Renovations are expensive and messy, but more than that, a renovation can feel destabilizing because it challenges our sense of control over what few square feet we have. If you’ve been following along with the Sweeten blog during the last few months, you have seen us take on topics that demystify the renovation process and help homeowners and professionals build more informed partnerships. These blog posts can be more dense and less glamorous than our standard before-and-after features (we will keep those coming, too!), but we’re hoping to fill out the picture of what things cost and what to expect so that you can get more work done in your home on your terms. This week, meet the blogger behind these new blog posts, me, Kerry.
I bought a 340 square foot apartment in the East Village after a decade of living in apartments with classic city charm: sixth floor walk-ups, living room showers, and bedrooms without closets. The new place was already in good shape – kitchen and bath had been renovated within the last few years and I had taken the plunge with new floors after moving in. But in a space this small, I found myself fixating on details like damaged baseboards and wall marks, and my efforts to freshen the apartment with a new coat of paint were only semi-successful; you can see where I got tired of re-painting the white hallway walls and left an uneven strip of the old white paint along the top.
I subscribed to the Sweeten blog back in 2012 because I liked the pretty pictures and the local design projects that were featured, but it wasn’t until I read a post about custom bookshelves that I realized how much more I could do to make my tiny place more functional. I had cycled through a few different neighborhood handymen for minor repairs, and I had done some online research to try to figure out who could handle the painting and shelving that I had in mind, but nothing clicked until I posted my project on Sweeten in December. I loved the idea that multiple contractors could bid on the work – I hadn’t seen that kind of transparency anywhere else and it offered choice on a process that usually involves asking your neighbor or cousin for a contractor recommendation. I was also struck by the way Sweeten makes renovations better on both sides of the contracting relationship – contractors often find it difficult to represent themselves and their services online; on Sweeten, I was able to look at expert profiles that gave me a real sense of my options.
My project was small in scale and cost but I was determined to find someone with the same obsessive attention to detail that I have. The day after I posted my project, I was matched to two impressive Sweeten experts who were in tune with my vision and available right away. Within a few days, I had already set up site visits and received formal project proposals. It was clear that both experts would do a great job – I could see that both had relevant experience and were personable and responsive, but Sweeten Expert Paul went out of his way to deliver decorative molding samples so I could get a better feel for my options, and he diligently followed up while I took some time to finalize my plans. I also looked at the cost difference between the two proposals and ended up deciding that I felt comfortable going with a lower bid because the work would be fairly cosmetic and I would be able to play a pretty active role in the visual progress of the project.
After a few weeks of finalizing my budget, I decided to award my project to Sweeten Expert Paul. Paul was super supportive and excited to get going. So here we are, a few weeks before I re-paint my place, put in new decorative molding throughout, and install some desperately needed shelves in my living room. Paul and I will be meeting next week to finalize details and order materials for work to begin in April. I’m psyched to finish this last project on my very tiny apartment and I look forward to spending this summer wishing I could figure out how to get central air installed…!
I’ll be back later this spring with an update on my place, but in the meantime, I invite you to send your suggestions for blog posts in the comment section below. Let me know how I can help make the renovation process more predictable – what questions do you have and what problems have you encountered? I may not have come across your question while working on my 340 square foot slice of this city, but I can tap any one of our 300 Sweeten experts for more insight into your particular corner of the home renovation universe! More from me next week.