Sweeten hand-picks the best experts for your renovation project

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…)

After last week’s look at the new IKEA kitchen cabinet system, we turned to seven Sweeten experts for guidance on the central question that most homeowners hit very early in kitchen renovation projects: should you buy custom cabinets or pre-fabricated cabinets? Cabinet construction may well end up being the single biggest expense of your entire renovation, and the results are the most obvious visual proof of your investment, so this can feel like a heavy decision. The challenge (and opportunity) is that your choices are endless, but if you focus on a few key factors, you can find the right cabinets for your new kitchen.

IKEA vs Custom Cabinets

While it’s tempting to assume that your budget is the only consideration, all of our experts agreed on a surprising truth: custom cabinets can be (much, much) more expensive than stock cabinets, but they don’t have to be. Even the cheapest kitchen is an enormous investment, so if budget isn’t necessarily the deciding factor, how should you decide and how can you keep your budget from dictating your choices? First, three definitions: (more…)

Posted by: Categories: IKEA, NYC 10

Like many New Yorkers, the Sweeten team has been gearing up for big things in 2015, and we have two moderately technical (but IMPORTANT!) updates for homeowners thinking about renovating this year. This week, we’re highlighting changes that are coming very soon to IKEA’s cabinetry system. Later this month, we’ll walk you through contractor licensing so you’ll know what to look for when City licenses for all general contractors expire in February. We’ll keep our classic renovation before-and-afters coming, too — we can’t wait to unveil a brand new Manhattan kitchen and bath and check in on a project in a favorite enclave of Clinton Hill. If you’ve resolved to renovate this year, we hope you’ll bear with the technical updates and enjoy house tours of recent renovations so that you’re inspired and ready for spring renovation season!

new ikea cabinet line

First up: in February, IKEA will roll out brand new kitchen cabinets, replacing the system that has been in place since 1995. IKEA has close to 8 million customers using “Akurum” cabinets, and 20% of homeowners who post renovation projects on Sweeten consider IKEA cabinetry right off the bat, so let’s take a look at how the switch to the “Sektion” line will affect those homeowners and find out more about what will be available if you are considering a new kitchen renovation.

IKEA hasn’t released pricing or specs for the new system yet, but we scoured their FAQs and photos of the equivalent line already out in Europe for clues, and we spotted a few relatively minor upgrades in store based on features that are especially well-liked from the current system. At a minimum, Sektion drawers will incorporate soft-close drawers and doors and will include wall-mounted rails that make installation easier and more DIY-friendly.

The bigger news is both good and bad… (more…)

Posted by: Categories: IKEA, Kitchens, NYC 17
Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Year in Review: Sweeten Blog Favorites

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BEST-OF-BLOG-2014

New York City homeowners undertook more than 82,000 renovations in 2014! At Sweeten, we were busy finding the right contractors for $100M in renovation projects across the City. Here are just a few of our staff and reader picks for the most inspiring renovations on the Sweeten blog this year. (more…)

Posted by: Categories: NYC 0

I thought we’d ended the year on a high note with Claire and Mike’s gorgeous Park Slope kitchen renovation, but we have a competitor for our best of 2014 awards in Pepper’s double bathroom re-do. This week’s blog post also brings us a new renovation vocabulary term: this is the first time that “encaustic” tiles are appearing on the Sweeten blog since they cameoed in a Sweetened West Village Italian eatery back in 2012. Very exciting on all fronts.

NYC bathroom renovations

“I didn’t even know where to begin. Sweeten helped me re-consider my budget and plan for a project that had been stalled for months because I didn’t know where to start.”

–Pepper, Manhattan homeowner

Pepper moved into this two-bed, two-bath Washington Heights co-op in 2008 after scouring the City for her own slice of Manhattan real estate and realizing that she wasn’t going to come away with much more than a studio in pricier neighborhoods. Pieces of the 1940s bath materials had been haphazardly replaced by previous residents, but with no idea where to start or how much it would cost, five years passed before she got serious about the work (notably, at the insistence of her husband, Marshall!). Pepper posted the project on Sweeten, hoping to meet with contractors who could help guide her through the renovation process.

Pepper, an actress and voice over artist with a weekly radio show that reads periodicals aloud for blind audience members, and Marshall, who works in finance, were originally interested in combining their two adjacent bathrooms to create a single, expansive, luxury bath. While that would have made for amazing blog photos, the couple were dissuaded when they realized that the combination would limit the future sale value of their home, add $20K to their budget, and create significant plumbing and building approval needs. We sent over four general contractors to discuss other options and the couple especially hit it off with Sweeten Expert Aleks after deciding to leave the fixture footprints in place and avoid high permit and plumbing costs. (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Bathrooms, Inspiration, NYC, Sweetened 7

One thing was very clear when Claire and Mike moved into their co-op in a converted Brooklyn industrial building in August: they were not enthralled with the kitchen. And one thing was very unclear: with a baby on the way and no experience with home renovation, what were they going to do about it? Contemplating everything from a complete gut to swapping in a single line of pre-fab cabinets, Claire posted the project on Sweeten and met with a range of designers, design/build firms, and contractors to discuss options for this Park Slope kitchen renovation. Claire and Mike saw bids from Sweeten experts with very different scopes of work; extensive facelifts detailed down to the radiator cover designs as well as very basic, Ikea-centric proposals. Sweeten Experts Paulina & Albert piqued their curiosity with options that offered all-custom cabinetry or a part-custom and part-Ikea hybrid.

