Sweeten hand-picks the best experts for your renovation project

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Follow us @SWEETEN_HOME!


Here on the Sweeten blog, we’ve got your weekly fix of classic before and after renovation transformations, design ideas, and budget basics for every home improvement project. When you don’t have time for the weekly lowdown (or you’re running out of town for a long weekend…), check us out on Instagram and follow us @SWEETEN_HOME!


Straight from our 44,000 followers, here are some of the most loved Instagram snapshots from the Sweeten Network: (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Inspiration 1

Less than a year ago, Allison Stearns & her fiance, Jovito Pagkalinawan, purchased their first home together — a single-family brick row house, c. 1910, in the Ocean Parkway neighborhood of Brooklyn. Though they knew the place needed some serious renovations, Allison, a Content Manager, and Jovito, an Electronic Prepress Director, both in textbook publishing, promptly packed up and, along with their adorable cat, Momo, they moved in and geared up for some major home improvements. Today, Allison shares their renovation story, and walks us through the all stylish choices she & Jovito made in the process of Sweetening their amazing new home. 


By: Allison Stearns

10 months of intense searching, 8 lost bids and a couple hundred viewed properties later, my fiancé, Jovito and I finally found an adorable 1910 brick row house in the Ocean Parkway neighborhood of Brooklyn to call our own. We loved the bones and original details of the house, but the 100+ year old home was also in need of some serious updating. We went into the purchase two parts excited and one part slightly terrified, knowing that we’d have some large-scale renovations ahead of us.  We had a lot of items on our “fix” list when we moved in this past September, but we also had a limited budget. We decided to focus our energy and efforts tackling the kitchen and upstairs bathroom renovation first.

Having never renovated a property before, we didn’t know where to start. How would we find a reputable contractor that would understand our vision, work within our budget and do a stellar job? Perusing Apartment Therapy on a day when I was feeling somewhat overwhelmed by all our options, I read about Sweeten and decided to post our project to the site. We really liked the idea that Sweeten would act as matchmakers and pair us with contractors based on our project’s scope of work and budget. Knowing that Sweeten had pre-screened their network of contractors also made choosing feel a lot less scary.



“I’ve already recommended Sweeten to several friends! Sweeten’s matching service removes a lot of the scariness and uncertainty associated with finding a qualified contractor.”

- Allison S., Brooklyn Homeowner


After meeting with 2 contractor matches from Sweeten, and 2 contractors that were friend referrals, we decided to award our renovation job to a Sweeten match, Sweeten Expert Pedro. We appreciated his pragmatism, patience in answering our many questions and his thoroughness during the onsite visit. We also appreciated that he seemed completely un-phased by the scary (to us), timeworn, “before” conditions of the kitchen and bathroom. He’d seen and worked on old houses like this many times, so that also helped us feel like we were in good hands. His familiarity with constructing IKEA kitchens and reasonable estimate sealed the deal. (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Homeowner Post, Inspiration 16


We’ve been following this high-style, high-design project in Chelsea for the last year. The owner of this 900 square foot apartment in the iconic London Terrace building is a friend of Sweeten’s founder and CEO, Jean. We watched as the homeowner and contractor worked together to bring new life to a space with gorgeous historical roots and we were so psyched about the work happening here, we did what any friend would do: take the referral of a great contractor! These photos would probably be convincing enough, but as we do with every expert in our network, we checked references and interviewed the contractor to get a feel for his talents, expertise, experience, and professionalism. After finishing the project and going through the Sweeten screening process, we’re delighted to introduce Sweeten Expert Gregorio as a new member of our network of professionals. I’ll have more to share with you this spring about how our screening process works, but first, you have to see these swoon-worthy photos!




Jean’s friend, an architect, had lived in the building for almost a decade before this unit hit the market. Prior to moving in, the new homeowner set out to address two main issues: the apartment had a series of cramped rooms dotted with small closets, and the entryway was unnecessarily divided in two segments. Both of these elements were disruptive to the flow, feel, and function of the space (more…)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Pricing Guide: NYC Landscaping Costs


I’ve been psyched to look at landscaping projects for weeks, but Mother Nature seems to be moving a little slowly. Nevertheless! This week, I decided to do some digging (yes…pun intended) on options and costs for landscaping work in NYC. Upfront disclosure: my landscaping expertise begins and ends with succulents on my coffee table that appear to be surviving without water, and one of the reasons I live in NYC is to avoid yard work of any kind, so I was grateful to have Sweeten Expert Corey and Sweeten Expert Jonathan share their take on urban green spaces for this post.


