Living in a box, living in a cardboard box
June 20, 2012 7:55 PM   Subscribe

Remodeling with an eye toward my own use (for the next 4-5 years) and rentability (in ~5 years?).

I have a studio condo that the previous owner lived in for 30+ years and never updated. I have many improvements that I'd like to make, but I also want to be mindful that my goal is to use this as a rental in about five years. A few things that I'd want to do for myself are:

- replace the bathtub with a shower
- replace the huge ugly bathroom counter with a nice standalone sink
- replace the old 60s fridge with one that fits below the counter - the kitchen is a tiny galley kitchen and counter space is miserably small.

I could also take the (money) plunge and completely redo the kitchen, adding another 8 square feet or so of counter top and all new appliances. That would take longer and require a lot more work and money. Is it better to grab a cheap fridge and maybe dishwasher now, or to save up and do the whole thing at once?

I read this question about getting rid of the bathtub, but I think think that since this is a studio, I'm less likely to have a renter with older kid(s). Personally, I mostly hate baths and love showers. I'd be 100% fine with just a nice large tiled shower stall, but will this be a dealbreaker for a renter? I'd consider a Japanese soaking tub, but honestly it's something I wouldn't really use.

What about a small fridge? I've found some with a separate fridge and freezer, so they're not like the mini-fridge you had in college. I don't keep a lot of food in my fridge and clearly the place is not made for huge parties.

I'm thinking that my "hook" for this place will be that it's a streamlined minimalistic place for a busy single professional who doesn't cook much.

I converted the linen closet into a tool bench last weekend, so I am ready to take up tools and do as much as I can myself. I'm frugal and practical, but still want to live in a place that is efficient and fits my needs.
posted by bendy to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
Best answer: Other women might disagree, but I would say that all of these rennovations would put off many female renters, even if they don't have kids. This would be eliminating half your market for, imo, minor reasons. I like streamlined apartment, but the bigger the bathroom counter the better.

Also I would go with increasing the kitchen counter space. I think people can do non-kitchen things with kitchen counters (book displays, work areas, whatever), but it's very difficult to do kitchen work in non-established areas.

When I turn down a rental place it is almost always due to small bathroom and kitchens.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 8:29 PM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

Personally, I would be sad about the place not having a bathtub, but even though I love long baths and have them regularly when I do have a tub, it's not a dealbreaker. The fridge would be a dealbreaker, especially if you are doing something to the countertop so that there is actually no room for a larger fridge anymore even if the renter has their own. Even when I've lived alone, I like to buy groceries for at least a week at a time, and I like to cook and make enough for leftovers, even if the kitchen is small. I would not live somewhere where the fridge was too small for me to store a couple of days worth of leftovers.

I wouldn't care at all about the bathroom countertop size.
posted by lollusc at 10:29 PM on June 20, 2012

Best answer: Add the dishwasher.

Don't replace a normal sized fridge with a tiny one.

Don't replace a normal sized tub with a shower stall.

I'm neutral on the bathroom sink.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 10:46 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Keep the bathtub, install a shower unit over the tub, now you have a shower for those that prefer showers and bath for people who want a bath. I prefer showers but having a bath available (for soaking aches and pains or just relaxing in) is a big plus.
posted by missmagenta at 2:39 AM on June 21, 2012

Best answer: If there is some place to store toiletries right next to the sink, I am neutral on it. If not, I am against it.

A tiny fridge would be a deal-breaker for me and every person I know. No bath would be a disadvantage, but not a total deal-breaker.
posted by jeather at 3:55 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The huge countertop in the bathroom is being held up by a similarly huge cabinet. Storage in studios is a HUGE issue! Do not do away with the countertop or the cabinet.

My recommendation is to go to a Big Box store and get a 36" high cabinet, one that is flush with the floor (mine has feet and getting under it, with 2" of clearance is a real bitch when cleaning the floors) Then smack a standard, prefab, granite sink/countertop on top of it.

There is nothing more aggravating than having to balance all of your stuff on your elbow because a pedestal sink has no room for your toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant and hand soap.

As for the kitchen, appliances are pretty cheap, as are countertops. You can paint your cabinets.

Undercounter fridges are an interesting idea, but in reality won't work for 90% of the population.

You can get a tall, skinny fridge that will give you a few more inches of countertop. When getting a dishwasher, get a smaller one.

When replacing the stove, instead of a hood, get a microwave/hood combo. Now your microwave is off the counter.

Another way to get more counterspace is to replace your standard 36" sink, with a deeper, smaller sink with a telescoping faucet.

The actual materials for these things are not that expensive. As you can see from the appliance website, appliances are cheap, and with energy efficiencies, a very good idea to swap out if you can afford it.

As for the tub. It's probably more trouble than it's worth to tear it out. If its ugly, get it re-glazed. If it's fiberglass, replace it. You can do something that pleases you with a tile surround, but take it all the way up to the ceiling.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:38 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: As a longtime renter, my feelings are:

*Small fridge would be a dealbreaker. I do not want to grocery shop every day. Why would you rule out renters who cook more often? The ones who don't cook likely don't care about counter space anyway.

*Dishwasher is a big plus, but make it one of the narrow ones (18") so you don't lose too much cabinet space.

*I don't personally care if there's a tub or not. I wouldn't replace it with a huge shower, but with a smaller shower and a linen closet, though. Or I'd leave it so as not to rule out renters who like baths.

*Even though a pedestal sink is more attractive, cabinet space is more important in a small apartment.
posted by Kriesa at 7:03 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My vote would be yes on the tub to shower conversion (especially if it's an old yukkky tub), and no on the pedestal sink.
If you do a pedestal sink, you'll have to also add a set of shelves or free-standing cabinet or one of those dorky sink-skirts so that you'll have someplace to put the extra TP, the feminine products, the clean washcloths, the cleaning supplies, the hairdryer... If you think the arrangement would work better with a pedestal sink plus a small cabinet on a different wall then yes, go ahead, but remember to think of it as (counter)-->(sink+shelves), not just counter--sink. Without having seen the space, my vote would be to go to a small vanity-top instead of a pedestal. Getting rid of all the storage wouldn't feel like much of an upgrade, no matter how pretty is is.

My issue with the undercounter fridge is that most people are totally unaware of how much fridge space they use. Even a busy single professional who doesn't cook much is going to walk into the kitchen and say "holy crap, where's the fridge?". Even if it would be perfectly adequate, a small fridge is not what they're expecting to see, and would almost certainly come out as a minus for the apartment. On top of that, busy single professionals who don't cook much are somewhat reknowned for their need to store frozen pizzas, frozen meals, and leftover take-out, so might prefer fridge space to counter space.
posted by aimedwander at 7:30 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

No tub is a deal breaker for me, personally. I think the shower/tub combo is safest: then everyone's happy. Not-a-full-sized-fridge would also be a deal breaker. Losing storage space in the bathroom would be annoying, but I've had to provide my own in other places. No counters at all is bad. Dishwashers are lovely, but none of my places have had them.
posted by smirkette at 11:20 AM on June 21, 2012

I wouldn't've wanted a dishwasher when I lived in a studio, as I lived alone and it would've taken me a long time to dirty enough dishes to make it worth running.

I, too, would want a full-size (or close to it) fridge. Having just a shower and no tub feels cheap, unless done very nicely. I hate pedestal sinks, if that's what you're thinking of, because then where does one keep the extra toilet paper?
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:33 PM on June 21, 2012

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