New York Apartments

bummshelOctober 10, 2003

Hi Everyone! I am a student in interior design and I am hoping someone here may be able to help me. My instructor gave me an assignment of coming up with a design plan for a dining room of a New york apartment. So I am trying to learn from anyone who may know a little something about city living like do all NY apartments have dining rooms, are they small, closed or open to other rooms, floor type, can you paint the walls. I would like to know anything and everything! Thank you in advance for any help you can give me! -Shelly

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Separate dining rooms are very uncommon in NYC apartments. You tend to find them in older places, called "pre-war". Many times they have been converted for use as second or third bedrooms. Almost all apartments in NYC have hardwood floors.

Currently I live in a pre-war apartment with a separate dining room. It is about 10x12 (I'm guessing) and has 3 windows, 2 facing the street(East) and one on the airshaft(North). There are 2 sets of French doors, one leading from the living room(West) and one leading into the study(East). The floor is light wood and the rooms has some pretty serious molding. There are picture frame panels on the walls. There is a fairly large radiator in one corner of the room. I doubt will paint the room, because it gets the best light in the apartment, and it seems so bright painted white. I could however, paint it any "light" color. Right now I am struggling with having very modern tastes in a very old building, completed circa 1910.

Previously my aparment had a combined living-dining area about 14 by 20. I could not paint the apartment, and the floors were a cherry color, high gloss. The apartment was very modern, with no trim or overhead lights. That building was completed in 1987.

Hope this helps you some! If you want more accurate measurements, I can take them for you.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2003 at 5:17PM
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Thanks Rayona for your post! Your apartment sounds very nice. Could you tell me if dining rooms are common in NY apartments. Do most apartments have dining rooms or are they only found in rentals that cost more? One of my friends was telling me about rent-control, that the more turn-arounds an apartment has, then the higher the rent will be and it doesn't matter if there is a dining room or not. She said you could have this big, beautiful apartment but if someone lived there for 15 years and just moved out, th rent would still be cheap cause they can't keep raising it. Is that true? The reason I ask is because for my project I have to establish a client and determine where in NY they live so I am trying to familiarize myself with the lifestyle without actually having to go there (although I would love too!)

    Bookmark   October 10, 2003 at 6:16PM
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Dining rooms are not common, and having one is expensive. I have lots of friends who live in large older aprtments, but they share them with other people, and the dining rooms have been turned into third bedrooms. Many people use their formal dining rooms as studies, because most NYers eat out a lot, and rarely have people over.

Rent control and dining rooms are totally separate issues. A certain percentage of apartments are either rent controlled, meaning the amount the landlord can charge is fixed, and some are rent-stabalized, meaning the rent cannot go up more than a certain % each year. My building has a couple of rent-stabalized places, but they will become free-market soon. If the rent goes over $2000 a month, the apartment is no longer governed by any sort of rent controls.

The sort of preson who has a separate dining room and uses it as such probably lives on the Upper East or West sides, or maybe in a nice brownstone in Brooklyn. They are professionals, 60/40 on whether or not they have kids, wife might stay at home or freelance. On the Upper East side, they are likely to have a very traditional style, leaning a little French (probably one of the Louis). UWS is more of a mixed bag. More likely to have children, and to have non-tradtional tastes and be very eclectic. It is also possible that you would need to account for some Judaica that a family might want on display, like an old menorah or a challah plate.

To give you a price-range idea, I pay $2850 a month for my place, and that is CHEAP! On the East side it would be $5000, if you could find it for rent. Elsewhere on the UWS it would run $3500-5000.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2003 at 10:00AM
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Just thought of another question, is it safe for me to assume that most apartment buildings, such as the pre-war, then have plaster walls also.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2003 at 12:17PM
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I've lived in some elderly EastCoast apartments:

Plaster and lathe walls, usually stained, cracked and ugly.
Teeeny tiny closets, small baths, no elevators.


On the plus side: high ceilings, often high enough to make short loft beds with storage) and big windows (where you have windows), great moldings. Hardwood floors under a lot of grime

    Bookmark   October 12, 2003 at 8:34AM
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I've lived in two upper Manhattan apartments (prewar; neither had a dining room, though one had been cut down from a larger apartment and may well have had one), and one Queens apartment (1921) w/ a 13x15 dining room, w/ a door on every wall.

I've seen a lot of apartments where the dining area is part of the living room.

Can you get the NYTimes? Look in the Real Estate section, and see what sorts of room descriptions are given. If there are new developments, there will be a floor plan; those are generally a pretty darn expensive place.

Nearly all prewar places have plaster and lath (or plaster over wire lath). Lots of moldings (one of my apts had a big rectangle of molding on every wall). Good hardwood floors.

Modern places may have drywall, but even then the fire codes for NYC mean a much more substantial construction than the typical midwestern apt. bldg. And for a modern place to have a separate dining room, you are talking MAJOR bucks.

There are homes in Manhattan, too--not very many of them, and they're usually skinny. Row houses, mostly, and these have nearly all been broken up into several apartments. I knew a few people who had a brownstone in Brooklyn, and they didn't have a separate dining room--it was part of the living room.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2003 at 10:20AM
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Go to, a high-end real estate company here in New York City, to see extremely detailed photos and floorplans for thousands of apartments in New York. As you'll see from the prices, this is high-end real estate -- then again, there isn't much but high-end real estate in Manhattan and the nicer parts of Brooklyn, which is where Corcoran deals.

I rent a floor-through apartment on the second floor of an old brownstone in Brooklyn. It's technically a one-bedroom with an office, dining room, living room, and galley kitchen in about 650 sq feet. In reality, it's a studio (no doors except the bathroom) with rooms all in a row divided by arches (no hallway). The "dining room" is a room with no windows between the bedroom and living room. We've lined it with bookshelves and painted it a dark color with white trim since it's already so hopelessly dark anyway. It's really not bad looking though, and we've had many a successful dinner party. If we could get a hanging lamp over the table, it would help eliminate the "hallway" feeling of the room. It is also rather annoying that we have to turn on the light to eat breakfast, but that's the way it is.

Dining rooms are fairly rare in New York. You'll find them in "classic sixes," which are mostly old twenties and thirties-style apartments that sell for millions on the upper east side. Sometimes you'll get a "dining alcove" which doubles as a foyer, and sometimes the dining room is a raised floor with or without railing in the living room. Or you'll have a long, narrow living room (20 by 12 feet) into which you can fit a dining room table. People who have small living rooms without eat-in kitchens -- this is probably the most common arrangement -- put up a small two-person table at one end of the living room. They limit themselves to cocktail parties or no parties at all. Parties are often held in bars and restaurants rather than apartments.

Tenement apartments on the Lower East Side (some in the Village) usually have three or four rooms all in a row with no hallway. The rooms are all pretty undifferentiated and don't often have fireplaces or details, even though they're old (many originally had stoves for heat and the bathrooms were shared and down the hall). You might find pretty much any age of person living in such a building, including two girls in their 20s just starting out in New York sharing a 650-sq-foot two bedroom with living room, kitchen, and bathroom in the middle.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2003 at 3:02PM
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What I remember about the older NY apartment buildings is extrememly high ceilings in every room, taller entry doors some amazingly tall by modern standard, and very tall double hung windows. Many apartments are long narrow boxes with one end facing the street with windows, sometimes the other end facing the alley/courtyard. Often fire-escape with a metal landing on one of the windows. Separate dining room to me is conspicuous consumption, a sign of wealth. I would expect more crown moldings, ornate plaster, ornate mantels - all covered with a hundred coats of paint

    Bookmark   January 8, 2004 at 12:04PM
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