Design

This NYC Apartment Makeover Made Our Jaws Drop

Hovey Design apartment makeover

Sisters Hollister and Porter Hovey live and work together. They run a firm — Hovey Design — that stages homes for real estate. (Basically, they take apartments with great bones and redesign them to look their best.) Here, the sisters reveal the before and after of a Soho apartment…

LIVING ROOM BEFORE
nyc apartment makeover Hovey Design

LIVING ROOM AFTER
nyc apartment makeover Hovey Design

nyc apartment makeover Hovey Design

Balance the furniture’s proportions. Most city apartments have rectangle living rooms, so sectionals can feel visually unbalanced. Instead, consider a sofa and a couple comfy chairs. That’s also a good conversation set-up when you have people over.

Hang art lower in living rooms. Artwork should be about eight inches over your sofa so you can see it while you’re sitting. You don’t want to crane your neck to see the art — that gives you a sense of unease. (For a hallway, you can hang things at a higher level because it’s more like walking through an art gallery.) Also, we went super big with the artwork here, since we had a lot of bigger furniture. If we’d gone littler, the art wouldn’t have felt as impactful.

Try making your own art. We’re big on DIY and demystifying art. You could even just paint a canvas a solid color and hang it over your sofa and it will look cool.

KITCHEN BEFORE
nyc apartment makeover Hovey Design

KITCHEN AFTER
nyc apartment makeover Hovey Design

nyc apartment makeover Hovey Design

Mix materials. The kitchen has an industrial feel, so we added ceramic lighting to make it feel softer and more organic. It’s great to contrast between soft lines and hard lines. Etsy is such a good source for lighting — we especially love the store baradaXceramics.

DINING AREA BEFORE
nyc apartment makeover Hovey Design

DINING AREA AFTER
nyc apartment makeover Hovey Design

nyc apartment makeover Hovey Design

Lean into drama! This apartment is super dramatic with huge windows, so this space craved a bigger table. We also went with the Noguchi ball lamp to create more drama. Adding the art brought in color and made a big difference. We also got rid of the shelves, which were too high.

Go for neutral furniture. If furniture is super neutral and classic, then you can always change things up by swapping out artwork or a flower vase.

Switch up shapes. Here, you have square chairs and rectangular table and a rectangular mirror contrasting nicely with the big pendant ball.

HALLWAY BEFORE
nyc apartment makeover Hovey Design

HALLWAY AFTER
nyc apartment makeover Hovey Design

nyc apartment makeover Hovey Design

nyc apartment makeover Hovey Design

Don’t ignore a hallway. People often neglect hallways, but it’s a great opportunity for a fun experience. Any time you have a hallway, if it’s wide enough, go for a skinny table and artwork.

Consider painting the walls. Another tip — although we didn’t do it here — is to paint the hallway a dramatic dark color. It will hide the scuffs, and a dark moody hallway makes walking into the brighter room feel like a breath of fresh air. They do this in hotels and it’s a neat experience.

TV ROOM BEFORE
nyc apartment makeover Hovey Design

TV ROOM AFTER
nyc apartment makeover Hovey Design

nyc apartment makeover Hovey Design

Switch out the doorknobs. If you’re moving into a home that has lots of different colors of metal, change all your doorknobs to black. Here, switching out the clunky doorknobs made it feel cohesive. Black is a good neutralizer.

PRIMARY BEDROOM BEFORE
nyc apartment makeover Hovey Design

PRIMARY BEDROOM AFTER
nyc apartment makeover Hovey Design

Let light pour in. In the before photo, the curtains cut off half the window. But even if you had ceiling-to-floor curtains, they’re still going to be jammed against the wall. For these windows, we’d go with a shade.

Consider a workhorse mirror. We use the round Umbra mirror all the time. It’s great and affordable, especially for its size.

GUEST BEDROOM BEFORE
nyc apartment makeover Hovey Design

GUEST BEDROOM AFTER
nyc apartment makeover Hovey Design

Squeeze in a corner desk, if you can. These days, many people are working from home, so we added a desk. (In our staging projects, people used to request nurseries and now they want home offices.) Also, it’s so funny how adding more furniture makes a place look bigger — it’s counterintuitive!

nyc apartment makeover Hovey Design

Thank you so much, Hollister and Porter!

P.S. All our house tours — including the sisters’ own apartment tour and a one-bedroom apartment they staged.

(Photos by Hovey Design; listing from Tracie Golding.)

  1. Kate says...

    Eeek. I find this incredibly boring and impersonal. It’s like it has no personality! And so many oversized pieces- yuck! I guess I’m more into cozy lol.

    • Elle says...

