Author Archives: Sweeten

About Sweeten

Sweeten is a free renovation service that matches homeowners with the best general contractors, providing support until the job is done. Follow the blog for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.

An NYC Apartment Meets An Aging-In-Place Renovation

Renovating a home can be fun, but how do you make sure that the design you choose will accommodate people of all ages? This was the question on Marie and John’s minds when they decided to move back to NYC after living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. for many years.



Their first grandchild was born in Brooklyn in 2014, which is when the idea was hatched for these NYC natives to move back to the Big Apple. When John retired in 2017, the couple decided to take the plunge and look for a place in the city.

They settled on a 3-bed, 1.5-bath co-op in the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn. Their apartment lies close to Prospect Park, as well as their five children. While the couple loved the bones of the space, the design left much to be desired. John and Marie posted their project on Sweeten and were paired up with an architect to help them create the perfect “aging-in-place” oasis.



With the help of their Sweeten architect, Marie and John decided to remove the kitchen wall to open up the space. In addition, pocket doors were added so that the three exposures could bring more natural light into the apartment. The architect added several features to make the entire space more accessible and comfortable such as additional closets for storage space and moisture- and heat-resistant Caesarstone kitchen countertops.



Tall dining room cabinets replaced the former closets and the common space was reconfigured to maximize space for cooking and entertaining.

Hardwood was laid in the kitchen to match the living room and unify the open-plan living area. A deep crimson glass tile backsplash adds “the extra special spark to our grey kitchen," says Marie. “Based on our own past experience, we chose quartz countertops,” she adds. “The fact that it is practically indestructible met our desire for a low-maintenance lifestyle.”





Accent tiles in the shower floor and niche add vibrancy to the tranquil bathroom. A long safety bar was installed to provide additional stability when showering—a very useful age-in-place feature.  



“Our new space feels comfortable and cozy,” says Marie. “The natural light combined with our light fixtures make it a happy place to live. We feel very much at home…like we have been here for a long time.” Rest assured, Marie, you and John will be able to live in your beautifully renovated, aging-in-place apartment for many years to come.

For more Sweeten renovations: No Muss, No Fuss, in Sweeten We Trust | A Brooklyn Brownstone Gets Its Design Flipped Upside-Down with Sweeten

A 100-Year-Old Warehouse Turned Contemporary Apartment

Meet Tara, Ryan and their son, Wyatt. Before Wyatt was born, the couple purchased a former silk importer warehouse and decided to make it their home. The couple fell in love with the exposed brick walls, high tin ceilings and cast-iron Corinthian columns. Once they found out they'd be adding a new member to their family, they knew it was time for a dramatic home makeover. They posted their project on Sweeten and found the perfect contractor for their project.



The brick along the living room wall was re-exposed, giving the space an industrial, raw feel.  White glossy cabinetry makes the room contemporary and chic. Opposite the feature wall in the living room, which was made using reclaimed bar siding, sits a desk for musical inspiration--a passion that Ryan hopes Wyatt will inherit some day.






Tara and Ryan kept the same layout for their kitchen. They pushed the kitchen island outward by a foot which helped to open up the space and improve the ergonomics. An induction cooktop was installed on top of the Pure White kitchen island. Minimalist light pendants of varying heights add dimension and personality to the all-white kitchen. Not pictured: the 18” wine fridge in the island, which will come in handy after Wyatt’s bedtime!



Pure White

The washer-dryer combo unit was rotated 180 degrees so that the laundry door was next to the bathroom instead of the kitchen--which had previously disrupted traffic flow.



The couple had to think creatively to work around a column near the master bedroom. They used pocket doors to maximize their floor space and create room for a wall-sized, reach-in modular custom closet.





Additionally, space from the living room was taken to create a second bedroom for Wyatt. Tara and Ryan kept with the elegant design and chose to include a few bright and clean photographs to bring warmth to Wyatt’s room.





New, white oak hardwood floors replaced the worn-down bamboo tiles, which keeps the space feeling open and bright.



“One tip we want to pass on to future renovators is, if possible, rent a place close by so you can check in a few times a week,” say Tara and Ryan. “We did and were able to do weekly (sometimes multiple times per week) walk-throughs with our contractor. That gave us time to plan, troubleshoot and exchange creative ideas.”

