Bernice & Davison’s Upper West Side Kitchen Renovation — Sweetened!

This week, I checked in with Bernice and Davison, an Upper West Side couple who took on a moderately impossible trifecta this past summer: they renovated their new home, moved in, and welcomed a newborn baby all within the same few weeks! Yikes?! All New Yorkers deal with tough deadlines when it comes to moving and renovating, but no amount of negotiation will alter the arrival of a brand new baby, so, with their second child on the way, this family came to Sweeten looking for a contractor who could lead on critical changes to their home before they moved in. The layout of the family’s three-bedroom co-op allowed for the children to have separate bedrooms – not always a given in the City – but to enter the apartment’s one bathroom, you had to walk through one of the bedrooms. This started to feel like a deal breaker as the family tried to envision tiptoeing by a sleeping baby on a daily basis. Relocating the bathroom door so that the bath could be accessed via the living room necessitated a renovation that ended up including a full kitchen overhaul and the addition of the growing family’s new secret weapon: an in-unit washing machine. We introduced Davison and Bernice to this Sweeten contractor to take on the family’s targeted plans for demolition and rebuilding throughout the home.

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“We used Sweeten in two ways: we drew heavily on ideas from other kitchens posted on the Sweeten blog for our designs, and we relied on our contractor’s kitchen expertise to save money using some of what we already had. We would definitely come back to Sweeten if we had another project to take on.”

— Davison A, Upper West Side homeowner

Davison and Bernice thought a lot about how to improve work space in the kitchen without changing the kitchen’s layout or dimensions. Davison, who works in telecommunications, was inspired by some of the traditional principles of feng shui – he knew that small changes could have a big impact on the way the couple moved in the kitchen, and wanted to use the renovation as an opportunity to create an environment that would allow for easier flow between the kitchen’s hardest-working spaces – the stove, the sink, and the fridge. The couple’s fridge originally stood as a sentry, guarding the entry to the kitchen on the left and blocking access to counter space near the sink. Counter space was inconsistent and interrupted, and the small corner beyond the fridge had storage and prep space that was unnecessarily miniature. The couple set out to make room for a washing machine, re-orient cooking and prep stations, and bring a modern feel to the kitchen with updated cabinetry and tile.

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The road to getting co-op board approval for installation of a washing machine was not without hiccups. The thumbs up for a washer came from the board with a few requirements to install features that would automatically sense water flow and shut off the water if flow exceeded normal operating levels. However, the board had concerns about overloading the building’s electrical grid with a conventional dryer. Davison explained that the board would have permitted a 120 volt dryer, but not the standard 240 volt dryer. Dryers that operate on 120 volts are typically much lower capacity; Davison and Bernice debated going with a combo washer-dryer unit that would only be able to dry small loads, and also considered the board’s offer to allow a 240 volt dryer if the couple covered significant electrical wiring re-work in the building, but ultimately decided to forgo the dryer.

The addition of the washing machine has made a huge difference in the family’s ability to manage daily laundry needs for their two kids, and when they have larger and more infrequent loads, they use the building’s laundry facilities. I was surprised to hear that the washing machine was an easier sell than the dryer – will report back soon with more detail on laundry room options in NYC homes!

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Their contractor and crew helped Davison and Bernice save money by using some of the existing cabinet lines in the kitchen. Louie built a full set of hard maple, custom pantry cabinets on the right side of the kitchen where the team relocated the fridge. Louie was able to leave the original cabinet bases along the back of the kitchen in place, but modified the set with new doors. The cabinets on the kitchen’s left wall are a hybrid of original and custom, all finished to match the other cabinet sections with a shop-sprayed lacquer in a low-luster finish. Davison especially loves the impact of a seemingly minor change: Louie created an angled section of cabinets and countertop that have opened up an awkward niche in the kitchen – it’s now easier for everyone to move around and use the workspace created by this small design shift.

The couple completed the kitchen’s transformation with imported Italian porcelain floor tiles and a mix of glass and ceramic backsplash tiles, all from The Tile Spark. Their contractor recommended Farrow and Ball’s Wimborne White, a low VOC paint that would minimize chemicals and odor for the family as they eagerly awaited the arrival of their daughter. The counters are Caesarstone and illuminated by dimmable under-cabinet LED lighting from WAC. The new fridge is from Summit, the dishwasher is from Bosch, the stove is by Bertazzoni, and the washing machine is from LG. The new kitchen also features a larger Franke sink and a tap-activated Grohe faucet. Their contractor reports that if you “just think about the faucet, it turns on…” – a great pick for parents with very full hands!

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Many thanks to Davison and Bernice for showing us around the new kitchen and for sharing their insight on one washing machine vs. Manhattan co-op board showdown. We are so glad that this Sweeten contractor helped this family ready their home for a new arrival, and we’re sure that other New Yorkers will be taking pages out of this playbook for kitchen renovations this spring. If you are inspired by this family’s home, post your project on Sweeten and let us connect you with general contractors who can create a space you will love.

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  • Mrs. T

    That bonus baby photo at the end is too much! How cute! I mean I’m sure I could think of something to say about the renovation but I think I’ll just leave it at that.

  • simpleandcreativeusername

    Interesting what a change moving the fridge made. Only a couple feet but the kitchen looks so much more open. As with that awkward corner. But why did they leave that one skinny cabinet without a door?

  • Kate Dixon

    Looks great. Would love to know where the flooring was from, looking at something similar for my kitchen.

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  • Kerry at Sweeten

    Hi Kate – the porcelain floor tiles are from The Tile Spark, based in Manhattan. The contractor who ran this project explained that they are imported from Italy. Hope that helps you find what you have in mind!

  • Michelle

    Love this project! How much did this work exactly cost? You can email me!

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  • banjonyc

    Fantastic look and your baby is adoreable

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