A Couple Gives Their Old Home a Touch of Glam

Their dream space comes to life with herringbone tile, gray kitchen cabinets, and a clawfoot tub

Editor’s Note: This post, originally published May 2014, is one of our favorites for still having a classic and modern look years later. Allison and Jovito 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, moved in and geared up for some major home improvements. Allison shares their renovation story and walks us through the stylish choices she and Jovito made in the process of creating their new home.

Brooklyn kitchen and bathroom renovationGuest post by Allison in Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn

Ten months of intense searching, eight lost bids and a couple hundred viewed properties later, 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 over 100-year-old home was also in need of some serious updating. Knowing that we’d have some large-scale renovations ahead of us, we went into the purchase two parts excited and one part slightly terrified.  There was a long list of items on our “fix” list when we moved in, but we also had a limited budget. So our energy and efforts were focused on 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 they would act as matchmakers and pair us with contractors based on our project’s scope of work and budget. Knowing that they had pre-screened their network of contractors also made choosing feel a lot less scary.

brooklyn kitchen bathroom renovationBrooklyn kitchen and bathroom renovation

After meeting with two contractor matches from Sweeten, and two contractors that were friend referrals, we decided to award our renovation job to Sweeten. 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.

We started our renovation of the kitchen and bathroom in mid-November. Living in the house during construction wasn’t fun, but our contractor and his team were careful to keep the work area as clean and contained as possible. On the plus side, it was exciting for us to see the team’s daily progress and some of the relics they unearthed during demolition. (Like pieces of newspaper from 1943 mentioning President Roosevelt stuck inside the bathroom walls!) The team spent a lot of time and effort making sure the new walls and floors were level, plumb, and true, which was no small feat in an old house where nothing is straight!

The kitchen needed a gut renovation. The walls were covered with dark wood paneling and cabinets, there was a dropped ceiling with fluorescent lighting, cracked floor tile and beat up Formica countertops and backsplash. The existing soffit ran in front of the kitchen window, cutting a good eight inches off the top, and a lot of daylight along with it. It was a less-than-optimal layout and had definitely seen better days.

Because of our limited budget, we decided to go with IKEA kitchen cabinetry and Caesarstone quartz countertops, both of which we purchased during one of IKEA’s kitchen sales. Not wanting the new kitchen to clash with the age of the house but also wanting it to feel current and new, we went with a more traditional cabinet door style in a medium gray color. To keep the space open and airy feeling, we decided to forego wall cabinets. We made sure we had plenty of base cabinet storage to hold all our pots and pans. Because we removed the dropped ceiling, we gained back some ceiling height, so we stacked glass-front cabinets to the ceiling and created a hutch to display our collection of vintage glassware and serveware. We chose durable white quartz countertops to keep the room bright and to add contrast to the gray cabinets.

Brooklyn kitchen and bathroom renovation
Brooklyn kitchen and bathroom renovation

We’re tough on our floors, so we chose extra durable wood-look porcelain tile that we found online at a closeout price. Our contractor laid the tile in a herringbone pattern. We really love the way it turned out! For the backsplash tile, we went with a large format porcelain tile with a raised geometric pattern and tiled all the way up the wall for visual impact. (It’s also incredibly easy to clean!) The wall tile is from Mondial in Bensonhurst.

We both love to cook so it was important for us to have a range that could accommodate many pots and pans and put out some serious BTUs. We were incredibly lucky to find our range second-hand in excellent condition at a local salvage shop. The exhaust hood was found in the clearance section of Home Depot and our brand new dishwasher came from the As-Is section of IKEA. Our counter-depth fridge was on sale at the local P.C. Richard & Son.

Brooklyn kitchen and bathroom renovation
Brooklyn kitchen and bathroom renovationBrooklyn kitchen and bathroom renovation

Our ceiling light fixtures are porcelain lamp holders made by Leviton running about $2/piece online. The pendant over the sink is from Restoration Hardware and is based off an Italian factory light from the 1950s. We like that the lights can extend out about four feet on each side, giving us the option of creating more overhead lighting for prep if we need it.

