I can't recall the first time I heard someone at Refinery29 whispering about The Baxter Project, but I do remember how delighted I was when I searched the hashtag on Instagram. I later discovered the gorgeous Brooklyn Heights apartment I was falling love with (Those chairs! That tile!) was actually the home of our own R29 cofounder and global editor-in-chief, Christene Barberich, and her husband, architect Kevin Baxter. The couple scooped up the modest 800-square-foot, top-floor apartment in 2014, and spent the next year-and-a-half transforming it into the small space of their dreams — and all for less than $1 million (£770,000)...in New York City!
Thanks to Kevin's background in construction and design and Christene's creative vision, the renovation went well beyond the typical makeover (in fact, Christene says Kevin helped her create the home she's always dreamed of since she was a kid). An awkward crawl space was cleverly converted into a light-soaked home office; a new (ginormous!) picture window welcomed incredible views of the harbour; and the kitchen and bathroom were gutted and completely reworked into shiny focal points for the two-bedroom refuge. And while the major overhaul didn't come cheap — the couple cashed out everything they could to fund the project — it's an investment they believe will pay off in the long run.
I suppose it only makes sense that Christene indirectly inspired my own apartment search. We were in the middle of an edit team dinner, and she was showing me some photos of her guest room, which at that point was still a work-in-progress. When I told her I've always dreamed of owning a place, she demanded to know what was holding me back. I said that I couldn't afford it. She insisted that you don't need to be a millionaire to buy an apartment in New York. The conversation planted a seed that led me down a Zillow/Trulia/StreetEasy rabbit hole, and I realised that my partner and I did have enough money set aside for the down payment, if we stuck to a strict budget and paced ourselves wisely. Six months and countless open houses later, we are now in the process of securing the small space of our dreams.
If I've learned anything from following Christene's journey, it's that creating a beautiful home in New York City on a budget is far from easy — but it is doable. And since I'm just starting the process, I figured there was no one better equipped to give me advice on how to turn a new apartment into a personal sanctuary that hits all the right notes. The Baxter Project is filled with pieces that are beautiful, carefully considered, and most importantly, a reflection of Christene and Kevin's style. Ahead, step inside for a before-and-after look at the apartment and discover some of their design secrets.