      It’s a staged apartment for sale, It is not supposed to have “personality,” just general appeal, and a sense of the possibilities. Most staged apartments look like dreary hotel suites; here in Boston they all look the same, with gray walls, white upholstery, and such an absence of color (and texture, and character) that I often wonder if the photos are actually black-and-white. These women are many levels above the average stager. They show the rooms to their best advantage without adding anything too quirky that might turn off an average NY buyer.

  2. Christine says...

    Also, for everyone asking for sources, may I remind folks that professional designers spend years cultivating their talent and sources. I don’t freely share sources for work that I’ve been paid to create because it’s not fair to the client who did pay. And it devalues my work.

    • Mel says...

      Hi Christine, thanks for the pro-tip! I’m a scientist, not a designer, so this is totally new information to me (not a reminder). Now that you mention it though it totally makes sense. But I think it’s ok to ask for sources without expecting a response and just letting the people featured in the post decide what they want to share. I’ve seen design magazines share “similar” items to those featured in house tours for example. The Cup of Jo community also has lovely readers that sometimes share similar items they’ve found :)

    • AG says...

      @ CHRISTINE But collaboration is a good thing no? And for small local artisan shops, they would appreciate the extra business from a professional designer’s recommendation.

      It’s like sharing a secret recipe I guess – some are more protective of the ingredients that others.

  3. Christine says...

    The best thing they did in this lovely makeover was to go large scale but fewer items. Big artwork, but just one. Juniper Print Shop is great for this. In the living room, the sofa, rug and art are all a great size for the space.
    As a buyers, I’d be able to get an idea of how to lay out my own items without getting distracted.

  4. Emily says...

    I really love how doable this makeover feels. It’s not so over the top to make me think “that’s nice but I could never do that.” Simple fixes for when I invest in my next pieces of furniture, art or lighting. Reaaaally like all of the lighting. That’s always a struggle for me.

  5. Leila says...

    I’d love to read a post about making large scale abstract art from the Hovey sisters. I have so many questions! Stretch my own canvas or buy a canvas from an art supply store? Would using latex house paint work okay? How did Hollister create the effect of a shadow/ smudge outline on the dining room art?

    • Diana K. says...

      BUY it. From someone who has made/prepared her own canvases. Blick Art shops have lots of sales on canvases. If painting isn’t your thing though, it would be very easy to stretch a fun printed fabric on canvas stretchers.

    • Amy says...

      Yes!!! I would love this too. I would pay for a class!

  6. I’m so curious where the furniture comes from when they stage an apartment! Do they have a big warehouse of furniture they use? Do they have good relationships with local furniture stores that let them borrow? I’d love any info on this!

  7. C says...

    What I really appreciated about this was less the visuals from the makeover and more the articulation of the logic behind it–few makeovers take the time to really describe the why behind the what. It’s important because instead of having consumer envy, I can walk away feeling inspired to borrow the logic and create something of my own :)

    • Anna says...

      That is such a beautiful way to see things! Love your perspective :)

  8. robin says...

    I’m curious, do they have blinds or curtains in the living room? It’s hard to tell in the photos. If not, it makes me wonder how they get privacy at night with the apartment building across able to look in. But maybe that’s a New York thing! :)

    • C says...

      I thought the same thing until I realized this is a staging project to sell the place, so they probably just want the light for showings and the new owners can figure out the privacy!

    • Robin says...

      Thanks C, that’s a good point!

  9. Jess says...

    Would anyone sit in those chairs in the bedroom and office nook though? Like for more than 5 minutes? I know this is staged for showing, but I always wonder that about cool, sculptural (though spartan) furniture. Does anybody actually sit in it/on it? And if not, is it really just for looking cool?

    • l says...

      I had a pretty, wooden chair for my work-at-home situation and ended up in physical therapy to manage the serious back pain I developed after enduring a year in it! I had no choice but to replace my pretty chair with an ugly, bulk office one designed for a healthy posture. My back thanks me, but I think you have to spend serious $ to get an office chair that is both beautiful and good for sitting for long time periods (something I can’t really afford to do rn)

  10. Mel says...

    I love the esthetic of these sisters.

    A few people have commented about this already, but I agree it would be awesome to see how people “style” their TV in their living room. Fancy architecture and decor magazines never show TV’s, I guess because rich people have dedicated TV rooms hidden away? But real average folks need to know how to make it work with just one living room!

    Would also love to know the source of the coffee table in the TV room after picture :)

  11. Lauren says...

    This apartment DESERVED these two and their design expertise/overhaul. It is perfection.

  12. Lainey says...

    My sense of style is pretty much the opposite of the modern, neutral-palate, minimalist aesthetic displayed here, and yet I love a lot of things about this. The way the designers use different shapes to play with the proportions of the rooms has given me inspiration for my own very rectangular living room. Thanks!

  13. Beaslie says...

    The makeover is really lovely but the headline is unusually click-baity and sensationalist for CoJ!

    • Lydia says...

