Renovation Advice: Can I Install Air-Conditioning Without Destroying My Apartment?

This column is part of a series for the Design special report of The New York Times. Readers are invited to send questions to [email protected]

I would like to install central air-conditioning in my prewar apartment, but I want something minimally invasive. What are my options, and how do I get started?

First, ask your management if anyone else has added air-conditioning to their units. If yes, follow whatever course that neighbor employed.

If you are an air-con maverick, find out whether the building has enough available power to allow you to upgrade your electrical service for the new system.

Are you able to use through-the-wall units like those offered by LG? If your building is a landmark, this will not be an option, at least not on street-facing windows. At that point, you will want to consider what is known as a split system.

The split system will require outdoor space for a condenser unit, either in a yard or on the roof. Ask if you have access to such a space. No? Think about buying a few more fans.

If you do clear the bar, then you’ll ideally meet two or three air-conditioning contractors for competitive bids to help figure out power and size requirements as well as the estimated cost.

For the through-the-wall option, each unit installed will require a new masonry opening in an exterior wall. If you go this route, make sure you have a general contractor. The masonry openings might require an engineer, and permits will have to be filed.

A split system like those offered by Mitsubishi involves one or more fan coil units inside your apartment and the aforementioned condenser unit outdoors. Fan coil units are generally rectangular plastic boxes that are installed high on a wall and are visually unobtrusive. But because the wall units will need to be hooked up to your waste line to drain any condensation, you will also need your general contractor to file permits for electrical and plumbing and tackle the mess after the job is done. Installing power and plumbing pipes and possibly plywood backing for the wall units will involve cutting your walls open. Once the units are installed, it is on you to find help with the patching and painting.

As you can see, both options are invasive, although somewhat less so than installing a conventional ducted system. But if you can bear the cost and chaos, you will be rewarded with cool.

We want to replace our undercounter ice maker, and I keep hearing about better, bar-quality ice that some machines offer. What should we be looking for?

The chief attribute of a great ice maker is its ability to produce clear, or “gourmet,” ice. Clear ice is much denser than its cloudier, low-market friends, which are suffused with air. This means it takes longer for clear ice to melt and dilute your drink. Furthermore, clear-ice makers generally have water filtration and self-cleaning capabilities, adding taste (or, really, lack of taste) to their benefits. Clear ice will cost you, though. A conventional full-size ice maker can be as little as $300, while clear is priced in the $1,000 to $2,000 range.

Beyond density and taste, different ice shapes have alleged advantages. Crescent-shaped ice as produced by Isotherm ($1,550) is valued because it fits curved glasses and moves freely in a drink without clumping. Octagonal cubes like those Manitowoc ($1,789) makes, and cylindrical (also known as top hat) cubes offered by Hoshizaki ($1,905), are considered optimal for their long frozen lives and good looks. If you still prefer the classic cube shape, you can find it from companies like Whynter for $1,069.

I have been looking for contemporary pendant lighting for our terrace and find that most things are “soft modern” and a little boring. Is there anything out there that is clean and minimal without being a snore?

Plenty of statement lighting is available at a variety of prices. At the high end you could try Marset’s Soho Pendant, a large shaded factory-inspired fixture made of polyethylene. It is available in 22-inch ($2,409) and 44-inch ($6,058) diameters. Another great polyethylene option is Modoluce’s Campanone Pendant, also offered in two diameters: 13 inches ($1,000) and 20 inches ($1,400). The light’s elongated domed shape, reminiscent of Jujubes candy, comes in colors, including white, orange and red. Foscarini makes the frosted white cloudlike Gregg pendant in three sizes that are meant to be used alone or in a group; the diameters range from 12 inches ($500) to 23 inches ($912 with LED). Lower on the price scale, Shades of Light offers the Shaped Concrete Dome Pendant — sort of a cement Hershey’s Kiss; the 15-inch-diameter light is $218. Among the many synthetic wicker pendants is the orb-like Pacifica Outdoor Pendant, which comes in three diameters, 13.5 inches ($228), 20 inches ($328) and 26 inches ($448).

I’m moving into a house and buying lots of things as well as picking paint colors. Should I be considering Pantone’s color of the year — Living Coral — for my new digs?

While a single color might safely inspire your choice of a new pair of sneakers or a blender, it shouldn’t motivate you to kit out your place all at one go. (For that matter, nothing should.) If you adhered to the Pantone color of the year for the past three years, you’d be living in a Tang orange, Grimace purple and Kermit green world more appropriate for a Teletubbies set than an adult abode. If you like color, go with the colors you like. If you like Living Coral, use it as an accent. And if you want to paint a room in a Pantone-approved annual shade try dialing back to 2016’s Rose Quartz doing business as millennial pink, which is no doubt lingering in home furnishings because it is more subtle and suitable.

Steven Sclaroff is a New York-based interior designer.

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