Sweeten hand-picks the best experts for your renovation project

This week, we’re shifting gears from the usual fare of NYC bath and kitchen renovations to look at how one Upper West Sider made custom changes in every room of a two-bed, two-bath co-op to accommodate her incredible collection of art and books. If you’ve never seen a full-size Terracotta Warrior sculpture in a Manhattan home, today is your day!


“I would have been lost – Sweeten solved the problem of where to begin and the service was amazing. Within two hours of posting my project, I started getting matches. Sweeten Expert Elizabeth was completely on top of everything while I was out of town for four months. I walked out of one apartment in July and into another in October.”

- Christine, Manhattan homeowner

The first sign that Christine had a very specific vision for her New York home came when she was looking at apartments to buy back in 2008. Her top real estate demand? The new place could be no more than ten blocks from Zabar’s! After finding a combined unit in a boom-era Rosario Candela building, Christine was thrilled with the gracious and spacious layout (a full dining room in which to serve all of her Zabar’s selections!) but began to imagine a renovation that would replace the outdated finishes and decade-old paint job (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Inspiration, interior designers, NYC 7

This week, we’re back in Clinton Hill with Ketrina, an art director at The Wall Street Journal. We LOVE this neighborhood (oh hey there, SanayaKyle & Angela, and Billy & Sally!) and were psyched to help Ketrina take care of business in her formerly tiny kitchen. Read on down for Ketrina’s debrief on her Brooklyn kitchen renovation.


Homeowner guest post by Ketrina, Clinton Hill homeowner

I purchased a one-bedroom co-op apartment in Clinton Hill almost five years ago after selling the condo I owned in New Jersey. With a tenant living in my NJ home, I’d been renting a place in Bed-Stuy for more than two years and I figured it was time to try to fulfill my goal of owning in Brooklyn. My new place was a sponsor unit on a high floor with expansive east-facing views. The kitchen had (what seemed at the time) pretty good upgrades: black granite counters, black tile flooring, and new stainless steel appliances. The cabinets, though not my favorite style, were perfectly fine. My friends were pretty impressed with my new digs.

I did have the chance to take down the zig-zagging wall partition that separated the kitchen from the living room during contract negotiations, but I was too indecisive and stressed from the purchasing process to pull the trigger. At the time, most of my efforts in the kitchen involved making toast and coffee, so being a little cramped didn’t seem like an issue. But after closing, I sank into a brief period of buyer’s remorse. Those cabinets, which had seemed just fine, were actually pretty shabbily installed: nothing was level, the hinges had paper stuffed into them to make them close properly, and the fridge was jammed in between the counter and the kitchen wall. When I opened the fridge doors, they would hit the doorway and chip away at the door frame. I was totally bummed. Hoping for a quick fix, I contacted the folks who’d done the work to re-do the entryway and replace the refrigerator, but I wasn’t any happier with how it all looked after that second try.


A few months in, I started to see a recurring water leak from the neighbors upstairs – more than once, water poured down through my cabinets, causing the kitchen walls and cabinet surfaces to bow and fade. By this point, I was pretty down on the kitchen. I’d already removed some of the damaged cabinetry from the wall and had lived for a year with an entire section missing. I knew I wanted to renovate, but I hesitated with the potential cost and the fear of another flood.

I learned that some of my neighbors had gone through Sweeten to find contractors for their renovations and I was surprised and encouraged by the variety of configurations available for what felt like a pretty limited space. So I finally posted my project on Sweeten, envisioning a grown-up kitchen with an island/peninsula, fully open to the living room. I didn’t really have a vision for what I wanted besides something that would play well with the living room décor. I like warm colors, oranges and browns, and I specified that I needed experts who could handle both the design and build of the space. Sweeten introduced me to Sweeten Experts Paulina and Albert, and I liked them immediately. Paulina has a great attitude and personality, plus she’s a trained architect with design ideas that make so much sense. She seemed as excited about designing it as I was, so it was an easy decision to move forward with the team. (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Inspiration, Kitchens, NYC 11

