Sweeten hand-picks the best experts for your renovation project

“Sweeten provided a number of good contractors who were willing to do the job. Honestly, the hard part was picking which one. Sweeten Expert Alan was honest in his estimates and delivered on time, with no surprises.”

–Howard, Lower East Side homeowner


After our recent roundup of modern classic baths by Sweeten experts, I was especially ready to talk with the architect and designer behind an innovative and contemporary bathroom upgrade over on Grand Street. Grazyna and Howard bought a co-op in the heart of Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 2001 and took on a kitchen renovation shortly after moving in. After thirteen years in their home, Howard, an architect who now works in education, and Grazyna, an interior designer and associate professor, couldn’t help but notice more than five decades of wear and tear that were starting to show in their bathroom. The original sink and bath tub were pitted and dented, and short-term attempts at new coatings didn’t seem to last. Grazyna and Howard thought about taking a minimal approach to the work but knew that swapping out fixtures without a full re-tile plan would guarantee a patchwork result because they wouldn’t be able to find identical tiles. Tile damage aside, getting a new tub into a New York apartment would be an unnecessary challenge for a couple that wanted a more accessible walk-in shower down the road.

Both wife and husband had worked on a number of renovation projects throughout their careers in the industry, but this time, the project felt personal and the stakes seemed high. Howard posted the couple’s vision for the project on Sweeten to find a contractor who would take on the relatively small project and also be willing to think creatively about how best to use the space. We matched Howard’s architect eye and Grazyna’s design expertise with Sweeten Expert Alan - a Sweeten blog regular with an extensive background in kitchen and bath tile work. Alan’s team cleared out the space to make way for a slew of customized design features and unique materials.



Three striking material choices

Grazyna and Howard specifically wanted to avoid the all-white bath approach and felt inspired by the color and flow of water. They selected a luminous green-blue translucent glass tile, in varying widths, lengths, and monochromatic hues, to cover the walls, using a horizontal tile placement that evokes an ashlar masonry effect. (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Bathrooms, Completed Projects, Sweetened 13

I know first-hand how daunting it can be to envision renovation options as you’re standing in a crowded open house. Thanks to our partnership with Corcoran, New York’s preeminent real estate group, we got in on a private tour of a one-of-a-kind, 4,400 square foot, Clinton Hill townhouse (mansion?!) with incredible renovation potential.

Sweeten blog readers have weighed in on renovations at other properties with deep historical ties – we saw some serious opinions about the modern bath at this London Terrace co-op and some intense back and forth about preservation goals at this Park Slope home. In our second video take with Corcoran, Sweeten Founder and CEO Jean imagines what the new owner of this elegant townhouse at 331 Washington Avenue might do with a renovation. With so much architectural detail and structural presence, this home could house a complete restoration that would reclaim its roots, or take on a new life as a hybrid 19th-century-inspired grande dame with modern finishes.


Press play on this quick house tour and let us know what you would do with kitchen placement, 12 foot ceilings, intricate wood detailing, pier and trumeau mirrors, marble fireplaces, original parquet, and a blank slate rear patio.

We’re just getting going with this Corcoran collaboration and can’t wait to share more on how sellers and buyers can make the most of properties on the market. Stay tuned for more in the works from Jean and Team Sweeten!

Posted by: Categories: Sweeten + Corcoran 3
Thursday, October 9, 2014

Modern Classic Bathroom Round-Up


If you’ve been following the Sweeten blog for the last year, you’ve seen NYC homeowners take on renovations of all shapes and sizes, with endless options for fixtures and features. While we generally aim to inspire readers with a weekly peek into the before and after experiences of real NYC homeowners, the “after” pictures can end up inspiring fear for readers who find a single aisle of tile overwhelming.

I always ask homeowners about their process for finding the fixtures and finishes they ended up selecting, and there tend to be two camps: homeowners who spend weeks sourcing and comparing and researching versus homeowners who went to a big box store for 24 minutes. Still, if you stick with classic choices, it doesn’t really matter which camp you’re in. For proof, we looked at a cross-section of budgets and projects and found seven modern classic baths by Sweeten experts that show how far simple tiles and clean craftsmanship can take the tiniest room in your home.

01 SWEETEN_nalinaBath

In a gut renovation so true to the original that it requires a double take, Nalina replicated her bathroom’s classic look with new white subway wall tile and 1″ hex floor tile. She gave definition to the white-on-white layers with gray grout. A small shower wall niche is a convenient update for the traditional space. 

