The city of Atlanta is on FIRE right now! Of course, fire has always been a thematic element for us, but the flame currently crackling has been kindled by progress and enthusiasm for the city itself.
Atlantans are in love with their town and with rediscovering parts of the city that seemed forgotten. Gentrification, redevelopment, the BeltLine and targeted community efforts are turning more city blocks into desirable neighborhoods. Live/work complexes pop up where strip malls formerly sprawled and in areas once relegated as only industrial.
Metro Atlanta’s bustling pace, thriving cityscape, diverse business ventures, sophisticated shopping and award-winning restaurants all make the Big Peach ripe for those ready to “move-on-up” into the urban-living convenience of condos, townhomes and luxury apartments.
New developments may, indeed, be popping up all over town, but there are still plenty of desirable, older enclaves dotted around some of the city’s most inviting neighborhoods. One of Atlanta’s biggest expansions occurred 20 years ago, when the Olympics came to town, and some of the properties flourishing then have shown the test of time and just need a bit of updating. So, what can be done to pull a late-20th-century model into the new millennium? With careful consideration, it’s definitely an option:
• Look at “the bones.” Try to see past dated decor to assess the basic structure and layout of the property. Is there a functional footprint and storage?
• Check under the hood. Get a thorough inspection to determine the age, quality and functionality of all systems—electrical, plumbing, HVAC. Determine the kinds of insulation and paint present. Find out if there’s ever been water damage in the unit, whether from flooding or seepage around doors and windows.
• Peel back the layers. If the basics are solid, it’s okay if the property shows some age. Start the checklist of cosmetic procedures needed. Does it need a full face and body lift, or just injections and a good makeover? Some of the most common problems encountered are:
• Popcorn ceilings
• Aged carpet and flooring
• Mirrored wall panels
• Dated fixtures
• “Choppy” floor plan
• Lack of adequate lighting
However, improving upon these is a relatively painless process. Once it’s clear what the HOA and building codes allow for that property, a renovation plan can be created. If those rules and codes limit a complete “gutting” of the unit, there are still ways to get an updated look. If tearing down walls won’t be permitted, then widen doorways and consider opening up the kitchen with a pass-through section of wall. Update kitchens and baths without reconfiguring them by changing out cabinets, countertops, hardware, fixtures and tile. You can play with the amount of natural light by using materials and colors inside the unit that will enhance the glow when the sun streams in and that will reflect light from overhead fixtures.
When making the choice to buy a condo or townhouse, the approach for selecting a place and then designing its interior is similar to that used for a traditional residential property. However, before making big decisions about redesigning or remodeling, there are some additional considerations to keep in mind.
Questions to Ask
• What are the homeowners’ association (HOA) fees and what do they cover?
• Does the HOA have ordinances governing interior or exterior design elements?
• Which fixtures or elements must remain?
• Can I change paint colors, flooring, move walls, add new lighting or electrical?
Lyndsy Woods of L. Kae Interiors sees the designing of condos and townhouses as an opportunity to use space intentionally. But, she does say that remodeling can be a challenge if there are narrow stairs, elevator banks in high-rises, smaller spaces and strict HOAs. Also, she says “the [building] codes in apartments and condos are different than houses,” which might impact your plans. Robin LaMonte of Rooms Revamped Interior Design adds that the logistics of projects can be complicated by condo or HOA restrictions regarding building times, parking, tight work areas, noise ordinances, site access and permits. “You need to be respectful of all the neighbors,” she advises.
Once those variables are measured and confirmed, a condo or townhouse project need not be stylistically limited. Don’t look at a condo or townhouse remodel as a ball and chain. If you can locate an outdated condo selling for a great price or if your current townhouse doesn’t fit your lifestyle, take the leap, do your homework and consider all the possibilities. Whether you want to flip it, rent it out or stay in it forever, remodeling the living space can pay huge rewards despite the challenges involved.