A Galley Kitchen Gets in Line

by Kelley Rowland

The right-sized cabinets and appliances make the best use of the space

galley kitchen renovation

Project: Transform a practical, but drab kitchen into a hardworking and pretty spot

Before: Elie, an investment banker, and her husband Matt, a financial planner, have lived in their Murray Hill, Manhattan, co-op for five years. They bought the 1959 apartment after graduating from college and a year of renting with a friend. While they weren’t in love with how the kitchen looked, there wasn’t an immediate need to update it. “The old kitchen was practical and durable, but outdated and dull,” Elie shared. “Renovating the kitchen was on our to-do list from the start, but we took our time in order to figure out what we needed in a kitchen based on our lifestyle.”

The laminate counters and mirrored backsplash were old and dingy, not to mention the gray cabinets were a mix of different depths (some 12-inch and others 24) and didn’t line up with the appliances, which left awkward, unusable space. The duo got by with the design until they made the decision to renovate once and for all. They wanted to update the kitchen and “make better use of the 7’ x 7’ space, while adding touches of modern luxury—including appliances not older than we are,” Elie shared.

galley kitchen

After: They posted their project to Sweeten and were matched with a general contractor. The new kitchen came together with custom cabinets, appliances, and fixtures. Since there’s no window, the couple wanted to brighten the space as much as possible. They chose all white cabinets, white quartz countertops, and a backsplash that contrasts against the dark gray floors and an accent wall at the far end of the space. The countertops gave them the best of both worlds: a marble look with the easy maintenance of quartz. “We wanted a crisp minimalist kitchen that still exudes warmth and comfort. Functionality was still important to us, but we believed it could also look luxurious and incorporate natural materials to breathe life into the previously sterile kitchen,” Elie said.

galley kitchen

The duo was particularly excited to get all new energy-efficient appliances, though removing the old ones proved to be a challenge. “There used to be another door at the other end of the kitchen that we had closed up when we first moved in (as it led to our bedroom), which turned out to be how the previous owners got the previous appliances into the kitchen,” Elie explained. Their contractor had to saw through the old stove and refrigerator to get them out of the kitchen.

Their biggest splurge? The custom cabinets. “Our contractor has a background in cabinetry and had worked with the cabinet maker in the past, so the process was very smooth,” Elie said. The new 21-inch deep base cabinets provided more workspace and extra tall upper cabinets took advantage of the dead space above the cabinets that used to be a covered soffit. They also installed toe-kick drawers and a sink tilt-out drawer for more storage and to keep their countertops clear.

galley kitchen

Aside from getting the appliances out on demo day, the biggest (and unexpected) roadblock was discovering the electric wasn’t up to code, which added additional costs. Their general contractor worked closely with the building staff and superintendent to make sure everything went smoothly throughout the process.

“All the improved appliances and storage space makes cooking a much more enjoyable experience, and the extra floor space from the custom cabinets allows both of us to move freely through the kitchen. No more squeezing past each other to get to the fridge,” Matt said.

This was the couple’s first non-cosmetic renovation, and since they decided not to hire a designer or an architect, they were so happy they hired a trustworthy contractor. Their advice?

“Go through the appliances you’re planning on using with your contractor and make sure everything fits in the space and with your specific electrical load—especially if you live in an old NYC building,” Matt said.

Bonus: They installed under-cabinet lights, “which offer a warm, cozy atmosphere, perfect for when we’re making late night snacks,” Elie said. To get around the lack of natural sunlight, they also added a strip of LED grow lights.

Style finds: MSI Beton floor tiles: Home Depot. Custom cabinets: E-Wood. Cabinet hardware: The Hardware Hut. Countertops: Caesarstone. Backsplash: Merola Tile. Range: Samsung. Refrigerator: Bertazzoni. Dishwasher: Bosch. HOMEIDEAS filter faucet: Amazon. Sink and faucet: Delta Faucet. Lighting: Minka Lavery.

A galley kitchen gets a Scandinavian-inspired renovation in Crown Heights, Brooklyn

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

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