There you have it: a former warehouse transformed into a newly renovated home for this family of three. We hope Wyatt inherits his parents home renovation skills as well!

For more Sweeten renovations: No Muss, No Fuss, In Sweeten We TrustLivable Kitchen Meets Modern Design


 

 

No Muss, No Fuss, in Sweeten We Trust

After nearly two years of arduous searching, Marsha and Adam found the perfect townhouse for their family of four. Marsha, the CFO of a division at Siemens, and Adam, a manager of software development at Spotify, knew that their brick two-family home needed a lot of work, but they had a great feeling about it. Just over 2,000 square feet on three floors, the townhouse was “sunny, just the right size and of course, within our budget,” says Marsha.





Marsha, Adam and their two daughters, Sophie and Mila, moved into the new space pre-renovation in the summer of 2015, which is when they decided to post their project to Sweeten. They were matched with a Sweeten architect who helped them plan out the layout of their new home. While the construction ensued, the family moved into a garden apartment—where they would stay for the next six months until the upstairs duplex was completed.



After many hours spent scouring Pinterest, Marsha and Adam decided on an all-white color palette with a modern vibe. The entire design of the home was inspired by the simplicity of the new white oak floors that they had installed. The walls between the living room, dining space and kitchen were knocked down in order to create a connective open-space layout. A window was added to the rear wall in the kitchen and a non-functioning fireplace was removed.





Pure White quartz adorns the L-shaped countertops and kitchen island in the Mid-century modern home.  With two young daughters and a busy lifestyle, you better believe that Marsha and Adam made sure to include ample room for a kitchen pantry. White Shaker-style cabinets reach up to the ceiling to provide extra storage and hide appliances from view.

Don’t let the all-white kitchen fool you—it still has plenty of personality. From the eclectic pendant lights hanging above the island to the marble hex-tile backsplash, this design is anything but basic.




1141 Pure White

The living room features large, expansive windows to let the sunshine in while the family enjoys their new home. Fresh greenery brings life to the room and makes the space more welcoming.





Let’s venture up the newly installed white-oak staircase, shall we? 

While white, modern and clean is a beautiful look, it isn’t every little girl’s dream design for her bedroom. For this reason, Sophie and Mila’s rooms were given bright accent walls of pink and turquoise. This keeps the rooms looking young and lively without being overwhelming to the eye.





A washer/dryer closet was created on the top floor so that no one would have to “schlep laundry up and down the stairs,” Marsha says.



Lifehack: install soundproofing in the bathroom so that you don’t hear any kids tiptoeing or humming in the middle of the night. Their Sweeten architect told the couple they would appreciate this feature, and she was right!



All in all, the family is overjoyed with their new home. A few years and many designing brainstorm sessions later, Marsha, Adam, Sophie and Mila have a beautiful townhouse to relax in and enjoy.

For more Sweeten renovations: How to Downsize without Compromising Functionality | Livable Kitchen Meets Modern Design

How to Downsize without Compromising Functionality

Let’s travel back in time for a moment to the year 2000: JoAnn and Brian had just moved into their 6-bedroom, 4,800-square-foot Colonial in Chesterfield, New Jersey. They lived comfortably in their beautiful home for 18 years, but in the back of their minds, they never forgot about their lifelong desire to live in New York City.

The couple already owned an investment property in the Turtle Bay neighborhood that could be converted into their new home. The one-bedroom co-op apartment was a huge size downgrade compared to their residential home. It measured 600 square feet and had been rented out for over a decade, but the couple was determined to make their dream into a reality, so they tied up their laces and prepared for a massive renovation.


The worn-down space was, “totally not my style,” says JoAnn. With four renovations under their belts, JoAnn and Brian were no strangers to creating a new space. While watching the news one fateful Sunday morning, they saw a commercial for Sweeten. They quickly hopped on the website and posted their project.

The couple wanted to transform the cramped apartment into an open space without having to compromise room for storage—which just so happens to be one of Sweeten’s specialties. Their Sweeten contractor tore down a restrictive wall in the kitchen that transformed the once congested room into a fluid space.



