Sweeten hand-picks the best experts for your renovation project

This week, I got to live vicariously through a delightful homeowner’s Upper West Side kitchen transformation. Hafeeza and her husband made the big move from a 4,500 square foot home in suburban New Jersey to Manhattan’s Upper West Side in 2013. After raising five children, Hafeeza and her husband were ready for a retirement relocation that would put the City at their feet and free them from maintaining a large home. They spent a year in a temporary spot before finding the long-term city apartment where they planned to enjoy the essentials: family and friend get-togethers and nightly meals prepared by Hafeeza’s husband, the devoted family chef. The new space was ideal for those plans, except for the kitchen, which was functional but outdated and lacked the storage and prep space they envisioned. After talking to a number of contractors who weren’t available for or interested in the scope of the job, Hafeeza took to Sweeten to find a contractor for her list of simple and smart upgrades.

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“Our Sweeten Expert was a true professional from the initial meeting until the final payment.”

- Hafeeza M., Upper West Side homeowner

Usually, when I talk to homeowners about their renovations, I get a dose of renovation envy: I want THAT sparkling new kitchen, too! But after talking with Hafeeza, I ended up with something extra and unexpected: a renewed appreciation for New York City living and the William Morris mantra we recently explored on the Sweeten blog. One look at Hafeeza’s Sweeten project post and you can see why. Hafeeza started with a call for (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Bathrooms, Kitchens, Sweetened 3

Last week, we looked at the upfront and behind-the-scenes costs of a basic NYC kitchen renovation. This week, we’re continuing with part two of the kitchen pricing guide series to break down options and costs for a high-end kitchen renovation.

Sweeten Expert Peter reiterated a few points from last week: you can go sky-high on luxury appliance costs but the real value of a high-end kitchen comes in the soft costs of precise design and infrastructure upgrades, and the investment of custom millwork and installation labor.

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Design and layout

Peter explained that the first place you start to see a move toward a high-end kitchen is when the homeowner is looking to re-work or expand the layout of the existing kitchen. Dropping walls, moving gas lines, re-routing plumbing lines, and re-wiring electrical options automatically hit a cost threshold above the $20,000 you need for a basic kitchen gut. Homeowners looking to do that kind of transformative work in the kitchen need architectural designs from a registered architect that can add a minimum of $15,000 to $20,000 to the budget, and generally necessitate expensive permits, thorough building approvals, high insurance coverage requirements, and more involved management from a general contractor overseeing the project.

These “soft costs” – expenses critical to the success of the work but often invisible and unforeseen for the homeowner – can represent 15-30% of a high-end kitchen renovation.

Below: Luxe kitchen renovation with custom, white lacquer cabinetry and custom oak paneling by Sweeten Expert Peter

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Custom cabinetry

Cabinets are generally the most cost- and labor-intensive physical aspect of a luxe kitchen renovation. Peter explained that many homeowners looking for high-end finishes tend to go in one of two directions: they opt for minimalist sleek cabinetry with concealed hardware, or they turn to decorative cabinetry with highly custom visual details. Either way, Peter explained that the starting point for basic custom cabinetry is $1,000 per linear foot (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Cost Guide, Inspiration, Kitchens 0

In March, we took a look at the cost breakdown of the average NYC bathroom renovation. This week, we’re moving on to the first of a two-part series on kitchen renovation pricing. We talked with Sweeten Experts Valeria and Eduard as well as Sweeten Expert Peter for a transparent look at the basic and variable costs of a typical kitchen renovation.

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The realization that struck me after talking with these experts is that homeowners have a lot of choice in managing costs on some material aspects of a kitchen renovation, but there are other costs that are less-obvious, labor-intensive, and tremendously critical to the work overall, no matter what you choose to spend on materials. Let’s take a look at both the straightforward and behind-the-scenes costs.

Straightforward Costs – Materials and Appliances 

Take a quick walk around your kitchen or any home appliance store and you can start to get a feel for the obvious costs of a kitchen renovation. You can expect to spend under $400 or up to $3,000 (and well beyond) on each of your stove, fridge, and dishwasher selections. You can find basic sink options for under $100 and up to $2,500, and faucet fixtures for under $40 and up to $1,200. (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Cost Guide, Kitchens 3

The last six months have brought big-time changes for Blaise, Kristin, and their family of five. After welcoming their third child and moving from Manhattan to Brooklyn, Blaise and Kristin were ready to prep their new home in Prospect Lefferts Gardens for the long run. First up: a kitchen and laundry room update. We stopped in to take some photos along the way, but the rest of this story is told by Blaise, himself.

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“Sweeten made it easy to communicate our vision to contractors before they even set foot in our home.”

