A family renovates and calculates an extra room and a bigger kitchen
With a family of three in a one-bedroom rental apartment, Sheilaja, a fundraiser, and her husband Sergio, an economist, searched for a home with more space. They found a new 1,100-square-foot co-op to move into with their daughter, Lara. While there was plenty more space, the kitchen and foyer were not entirely maximized—the couple wanted a true dining space—and the bathroom needed updating. They posted the project on Sweeten, a free service matching renovators with vetted general contractors. By reconfiguring square footage and removing closets, their dream home finally took shape.
When my husband Sergio and I started our home search a few years ago, we were living in a one-bedroom rental apartment on the Upper East Side, where he had lived for almost ten years. Just before our daughter, Lara, turned two, we began to look for an apartment to buy, motivated by a desire for more space. I had lived in Brooklyn for many years and was keen on moving back. During our search, we kept returning to Windsor Terrace. We were drawn to its small-town neighborhood vibe and proximity to Prospect Park.
We purchased an approximately 1,100-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bath co-op in a lovely prewar building. From the beginning, we knew we wanted to renovate the kitchen and bathroom and create a dining room in the entry where we could gather friends and family for dinner since both of us enjoy cooking and hosting.
Shortly after closing, we posted our project on Sweeten. After meeting with several, we decided on a general contractor. He was terrific and willing to work with both our budget and strict timeline for the project. The renovation was expected to take about 10 weeks.
The galley-style kitchen was, without a doubt, the biggest part of the renovation. There were upper and lower cabinets on both sides and an open space at the far end, which could accommodate a small table and chairs.
Since we were already planning for a dining area outside of the kitchen, we didn’t need a table in the kitchen as well. We opted to have lower cabinets run the length of the room on both sides, giving us more storage and tons of counter space. Upper cabinets were installed on one side, while custom wood shelves ran along the length of the room on the opposite side, making the kitchen feel wider and more open. The wood provides a nice contrast to the all-white kitchen, as well as some open storage and a place to display artwork.
With our new larger kitchen, we’ve been cooking a lot more, including lamb tagine and homemade pasta. We’re hoping to start making bread as well.
We selected glossy white cabinets to reflect more light. The Caesarstone counters are white with a light gray marbling and the backsplash tiles are a white matte hex. We decided to replace the linoleum tile floors with wood floors. Our Sweeten contractor did a great job matching the flooring design and color to match the wood floors in the rest of the apartment, which created a nice sense of continuity between the spaces.
And finally, we wanted to create a small bar area with stools at the entrance of the kitchen, since we now had so much more countertop to work with. This has definitely become one of our favorite places to hang out in the apartment to read and have coffee in the morning while one of us cooks. Lara loves it too; sometimes she’ll sit at the counter and draw and other times she’ll want to help us prep some items for cooking.
Before the renovation, the foyer was a long, narrow area that we wanted to transform into a dining room. We removed two large closets in the entryway, which essentially doubled the size of that space. To compensate for the loss of storage in the foyer, we added additional storage in the kitchen. Now that we have a dedicated dining room that opens into the living area, we can display our artwork consisting primarily of portraits—a mix of photographs, paintings, and drawings.
In the master bedroom, we removed a wall of closets and cabinets that was added on at some point. We opted to replace it with a freestanding wardrobe instead.
The bathroom was fairly small in size, so our goal was to make it feel as open as possible. We installed a wall-mounted sink without a base and a slightly narrower toilet. Fortunately, there is a closet in the bathroom so storage was not an issue. Above the sink, we installed a large mirrored cabinet with LED lighting, which also helps make the room feel a bit bigger. We kept the color scheme a simple black and white with black fixtures.
As first-time renovators, we greatly appreciated how responsive our Sweeten contractor was to our calls and emails throughout the renovation. In the few instances where something needed to be adjusted or redone, he was willing to take the extra steps to make sure we were satisfied with the outcome.
Overall, we are really happy with the finished product. Our new space feels open and has a great flow while maintaining many of the original prewar details that attracted us to the apartment. We absolutely love our new kitchen and bathroom. We feel lucky we were matched up with our contractor. He was honest and clear with us throughout the process in terms of what would and would not be possible and what the costs would be.
KITCHEN RESOURCES: Sektion cabinets in high gloss white: Ikea. Lew’s Hardware brushed brass bottom cabinet pulls: Lowe’s. Quartz countertops in Frosty Carrina, #5141: Caesarstone. Stainless steel 30” sink from the Standart PRO Series: Kraus. Delta Trinsic faucet in Champagne Bronze: Home Depot. Counter-depth 36”-wide refrigerator, #KRFC302ESS: KitchenAid. Slide-in gas range, #NX58H9500WS/AA: Samsung. Under-the-cabinet 30″ hood, JVX5300SJSS: GE. Large sculptural glass globe pendants: West Elm. Wainscot acacia wood bar stools: CB2.
BATHROOM RESOURCES: Hex matte porcelain mosaic bathroom floor tile, #615823: The Tile Shop. Ceramic wall-mounted sink: The Bath Outlet. Lighting: CB2. Godmorgan medicine cabinet: Ikea. Amba radiant electric towel warmer, #RSWH-P: Wayfair.
LIVING ROOM RESOURCES: Minka Aire Fans Light Wave ceiling fans: Lumens.
DINING ROOM RESOURCES: Sputnik chandelier: West Elm.
Courtney and Jim renovated their junior two-bedroom in the Clinton Hill Co-ops.
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