When “The One” got away, Nikki and Chris snagged their second choice in a new condo building and came to Sweeten to remedy cut corners in the kitchen and bathroom. Read on for Nikki’s inch by inch account of the new custom cabinetry and vintage-inspired picks that have made this place feel like home.
Guest post by Nikki, Astoria homeowner
When we first entered the New York City real estate market, my husband and I had three goals in mind. The first was to stay in our beloved neighborhood, Astoria, the second was to have more space than our rental, and the third was to have an open kitchen. Of course, all of this coupled with the most important goal–to stay under budget.
A wise friend told us to be prepared to have our hearts broken. After months of searching and touring the limited number of apartments available in Astoria, we came across The One. It was beautifully modern, with all of the bells and whistles that I yearned for as an avid baker and home entertainer. A few weeks into negotiations, the deal fell apart. I was heartbroken, and we were back on the market. Two days later, we put an offer in on our current home.
I knew when we first saw the apartment that it would need a makeover. While the kitchen and bathroom were perfectly adequate (as it had only been constructed four years ago), it just wasn’t our style, and there were minor details that indicated sloppy work and cut-corners. We had a limited budget and wanted to renovate both the kitchen and the bathroom — two expensive spaces. We wanted to convert the tub to a walk-in shower to maximize space in the bathroom and we also wanted to improve functionality in the kitchen to optimize space and utilize every square inch.
I spent hours and hours on Pinterest, secretly plotting the perfect kitchen and bathroom. My colleague told me about Sweeten one day when I mentioned I was looking for a general contractor. (She’s now going through her own Sweeten renovation in Brooklyn!) I was instantly hooked on the Sweeten blog, and posted my project the day our closing date was announced. When we were introduced to our Sweeten contractor, I didn’t know what to expect, but meeting her was not what I had in mind for meeting a general contractor. It was more like meeting an old friend. She was warm, open-minded, knowledgeable, and she instantly put me at ease. We discussed my very detailed vision (from weeks of Pinning!) and she seemed to “get” me immediately.
The style I envisioned was a mix between classic glam, modern, and vintage touches that were a nod to pre-war NYC apartments of the 1920s and 30s. In the kitchen, we initially discussed ways in which we could preserve the cabinets to save on budget; however, we soon realized that this was a kitchen that would be called to greatness. my contractor brought in a millworker who built beautiful custom cabinetry, and we walked through every corner of that kitchen, discussing every cabinet, every door, every square inch of space.
We decided on a configuration that would truly maximize the kitchen for a cook – moving the island a few inches to accommodate both a pull-out spice rack and utensil rack on either side of the stove, adding a pull-out trash and recycle bin underneath a 30” apron front sink, removing the overhead microwave for a full size hood, relocating the microwave to the island while adding six drawers: four tiny ones for utensils and two large ones for pots and pans, a kick toe drawer for the little things like kitchen towels, large pull-out drawers that opened from the front of the island for my collection of baking tools and sprinkles, and dividers for all of my baking sheets in the cabinet above the refrigerator. The meeting was energizing and Charles’ passion really came through–waving his arms in the most animated fashion, talking about wood types and inlay cabinet doors.
To finish the kitchen, we chose a beautiful, slate-like porcelain tile flooring, dramatic brushed brass hardware from Martell Hardware, a show-stopping champagne gold faucet from Delta, a two-toned paint treatment with warm white for the upper cabinets and an unexpected jewel blue for the lowers, a traditional subway tile backsplash with dark grout, and finally, a gorgeous white quartz countertop that mimicked the veining of Carrara marble without the porousness. (Thanks to the contractor and my husband, Chris, for talking me out of sparkly, recycled glass quartz with specks of glitter.)
In the bathroom, Chris took the initiative to find vintage inspired hardware to match our vision of a modernized, New York City pre-war bathroom. We took inspiration from all of our favorite restaurant bathrooms in Astoria and Manhattan. For the flooring, we chose lovely matte black hexagon tile which the crew installed beautifully despite it being a difficult tile to lay perfectly. To maximize visibility, we chose to install a panel of glass instead of a shower with a door. We selected a traditional style rain showerhead and a handshower with a porcelain handle. For the vanity, we went with a modern, gray floating vanity with a Carrera marble top and faucet hardware with white porcelain handles. The walls received a gorgeous treatment of white subway tile with gray grout and an unexpected yet bold touch – black wallpaper featuring golden pineapples from Rifle Paper Co.
Home renovations can be extremely stressful, especially when you choose to live through the renovation. Through this experience, we have showered at our friends’ homes, brushed our teeth at local coffee shops, and ordered from Seamless four times a week. The amount of dust and debris seemed inexhaustible. Yet to see the daily progress, to see our vision come to life, made it all worthwhile. The contractor’s team made us feel comfortable and we saw them so often they became almost like family. In fact, our pug started to wait at the door every morning for the team to arrive.
Our renovation taught us many things. We learned about trusting others to work in our home and take care of it. We learned about our own preferences, managing budget and timeline, and how to compromise. We learned about community, our wonderful neighborhood that opened its arms to us when we didn’t have basics like running water for a few days. We learned the names of baristas and bartenders, the cost of raw materials and the process of how a house becomes a home. Our condo is a perfect square; it’s our little 580 square foot shoebox. For my husband and I and our 9-year-old pug, it’s cozy, functional, luxurious, and most importantly, home.
Kitchen selects >> floors: MS Kitchen & Bath: Black Slate Porcelain Tile / cabinets: custom / hardware: Martell Hardware: Lewis Dolin Brass Square Bar Series / counters: white quartz / sink: Wayfair: Farmhouse 30″ Kitchen Sink / faucet: Delta / backsplash: MS Kitchen & Bath: White Subway Tile / stove: Samsung: Chef Collection 30” Slide In Range / fridge: Frigidaire / dishwasher: Whirlpool / lighting: Lighting Direct: Progress Lighting Brass Pendant with Edison Bulbs
Bathroom selects >> floors: MS Kitchen & Bath: Black Matte Hexagon Tile / vanity sink: Bellacor: Avanity Tribeca Chilled Gray Wall Mount Vanity with White Carrera Marble Top / shower hardware: eFaucets: Graff Polished Chrome Victorian Style Shower hardware / lighting: Wayfair: Downtown Edison 3 Light Bath Vanity by Minka Lavery / toilet: Kohler / wallpaper: Rifle Paper Co.
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