- Blaise C., Prospect Lefferts Gardens homeowner

When we moved into our new home six months ago, we almost didn’t notice how limited the kitchen was. Living out of boxes and welcoming a newborn, it took us a few weeks to realize that we were having trouble finding space for groceries and that we had accidentally made a habit of storing kitchen basics in the basement. The move just about doubled the total space of our home, and yet we were struggling to find a place for everyday kitchen stuff.

Our punch list was pretty classic: kitchen storage was sorely lacking and countertop space was a joke. We are working parents who don’t cook that often, but we were ready to move our pots and pans out of the oven. We also realized that the bar-height counter was inaccessible for our kids and wanted to create a central gathering spot with a more standard counter height.

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The kitchen had been recently renovated and we liked the look, so we initially entertained the possibility of a quick fix like purchasing a kitchen island, but ended up deciding to use what we had and expand on it. At first, I tried to juggle contractor bids on my own, but with kids and jobs, that turned out to be decidedly easier said than done. I posted the project on Sweeten and added to the plans to create a laundry room in the basement by enclosing our washer/dryer with built-out walls and solid doors. (more…)

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We know first-hand how daunting it can be to envision renovation options as you’re standing in a crowded open house. This week, we are beyond psyched to share a first look at our new partnership with Corcoran, New York’s preeminent real estate group. We’ll be partnering with Corcoran to help buyers and sellers demystify the renovation process, understand design options for particular properties, and break down potential upgrades at various price points. Over the next few months, you’ll see more information for first-time buyers about how to value renovations for properties on the market, ideas for new homeowners looking to undo the renovation decisions of prior owners, and guidance for sellers looking to maximize their re-sale value or refresh a property before it gets listed.

In our first video take, Sweeten founder and CEO, Jean Brownhill Lauer, and Sweeten Expert Kent run us through kitchen renovation options, in under a minute, for a one-bedroom apartment on the market for $525,000.

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To keep the budget in the $10k – $30k range, Jean focuses in on the most immediately visible elements of the kitchen: new tile and backsplash, under-cabinet lighting, painting cupboards, and a possible high-impact splurge on new countertops. With a $30k – $60k budget, Jean and Kent help us picture a more transformative project: opening the kitchen up to the living room, creating a custom prep and dining island, bringing millwork finishes from the living room to new kitchen cabinetry, and re-doing the kitchen floor. Now press play!

We’re just getting started with this new Corcoran collaboration and can’t wait to share more with you as the spring real estate market warms up. Stay tuned for more in the works from Jean and Team Sweeten.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sanaya’s Sweetened Clinton Hill Kitchen

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“Sweeten connected me with an awesome, smart, and honest contractor, which is all you need to make it happen.”

–Sanaya K., Clinton Hill homeowner

Like a number of her Clinton Hill Co-op neighbors, homeowner Sanaya spent years living with decades-old cabinetry, outdated appliances, and unnecessarily cramped spaces before taking the plunge with a complete Sweeten renovation of her kitchen. “The kitchen was incredibly outdated,” she explained. “The cabinets were falling apart and I’m embarrassed to admit that there were cans of food holding up the shelves in one spot!”

Sanaya and her husband, Chris, had to contend with missing shelves and work around what looked like water damage from a prior leak. In addition, the original layout included a wall between the kitchen and pantry, which closed off both spaces and served no functional purpose. “It was tight,” Sanaya recalled. “Totally unnecessary, and made the space feel like a maze of walls.” Because of the placement of this dividing wall and the location of the refrigerator, counter space was seriously lacking. In her project post on Sweeten, Sanaya did not mince words: “…everything must go.”

After meeting with her Sweeten matches, Sanaya chose to work with Sweeten Expert, Alan, who helped bring together the homeowner’s renovation game plan.

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Sanaya took on three unconventional design choices to replace existing finishes: counter tops, the backsplash, and flooring. (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Inspiration, Kitchens, Sweetened 6
Thursday, November 21, 2013

One Kitchen, Three Ways in Clinton Hill

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Ever since Billy & Sally came to us with their cramped Clinton Hill kitchen last year, we’ve spent a lot of time Sweetening homes in the Clinton Hill co-ops. One of the most remarkable things about these projects is that they all start with the exact same, 1940′s bones, but by the end, no two of these spaces ends up anything alike. I personally cannot decide which of these kitchens I love most, but one thing is for sure, they have all come a very long way! Have a look at these three renovation outcomes and let us know which you like best.

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Kitchen #1: Billy & Sally’s Stylishly Curated Kitchen

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Kitchen #2: Kyle & Angela’s Mid-Century Inspired Kitchen

03_sweeten_carrieKitchen #3: Light & Modern, Family Kitchen

Let us know which you like best in the comments below (–and check back in a few weeks to see how this one finished up)!