02 SWEETEN_sanayaBath

Like Nalina, Sanaya went classic with white subway wall tile and black and white hex floor tile. She also chose a gleaming chrome and white lighting fixture for her Clinton Hill bath upgrade.

03 SWEETEN_essentialMasterBath

In this high-end project by Sweeten Expert Rich, the homeowners upended their classic white subway and penny round floor tile picks by laying the tiles in less conventional but still classic geometric patterns. A custom vanity with luxe tub and shower features give this space an updated edge. (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Bathrooms 6


Here on the Sweeten blog, we’ve got your weekly fix of classic before and after renovation transformations, design ideas, and budget basics for every home improvement project. This week, we ran the numbers on our Instagram snapshots and tallied up the dining spaces our @SWEETEN_HOME followers love most. These photos prove two universal truths: one, there are endless ways to create a gorgeous dining area (white-washed walls or wild wallpaper? rough-hewn wood or sleek lacquer? windowed or mirrored?…) and two, statement lighting is always, always, always in style.

Straight from our 125,000+ Instagram followers, here are the most-adored, Sweeten-Expert-crafted dining areas. Take a look for inspiration, check us out on Instagram, and follow us @SWEETEN_HOME!



Posted by: Categories: Dining, furniture, Inspiration 3

“We had a lot of questions and were really involved. Sweeten Expert Mark was incredibly accommodating. We would text him with annoying questions while we were shopping for materials and he would help us make the call right away.”

–Saskia S., Downtown Brooklyn homeowner

If you have set foot in more than three New York City apartments, you have probably seen one of these: a standard issue, L-shaped studio in a concrete block, post-war high-rise. First-time homeowners Saskia and Ben left a two-bedroom rental apartment where they had lived for five years to buy this 650 square foot studio in a co-op building in bustling Downtown Brooklyn. They knew that they had some work to do to make this blank slate feel like home, but just as they were settling in and scheming about renovation possibilities, they had to muddle through a tough math problem: how does a couple downsize from a two-bedroom to a studio and then make room for the arrival of a brand new family member!?


Saskia, who works for a non-profit, and Ben, an attorney, turned to Sweeten to find a general contractor who would help them use the space as efficiently as possible. In their Sweeten project post, they set up four goal lines: divide the living and sleeping areas, build customized storage, upgrade and open up the kitchen, and do something (anything!) with the 1970s tile in the bathroom. We happily pointed them to Sweeten Expert Mark of recent Sweeten Blog fame to figure this equation out.

photo 4


Saskia and Ben were refreshingly pragmatic and totally unfazed by the actual square footage; they felt sure that they didn’t need more space, they just needed to find ways to make the most of the space they had. Separating the living and sleeping areas was an obvious first move that brought an intriguing possibility: putting up a wall is standard fare in NYC, but a new wall in this co-op required a more complicated set of approvals and architect drawings. To save the time and money they might have spent down that route, Mark proposed a partition that would visually separate the room without veering into the structural and paperwork requirements of a new wall. Saskia went further: could the partition double as custom storage? Mark was ready with one more element – they could create a “wall” of custom storage AND set a few extra feet apart for a nursery nook. Somehow, incredibly, this studio apartment was on its way to life as an almost-two-bedroom for this growing family…! (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Bathrooms, Kitchens, studios, Sweetened 6

In the last two weeks, we’ve house-toured Elizabeth’s West Village stunner and Marissa’s Prospect Heights bath makeover. Part of the fun in seeing a truly transcendent renovation is that homeowners like these ladies make this process look like a cake walk – but as a commenter pointed out after last week’s post, it is hard work to pull these projects off and make them look positively effortless.

One part of the story you are unlikely to see on any “before and after” design blog? Specifics about contractor licenses. Sure, it is great fun to look at glittering new tile and fixture picks, but a successful renovation includes a lot of behind-the-scenes maneuvering that generally requires specific licenses and expertise. Do you know what kind of work requires a license in NYC? Would you know where to look to find out if a contractor has a license for your project? This is not an intuitive part of a renovation, my friends, so let’s take a closer look at these questions.