      I agree! The headline definitely didn’t match the photos. Subtle & Gorgeous? Yes. Jaw-dropping…? Perhaps not.

    • LP says...

      Agreed. Beautifully done but the headline should have been, “See how professional interior designers stage a nearly empty apartment!”

    • Becca says...

      Agreed! The apartment is beautiful but also…not really jaw dropping to take an architecturally beautiful space and put beautiful, expensive furniture in it. Obviously takes a creative eye from the sisters to execute well, but also just isn’t that mind blowing. Pretty photos, though!

  14. Debbie says...

    gorgeous apartment and so inviting. Love the artwork!

    can you share where you found the dining chairs? thanks.

  15. Rebekka S says...

    This entire apartment is so incredibly stunning! Would you be able to share where the dining chairs are from? I am frantically googling to no avail – obsessed!

  16. Eleanor says...

    anyone else way prefer the before photos??

    • Elizabeth R. says...

      No. The proportions in the before were way off imho.

    • HJM says...

      (Tiptoes into the room and whispers) Me!

      The apartment looks great in both but it just looks like they swapped in their more expensive furniture. I liked the shelves in the dining room in the before photos. The finished product is still gorgeous, yes, but did not make my jaw drop as the title of the post suggests, or like other home posts here have done before.

  17. carly says...

    can you give some backstory as to the items/furniture that is in the before pictures? I’m assuming thats not what it looked like with the previous owners living there (bedrooms!)? the after is stunning, but in comparison to the before, anything is better!

  18. Stephanie says...

    Can you tell me where the bed is from? I’m obsessed!

  19. Lulu says...

    Absolutely LOVE their aesthetic!!! Now I know that this might sound like such a stupid question, I have no idea how real estate works and I’m not in the US, so forgive me in advance, but I was just wondering, what happens to the furniture they put in? Is it only temporary for the showings?

    • Elizabeth R. says...

      I am not sure here as I think people are maybe living in it but in general, the stagers set up with their furniture and take it back to storage or another project when the house sells.

  20. Sarah K says...

    I love what they did to the master bedroom- looks so inviting. Also, the tip about artwork hanging height is really useful.

  21. Sophie says...

    This is beautiful! May we have a source for the modular sofa in the living room please? Love it!

  22. Pamela says...

    I really wish we got to see the TV room from the same before angle!

    • Barbara says...

      I agree

  23. Lana says...

    Beautiful!! Where is the black sideboard/credenza thing from? I’ve been looking for something like that, in black!

  24. Amy says...

    Such a transformation. Can I please just have a sliver of their talent….

  25. Fahtima Sah says...

    Guys this is the first time I really don’t think it’s a big of a difference lol it looks the sammme

    • Megan says...

      Agree!! I was like, hmm my jaw hasn’t moved. Still gorgeous though.

  26. Lili says...

    Absolutely gorgeous. I love all of their designs here, hip & classy. Where are those black leather chairs from?? We’re looking for chairs just like these.

  27. Becca C says...

    Wow, I love these practical tips! I feel like my house needs a re-stage but I don’t have a great eye for it. I actually feel like I could try some of these things. Thank you COJ!

    • Kim says...

      I agree. I loved the concreteness of the tips. Switch the doorknobs to all black. Put a skinny table and art in the hallway. Simple things that work.

  28. kat says...

    This is stunning but I do not agree with removing those shelves in the dining area. Cookbooks, sweet little plants, family photos, a Fiestaware collection. Any time I see built in shelves I swoon! And I wish you included the after photo of the TV room showing the tv and that nook corner. Making TVs look classy is hard so I’d love their take.

    • Susannah says...

      Me too! I’m a sucker for any kind of built-ins

    • 100% agree with your assessment haha!

    • Taylor says...

      Completely agree with this and was my first thought! The shelving is a great way to make the place more cozy and personal.

    • Rebecca says...

      I totally agree! I struggle when “redesigns” remove practical items – like shelves! Who doesn’t need storage in a NY apartment?

    • Barbara says...

      I totally agree. I would kill for built-in shelves

  29. Christine says...

    obsessed with that white couch and that minimal designy wood chair! sources plzzzz!

  30. Sara says...

    I really enjoyed seeing the transformations! I think so many people (myself included…) assume that all their design problems would be solved if they had more space. So silly! I actually really love my smaller home overall and this is another reminder that it’s ok to love it 😊

  31. Sarah says...

    Gorgeous – all of it! Where is the desk chair from in the office? Love the sculptural qualities of it!

  32. Ashley says...

    Wait, I’m confused by the post script: the Hovey sisters stage all the CoJ apartment tours?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh not at all! They just did one of them that’s linked. All the rest of our house tours are real homes:)

    • Gretchen says...

