Heather and Doug’s 1980s South Slope condo was in need of an update, but given the family’s eventual plans to move, they kept putting off a renovation. When DIY fixes (also known as “tape”) were no longer enough, they embarked on a kitchen and bath renovation to help them enjoy their home AND ensure that it would be resale ready when the time came. Read on for Heather’s take on major changes in two key spaces.
My husband, Doug, and I moved into our small condo in South Park Slope shortly after our daughter was born six years ago. The building had been abandoned in the 1970s and then turned into eight small condo units in the 1980s. We love the community, the location, and many things about our space, but the kitchen and bathroom had clearly not been updated since the original condo conversion. With our son, Elijah, and daughter, Alice, now sharing a bedroom, we knew that we would eventually need one more room, so we didn’t see any reason to renovate. But then the cupboards and the appliances began to give out.
I work at a book publishing company and telecommute, so I spend a lot of time working at the kitchen table and dreamed about ripping out our old kitchen cupboards. After one too many times reapplying duct tape to the fridge shelves and silverware drawer, we decided to take the plunge and renovate.
I loved reading the Sweeten renovation blogs and seeing the amazing transformation of other people’s homes. We had some recommendations for contractors from friends, but weren’t sure about the fit. So we posted our project on Sweeten and started to talk to contractors. What led us to choose a Sweeten general contractor was his experience in renovating for resale. We were able to see some units that he was renovating in progress, and he had great suggestions for things to focus on for a possible sale in the future (like a dual showerhead, which is really great for families with kids).
We decided on a classic, mostly white approach for the kitchen. Our plan was to add color with paint only, which would be easier for the next owners to change. With no edits to the layout or plumbing, we focused on choosing the materials that would make the most sense. We decided on Shaker-style cupboards from Home Depot and classic white subway tile for the kitchen backsplash from Nemo tile. Our counters are Caesarstone (from Appia Marble), the fridge is Samsung (from Home Depot), and the range is a Viking (from AJ Madison).
One of the best changes was a little one: Previously, the stove was directly next to the sink. We added space between the sink and stove—having a place to rest a pot or put dirty plates out of view from people in the living room is very nice.
In the bathroom, we continued with the same subway tile from the kitchen for the walls, but veered from the “classic” plan on the floor tile. I loved the blue tile from Nemo and the idea of having a bright color in a classic herringbone pattern. No one was sure about this when we opened the box of tiles, but it is now our (and Lem’s) favorite part of the bathroom renovation.
Given our short time frame, we ended up having to make many decisions quickly. But this made some of our choices less overwhelming. Instead of having 2,000 tubs to choose from, we would look at what was in stock (only 800!). While we spent quite a bit of time at big box stores and online, we also became acquainted with a few very helpful local places in our neighborhood that we will certainly go to again. I would encourage others doing a renovation to try to get a schedule of when cupboards, appliances, etc. will be needed (if not dates, then at what point in the process) because once you are into the project, there is very little time to make decisions.
Since our apartment was too small to live in with a renovation underway, we planned to move out for five weeks over the summer to accommodate the work. Everything went fairly smoothly, and Lem made sure that the apartment was ready for us to move back into on schedule. Given how small and close-knit our building is, I was very concerned about the renovation being disruptive for our neighbors. Lem took great care to cover the floor and other parts of the apartment so the noise wasn’t too much for our downstairs neighbors, and so that dust didn’t invade other parts of our apartment. All of the workers were respectful of our space, the building, and our neighbors, which meant a lot to us.
There were a few add-on items that we chose not to do because we didn’t want to spend more money. One was having all of the outlets changed to new, stainless steel ones with USB ports. I plan to do this myself but wonder when that is going to happen. It probably would have been worth it to go ahead. The other was to have our floors redone. It seemed like too much to manage at the time, but now that the kitchen and bath look so nice, I notice how other parts of the apartment look.
We LOVE our renovated space. The kitchen not only looks better, but it is infinitely easier to use and we have more storage space. It is amazing to have a real size fridge. The bathroom is also much more functional and looks bright and clean (even when it is not totally). Our old appliances in both the kitchen and the bathroom were energy intensive, and it was important to me to get an energy-efficient fridge and a low-flow toilet. They are little things in the bigger picture, but make me feel a little bit better about our environmental footprint.
Kitchen selects >> cabinets: Home Depot / counters: Caesarstone in Raven via Appia Marble & Granite / backsplash tile: Nemo Tile / refrigerator: Samsung / range: Viking via AJ Madison / Kraus sink, #KHU100-30: Kraus
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