We decided to go with brass cabinet pulls, knobs, and faucet to warm up all the cool gray and stainless steel. It took a lot of searching to find a brushed brass faucet, but we finally found one through Newport Brass. The solid brass pulls and knobs are made by Laurey and were also found online.

brooklyn kitchen bathroom renovationBrooklyn kitchen and bathroom renovation

Our bathroom was very…blue. Blue tub, blue toilet, blue tile. It had last been majorly renovated in the 50s and everything was really showing its age. The floor of the bathroom was about a 4” step up from the hallway—the ghosts of past flooring renovations buried beneath. To top it all off, the bathroom space itself was tiny—about 36 square feet. Our budget wouldn’t allow us to enlarge the space or reroute plumbing, so our goal was to increase the feeling of space while making it as pretty and useable as possible. Style-wise, we wanted the bathroom to look like it could have been original to the house so we were careful to choose pieces that had an old-fashioned feel to them.

To maximize space, we swapped the existing door for a pocket door and chose a dual-flush toilet with a narrow tank and small footprint. A console sink and clawfoot tub kept things airy and off the floor. Finding reasonably-priced marble floor and subway wall tile at Lowe’s kept us on budget, as well as sourcing salvage and secondhand materials which helped to cut costs. Finally, we added an exhaust fan/light combo to help cut humidity.

Brooklyn kitchen and bathroom renovation Brooklyn kitchen and bathroom renovation

Despite holidays, lots of snow days and a few surprises along the way, the renovation process was mostly stress-free. Our contractor did a good job keeping us informed throughout construction, and he always made himself available to answer questions. And because we lived in our house during construction, we were also able to address and correct any miscommunications right away, which helped the project run more smoothly.

We’re thankful to the Sweeten team for pairing us up with the contractor and his team for an excellent first renovation experience! 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. And when we’re finally ready to begin the next project, you can be sure we’ll be contacting them for another great match!

Many thanks to Allison, Jovito & Momo for sharing your beautiful home!

KITCHEN RESOURCES: Quartz countertops: Caesarstone. Laurey pulls and knobs; Bertazzoni exhaust hood: Home DepotDCS range: Build it Green. Kitchen cabinetry; dishwasher: IKEA. Counter-depth fridge: P.C. Richard & Son. Wall tile: Mondial. Herringbone floor tile: BuildDirectKraus sink: HomeClick. Brushed brass faucet: Newport Brass. Sink pendant: Restoration Hardware. Porcelain lamp holders; ceiling light fixtures: Leviton.

BATH RESOURCES: Marble floor and subway wall tile: Lowe’s. Clawfoot tub and fixtures: Vintage Tub & BathToto toilet: FaucetDirect. Arcade console sink; vintage medicine cabinet: Build it Green. Ginger towel bar; gallery shelf: HomePerfect.

Love the look of Allison’s statement-making exhaust hood? Find out what kind of ventilation is right for your kitchen in our post Ventilate Your Kitchen Like a Chef.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.

  • Ashley

    Holy hell, that before kitchen looks like the place of nightmares. Great job Allison and Jovito on your renovation, now it’s dreamy.

  • cowgirl

    that cat is purrrfect! …and nice renovation, too!

  • Romany

    Both rooms are now really beautiful. Well done on all fronts!

  • Katharine

    Wonderful job. So glad your Sweeten Expert was able to incorporate all the great “finds.” My kind of shoppers . . .

  • Kay

    So many smart choices – love the herringbone and porcelain tiles! Beautiful and fun.

  • semav

    Kitchen looks beautiful, but isn’t it a bit of a problem that the cabinet doors next to the fridge swing across the counter? Pretty much prevents you using that extra counter space for anything.

  • Allison

    Thanks for the kind words, everyone! Semav, because we tend to use the counter space on the other side of the kitchen for prep, and don’t store anything on the counter of the hutch, we haven’t experienced any problems using that counter space. We do tend to prepare drinks on that counter though and it’s been the perfect size!

  • Debra

    Love the bathroom sink. May I ask who makes it or where you found it?

  • Allison

    Hi Debra, the sink is made by Archiade. We purchased it at Build It Green, a salvage place in Brooklyn. Here’s the listing–they had 5 sinks available when we purchased it–they may have some left! http://www.bignyc.org/inventory/item/brooklyn/brand-new-archiade-italian-porcelain-sink

  • Barbara

    Have you been satisfied with the Ikea kitchen cabinets? I’m very tempted to go with Ikea because of style and price.


  • Allison

    Hi Barbara, we’ve only had the cabinets for about 3 months now, so it might be a little too early to tell, but they’re holding up great so far. Price-wise, IKEA can’t be beat. We asked for estimates from several other cabinet and kitchen places and they ran about 4-7 times as much–for the same materials and inferior hinges/hardware. We also liked how customizable the cabinets are. There are several “hacks” that you can incorporate into your kitchen design to make it look custom. We’ve been very happy with them so far.