Oh, give me the beat boys, and free my soul, I want to get lost in your rock and roll and (Bianco) Drift away with these sleek countertops sitting atop the dark wooden peninsula. Swivel stools were placed by the kitchen counter to provide additional seating for the living room without making the space feel too crowded.


6131 Bianco Drift

 “I like to cook and wanted more storage and a larger work area,” says JoAnn. “I needed room for all my appliances and a large countertop for prepping.” From where we’re standing, it looks like JoAnn got her wish—and a bit more! Custom two-toned shaker-style cabinetry and a glass subway tile backsplash top off the look of this cozy kitchen.  





Do you see the luxurious brown couch in the bottom left corner of the above photo? It just so happens to be a pull-out sofa to pull double duty for overnight guests. The ample overhead lighting keeps the space looking bright and welcoming.

Next up on our tour is the bathroom. The old tub was replaced with a walk-in shower with frameless glass to create a more spacious feel.



Grey mosaic tiles in both hexagonal and weave patterns adorn the floor. White subway tile ties the whole look together and stays in keeping with the clean, modern design of the apartment.



In the end, JoAnn and Brian are thrilled with their new home. “We are extremely happy with all the choices,” says JoAnn. “Our apartment was completed in a timely fashion and exceeded our expectations!” Looks like it’s time for this New York couple to nestle in and enjoy this new chapter of their lives in the big city.

For more Sweeten renovations: Goodbye Dreary Kitchen, Hello Minimalist Dream!Livable Kitchen Meets Modern Design


 

Goodbye Dreary Kitchen, Hello Minimalist Dream!

Living in a historic building can be a double-edged sword: on one hand, you get to experience the charm and character that the building radiates. On the other hand, you may have to deal with a seriously outdated design. This is precisely what Nancy was faced with in her 1912 co-op home in Westchester County, New York. She had happily lived there for twenty years before she decided it was time for a drastic kitchen facelift.


Georgian Bluffs 6134

Nancy posted her project on Sweeten and was paired with the perfect contractor. While the galley layout of the kitchen was functional and allowed for plenty of prep space, Nancy felt the design looked outdated. Clashing laminate countertops and original wood cabinets made the kitchen look tacky and disjointed. The time-worn stain finishes of the half oak, half pine floors had also seen better days.

She decided to keep the existing cabinets and placement of the appliances so that she could splurge on the flooring and countertops. From the very beginning, she knew that she wanted to use Caesarstone because of its durability and easy maintenance. Nancy fell in love with the pale grey color of Georgian Bluffs, which complimented the stainless steel appliances that had been installed a few years earlier.





The old wooden flooring was ripped out and replaced with ceramic hexagonal tiles. “I always wanted a black floor,” says Nancy. The extensive grout lines between the small modern tiles keep the surface nonslip. As an homage to the era in which the kitchen was built, timeless ceramic subway tiles were used for the backsplash.



A new stainless steel sink and single-lever faucet add to the simplistic yet sophisticated aesthetic. New toe kicks underneath the cabinets were installed and a fresh coat of paint on the walls and radiator complete the look of this minimalist kitchen. And in true Sweeten fashion, the contractor finished the job right on schedule. This new kitchen is effortlessly chic and ready for all of Nancy’s future cooking adventures.

 

For more Sweeten renovations: Livable Kitchen Meets Modern Design |A Brooklyn Brownstone Gets Flipped Upside-Down with Sweeten

Livable Kitchen Meets Modern Design

New York is what dreams are made of and this motto certainly holds true for our latest Sweeten renovation story. A lively and ambitious couple decided to redo their small Brooklyn kitchen by restructuring the space and creating a new interior design. The new kitchen features an L-shaped layout, a six-foot-long island and floor-to-ceiling cabinets.


All images: Kyle Knodell | Statuario Maximus 5031

Once the couple completed the building’s lengthy condo approval process, they paired up with a contractor from Sweeten and finished the entire reno in just two short months.

The Sweeten contractor worked his magic to make every square inch of this kitchen as storage-savvy and chic as possible. Closed cabinets and open shelves were mixed into the design to create a fresh and modern look. Custom black walnut slabs are used to create the open shelving above the sink and built-in workspace–which is perfect for the early-bird husband, who checks his email before the crack of dawn.