This week’s guest post comes to us from Heather in Manhattan, a first-time homebuyer and renovator who set out to re-do her Upper West Side galley kitchen with a single-minded focus on removing an offending wall and filling the new open space with sleek basics. Inspired by the open kitchen in the apartment directly above hers, Heather posted her project on Sweeten and was especially smart to upload inspiration photos with features her small kitchen could actually accommodate – her sources of inspiration featured nearly identical layouts to her own kitchen. We put up a photo of Heather’s kitchen in a blog post comparing custom and IKEA cabinets, and commenters demanded to know more about this beautiful millwork, so Heather was kind enough to take the stage this week with a full recap of her renovation.


Homeowner guest post by Heather, Manhattan homeowner

I bought my one bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side in the spring of 2013 after months of looking for just the right space. I loved the place, but I knew that the outdated kitchen and compartmentalized dining room were keeping my new home from really coming together. The kitchen needed a complete overhaul – I really wanted to knock out a portion of the wall that separated the kitchen from the living area to create more of a pass-through and let light in, and my wish list included all of the other classic components of a typical kitchen renovation like new cabinets, a tiled backsplash, countertops, and sleek appliances. I was ready to renovate but couldn’t help feeling nervous; this would be my first ever renovation and I kind of didn’t know where to start. Luckily, I found Sweeten and they connected me with Sweeten Experts Valeria and Eduard.

SWEETEN_HeatherUWSKitchen-03 SWEETEN_HeatherUWSKitchen-06 SWEETEN_HeatherUWSKitchen-13

What I loved about Ed and Valeria is that they worked as a contractor and designer team. It was so helpful to have Valeria’s design eye on everything as I went through the process, and Ed is an extremely skilled craftsman who navigated the design (and many changes!) with ease. First, we decided on a plan that would knock out most of the wall between the kitchen and the blocked dining room. This change was the one I was most excited about: in addition to making the awkwardly placed dining room more functional, it was going to allow light from the kitchen window to flow into the space, which was especially key for me.  (more…)

Each week, we aim to translate insight from NYC homeowners and contractors into information you can use to make better decisions about improving your home. This week: a look at a few of our favorite modern and contemporary kitchens by Sweeten experts and the defining elements that work so well in these inspiring spaces.


Before we can sit back and enjoy a good old photo tour, we need to cover a few minorly technical notes. While it can be interesting to debate the merits of using the terms “modern” and “contemporary” interchangeably (art and architectural history buffs might insist on using “modern” to refer specifically to styles that emerged in the first half of the 20th century), we’re not overly concerned here about terminology. This round-up is meant to show how simple elements can come together to make a kitchen functional and beautiful. If you are planning a kitchen renovation and are inspired by what you see, it’s probably because you are drawn to a few unifying pieces that are visible throughout many of these spaces, so let’s focus on those:

SLEEK LINES: perhaps the most obvious signifier of a modern kitchen, clean-lined design is achieved in all of these homes via a combination of flat-fronted cabinetry and minimal (or concealed) hardware. Foregoing framing, decorative details, and ornamentation makes these spaces extra strong on horizontal lines and material contrast. (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Inspiration, Kitchens, NYC 2

After three run-ins with extensive water damage, Brooklyn homeowners Brad and Michelle took on a kitchen, bath, and floor renovation to restore and update their pre-war Fort Greene co-op. Today, Brad shares their renovation story and walks us through the process of wrangling insurance claims and partnering with a team of contractors they met through Sweeten to re-create the most beloved elements of their home and add a few design twists to make it their own.


Homeowner guest post by Brad, Fort Greene homeowner

Like a lot of first-time NYC buyers, when my wife, Michelle, and I purchased our two bedroom Fort Greene co-op nearly ten years ago, we had to stretch ourselves financially. One of the main reasons that we were able to make it work was that the apartment, although in a pre-war brownstone, was in great condition and didn’t require any renovation. In fact, we were especially happy with the contemporary kitchen that the prior owner, an architect like myself, had installed. It was a great contrast to the more traditional, yet clean, moldings and lines of the rest of the apartment.


