Spotlight / By Stacey Freed / May 16, 2018
A Reno for the Love of Cooking
A Japanese aesthetic warms up a chef’s kitchen
Project: Remodel a neglected kitchen in East Flatbush
Before: For years, Tracey Dixon and Stephen Neverson and their three young children were always renters in New York City. But in August of 2016, a confluence of difficult and emotional events—the deaths of Tracey’s parents (just three weeks apart after 42 years of marriage), which led to some inheritance money, followed closely by the sale of their apartment by their landlord—pushed them to decide to purchase a place of their own.
While the ‘40s attached rowhouse in Brooklyn’s East Flatbush had enough space (1,930 square feet), it also had a kitchen with a drop ceiling, wood paneling, an unsightly ceramic floor, and a sink that was falling apart. “We entertain a lot, and the kitchen blocked us from that. The stove was crooked because of the floor, and there was a thick layer of grease on everything that would not come off. The pipes were old as I don’t know what,” says Tracey, a freelance violist who runs the private Dixon String Studio and avid cook with a culinary degree. “I wanted a modern, bright, clean design.” Tracey and Stephen, a high school guidance counselor, posted their project to Sweeten, a free service matching homeowners with vetted general contractors, and planned a renovation with their chosen contractor.
After: While Tracey wanted her chef’s kitchen, she didn’t want it to feel sterile. “This is a home, not a restaurant,” she said. “And the kitchen is the center of our home.” The design combines her love for both modern and Japanese aesthetics.
The dishwasher and stove were the two things Tracey was looking forward to the most. “We are a family of five and a dishwasher is crucial,” she said. The stove is “beloved. It allows me to create. I needed more power out of my stove. In our last apartment, it took me 100 years just to boil water for pasta,” she said. During the renovation, Tracey said she became a “microwave cooking queen.” It was difficult to navigate the renovation with three small children and all their appliances sitting in the living room. But they couldn’t eat out all the time. “I discovered I could make lovely broccoli and fabulous rice in the microwave!” Tracey said.
Once they put everything back into the new kitchen, they were glad they had pull-out drawers for the recycling, spices, and oils. “There is so much storage. We also have two open-shelving spaces, which I just love,” she said.
If they ever renovate again, she’d know to “save for the renovation and the padding around it. The incidental costs caught us off guard. We factored in some, but not all. We were still able to get everything done, but we definitely could have benefitted from more financial padding.”
The couple loved working with their Sweeten contractor and designer. “They were the absolute greatest,” Tracey said. “The level of professionalism was top notch. They did everything they could on this project. The kitchen was completely gutted and done in five weeks. They worked hard and were consistent. You never felt like you were just being fit into their day. We felt like priority clients.” And Sweeten itself “was great. They checked in regularly to see how things were going and made sure we knew they were available for any and all help.”
Now that it’s all over, Tracey is looking toward their next possible project. “The outdoor deck is definitely in our future renovation plans for our lifestyle.” She knows they’ll be outside as soon as the weather is good and is daydreaming about a deck with Portuguese tiles, maybe a partial patio and a grassy area. “Nature is important, necessary, and dear to me,” she said. “My family and guests need to have an option of green in our urban landscape.”
Bonus: Tracey expresses her love and nurturing through food. “Just a few weeks ago, the added counter space allowed me to show my brother some cooking tips because he has a new love for cooking. Food binds our cultures and our lives together,” she explained.
Style finds: Floor tile and backsplash tile: Artistic Tile. Bamboo cabinets, hardware, and Caesarstone countertops: Decori Kitchens. Sink: Elkay. Faucet: Blanco. Refrigerator: LG. Dishwasher: Whirlpool. Stove: Bertazzoni. Ivy Bronx pendant lighting: All Modern. Envi bar stools: Lumisource.
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