A couple keeps materials clean and au naturel
When Vitoria, an art historian, and Jonathan, a location scout, purchased their 650-square-foot co-op in a century-old building in South Williamsburg, they began discussing renovations right away. They posted their project on Sweeten, a free service that matches homeowners with vetted general contractors, and were matched with a Sweeten contractor to create a new home for the couple, daughter Asa, and Ramona, the family dog.
The apartment was in “okay” shape, but it had little storage and the materials used were poor quality—laminate flooring and old Ikea cabinets. It would need a lot of updates along with better quality materials, such as kitchen countertops and new hardwood floors, but they were limited on budget and time. Some of their efforts went into looking ahead toward selling in the future.
Vitoria, who is inspired by the simplicity of Japanese design, envisioned uncluttered white space with lots of natural wood color. “Since we are growing a family in a small space, a place that looks tidy and serene was a priority. For us ‘negative space’ is actually positive,” she said.
We replaced the cheap laminate with thick hardwood [so] the unevenness is barely noticeable.
Once the demo began, they were faced with a few surprises including rotten pipes in the kitchen sink and toilet and uneven floors. Changing the floor was imperative. Vitoria said she had some “crazy ideas” to put in cork floors or use raw plywood cabinets in the kitchen, but then realized those materials would not increase the resale value and were too specific to her own personal taste. They opted instead for a pre-finished oak hardwood which their contractor suggested. She admitted she was scared at first since the color of the boards varied quite a lot, but she soon fell in love. “The wood floor has so much personality!” she said.
While redoing the subfloor in the bathroom, they decided not to renovate all the subflooring throughout the rest of the apartment to save time and money, “Since we replaced the cheap laminate with thick hardwood,” Vitoria said. “the unevenness is barely noticeable.”
Their Sweeten contractor helped with the layout of the kitchen, fitting in more storage with cabinets that were taller and deeper. They kept the stove and washer-and-dryer in the kitchen and purchased a new refrigerator. A narrow cabinet for their spices flanks the hood.
There were a few “must-haves” on the couple’s list; in fact, Vitoria chose a quartz countertop before she even chose a contractor. “Quartz is a great material, especially for clumsy cooks like me,” she said. She also insisted on a Toto toilet and a slim Blomberg refrigerator. “These were non-negotiable. I had to have them!” Since the remodel, Vitoria said, “I actually have more space in the cabinets than I have things to put in them.”
She also loved the idea of untreated pine for the open shelves above the sink to store what she called their “showpieces.” While visitors may think it’s yet to be painted, she is happy with the result.
They had a good working relationship with their contractor, who not only had a great personality but sourced materials that fit their taste and worked for resale while being adept at managing their budget.
When their contractor took up the bathroom floor, he discovered the original 100-year-old tiles, which were cracked and loose. He had to remove two layers of tile and redo the subfloor, which delayed the project by a couple of days. “Throughout the whole process, he was very aware that we had no wiggle room in the budget and was super cost-conscious. We are extremely grateful for that,” said Vitoria.
During the chaotic periods, they were glad to have Sweeten in their corner. Vitoria liked that Sweeten contacted her often during the renovation, commenting that it made her feel well taken care of and gave her peace of mind.
Post-renovation, Vitoria knows that there will always be unexpected issues no matter how good your contractor is or how fat your budget. “But having a home that you love makes it worth every penny spent,” she said. “Although my home is small, it feels spacious. I confess I only leave if I have to.”
Thank you, Vitoria and Jonathan, for sharing your new home with us!
Tracey and Stephen combined modern and Japanese aesthetics while renovating their East Flatbush kitchen.
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