The brass hardware provides a sophisticated flare and the Statuario Maximus countertops complement the stylish design. “This kitchen was built to be used,” say the homeowners, which is why they chose to go with durable and easy to maintain Caesarstone quartz. Each and every feature of this kitchen was created to complement the couple’s active lifestyle and love for cooking and entertaining.

There you have it: another Cinderella renovation story from Sweeten. It looks like it’s time for us to take the plunge and move to the Big Apple–if only for the chance to work with the Sweeten team and visit this beautiful kitchen!

For more Sweeten renovations: A Brooklyn Brownstone Gets Flipped Upside-Down with Sweeten | Little Kitchen, Big Design

A Daunting Remodel Transforms into a Darling New York Townhouse

Meet AJ and Ray, a young married couple who moved from a 450-square-foot studio apartment into a 3-floor, 2-family brick row house. While the couple rejoiced over the dramatic size upgrade of their living space, not to mention the view of the New York Harbor and the neighborhood park across the street, they were less than satisfied with the interior layout and design.



The townhouse had been poorly maintained and bulky temporary walls sectioned off each room, making the 2,964-square-foot space feel cramped. Flash-forward three years and AJ and Ray were ready to take the plunge into the daunting world of remodeling. Oh, and did we mention that AJ was expecting at the time? With a baby on the way, the couple was excited to transform their run-down house into a swanky New York home. After ditching a contractor who underbid and sent an over-priced contract, the young couple turned to Sweeten to find a trustworthy design-build firm. With the help of AJ’s sister, Robin Rathmann-Noonan (an interior designer at RobinR-N), AJ and Ray were ready to begin the much-anticipated remodel.  



Robin and AJ collaborated to create a cohesive look throughout the house. One of the first steps was to determine the location of the new kitchen. They ultimately decided on a space adjacent to the cozy backyard. The new kitchen is filled with natural light from the back windows.  “With the beautiful southern light at the back of the house and the openness of the view to the backyard, it made sense to relocate the kitchen there and open the rest of the house up to that space,” said Robin.



“The lightness of the kitchen helped connect the spaces visually from the front to the back of the home. The dark floors and kitchen table and chairs made a nice contrast to white cabinets and the light Caesarstone countertops,” says Robin. The kitchen island with its built-in sink steals the show. A minimalist ceiling and simple color scheme open the space up and let the natural light shine through.



Mothers always know best and this certainly held true when it came to the open built-in shelves near the kitchen. AJ and Robin’s mom suggested this handy feature so that AJ and Ray would have an easy and convenient place to store cookbooks and baby items alike. “The space was designed to accommodate the way they live,” explained Robin. “If someone is cooking or the baby is playing, the family and guests can congregate on the ground floor and still feel connected even if they are in different rooms.”



Upstairs, the guest and master bedrooms got a much-needed facelift with built-in shelving, ornate lighting fixtures and clean, crisp, white-painted walls.



The bold rug used in the master bedroom adds a flair of personality to the otherwise neutral room.



When the couple was planning the location of a third bedroom, they had a big choice to make: where would they put it? After much deliberation and helpful sketches from Robin, they decided the new bedroom would fit perfectly adjacent to the front bedroom. There was only one hiccup - they had to make a skylight in the middle bedroom in order to comply with the Department of Buildings code, which specified there must be a light and an egress to legally call the space a bedroom. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the skylight allowed tons of natural light. This inspired the couple to use the room as a nursery.



Once all of the architectural elements were decided upon and the interior design process was well underway, there was one more integral aspect to consider - installing AC. Their landlord had installed a unit in the apartment and while it was functional, it was anything but aesthetically pleasing. In addition, Ray had to say a sad goodbye to the NYC radiators that he had been accustomed to his entire life. “It was always too cold or too hot—and he loved it,” said AJ. They finally settled on installing a ducted mini-split system, which was tactfully hidden in the ceilings.



As per usual, Sweeten didn’t disappoint in providing the couple with ample storage space. “When we worked on the interior layout, it seemed like we had planned for an extreme amount of storage space, but wouldn’t you know, we’ve managed to use it all!” says AJ.



The couple has since settled into their sleek and spacious townhouse with the newest addition to their family: their beautiful baby. This extensive renovation was a process that took years to plan, but we can safely say it was well worth the wait.