Posted by: Categories: Inspiration, Kitchens 9

This is certainly one of those renovations that I have been anticipating with bated breath. Partly because the amazing homeowners, Kyle, an IT professional at a law firm, and Angela, a freelance illustrator, have the style and the je ne sais quoi to totally charm; but also, I love projects like this one, where the homeowners have lived in the space, dreamed about what it will be one day, and saved up for years towards the goal of making that dream home their real home. It gives all of us who may still be far from that goal, a sense of possibility.

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“We’d been living here for eleven years and things were starting to get a bit shabby. When we moved in, the apartment had been freshly renovated with all the cheapest materials available at Home Depot, which was fine back then, but we really wanted to make it ‘ours.’ We saved up for renovations all the while and put a lot of thought into what we wanted to do.”

 –Angela, homeowner

When the time had arrived early this year, Kyle and Angela (and their “mean, little chihuahua”) posted to Sweeten to get started on renovating their 900 sq/ft, 2 bedroom Clinton Hill co-op apartment. The road to selecting ‘the perfect contractor’ was made a whole lot sweeter by our three suggestions; according to Angela, “we feel confident that any of the contractors Sweeten selected for us would have done a great job, but we’re really happy that we chose Sweeten Expert Kris.” Kris and his team were able to take the homeowners’ dreams of extra counter space for baking and a place that showed off their personal mid-century style, and turn them into a reality, on-time and within-budget!

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Kris’ team worked closely with Kyle and Angela to meet their main objectives for the project: to create a modern, open apartment AND stay on budget. First order of business was making the ‘big moves,’ which meant tearing down the non-structural interior walls and tearing up the outdated and damaged parquet flooring. With just these changes, the homeowners could already begin to anticipate their moment of, “I can hardly believe it’s the same place we’ve lived for the past decade!” (more…)

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Around the end of last year, Elliot, a Graphic Designer, and Katie, a Benefit Specialist, decided that the time had come to take the scary but sensible plunge and become first-time homeowners of an older 1,800 sq/ft, 2-story townhouse in Williamsburg. The couple fell in love with this house’s lovely bones, plus it had a backyard for their dog, Desmond; but what they did not love was that it had the common NYC problem of disjointed spaces caused by a layout of many smaller rooms, not to mention the interior’s outdated everything.

Though the couple had never done a renovation before, they were excited by the idea of fixing up an older home. So the next task was to find their general contractor, which wouldn’t be easy (they thought) since they didn’t know many other homeowners, and therefore word-of-mouth was out of the question. After hearing about our resources at Sweeten, Katie & Elliot posted their project right away to get matched with members of the Sweeten Network. After comparing their matches, the young homeowners chose to put their project in the trustworthy hands of sustainability design build experts Ecostruct, who worked with the renovation newbies to think through everything from the practicality of materials to overall design concepts, before beginning construction on their 4-month project. (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Completed Projects, Inspiration, Kitchens 2

Last month, we shared the first-hand renovation story of Lisa Law, a Brooklyn Heights homeowner who used theSweeten to update her crumbling kitchen, and today, we’re excited to share our 2nd homeowner guest post — coincidentally, this story also comes from a Brooklyn homeowner named Lisa who used theSweeten to renovate her kitchen! Lisa B., who works in the architecture & interiors industry, and her husband Brian, a media studies professor & author, had lived in their Kensington apartment for 8 years before taking the leap to renovate their kitchen. The couple posted to theSweeten to find a contractor and were matched with tS member firm Nick Knacks Creative Interiors. Today we have before & afters of the transformed kitchen, along with Lisa’s insightful narrative on the new design and the process of making it happen.

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Before renovating, our kitchen had its original, 1960s pine cabinets that were custom built for the space, but had many layers of bad paint jobs and several of the doors didn’t close. We thought about trying to save them, but they were so solidly built that there was no way to cut them down to fit our new design plan. Plus, stripping all that paint off would have been a nightmare. The vinyl flooring was peeling, the wall oven didn’t work, the cooktop was barely functional and it was almost impossible to see what you were cooking since it was stuck in a corner under a metal hood. The countertops were horrible, fake woodgrain formica. When we first moved in, they were even worse — there was contact paper on them, which we were able to pull up, but we were disappointed with what we uncovered!

We needed a gut renovation! Everything had to go, down to the studs, which meant new drywall, ceilings, cabinets, fixtures, appliances, flooring, backsplash and lighting.

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I read about theSweeten a while ago in NYMag and kept it in the back of my mind because I knew we were going to renovate our kitchen. Although I worked in the interior design field, most of the contractors I knew were doing high-end renovations in Manhattan. I posted before pictures of my kitchen on the site and theSweeten introduced me via email to three contractors, all of whom I met with and who gave me estimates. They all seemed good, but as someone who knows about renovation, I appreciated that Nick Dillon from Nick Knacks Creative Interiors took extra time to really look at the kitchen, open up the cabinets, anticipate potential problems, and talk in depth about the process. (more…)

Posted by: Categories: After, Homeowner Post, Inspiration, Kitchens 7