Anne’s Sweetened Willow Street Kitchen – Homeowner Guest Post

This week, we’re in Brooklyn Heights with Anne Sanger, a fashion illustrator whose creative vision for her home was trapped inside a half-galley kitchen, maybe 27 square feet, if we’re being generous. Usually, when people tell us they have 27 square feet of kitchen space to renovate, we have to ask them to go back and measure and re-do the math, because it’s almost impossible to have only 27 square feet in your kitchen. So, this is the story of a kitchen that actually was 27 square feet, and now is most decidedly not!

brooklyn heights kitchen

Guest post by Anne Sanger, Brooklyn Heights homeowner

I bought my apartment in Brooklyn Heights over a decade ago, and I always knew I wanted to renovate the kitchen. However, the years went by and I remained paralyzed at the prospect of finding a contractor and spending the money on such a large project. I finally decided to treat myself to a complete renovation of the kitchen just this past summer. For all those years, I had lived with a tiny galley kitchen that offered little light and absolutely no pleasure in cooking. I was determined to make the most of this opportunity and set out to find a designer and contractor that would help me to realize the very specific improvements I had in mind.

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After interviewing a couple of firms that had been referred to me for the job but finding neither really fit the bill, I posted my project on Sweeten. I described how I was looking to make my kitchen both beautiful and functional. I also noted that I was considering the removal of the wall between the kitchen and living room, although that meant losing space in the living room for a cabinet that was used to store all of my art supplies. As a fashion illustrator, I knew I needed those supplies as well as my collection of art and design books at hand, so in addition to renovating the kitchen, I was hoping to have a bookshelf with cabinets built along one of the remaining walls.

Soon enough, I was matched with Sweeten Experts Paulina and Albert. When I met with Paulina, I was reassured that I’d found someone who could handle the technical aspects of the design work as well as the building expertise needed to get a beautiful result. What I had in mind entailed removing the wall that made the old kitchen so dark and confining, raising the ceiling about a foot, and reimagining the small space with beautiful cabinetry and a show-stopper backsplash, for which I was prepared to pay a premium.

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To my delight, Paulina indulged my design ideas while suggesting practical solutions, including the peninsula that would replace the wall and serve as a functional area for storage as well as a space for entertaining. After scouring the city for tiles and countertops, I fell in love with chinoiserie-inspired ceramic tiles from Walker Zanger (Imperial Pattern in Ming Blue), around which the rest of the kitchen design would be created. We decided to extend this backsplash tile all the way up to the now higher ceiling, complemented by new black floor tiles (also from Walker Zanger: Regency Mosaic in Noir) arranged in an intricate, geometric pattern. Instead of selecting white marble as so many modern kitchens have, I decided to go with a fabulous Nero Marquina black marble countertop from Ann Sacks for major impact. Coupled with the stunning custom cabinets that Albert would be building, I had the makings of a very chic kitchen design indeed!

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Mission accomplished? Not quite. Living in a co-op building, I knew I would have to jump through the usual hoops of getting board approval for my plans, but I didn’t expect all the NYC Department of Buildings requirements that were tied to wall removal. After many weeks of waiting on permits, we finally got started on the demolition at the beginning of August. Looking back, I would have chosen to move out of the apartment for the duration of the construction phase, but I didn’t feel the expense of doing so was worth it at the time.

However, any inconvenience I suffered as a result of that decision was more than worth it for the result! Paulina cleverly incorporated the design for a bookshelf along with plenty of storage (and even a hidden outlet for a printer inside one of the cabinets) in the new peninsula. She also included LED lights under the cabinets, a nice touch that I take particular pleasure in when working at the peninsula. Albert hand-crafted the cabinets using hardwood, plywood, and MDF, finished in a satin white lacquer and he also created a beautiful maple wood countertop exactly to my specifications, staining it a rich, dark walnut color that adds a sense of flow between the combined rooms.

Brushed brass hardware and glass upper cabinet doors also help set the desired tone of sophistication in my new kitchen – the cabinet pulls are from the Amerock Essential’Z line in ‘Brushed Bronze’ via Build.com and the satin brass finger pulls on the upper cabinet doors are from Home Depot. The amount of storage that Paulina was able to include in the design – including shelving on the side for my cookbooks and a small wine rack – is truly miraculous!

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It feels as if I have moved into a brand new, luxury apartment! The abundance of light and the new functionality of this kitchen design (including the first dishwasher that I have owned in my adult life) have made me a very happy chef, and I am looking forward to making many hearty meals this winter from my favorite new cookbook, My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz.

Kitchen Selects >> floor tile: Regency Mosaic Noir, Walker Zanger / backsplash tile: Imperial Pattern Ming Blue, Walker Zanger / countertop: Nero Marquina black marble, Ann Sacks / dishwasher: Bosch / Stove and hood: Summit / fridge: Summit / sink: Kraus / cabinets: custom / wood countertop: custom / light: Bell White with Brushed Gold interior CB2

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.

  • Renov8or

    What a great use of space in a small kitchen. I love the blue walker zanger backsplash. The whole kitchen is like a little gem. Great job!

  • Luluagogo

    What was the final project cost? How did the expenses break down?

  • Anne Zhou

    Hi Luluagogo – thanks for your question. A basic kitchen in NYC typically starts around the $20k mark, but there may be elements of your project that push the budget higher depending on the cost of the materials that you purchase and scope of work, especially if you want to install custom cabinets. If you want more information, sign up for our newsletter to get our Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Renovation! Hope that helps!

    – Anne at Sweeten

  • Ola

    Awesome transformation..major Mazel!!!

  • lynne

    do you and your team renovate/update kitchens in rental buildings?

  • Roisin

    27 square feet! Wow! What a transformation.

  • Kerry @ Sweeten

    Hi Lynne – Sweeten handpicks general contractors for major renovations in New York City. If you are looking to do a major renovation in a rental unit and you have the approvals you need from your building management, post your project at sweeten.com and we’ll introduce you to contractors who do that work best.

    Hope that helps!

    Kerry at Sweeten

  • Nancy Jackson Judd

    Wow, great job!

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