Park Slope Kitchen Renovation

“Sweeten Expert Paulina was so friendly and open to our ideas, and she had the design background to help me articulate what I wanted. I have nothing but the highest praise.”

–Claire, Brooklyn homeowner

The apartment’s 13-foot ceilings gave Claire and Mike lots of room to play with cabinet space, but the kitchen had an unusual layout that made the area between the sink and stove inaccessible. Claire and Mike thought about relocating plumbing and electrical lines but, as we saw in Sweeten’s kitchen pricing guides, that move would divert thousands of dollars to permits and specialty fees. Claire and Mike chose to work with the design/build duo, Paulina and Albert, after discussing the custom approach and realizing that for a relatively limited additional cost, they could significantly expand cabinet space and make better use of the unconventional layout. They had also decided to leave appliances (except the fridge) in place, freeing up room in the budget for custom cabinet upgrades.

Park Slope Kitchen Renovation

As the ideas came together, designer Paulina worked with Claire and Mike to translate their interests into material selections. The couple went with basic plywood cabinetry, lined with melamine interiors. To demarcate the kitchen, Claire played around with different navy and gray paint colors, settling on Benjamin Moore’s Evening Dove. Claire had her heart set on a farmhouse sink and spent weeks searching online for the right dimensions. Her research also turned up an unusual bridge faucet – a gorgeous detail that set the feel for the rest of the transformation. (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Inspiration, Kitchens, NYC, Sweetened 9

Carrie and Jack moved into their pre-war co-op in Murray Hill back in 2003 – a lifetime ago in New York City real estate! Carrie, a budding theater producer, and Jack, who works in online marketing for Clinique, took on a kitchen renovation after moving in, but a decade passed before they were ready for their Manhattan bathroom renovation. The original pre-war bath felt very….original and pre-war. In the intervening years, in an attempt to update a few prominent features with minimal time and money, the couple swapped in a new medicine cabinet and lighting fixture, but no amount of scrubbing or cosmetic work could address the aging, bulky tiles and tub that rounded the room. Ready for an overhaul, Carrie posted her project on Sweeten and brought on Sweeten Expert Aleks to create, in her words, a clean, modern, sanctuary.

SWEETEN_CarrieBathroom-09

“I can’t say enough good things about Sweeten Expert Aleks. It was a joy to talk about the work with him and he followed through on every commitment. Just soup to nuts a great experience.”  

–Carrie R., Manhattan homeowner

What New Yorker hasn’t walked into an apartment at some point and seen these tiles? Here, they wound their way around the walls, unnecessary and overdone, stealing inches of elbow room from the vanity. Replacement tiles aged at different speeds from original tiles, creating a pockmarked effect. The shower rod hung unconvincingly from the ceiling, and oddly shaped built-in vanity niches and the pedestal sink made for very limited storage options. Even the newer medicine cabinet needed help…never quitemade it all the way into the wall during its initial installation. Still, Carrie and Jack were smart to buy an apartment with good bones: hidden underneath all of that thick tile was a 5’ x 8’ bathroom – windowed (!) and roomy enough for a full-size tub.

SWEETEN_CarrieBathroom-00-before

Carrie didn’t have to contend with space or lay-out constraints but struggled mightily with a nagging sense that the couple should preserve and maintain pre-war features where they could. We’ve seen this same debate play out at other properties with deep historical ties (in Chelsea’s London Terrace co-op and in this Park Slope home). Carrie originally felt adamant about honoring the building’s past, but the kitchen renovation had opened the door to more modern finishes and cleaner lines. The simple and streamlined approach they took with the kitchen really worked, and the couple began to shift their thinking from pre-war flair to modern minimalism. The kitchen renovation experience also gave Carrie and Jack a head start on material selections, and they found themselves selecting bathroom upgrades that were in line with the kitchen floor and wall tiles they had chosen years earlier. (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Bathrooms, NYC 4

This past summer, Carol W. and her husband took on the kitchen renovation they spent nearly three years envisioning. Today, Carol shares their renovation story and walks us through each of the detailed decisions they made. One by one, these changes resolved individual storage and surface problems; together, these edits transformed the function and feel of this modern Park Slope home.

SWEETEN_CarolKitchen-00-03

Story & photos by: Carol W., Park Slope homeowner

posted our kitchen renovation project to Sweeten this past summer, but I’d been hoping to update our kitchen from the moment I set eyes on it three years ago. My husband and I found our apartment after a long search, and while the kitchen was in excellent condition, it was the one thing we knew we’d want to change when money and time would allow. Living with it for a while had its benefits though: we learned a lot about how we use it and what we needed to change to make it more functional.

Inadequate storage and impractical materials

We had a decent amount of wall storage, but the high placement of the cabinets meant that, at 5’4”, I couldn’t reach half of the shelves. The cabinets were originally placed about 23 inches up from the counter, which is about 5 inches higher than the standard, and they didn’t extend all the way to the ceiling, which was a waste of space that could be helpful for storing less frequently used items. We were also using a small Ikea kitchen island, which added some counter space but didn’t provide enough storage underneath. (more…)

Posted by: Categories: Inspiration, Kitchens, NYC, Sweetened 7