Water Damage: Act I

A few years ago, we got our first chance to use Sweeten. Our master bathroom had suffered damage from a water leak in the apartment above. Even though I am an architect, I didn’t know any contractors in my network that could do the work economically since it was such a small project. But Sweeten quickly connected me with a contractor who did a great job restoring the walls and ceiling. Since then, I’ve been a huge Sweeten fan, recommending it to friends as well as using it to find contractors for my own clients’ projects. (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Bathrooms, IKEA, Inspiration, Kitchens, NYC 5

This week, we get a peek into what happens when Manhattanites boldly go where so few seem to venture…taking down kitchen walls! This Hell’s Kitchen renovation would have been stylish even if it had stayed within its original dimensions, but taking a wall down was the first step in making the space virtually unrecognizable. Scroll on down for the play by play on this ambitious Manhattan kitchen renovation.


“In some ways, we bit off more than we could chew. Sweeten introduced us to Sandy who was really easy to work with, flexible about our plans, and helpful with things that were uncertain or unexpectedly discovered behind walls.

–Dan, Hell’s Kitchen homeowner

Dan and Mike moved into this one bedroom, one bathroom co-op in Manhattan’s storied Piano Factory building in 2013. The building, converted from a 19th century warehouse that once served as the manufacturing site for the inner workings of pianos, is an industrial brick building in Hell’s Kitchen with a beautiful Romanesque entry and a graceful courtyard. Dan and Mike loved the building’s history and architecture, but found themselves in an apartment constructed in the grand tradition of many 1980s co-op conversions: boxy rooms, segmented living spaces, a dated pass-through in the wall that sectioned off the kitchen from the living area (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Inspiration, Kitchens, NYC 8

This week, I went behind the scenes of a design and build collaboration to learn about the journey of this Upper East Side kitchen from forlorn galley to stunning chef’s workspace. After the owners of this home came to Sweeten to modernize their kitchen, we introduced them to Sweeten Experts Lauren and Adam, an architecture and interior design duo, and brought in Sweeten Expert Alan, a general contractor, to re-imagine the kitchen’s storage, function, and feel. The results are so easy on the eyes that you could be forgiven for missing the simple design tricks tucked behind these lacquered cabinets and beneath those gleaming Calacatta counters.


Sweeten Experts Lauren and Adam got the message loud and clear from the owners of this condo: this is a family that loves to cook and planned to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Although they were first-time renovators, the homeowners had very thoughtful and specific ideas about storage and workspace needs, and they conveyed a desire, above almost all else, for function and durability.

Lauren and Adam worked through drawings that featured five smart design tricks, each designed expressly to increase the kitchen’s storage capacity, locate critical cooking and prep tools precisely where they would be most useful, and play with the depth and width perception in a room that could not be physically enlarged. These design ideas are simple enough to incorporate in any kitchen renovation and are especially key for small-space dwellers.




1. Frontload the bulkiest pieces

In a galley kitchen or narrow hallway, it can be tempting to place cabinets and furniture evenly throughout the space (or shove the bulkiest pieces away from the entry point). Instead, Lauren and Adam created a sense of depth and width by placing the largest cabinets and the fridge near the entry, gradually lightening visual heft as the room continues toward the window. When a visitor walks through the kitchen’s entryway, the largest cabinets feel like a natural continuation of the narrow door and frame, and the room appears wider and longer as floor-to-ceiling cabinetry gives way to open storage and spacious countertops. This approach ensures that the room draws its visitor through the most narrow point of the space first and into more open space immediately. (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Inspiration, Kitchens, NYC 7

We’re back this week in the Clinton Hill Co-Op for a show-stopping, top-to-bottom apartment renovation. Nestled in one of our favorite parts of Brooklyn, these buildings all seem to have three things in common: gorgeous open air views, spacious living layouts, and lots of un-renovated interiors. We’ve seen wildly inspiring upgrades here, here, and here, and have been waiting to find out what the owners of another one-bedroom would bring to this now-familiar space.

