rooms and marble in the kitchen to have natural resources where they would make sense and add warmth to the apartment. Using materials that will “wear well” was important to us.

IC: Did you use a contractor or undertake the project alone?

JS: We used a contractor to do the initial flooring and to remove closets and create the laundry room. The job was structural and too much for us to do alone. With the kitchen, we used an architect and he brought in his own contractor as part of the job. On other projects, we’ve worked directly with builders or suppliers, like the cabinetry in the living room and the loft in the third bedroom and the bathroom.

IC: What was the biggest challenge you faced?

JS: Budget. Triple-bidding. Finding the time to get around to it

IC: How did you decide which bid to go with?

JS: Much of the deciding factor was chemistry, as well as price and craftsmanship. The man who built the loft in our daughter’s room became a good friend and it’s easier to collaborate if there’s a common sense of style and respect for the job, the space, etc. A lot can come up while the job is in progress and having a good personal relationship helps make it run smoothly.

IC: What was your favorite part of the project?

JS: Researching and dreaming about the possibilities was really exciting. But, ultimately, the completion was the best part!

IC: Anything you’d do differently if you could do it all again?

JS: Think more carefully about the kitchen appliances. For example, we wanted to “bring the outside in” and bought a stove with an indoor grill. But the stove is too powerful and gets too hot and sets off the smoke detector. We never grill. Anything.

IC: What took longest to finish?

JS: The kitchen. It went two months past the deadline. We did our dishes in the bathtub. We ate off a hot plate. My breast pump blew a fuse daily.

IC: Where did you splurge and where did you save?

JS: We splurged on the kitchen. It’s the central room of the apartment and where we spend 90% of our time. It ended up costing a solid 1/3 more than we budgeted for.  We saved on the smaller projects by doing them ourselves.

IC: What’s your best advice for homeowners undertaking their own home design/renovation?

JS: Be prepared for things to either take longer than you anticipate or cost more incrementally or both. Also live in the space long enough to determine your patterns, the light, the organization and home systems you’ll need to live better, easier. Let your patterns and passions determine how you want to feel in your space, then create it.

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