3 Renovation Lessons Learned from a Greenwich Village Designer

When a design editor and curator came to Sweeten to renovate the kitchen and bathroom in her 1910 Greenwich Village industrial loft, we were psyched to see what she would do with the remnants of a 1970s condo conversion and eager to see how a design professional would (presumably) breeze through her own renovation. We most definitely did end up with a beautiful new kitchen and bathroom after we introduced this homeowner to Sweeten Expert Aleks, but we also landed some especially insightful lessons learned along the way. We’ll keep our source secret because she works in the industry, but here are three renovation lessons from a sweetened kitchen and bathroom that everyone should know.

kitchen and bath renovation

1. Visit the showrooms, but buy online.

The insider tip from this renovation is that you have to combine high-tech and low-tech research methods to make decisions and purchases. Products are endlessly available from a huge variety of sources and it’s worth visiting showrooms and stone yards to see and touch the materials that will be in your home for years, but the best prices for most materials can be found online. Even with architect and designer discounts, this design pro found that most purchases were cheaper online.

One potential downside of skipping the brick and mortar ordering experience is that you are dealing with a wide variety of sources across many appliances and fixtures. The word from our insider is to apply some good old-fashioned patience and diligence in dealing with different customer service contacts, but also take very clear pictures of labels and serial numbers and specs in case you need to correct an order or source any additional tiny parts. Keep your cool as materials arrive by cataloguing electronic records and photos of all of the pieces, with serial numbers visible in your photos, so that you can instantly source what you need as deliveries fall into place. These records will also help you document any problems you do run into with vendors and will give you a much clearer path to resolving issues big and small.

2. Learn your way around IKEA’s cabinet system.

Our industry source looked at lots of kitchen cabinetry options and found that the high-end route was astronomically expense. Frustratingly, the next tier down was slightly more budget-friendly, but not enough to mask the difference in construction quality. IKEA’s cabinet system required admittedly time-consuming weeknight trips and weekend excursions, but investing time and learning her way around their design software yielded a great set of cabinets and a modern look at a much lower price point. “Brace yourself and crack IKEA” in her words!

As with any order, you should have your contractor confirm measurements and weigh in on the pieces you pick before you order. Your contractor is your full partner in the renovation – even if you have the patience to teach yourself to use IKEA’s design system, your contractor will figure out ways to make things work and help you pass obstacles you wouldn’t otherwise see coming.

3. Stay close by and check in often.

If you’re going with a major renovation and need to stay elsewhere while the work is underway, it’s really important to be close by and check in often. Even with all of the advance planning and ordering and designing that goes in to the process, there are decisions being made on the ground at every stage and you want to be a part of it. It’s not that you’re supervising the work or preventing mistakes, it’s that there are small decisions and many paths that the team will go down, and you can have an impact as design translates into build.

Talk to your contractor about when visits make sense and be a regular thought partner in the progress. Our insider also encouraged renovators to be kind to themselves and to their contractors: be prepared for mistakes – the wrong color, the wrong size, and unforeseen adjustments are an inevitable part of a complex and custom process. Forgive yourself and build in the emotional and scheduling contingencies to address mistakes and keep moving forward.

greenwich village kitchen renovation

greenwich village kitchen ikea cabinets

greenwich village kitchen renovation

greenwich village kitchen renovation

greenwich village bathroom renovation

greenwich village bathroom renovation

greenwich village bathroom renovation

greenwich village bathroom renovation

In this renovation, our expert insider was aiming for contemporary, sleek, and decidedly unfussy. She credited Sweeten Expert Aleks and his team in bringing calm to the storm, suggesting realistic upgrades and solutions for custom adjustments and tight corners, and for being a welcome partner in day to day problem-solving.

Kitchen Selects >>  floor tile: Tiles by Tina / countertop: custom Carrara marble / backsplash tile: Tiles by Tina / cabinets: white lacquer IKEA / sink: Blanco via theperfecthome.com / dishwasher: Miele / stove: Bertazzoni / fridge: Fisher & Paykel

Bathroom Selects >> floor tile: Ciot Carrara marble / sink: Duravit Vero / sink faucet: Kohler / towel bars: Kohler / toilet: Toto

Sweeten handpicks 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 project on Sweeten.

  • KellyS

    #1 is so irresponsible! The showrooms are providing you a service. They gave you the opportunity to shop for your appliances, tiles, fixtures and decide what you want. They pay rent, salaries for local workers, insurance and local taxes. Of course online sellers are cheaper — they don’t have to provide you with any of those services that your local showrooms provide. If you can afford a fancy new kitchen, and if you made your decision by visiting a showroom, do the right thing and buy from them.

  • Chels

    ^^ I’m not sure people are obligated to pay higher prices for walking into a store. I’m all for supporting local shops and workers but everyone has to adjust to the ecommerce reality in some way – unless an online source is doing something unethical, is it fair to ask consumers to take the higher ground?

    • Carmen Ruiz-Davila

      yes it is fair to ask consumers to take the higher ground. If you don’t buy at brick and mortar stores they will cease to exist. I you want to see what the product looks like in person then support those that are giving you that luxury.

  • Carrie

    I am simply a consumer but I’m against “show rooming”. Some of those who work in showrooms may be on commission so you are wasting their time. I’ve shopped both on line and in showrooms. If you look in a showroom, buy in one. You are presumably already getting a trade discount. Can you imagine not having showrooms to see products? It’s ludicrous to think they should have prices equal to on line sources.

  • Marissa

    I’ve gone to showrooms that don’t handle sales so there’s no pressure but you can get a product demonstration.For some of the kitchen appliance showrooms you can even get a meal. In NYC they’re housed in the D&D design building. I had lunch at the Miele showroom and the Bosch showroom (at the time, in Brooklyn). I made my purchases elsewhere.

  • Leah

    Like Marissa, I also visited manufacturer showrooms, which in New York City are a decent number. In one of these a very knowledgable sales person, when seeing the architect’s spec for a specific corner cabinet’s insert, he showed me, by example on the floor, how it never would have worked in my tiny kitchen. He offered an alternative which turned out to be the exact solution and now functions perfectly. I would also add when visiting showrooms plumbing supply, furniture houses, etc., bring your floor plan and carry a tape measure.

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