Window box and balcony basics

Corey explained that the starting point for the most basic green endeavor might begin with window boxes or planters for a small balcony. Here, you are essentially paying for what you see: prices for boxes and planters are based on dimensions and materials. (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Cost Guide, Landscaping 3

This week, I checked in with a few of Sweeten’s interior designers to see what’s taking shape in apartments across the City. I found simple and smart ideas that bring a fresh eye to any home. Below are a few spring-ready snapshots, highlighting some of my favorite themes:

- white basics and natural wood/green accents to freshen and organize a space
- glass and lucite accessories as ways to lighten and brighten a space
- mint and gold as new color update options

Natural Accents and Easy Green Companions

Design accents inspired by nature can go a long way to satisfy our desire for fresh air and extra daylight. Sweeten Expert Jill took this five foot East Village kitchen and made it gorgeous and functional with a singular focus on white kitchen and storage basics, highlighted with natural accents using greens and wood grains. This is a great reminder that the form of everyday kitchen basics can be beautiful and that low-maintenance plants like succulents and philodendron are super stylish options for areas that need warmth and color.


Statements in Glass and Lucite

I’m making an extra effort this year to appreciate the extended daylight hours that come with the season. Transparent materials like glass and lucite (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Inspiration, interior designers 1

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.


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


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.


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 4

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.


“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.



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…)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Meet Kerry, Sweeten’s New Blogger


Renovations are expensive and messy, but more than that, a renovation can feel destabilizing because it challenges our sense of control over what few square feet we have. If you’ve been following along with the Sweeten blog during the last few months, you have seen us take on topics that demystify the renovation process and help homeowners and professionals build more informed partnerships. These blog posts can be more dense and less glamorous than our standard before-and-after features (we will keep those coming, too!), but we’re hoping to fill out the picture of what things cost and what to expect so that you can get more work done in your home on your terms. This week, meet the blogger behind these new blog posts, me, Kerry.


I bought a 340 square foot apartment in the East Village after a decade of living in apartments with classic city charm: sixth floor walk-ups, living room showers, and bedrooms without closets. The new place was already in good shape – kitchen and bath had been renovated within the last few years and I had taken the plunge with new floors after moving in. But in a space this small, I found myself fixating on details like damaged baseboards and wall marks, and my efforts to freshen the apartment with a new coat of paint were only semi-successful; you can see where I got tired of re-painting the white hallway walls and left an uneven strip of the old white paint along the top. (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Before 8
Thursday, March 20, 2014

What to Expect When Combining Apartments



As a nomadic New Yorker who lived in ten apartments over twelve years, I used to have an oddly pleasant recurring dream: in the dream, I would “discover” a hidden room that I had never seen before in my otherwise tiny home. Without fail, I would wake up happily imagining all of the things that I could put in the new room – a perfectly natural closet-and-dining-room-and-guest-room-and-outdoor-patio all in one. For some New Yorkers, this dream is a real possibility. If you have managed to scoop up multiple adjacent apartments and are planning to combine them, you may be looking at a host of layout options and renovation decisions that are unique to the process of combining apartments. To help us envision what to expect, we connected with Sweeten Expert Andrew, an architect who partnered with Sweeten Expert Graham, on a Hell’s Kitchen  combination that created an open loft with stunning Hudson River views.   

Andrew first talked us through renovation issues that are specific to combining apartments. Homeowners with adjacent apartments have the unique luxury of multiple layout options but also need to work within a unique set of constraints to create the new space. “Clients often look first at how to capitalize on the overall flow of the space, exposures, and views of the apartments,” Andrew explained. The photos below demonstrate Andrew’s vision for unifying multiple entry points and living spaces in one open plan. 




With a general idea for entry and living spaces in mind, homeowners can make a decision that most of their neighbors will never have to face: which kitchen to keep! Andrew pointed out that you can decide between existing kitchens, or create a new kitchen space altogether, but you need to keep plumbing lines in mind because New Yorkers are generally (more…)