In 2014, lifelong Upper East Side resident Liora Yalof and her husband, Stephen, decided to make a major change — they wanted an open space ideal for cooking and hosting big holiday gatherings.
With their children grown and away at college, the couple opted to relocate across town. Intent on finding a home rich with charm and prewar detail, they walked into a circa 1906 Beaux Arts-style building on Central Park West and immediately fell in love. “You just feel if it’s right for you instinctively when you walk in,” says Liora Yalof, a Corcoran Group associate broker. “It was an a-ha moment when we walked in.”
Following a lengthy renovation, the three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath home now reflects the Yalofs’ Bohemian sensibility. In collaboration with Liora Yalof’s best friend, decorator Julie Hillman, the couple created a home that mixes modern furnishings with period details, like the soaring 11-foot ceilings.
The result? A cozy, airy, eclectic vibe reflecting the Yalofs’ sensibility. “It’s a thrill to walk through my front door everyday,” Liora Yalof says, “but going through a renovation isn’t easy. It’s a labor of love, and one that I think is completely worth it.”
Here are five home renovation tips from Yalof to help make yours successful:
1. Do Your Due Diligence
After discovering a book featuring the landmark building, Yalof combed it for photos and information about their new home’s historic details. “The last people who owned it took out many of the old moldings that would have given the apartment its charm. The book helped me see what the original moldings were like so we could recreate them,” Yalof says. She also befriended her next door neighbor, whose apartment featured many original moldings. “I got my contractors in there so they could replicate that.”
To lay a strong foundation with neighbors, focus on collaborative solutions. “I knew that we wanted to change the lighting in the hallway, and we share the landing. So I knocked on his door early on to show him a couple of lighting options. If you have to re-do the landing or anything involving your neighbor, it’s so much easier when you have a good relationship.” It also didn’t hurt that the Yalofs have a golden retriever, and their neighbor loves dogs.
2. Let Your Personality Shine Through
With art depicting Paul McCartney and a family room accented by books about fashion and rock music, their home reflects their shared passions. As a family, the Yalofs attend live performances “constantly,” and Liora Yalof serves on the advisory board of Farm Aid, which raises funds for family farmers across the country, mostly through benefit concerts. Her family also worked the fashion industry, so style and music merge seamlessly in her life and her home.
“My husband and I were set up because of our shared love of the Grateful Dead,” Yalof says. “He loves playing guitar, so we have a guitar in every room.”
For the Yalofs, taking on a major home renovation is something they relish. “We also have a weekend house upstate, which we gutted,” Yalof says. “We like the challenge of trying to see through all the clutter and envision what a home could be.”
3. Build Memories Into Your New Home
As the couple were modernizing their new home, they also wanted to safeguard its original identity. “Our main goal was to respect the architect’s intentions for the apartment,” Yalof says. To that end, she shipped two Beaux-Arts style fireplace mantles from a Parisian flea market to highlight the building’s original aesthetic.
“I appreciate the mantles so much and think of the time we spent in Europe. We always remember trips we took by the things we bring back,” she says.
About the logistics of importing home goods, Liora says: “It’s definitely an expense, and you need the time to do it. I knew that the contractors needed the mantles by a certain date, so I worked that timing into the shipping process.”
4. Don’t Forget About Good Lighting
The Yalofs prioritized good lighting to complement their artwork and make the most of their space, hiring a lighting consultant to ensure they made the best decisions. “The last thing you want is to do incredible renovation and have a slightly dark, depressing apartment,” Yalof says. “Lighting can lift the mood and make your place as beautiful as it can be. It was so important to me that we factored a lighting specialist into our budget to ensure that we did it properly. When renovating, it’s important to prioritize so you can budget for what you really want.”
5. Make the Space Fit Your Lifestyle
Rather than create a separate “hangout room,” the Yalofs opted to make the kitchen a comfortable gathering space, with a full-size couch, mid-century modern chairs and stools placed around the island, where she loves to prep and cook for family and friends.
“People inevitably hang out and help or have a glass of wine and talk while I’m cooking. It’s the biggest gift to be able to entertain, and I love to be the house where my kids’ friends like to come,” Yalof says.
Photos by Allie Leepson.