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New York apartment renovation

If you’ve ever spent any time in New York City, you know just how small the average unit runs. Even apartments with multiple units typically lack any surplus of space, providing just enough square footage to live.

And while there’s nothing quite like living in The Big Apple, that lack of space can start to weigh on you. That’s exactly what happened to Brian Landman and Sean Gilleran—Murray Hill residents living in a pre-war co-op building. 

After living in the space for upwards of five years, the pair realized the unit simply “didn’t fit their lifestyle,” anymore, says Jordan Slocum of The Brownstone Boys. “They’re natural hosts—they love hosting friends and family—and they’re full of personality,” he explains. “But, the whole apartment was all chopped up. It didn’t make any sense for their lifestyle.” 

What’s more, the bedroom had a louvered closet that was “so horrible, we couldn’t ignore it,” says Barry Bordelon. It may sound harsh, but the offending closet was problematic from both a functional and aesthetic perspective. Not only was it unattractive, but one partner had a collection of shoes that was “taking over the bedroom” and posing a storage issue that was wearing on the other partner, he explains. 

To help modernize the apartment and make it more functional for the pair, the Brownstone Boys knocked down a number of walls to reconfigure the space, making the entire unit more of an open-concept layout in which the kitchen flows into the living space. They also turned to BOXI to Semihandmade for help maximizing usable storage space.

In the kitchen, they used BOXI Salt Shaker cabinets to create a large pantry area on the left side of the oven. Between this and the rest of the kitchen cabinets, Landman and Gilleran now have plenty of space for all of their everyday and hosting essentials. 

Design by The Brownstone Boys; Photography by Nick Glimenakis; Styled by Beth Clevenstine

In the bedroom, BOXI really steals the show. The Brownstone Boys lined the entire wall with cabinets to create a floor-to-ceiling closet system that holds the aforementioned shoes, plus so much more. Plus, there’s no denying the semi-custom closet is a real eye-catching design feature in the room. 

Slocum and Bordelon also added BOXI to the long, narrow hallway to make the otherwise unused space more efficient. With the cabinets, they were able to carve out a small office space, complete with storage above and beside the desk. 

Now, though the overall square footage didn’t change, the apartment has more usable space and storage that your average New York City dwelling, plus has gorgeous modern design features—custom oak shelves, charcoal hex tile, stone quartz, Schoolhouse electric fixtures, and more—that strike the perfect balance of modern and traditional for an early 1900s Manhattan apartment building. 


What’s the best paint color for my kitchen cabinets? How do I personalize my rental without renovating? Which interior design trends will stick around beyond 2021? How did marble become so popular in kitchen design (and should I splurge on my dream countertops)? Our interior design journeys are filled with questions which we at SemiStories attempt to answer every week through expert interviews, inspiring home tours, and trend reports. “Do As a Designer Does,” our monthly advice column, takes us behind the scenes of kitchen and bathroom design (and beyond) by spotlighting the best brains in the business. Here, we turn the microphone over to you to ask all your burning interior design, trend, and renovation questions to your favorite experts, from Sarah Sherman Samuel to Bobby Berk. Have a question? Shoot us a message on Instagram, or email us at for a chance to be featured! Have you ever wondered why certain details exist in your home? Maybe you’ve questioned who came up with the idea for forks, or perhaps you’ve contemplated how pantries have evolved over centuries—after all, both can be intriguing in their own right. The truth is, most of what we surround ourselves with at home has an interesting story to tell. In our monthly series “Design History” with (actual) design historian Amy Azzarito, we’ll explore the backstories of your favorite things. Home tours are intriguing for a reason: they give us a rare glimpse into the way other people live and inspire us to improve our own spaces. Maybe it’ll motivate you to paint your laundry room a bright sunshine yellow, persuade you a stacked teal backsplash is the way to go, or convince you the entryway is the perfect place for a gumball machine (hey, why not?). Whatever you take away, we have no doubt you’ll get tons of kitchen and bathroom design ideas to bring home. Are farmhouse islands here to stay? What will be the biggest interior design and hardware trends in 2021? Will the pandemic affect what homes of the future look like? Our weekly trend stories will keep your finger on the pulse of interior design, renovating, and more.