A Storage Swap Creates More Space in this Alcove Studio

With a year left on her lease, timing was not an issue when Lauren closed on her new studio co-op in impossibly charming Brooklyn Heights. But with a desk where a master closet could be and a teeny closet where a chic workspace could be, Lauren needed some help to renovate before settling in. Read on for this first-time homeowner’s take on kitchen, bathroom, closet, and flooring updates throughout her lovely home.

storage swap
Guest post by Lauren, Brooklyn Heights homeowner

When I started looking for an apartment last fall, I had no idea what to expect. I had narrowed my ideal location to Brooklyn Heights for its proximity to Manhattan and quaint feel. Once I saw the listing for this co-op apartment online, I knew it ticked all of my boxes and was ecstatic when my offer was accepted. I had time on my side as I still had about a year left on my current lease (did not think the buying process would happen as quickly as it did) and I decided the apartment could use some updates to fit my style and taste a bit more.

The space gets a lot of light and has a great view of the East River. I wanted to update the bathroom, darken the floors, and optimize storage space in the apartment. The way the previous owner had utilized storage space did not make sense to me: There was a large home office in a closet in the main living space and a small closet in the bed loft area. The bed loft also had a trap door for storage that was only accessible under the bed. I had no idea where to start looking for a contractor, but I remembered reading about an apartment renovation with Sweeten on Apartment Therapy. On a whim, I posted my project, and I waited to see what sort of responses I would get.

sweeten_lauren_apartment-before-02
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I wanted the apartment to have a clean, fresh, modern, and calm feel with optimized storage to reduce clutter. I had most of my finishes and materials selected before starting the renovation, which made everything that much easier. I got two matches initially and then worked with Sweeten to line up more so I had more bids to compare and contractors to meet. I met with four contractors and after much deliberation, I decided to go with Sweeten Experts Andrey and Igor.

Andrey completely understood my vision and desired style for the apartment. I asked him at one of our first meetings if there was anything that I hadn’t included in the scope of the renovation that I should have, and he immediately mentioned skim coating the walls and ceilings. The thought had never crossed my mind, but Andrey pointed out the bowed beams on the ceiling and uneven surface on the walls. He educated me on why it was the best route to make this impactful update.

From the start, I knew that it would be difficult to darken the maple floors. Maple is a notoriously difficult wood to introduce stain, and I could tell from a preliminary search on Google just how hard it would be to accomplish. Andrey and his team did not back down from this challenge. They tried to go the normal route of staining first, and after the first round of testing and samples we knew this would not give the desired result. Andrey investigated different dyes and proper techniques for mixing the dyes and application. After some trial and error (and lots of labor), the floors turned out great!

In addition, Andrey re-built the bed loft platform out of the same maple flooring to match (as it was previously just plywood). He integrated a better storage solution under the bed loft, creating three bays to store off-season clothes and a folding table and chairs for extra guests. He also installed shoe moulding and base moulding throughout. In the bed loft area, after removing an existing closet, Andrey created a built-in desk nook.

bed loft platform
studio bedroom
built-in desk nook

In the kitchen, the existing stove was quite small at 24” and I really like to cook and wanted a standard size range. Replacing the range proved difficult as the existing cabinetry configuration did not allow for a range with 30” in width. With some creativity, Igor came up with the solution by notching out the cabinets by a half inch on either side, shifting one cabinet down, and making it into a cookbook shelf at my request. This allowed me to get a full size Samsung 30” gas range.

Replacing the range also meant replacing the countertops. I knew I wanted to change the existing dark marble countertops for a light colored quartz option. I discovered that Pental Quartz Thassos was the brightest white quartz to complement the white gloss Ikea cabinets that I was leaving in place. The same material was used to make new windowsills as well.

In addition to new countertops, I updated the kitchen with a new sink, faucet, dishwasher, refrigerator, marble backsplash, and new under-cabinet lighting. Andrey and Igor came up with another great idea to add a soffit on top of the kitchen cabinets to finish off the look. The kitchen lighting was also replaced from three pendants to one large rectangular lantern pendant.

half opened kitchen layout
samsung range marble backsplash
bright white studio
maple floors

In the bathroom, the fact that the bathtub was too short for its location really bugged me. There also was a very odd triangular corner which I thought was a terrible waste of space. Working with Andrey, I am so pleased with how the bathroom turned out. It feels like a mini-spa. Andrey squared off the triangular corner and broke through the wall to the exterior hallway making the triangular corner into a linen closet accessed right outside the bathroom. I added a drop-in tub that fit the space better and opened it all up by replacing the shower curtain with a glass shower screen. The tinted shower tile gives the otherwise all-white bathroom a refreshing pop of color. New shower lighting highlights the unique color of the tile. The fixtures are from Kohler as is the vanity.

all-white bathroom
kohler purist vanity sink
glass shower door
gray bathroom subway tiles
kohler shower fixtures
shower shelves

Andrey and Igor came up with a great idea for closets and went with larger 8 foot closet doors to make the space feel more expansive and draw your eye up to the beams. We replaced all the doors with single panel doors and simple chrome hardware. Two closets were customized by California Closets while Andrey and his team built shelving in the other two closets.

custom closet

Andrey also built a cover for the AC/heat unit in the living room, with the front panel mimicking the same style as the bathroom sink vanity. Andrey even took the time to come back to the apartment to mount the TV properly when a handyman I’d hired had an issue mounting it into a steel stud.

For a first-time renovator, Sweeten, along with Andrey and Igor made the process pretty painless. Andrey takes great pride in his work, and as a client, I could not be happier with my experience working with him and Igor. Yes, there were delays (as there always are), but Andrey was incredibly communicative and was able to handle my nerves and constant questions. Andrey and Igor are perfectionists and true craftsmen, and I could not be more pleased with their work. Everyone who comes to see the apartment sees the quality from how the tile is laid in the bathroom to how the floors are re-done, and I owe it all to Andrey and Igor and Sweeten.

Kitchen selects >> counters: Pental Quartz: Thassos / sink hardware: Kohler Purist / oven range: Samsung / fridge: Blomberg / dishwasher: Bosch / lighting: Ballard Designs

Bathroom selects >> floors: Asian Blossom tile / wall tile: Complete Tile Vermeere Field (light ocean breeze) / shower hardware: Kohler Purist / vanity sink: Kohler Purist / mirror: Restoration Hardware / wall sconces: Circa / bath baskets and door hardware: Klaff’s Hardware

Living/other selects >> closets: California Closets

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.

  • Candy Bigwood

    Smart, clean, functional, and quite chic! Any idea where the new duvet cover is from? I’m in the market for a new one!

  • mslewis

    Just beautiful. And the closet … I want. This design is a great use of space and the owner has added a lot of value to the apartment.

  • Edith Orla

    great set-up! that alcove looks so inviting with the new desk.

  • Josephine

    wow i’d love to have a closet like that

  • Surie Ackerman

    Am I the only one who thinks that the toilet is a tight squeeze?

    • Tim

      agreed, but it’s probably right there to maximize the space. don’t see how else she could have reconfigured the toilet position.

      • Surie Ackerman

        Well, it’s good incentive to keep one’s weight down, I suppose. I don’t think too large a tushy could fit!

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