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21 TIPS FROM MAKEOVER MASTERS

We asked AD100 architects and designers to share their expert strategies for successful renovations—from layout basics to dazzling finishing touches. Read more.

LAURA SARTORI RIMINI AND ROBERTO PEREGALLI, STUDIO PEREGALLI

Architect/Designers
“Whether renovating a space or creating a new one, we first consider its context—where it is located, in what kind of climate. Then we imagine a history of that place, using traces of its actual past or, perhaps, bits invented by us.”
1

JAMIE DRAKE

Interior Designer
“When laying out a space, I often begin by placing the largest piece, such as a sofa, at the farthest distance from the room’s entry. If there is a window with a view or lovely light, I always put seating there as well.”
2

THAD HAYES

Interior Designer
“With most projects, it’s expected that much of the bud­get will be taken up by functional things—electric, heating, air-conditioning— that don’t add visual interest or beauty. Even though clients are more likely to remember the gorgeous staircase than the heated bath floor, on a cold winter morning that warm floor is pretty wonderful.”
3

DAVID MANN, MR ARCHITECTURE + DECOR

Architect/Designer
“For any renovation, I start by thinking about what should be salvaged. I am often proudest of the elements I did not remove but instead made work when it would have been easier just to throw them out.”
4

STEVEN GAMBREL

Interior Designer
“Prewar detailing can feel too elaborate for some clients. Lacquering those rooms in strong tones makes them seem fresh and unexpected.”5

BRIAN SAWYER, SAWYER|BERSON

Architectural Designer
“When working on a renovation, particularly for a place with a special history, we love being inspired by an existing element. It can be anything—a flooring pattern, paneling, a trim profile. Exploring a small detail and letting it lead the design gives a project aesthetic continuity that speaks to the space’s former life.”6

STEVEN HARRIS

Architect
“All the lacquer in the world cannot overcome a clumsy soffit.”
7

RAFAEL DE CÁRDENAS

Architect/Designer
“I’m a stickler for doors and walls being lined up at the same height. I prefer to create variation in furniture or wall and ceiling treatments.”
8

SHAWN WATTS, LEROY STREET STUDIO

Architect
“We love renovating onetime industrial buildings into modern residences. The challenge lies in bringing warmth to rusty steel, brick, and monumental proportions. We do it through materials—every wood tone has to be welcoming but strong enough to stand up to masonry. Each new component has to feel significant, otherwise it seems wimpy.”9

ROBIN STANDEFER, ROMAN AND WILLIAMS

Interior Designer
“Stephen [Alesch] and I are fierce about preserving the character of old spaces. We try to stabilize elements—maintaining their patina, their idiosyncrasies.”
10

MADELINE STUART

Interior Designer
“For kitchens and baths in historic houses, we design millwork using traditional cabinet details and appropriate hardware. Shortcuts like overlay instead of inset doors and European hinges rather than butt hinges are a mistake if you want a period look.”
11

ALAN WANZENBERG

Architect/Designer
“Every job has an Achilles’ heel. You just have to be experienced enough and patient enough to handle it once you discover it.”

PHOTO: SAYLOR H. DURSTON

Alan Wanzenberg

EMILY SUMMERS

Interior Designer
“Lamps, sconces, and chandeliers should always have star status, as they fill important eye-level space. They are the jewelry in a room, so splurge!”

PHOTO: NIKOLAS KOENIG

Emily Summers

ALLAN GREENBERG

Architect
“Additions and renovations can mix periods and styles, but they should still relate to the original, whether you choose to reference continuity or difference.”

PHOTO: MICHAEL MORAN

Allan Greenberg

GIL SCHAFER

Architect
“Additions and renovations can mix periods and styles, but they should still relate to the original, whether you choose to reference continuity or difference.”

PHOTO: ERIC PIASECKI

Gil Schafer
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PENNY DRUE BAIRD, DESSINS

Interior Designer
“Unlike with the swirl and stipple effects of the 1970s and ’80s, painting today is a question of refinement and quality. I prefer walls with sheen and moldings that match the wall color.”

PHOTO: SIMON UPTON

Penny Drue Baird, Dessins

ROGER THOMAS

Interior Designer
“When there is a stone floor in a room, I like to extend it up the wall as part of the baseboard. This greatly expands the sense of space.”

PHOTO: ROGER DAVIES

Roger Thomas

MICHAEL S. SMITH

Interior Designer
“If you were to turn a house up­side down and shake it, everything that remained attached—knobs, handles, light fixtures—should be of the period. Once the house has that basic integrity, the decoration can be anything you want.”

PHOTO: BJÖRN WALLANDER

Michael S. Smith

BUNNY WILLIAMS

Interior Designer
“When it comes to bedrooms, size really dictates what you can do. Canopy beds make a space feel cozy. Wonderful in rooms with high ceilings, they are even better with low ceilings, because they make the space look taller.”

PHOTO: PIETER ESTERSOHN

Bunny Williams

LEE F. MINDEL, SHELTON, MINDEL & ASSOCIATES

Architect/Designer
“If you’re preserving some­thing historic, you have to be careful you’re not saving features that aren’t right for the way we live today, especially when it comes to once purely utilitarian spaces like kitchens and baths, where we now spend more time.”

PHOTO: JOSHUA W. MCHUGH

Lee F. Mindel, Shelton, Mindel & Associates

ALEXA HAMPTON, MARK HAMPTON LLC

Interior Designer
“Renovations are truly a psychological perfect storm: stress about time and money, a sentimental reluctance to change, and impatience for gratification. But in the end having your home be ‘just so’ is the ultimate reward.”

PHOTO: SCOTT FRANCES

Alexa Hampton, Mark Hampton LLC
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