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!

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“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 but began to imagine a renovation that would replace the outdated finishes and decade-old paint job (more…)

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.

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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.

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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: Before and After, Inspiration, Kitchens 13

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.

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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.

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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…)

Posted by: Categories: Before and After, Inspiration, Kitchens 7

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.

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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…)

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.

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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.

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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: Apartments, Bathrooms, Inspiration, Kitchens 5

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“Sweeten helped us with everything, really. The community was accessible and trustworthy and helped solidify what to expect in the process. We were first-time renovators and Sweeten Expert Alan had the patience to help us find materials and map out what we needed, especially in determining how far we could push storage options and get the most out of a small space.”

- Megan, Upper East Side homeowner

Megan and Ryan moved into their one bedroom co-op on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in 2012 after deciding that the apartment’s crumbling bathroom (an almost-dealbreaker that nearly scuttled the sale) would be their first renovation project to tackle as new homeowners. Megan, who works at the United Nations, and Ryan, who works in personal finance, knew they needed to replace the discolored tiles that previous owners had attempted to cover in paint. The vanity, a bizarre combination of sink overhang and unnecessarily narrow cabinet storage, was cracked and beyond salvageable. And the window, a great asset in a Manhattan bath, had been painted and sealed with uneven tile – more or less negating its value in the room. (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Bathrooms, Before and After, Inspiration 4
Thursday, March 26, 2015

Three Ways to Create a Laundry Room

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Last week’s look at Davison and Bernice’s Upper West Side kitchen renovation raised some interesting questions about finding ways to add laundry appliances to NYC apartments. I don’t think I’m alone when I say I am flummoxed, FLUMMOXED, every time I walk into a home goods store and see washers and dryers on the sales floor. These appliances are not prohibitively expensive and yet so few New York City homes have them. It boggles the mind – these are life-changing gadgets and they are relatively affordable but most city dwellers are still stuck lugging sheets and towels to laundromats or to shared stackers in dank basements. I have inspected every inch of my 340 square foot East Village home and I can accept that there is no possible place to put a washer or dryer, but that doesn’t mean we can’t live vicariously through NYC neighbors who have won this battle.

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Building management approvals and City permits

Space aside, the biggest roadblocks to in-unit laundry are typically the co-op and condo board regulations that ban washers and dryers in many City buildings. In some, the electrical grid is not up to meeting the demand that dryers (specifically) place on the system, and in other cases, the existing pipe stacks are not large enough to handle the increase in water and suds flow. Still in many other cases, fears that washing machines will overflow and dryers will lead to flames have traditionally been enough to block tenant plans for laundry upgrades. (more…)

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 Sweeten Expert Louie 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 Louie’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 (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Before and After, Inspiration, Kitchens 7

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.

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“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: Before and After, Inspiration, Kitchens 15

There is something undeniably delightful about a great bathroom before and after — this week, we have three! It’s possible that I love to live vicariously through other folks’ bathroom renovations because the depths of despair in the “before” photos appear to know no bounds; New York City sure seems to have more than its fair share of aged, beige tiles, peeling laminates, and harsh lighting all piled into miniature rooms upon which dwellers make endless daily demands. Despite the obvious space limitations, the bathroom can be the ideal place to showcase beautiful design and materials precisely because there is so much to fit into a typically tiny space. Hard-working fixtures and finishes are forced to play nicely together as they compete for square inches, and a bathroom renovation somehow feels contained — a great before and after bath serves as a reminder that every home has to make space for basic bathroom essentials. Even the tiniest of urban baths can do so stylishly.

Here, three full baths complete an Upper East Side family’s condo renovation. Scroll down to see how design duo Sweeten Experts Lauren and Adam and Sweeten’s expert general contractor Alan worked together to create modern and simple baths throughout this home, and take a bonus peek at the custom millwork that brought similar form and function elsewhere in this uptown Manhattan renovation.

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In the master bath, Lauren and Adam worked to balance two competing values: the bath itself is the largest of the three, with plenty of room for his and hers sinks, a sizable window, and a full tub, but the condo’s owners wanted to create a sense of privacy and make room for more storage. To take advantage of the bath’s spacious footprint but minimize sight lines into the master bedroom, the designers left the layout of the room generally intact, swapped in high-end tiles and custom cabinetry, and split the tub into a standing shower with a bench and expanded shelving. (more…)