The stodgy legal language is all up at NYC.gov, but here is a quick rundown:

Anyone who provides home improvement work that costs more than $200 must get a home improvement contractor (HIC) license in New York City.  (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Before, Renovation Resources 9
Thursday, September 11, 2014

Marissa’s Sweetened Black and White Bath



“I had my entire bathroom ripped to the studs – Sweeten Expert Mark took complete care to protect my apartment, which felt really respectful to me as a homeowner.”

–Marissa Y., Prospect Heights homeowner

At first glance, Marissa’s bath renovation looks as straightforward as they come: builder-grade fixtures and dropped ceilings, all aged over three decades, ripped out and replaced with gleaming tile, high-drama lighting, and old New York details. One look at the before and after photos and you would think you have the whole story. But, this before and after hides three surprise design decisions, and a little magic up the homeowner’s sleeve, that changed the game for this Prospect Heights bathroom.  (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Bathrooms, Completed Projects, Inspiration 7


I went in to this process totally blind. Sweeten Expert Gennadiy was fantastic – I knew he would get everything right, even down to the outlet covers. He was incredibly, incredibly detail-oriented and helpful.”

–Elizabeth N., West Village Homeowner

This week, I caught up with Elizabeth, a Manhattan homeowner who has spent the summer enjoying her newly-renovated and restored two-bedroom co-op on one of my favorite tree-lined West Village blocks. Elizabeth beat the spring real estate rush by closing on her new place in January. Pretty much right away, Elizabeth, who works in sales in the financial services sector, realized the unforgiving nature of buying in New York City – she had spent one visit, and a grand total of about 15 minutes, looking at the apartment before rushing in a bid. As she walked through on closing day, Elizabeth began to see how much TLC her new home needed.

Revamping the bathroom was her initial focus – the heavy tiles and cramped under-sink storage made the space feel unnecessarily tight and poorly lit. The bathroom door swung in, bumping up against the sink and vanity, and made for an awkward entry and exit. And that WALLPAPER! And that TINY sink basin! Suffice it to say that Elizabeth had no qualms about this overhaul. (more…)

Now that the peak spring real estate season is behind us, we are seeing many spring buyers become summer closers. Before you pop the champagne on your new home purchase, let’s talk about one potential hiccup: the closing and renovating squaredance. In the interest of keeping our  Sweeten summer interns on their toes, I say we pause for a little quiz. We don’t do nearly enough quizzes around here.


(cover photo from Upper West Side townhouse renovation by Sweeten Expert Ivan)

If you are in the process of buying a home and you have immediate renovation plans in mind, when can you start designing and building?

A. When you make an offer?
B. When you have an accepted offer?
C. When you have an accepted offer and a deal sheet from your broker?
D. When your attorney is preparing the contract and conducting a due diligence review of the property and building?
E. When you have a signed contract and the deposit has changed hands?
F. When the condo or co-op board approves the transaction?
G. After you close?

To confirm the correct answer, I talked to James Jantarasami, a New York attorney with expertise in housing and real estate. James walked me through a few “Do’s” and  “Dont’s” of closing and renovating:

DON’T shop around for a contractor before you have a place. Maybe this is obvious, but we sometimes see prospective owners jump the gun and try to interview contractors about a theoretical project. You will not be able to have a productive conversation with (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Closing 2

This week, I got to live vicariously through a delightful homeowner’s Upper West Side kitchen transformation. Hafeeza and her husband made the big move from a 4,500 square foot home in suburban New Jersey to Manhattan’s Upper West Side in 2013. After raising five children, Hafeeza and her husband were ready for a retirement relocation that would put the City at their feet and free them from maintaining a large home. They spent a year in a temporary spot before finding the long-term city apartment where they planned to enjoy the essentials: family and friend get-togethers and nightly meals prepared by Hafeeza’s husband, the devoted family chef. The new space was ideal for those plans, except for the kitchen, which was functional but outdated and lacked the storage and prep space they envisioned. After talking to a number of contractors who weren’t available for or interested in the scope of the job, Hafeeza took to Sweeten to find a contractor for her list of simple and smart upgrades.


“Our Sweeten Expert was a true professional from the initial meeting until the final payment.”

- Hafeeza M., Upper West Side homeowner

Usually, when I talk to homeowners about their renovations, I get a dose of renovation envy: I want THAT sparkling new kitchen, too! But after talking with Hafeeza, I ended up with something extra and unexpected: a renewed appreciation for New York City living and the William Morris mantra we recently explored on the Sweeten blog. One look at Hafeeza’s Sweeten project post and you can see why. Hafeeza started with a call for (more…)