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  • Monica

    I finally finished reading about the whole process. Great job by you guys and Pedro. Absolutely amazing transformation. Now I just want to come over and have some great meal IN that beautiful new kitchen. Can’t wait to see what you renovate next. Bravo!!!

  • Kara

    Beautiful! can you tell me the grout color used, and tile brand?

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  • Allison

    Hi Kara, the kitchen floor tile is Kaska Euro Series in color Bianco. The grout color is Earth #105 by Polyblend.

  • Elizabeth

    LOVE your bathroom! I see your note on where you got the sink – what about the silver pipes that support it? I want to do the same thing for my bathroom reno – a sophisticated and sleek console sink!

  • Emily

    This is beautiful. I have the same size TINY bathroom and am hoping to redo it soon. Would love to know what brand/model toilet you bought. Thanks!

  • Amy

    I, too, love your bathroom sink. Did it come with the metal console or did you purchase that separately? If so, what and where? Thanks so much! Congratulations on a beautiful renovation.

  • Elisa

    The herringbone tiles are DREAMY!!! Beautiful job, looking forward to seeing more.

  • Maria

    Both your bathroom and kitchen look amazing!!What a difference? I do have a question about budget, how much did it cost to do the tile work alone? I have been contemplating remodeling our bathroom for years now, but the budget most contractors give me will break my bank. So just curios to see…

  • Kim

    Love the kitchen, it came out awesome. I especially love the hutch-like design. Having doors that swing out is a perfect way to keep it clean! Can’t pile a bunch of stuff on the counter or you won’t be able to get into the cabinet. I think I’ll use that in my design. I have 2 questions….Where did you get the awesome brass faucet and did you paint the cabinets yourselves or order them that way?

  • Cindy

    ~~ I also have a small bathroom…. with the same type of tub you had. I love the small clawfoot tub ! I have been looking for one in a 56″ length….. yours looks small as well. What is the measurement and where did you find it?

  • Allison Stearns

    Hi Elizabeth, thanks so much!! The console base was purchased separately, also at Build it Green. It was originally wider than the sink we wound up with, but we just cut the metal cross bars to fit the new width.

  • Allison

    Hi Emily, the toilet we used is toto’s aquia II dual flush.

  • Allison

    Hi Kim, thank you! The faucet is East Linear by Newport Brass. We purchased it online but I’m sorry–I can’t remember which site we found it on! Re: the cabinets, they came that color grey. We used IKEA’s Lidingo Grey.

  • Allison

    Hi Cindy, our tub is 60″ long. We found it on http://www.vintagetub.com.

  • Grace

    Would it be possible to share what your budget was and how much went to purchasing material/furniture and how much went to the contractor? If you would prefer not to disclose that publicly, my email is geo.ong@gmail.com. Thank you very much!

  • TJ

    Dear Allison and Jovito:

    Excellent results. It looks like the location of the toilet was moved. Was it? Do you folks mind sharing the expenses related to the bathroom renovation including cost of labor? Please kindly e-mail (tarjuan@yahoo.com)me the information if you do not want to share it publicly. I will honor your privacy and not share the inofmrtaion you’ll provide me with if you desire so. Thank you.

  • Jim

    I have a similar small bathroom and almost the idential sink and i love the garbage can you have that seems as elegant as the rest of the pieces and is something i’m looking for. Where did you get it? Odd request i know but i’m a stickler for the little things and my whole bathroom looks fantastic but i have a crappy little can that i’d like to replace. Thanks!

  • Allison

    Hi Jim, We also look at all those little things, so not a odd request to us. :) We purchased a small trash can from Simple Human. Here’s the product page for reference:

  • Sue

    Beautiful kitchen reno! Love the juxtaposition of warm brass hardware against grey cabinets. Newport Brass has so many finish options–do you by any chance remember the finish of your faucet? Was it Satin Brass? Thanks!

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  • zaira

    Your kitchen looks like a dream now – amazing!

    I’m also about to begin a bathroom renovation with a clawfoot tub that was given to me (so so happy!), and I wanted to know where you got your tub faucet and shower riser – it’s exactly what I’m looking for and I’d really appreciate where you got that.

    Your bathroom is gorgeous but finding those faucets is hard work!

  • Rosie | Soul Cal Love

    Beautiful renovation! The kitchen is such a dream, what I would do to have that…

  • Allison

    Hi Sue, thanks so much for the kind words! Yes, you’ve got a good eye–the Newport Brass faucet is the Satin Brass – PVD finish. It’s held up so well so far.

