Widening the window invites a renewed sense of space
Project: Restore an outdated kitchen on the border of Greenwood and Sunset Park, Brooklyn
Before: Longtime renters Marc and Steve dreamt of having a place of their own. Their search for a one-bedroom in Brooklyn eventually led them to a townhouse and an unexpected choice: a co-op or house? The building, a short commute (only two express train stops) from Manhattan, would provide more space than a one-bedroom apartment, and without the maintenance fees that go with living in a co-op.
After purchasing their new home in 2017, they lived in it for seven months before turning their attention to the kitchen. “It was perhaps the most outdated room and we knew it needed a major renovation,” Marc said. The existing cabinets were layered with grime and their doors were broken. Some were so high up that they were virtually unusable. The countertops had seen better days, and the too-big appliances—combined with a low drop ceiling—made it feel like the walls were closing in on the already small space.
After: With a list of must-haves that included a full-size dishwasher and additional storage space, Marc and Steve set out to plan a renovation. “Before Sweeten, we weren’t sure how to find a contractor we could trust,” Marc said. Posting his project on Sweeten led him to his general contractor. After reading through great reviews and discussing the contractor’s past work with a Sweeten’s client services, he felt confident he was making the right choice and accepted his contractor’s bid.
Fans of the classic, black-and-white New York kitchen, the couple aimed to create a bright space with a clean look, layering plenty of white to make the space feel bigger. “The kitchen needed to be truly functional and not just pretty,” Marc said. As for the design, “we landed on something like ‘a traditional white kitchen goes modern.’”
The need to demo the entire space meant that measuring would have to wait and the new cabinets—which usually require some lead time—couldn’t be ordered before work began. The couple decided on IKEA cabinets and Semihandmade doors because they would arrive sooner than a fully customized set (although Marc noted that the cabinet door delivery took longer than planned). He also mentioned taking advantage of running the cabinets from top to bottom on two walls to get as much storage as possible.
With cabinets of varying sizes, they chose flat-panel doors to streamline the look rather than the Shaker-style that was initially under consideration. The couple opted for full-size appliances (they got their dishwasher!) since they cook and bake on a daily basis, while a counter-depth fridge was installed to save some space and make room for a pantry cabinet. For unity between the backsplash and countertop, marble-looking quartz was selected for both surfaces. To let in more light, their contractor also widened the window over the sink so that there’s a clear view of the garden.
Overall, the renovation took closer to three months—“a month or so longer than we hoped,” Marc shared. “But it was worth it!” While waiting on cabinet doors, his contractor tackled smaller projects, adding new baseboards and trim to the main living area, hanging pendants over the dining table, and removing the drop ceiling that continued throughout the rest of the ground floor. Marc tells us that working with his contractor was a great experience. “We are perfectionists, so we’d come home to see the work done each day and have a bunch of questions. He always answered patiently and quickly, or fixed things as soon as he could.”
The couple’s advice to future renovators: “Check return policies on everything. We ordered a range hood online that wasn’t what we thought it was. They wouldn’t let us return it because you have to reject it immediately at delivery.” Another tip: Dust is going to get everywhere, even with a contractor who’s careful, so be prepared for some clean-up after the work is done.
The new space feels light and airy—and much bigger than before. “We can both stand in the kitchen at the same time and it’s not overly crowded,” Marc said. “Design-wise, it’s the kitchen we always wanted and I don’t think we have any regrets about the choices we made (and there were so many choices!).”
Bonus: Marc and Steve were most excited for the new kitchen floor and the “wow” moment they achieved with patterned black-and-white tile.
KITCHEN RESOURCES: Coptic black-and-white porcelain and marble floor tiles: Tilebar. Sektion kitchen cabinets: Ikea. Supermatte kitchen cabinet doors: Semihandmade. Vauxhall hardware: Restoration Hardware. Countertops and backsplash in Bianco Cristal, #CQ853: Colorquartz. Delta Trinsic faucet, #9159-AR-DST: Home Depot. Kohler Strive sink, #K-5286-NA: Home Depot. 24″ refrigerator, #CS1321: Liebherr. Whirlpool 30″ range, #WEG515S0FS: Home Depot. Bosch 24″ dishwasher: P.C. Richard & Son. Whirlpool 30″ hood: Best Buy. Princeton Short sconce and Fuller dining room pendant light: Schoolhouse. Paint in kitchen, Pure White, #SW7005; in dining room, Icicle, #SW6238: Sherwin Williams. Baseboards, casings, and plinth: New Mouldings.
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