Clinton Hill Co-op Renovation

“I tell people about Sweeten all the time – it was just so easy. We were the first of our friends to renovate and didn’t know how the process would work or anyone who could do a small project in our range. Sweeten sent contractors who already knew what we wanted to do.”

–Clinton Hill Co-op Homeowners

The owners had big ideas about hosting and entertaining in a more open loft space, and they wanted unobstructed views through to the corner windows; they even had an architect friend with creative ideas about how to use the space more efficiently, but they didn’t know where to start to find a general contractor who could do the renovation in their location and on their budget.  After they posted their project to Sweeten, we introduced them to Sweeten Expert Kris to create a new kitchen and bath, expand a long hallway, and completely overhaul flooring throughout. (more…)

custom storage inspiration

NYC homeowners tend to think first about kitchen and bath renovations, and with good reason: kitchens and baths are the highest-impact and highest-value projects for a home’s function and future resale value. But a hidden deal breaker for many buyers is the lack of storage that seems endemic in New York City: bedrooms with no closets and entryways with no coat storage are silent signals to buyers that they won’t have a place to stow their stuff.

It doesn’t have to be this way. With a few feet of wall space, window space, or corner space, plus great design and some expert craftsmanship, even the tiniest homes can make room for transformative storage. We checked in with seven Sweeten experts for a survey of high-function and high-style small space, custom storage inspiration. (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Custom, Inspiration, NYC, Storage 2

Now that we’ve dedicated two whole weeks to rather technical updates on IKEA kitchens and custom cabinetry, I’m feeling extra ready for a classic before-and-after. This week’s inspiration comes from a multi-talented Murray Hill couple – Pallavi is an architect by training who works as a sustainability consultant at Arup and Keyur is a software engineer at Etsy. Considering this couple’s fascinating mix of creative careers (and Pallavi’s quirky fashion side project!), we’ve been closely watching their overhaul of the one-bedroom co-op they bought three years ago, and let me tell you, this is one gorgeous Manhattan apartment renovation!.

Manhattan Apartment Renovation

“This was the best service ever and I’ll tell you why. We’d been meaning to renovate for years and we met five different contractors through online directories who all gave quotes that were way outside our budget. We shelved the project thinking we couldn’t afford it. Then, we came to Sweeten, got matched with three contractors, saw their work on Sweeten, and selected Pedro. He was knowledgeable, flexible, and always available when we texted or called or emailed.”

~ Pallavi M., Manhattan homeowner

The husband and wife team posted their project on Sweeten (complete with layout options!) after a few failed attempts at working with contractors they found via online directories. We introduced them to Sweeten Expert Pedro to take on three major issues in their home. The galley kitchen, already space-challenged, was tucked away in the back corner of the apartment and loaded with teeny cabinets. The bathroom was “drab drab drab” – a remnant of the building’s earliest residents and out of sync with the aesthetic that the couple had in mind for a space-efficient, clean-lined oasis. And, closet space in the bedroom had been carved out of just a few feet of the entry wall, an unnecessary limitation in an otherwise spacious room. We see this exact kitchen/bath/closet trifecta play out again and again across New York City! It’s amazing how limited these essential rooms often are in this city and how much creative New Yorkers can do to undo limitations that have stood for decades.

Manhattan Apartment Renovation

Open kitchen and expanded cabinets

The most radical part of the game plan involved moving the dividing wall between the bedroom and the hallway that leads to the kitchen. Pedro helped the couple steal two feet from the bedroom to open up access to the kitchen and extend new cabinetry and counters into the apartment’s entry foyer. This move more or less doubled the kitchen in size and flooded the space with natural light from the kitchen window that had been blocked from view. (more…)