      I agree that the postscript reads as if the Hovey sisters staged all of the apartment tours! I am so not picky about grammar, but since the authenticity & uniqueness of the COJ home tours are so important, maybe a change in the ps is worthwhile. Even just starting with “Here is a link to all of our house tours–including the sister’s own apartment tour and a one-bedroom apartment that they staged.

  33. Heather says...

    Thank you for using “primary” re. the first bedroom.

    • Cheryl says...

      Noticed and loved this as well.

    • jillian says...

      same! Language matters, we are all learning!

  34. Amy says...

    Hollister needs to do an online painting class. Seriously! Also these decorating tips are so practical and useful. Continue to be so inspired by these sisters.

  35. jan says...

    glaring error i couldnt look away from: never put your sofa in front of the heater.

    • Emily says...

      Some people don’t have another option! Every house I’ve lived in has the sofa in from of the heater because there was literally no other place for it. I definitely don’ t love doing that, but it’s either there or sitting in the middle of the room.

  36. Susie says...

    Random question, but did the radiator in the living room get switched out as part of the makeover as well?

    • Kate says...

      I imagine they just took off the cover that was shown in the before pics.

  37. Sarah says...

    This is so beautiful! Makes me sigh with delight. I’ll be passing their names on to friends in the city. Wondering the source of that wonderful coffee table in the living room, the separated square-cut-on-the-diagonal, if they’d share?

  38. Kate says...

    Wow, so inspiring and creative! I wanna be a Hovey sister!

  39. Stasha says...

    I love everything!!! Can you post sources? Thank you!

    • b says...

      Yes, please! That art was so good. Would love a roundup on where to source affordable wall art.

    • JP says...

      I second that! Source links please!

  40. Kate says...

    When they are changing out light fixtures to sell, do they leave them? If I was buying the home I would assume the pendant lights came with. Light fixtures are super important so I can see real estate sellers investing in some nice ones but I wouldn’t have been expecting it.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      When we bought our apartment, they took all their pendant lighting!

    • Kate says...

      That’s so sad!

    • Porter says...

      Yup! We have our clients buy the light fixtures to stay with the sale. We also feel that it’s important and don’t want to cause drama in contact negotiations. And feels like bait and switch to remove them.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      That’s awesome, Porter!

    • nadine says...

      I’m in the process of buying a condo (fingers crossed!) and here in Canada everything that needs tools to be removed should stay after the sale, unless the exclusion is mentioned in the papers. For instance if a painting is just hanging it will leave, if it needs a screw driver to take it off the wall it should stay. So i suppose the same should apply to light pendants? They really do add to the room!

      Also great tip for the hallway! I will try to follow it!

    • Laurel says...

      When I moved into my apartment, the previous tenant took the blinds from the windows. Even the tiny, irregularly-sized bathroom one. I was shocked! I had always assumed blinds sort of stayed with the window, ya know? I spend the first couple nights with beach towels duck taped to the windows until I could replace them, lol!

    • Alyce says...

      Yeah, you can’t assume things attached to the house will stay. If you’re particularly drawn to something in the house and want to be sure it stays, you can negotiate to have them left behind. You just include it in the contract you submit as your offer. Better to be over inclusive rather than underinclusive, just in case the seller has other plans. Common things to request in the contract are appliances (esp washer/dryers), furniture, light fixtures. We once negotiated to keep the porch swing. It was good we mentioned it because the seller had planned to take it with them, but did agree to let us keep it.

  41. karen says...

    In my experience, hardwired lighting fixtures are to be included with the sale of the home. With staging hardwired fixtures, do they leave those resources behind (with the assumption its part of the staging fee)? Their work is so visually impactful. I’ve always loved their shares, Jo!

  42. Elysha says...

    This apartment is amazing and really my dream space! We are currently in the process of trying to buy some living room furniture and I’m finding it so hard to find chairs that are stylish AND comfortable. I’d love some sourcing tips if the sisters are willing!

    • Julie says...

      I second this! Please please please!

  43. Vanessa says...

    Um can we just talk about how insane this apartment is, even without the makeover? please can I move in (…for free)??

    • Porter says...

      That’s how we felt too! It’s our total dream apartment!

    • C says...

      But also, how dramatically underutilized it was? It’s hard to believe such an amazing apartment was so drab. So curious about the context.
      The staging looks great!

    • Joaquina says...

      I love Manhattan but no way would I live in Soho.

  44. T says...

    So beautiful! Can I ask where the piece of art (with the blue shape) in the dining room is from?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I’ll ask!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Hollister painted all the paintings in this apartment! Xo

    • Hah, I came to ask the same! Beautiful, Hollister.

    • L says...

      Wow! That is very cool – they look so amazing!

    • T says...

      Thank you for the quick reply Joanna! Maybe Hollister would be willing to give some of us a few tips on creating our own abstract art?! I love the idea but feel so intimidated!