  • Allison

    Hi Zaira! Thank you! We purchased all of our clawfoot tub accessories through http://www.vintagetub.com. They sell faucets, shower risers, shower enclosures and even decorative supply lines. The quality is wonderful–the parts feel heavy and built to last. Enjoy your new bathroom!

  • Erin

    What an amazing kitchen – it took my breath away and is prompting me to write my first message board comment. We are in the process of renovating our 1890’s house and have almost the exact same layout (and our before shot looks eerily similar). You have great style and would be thrilled if my kitchen turned out like this. If you shared your budget with Grace would you be able to share with me as well? erin_garner_22@hotmail.com.
    Would love to know the make/model of the appliances and the brand of the kitchen sink. What style are the ikea cabinets and did they come painted that colour?

  • Kirsten

    I am obsessed with this kitchen- and I too would love to know the kitchen budget if you are willing to share. Iamkirsteneva@gmail.com

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  • Molly

    Amazing! you have the bathroom I dream about! my bathroom I think is the exact same size and hasn’t been touched since 1948! Blue tile and everything (although I have white tub, sink and toilet – gigantic toilet). LOVE both the kitchen and the bathroom! great work!

  • Leah

    I love the aesthetics of the bathroom, but what about storage? There is absolutely no where to keep ANYTHING! That’s the problem we have with our current tiny (32sf) bathroom.

  • Meghan

    We are contemplating buying a house that needs lots of work! Would love a walk through of your budget with the kitchen and baths and breakdowns if possible! If you would like to not post here, would love to hear from you via email: mewaldeck@gmail.com

    Love everything!! Enjoy!

  • Erin

    Hi! I know this is a very late comment, but I’d love to know the brand of tile you used on the kitchen walls. They’re exactly what I’m looking for!

  • Allison

    Hi Erin, the kitchen wall tile is made by the company Ceramiche Grazia. The particular style is called Formae Oval. Hope that helps!

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  • Stephanie

    Love the bathroom! We are doing something similar with all the whites. What color did you go with for the walls?

  • karin

    I have a silly question but where did you get your dish soap dispenser in the kitchen? Do you like it?

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  • candace

    Question about the cabinet molding on top…did your contractor make them and you paint matched the gray cabinets? Or was ikea able to help you finish them as well? Love!!

  • Molly

    I love the kitchen! Beautiful!! Can you please tell me about the kitchen sink?

  • Allison

    Hi Stephanie, We went with Benjamin Moore’s Snowfall white. It’s a very pretty warm white.

  • Allison

    Hi karin, We actually found the kitchen soap dispenser at HomeGoods. It was a glass bottle with a label–I just peeled it off! So far it’s been very durable and useful.

  • Allison

    Hi candace, the cabinet moulding is from IKEA too! they were listed as a “contoured deco strip” under their older akurum cabinet line. I’m not certain if they still have something similar since they switched over to their new cabinets.

  • Allison

    Hi Molly, thank you! The kitchen sink is an undermount made by Kräus. It’s held up really well and I love it. http://www.kraususa.com/khu100-32-32-inch-undermount-single-bowl-16-gauge-stainless-steel-kitchen-sink.html

  • Alesandra Dubin

    Hi Allison and Jovito, I’m a writer with Today.com and I’d love to pursue a story about this. Can we be in touch via email? Thanks!

  • Alesandra Dubin

    Hi Allison and Jovito, I’m a writer with Today.com and I’d love to pursue a story about this. Can we be in touch via email? Thanks! Posting my email here in case it didn’t show up for you the first time — please drop me a line and I’ll tell you the details. Thanks! alice [at] alicedubin [dot] com.

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  • Rachel

    Hi! I’d be interesting in hearing the kitchen and bathroom budget as well if you are willing to share. Thank you so much! This looks absolutely beautiful. Are you still pleased with the ikea cabinets?

  • Owen

    How did you manage to live there during the bath Reno, do you have a second bathroom. We need to do ours but we only have one bathroom. You did a lovely job!

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  • Alice John

    i want build my new house like same type.Its so beautiful can you buddies please let me know Brooklyn Contractors Free Estimates for my new house.Thanks

  • Brian

    Who built the console for the sink and where did you get the materials?

  • What a beautiful transition that Allison and Jovito managed to achieve on a century-old property. Kudos! What I am curious to know is whether you achieved this renovation within your budget? What is this “limited budget” that you have mentioned in your blog?

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