For more Sweeten renovations: Little Kitchen, Big Design |At Home With Sweeten

Little Kitchen, Big Design

Three years ago, Deborah sat in her newly purchased, cozy 1-bed, 1-bath co-op on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. While she was excited about her new space, there was one major flaw: the kitchen design. The Formica counters and white appliances were weathered with age and a large, bulky refrigerator took up valuable real estate. Deborah quickly posted her project on Sweeten and began planning a full kitchen renovation.

The first step was to widen the doorway and create a set of French doors to match the ones at the entrance to the living room. The contractor created a transom window to let additional light into the dining area.



A dated and worn-down wood floor was replaced with beautiful dark tiles and an inset geometric pattern, also known as a “tile rug.”  Grey, white and black tiles comprise this beautiful floor design, giving the kitchen personality and a healthy dose of modernism.



The rest of the kitchen was done in shades of white to let the floor tiles take center-stage. It was going to be very difficult to obtain the approval needed to move plumbing fixtures. As a solution, the Sweeten contractor left the appliance hookups as they were but replaced them with pieces that better fit the space. A new refrigerator sits comfortably in the entrance of the kitchen and an 18-inch dishwasher gave Deborah space to put large cabinets below the sink.  The large air conditioning unit is now concealed by custom wood paneling.

Deborah’s Sweeten contractor cleverly created a floating box on the ceiling to hang the beautiful pendant lights while hiding the wiring.
5131 Calacatta Nuvo

Tall, light grey cabinets were installed to give Deborah even more storage. On the opposite wall, glass-door cabinets double as an added modern element in this trendy kitchen.



Under-cabinet lighting brightens up the workspace and helps make the white glass tiles and Calacatta Nuvo countertops shine.

After the renovation, Deborah’s kitchen feels anything but dated. From the modern geometric floor tiles to the simple color scheme, this kitchen is both stylish and practical.


 

For more Sweeten renovations: A Brooklyn Brownstone Gets Its Design Flipped Upside-DownA New Kitchen, and Baby, On The Way!

A Brooklyn Brownstone Gets Its Design Flipped Upside-Down with Sweeten

The curtain to this Sweeten renovation story opens on a 2,400 square-foot, 100-year-old Bedford-Stuyvesant brownstone. Owners Bellamy and Zak purchased the three-story Brooklyn home in 2017 with one main goal: reverse the interior layout of the space. The end result was a single-story rental on the garden level and a cozy duplex on top for the couple to enjoy. The objective was to keep as many details from the original design as possible while also giving the home a much-needed facelift.



This was Bellamy and Zak’s first serious renovation project and they knew it would require more expertise than their (albeit impressive) DIY skills could handle. They posted their story on Sweeten and quickly chose a contractor to work with. The couple was able to live in the garden floor apartment while the more substantial structural renovations took place on the upper two floors.  

Let’s start our tour of the newly-renovated space where it all begins: the entry foyer. The couple chose to remove the entry doors but left the structural wall intact. This created an open floor plan and allowed for more livable space to work with. Bellamy loved the original details in the entry doors and creatively used the doors as a headboard in the upstair's guest room (spoiler alert: pictures of this ingenious idea will come later in the article).







When you step inside, you are greeted with a beautiful, long expanse of brick wall that stretches from the living room to the kitchen. The brick wall had previously been separated into two rooms, but the contractor tore down the compartmentalizing walls to create a larger, more open space. The prior owner had used black mortar on the bricks in the front room while choosing regular mortar for the kitchen which created a discontinuous feel and a large eyesore. To fix this problem without breaking the bank, Bellamy and Zak repointed the half that had black mortar and experimented with paint in order to create one cohesive wall.





The main attraction in the couple’s duplex is the kitchen. In order to utilize the visual appeal of the 11-foot ceilings, the ducting above the new stove was left exposed and vents directly through the wall outside. “I love the industrial element it adds to the newly renovated space,” says Bellamy.  The couple also opted to make the kitchen window smaller in order to allow their tiled backsplash to shine.


1141 Pure White

The second kitchen window was replaced with a door, a small landing and stairs to allow for easy backyard access. Open shelving and Caesarstone Pure White quartz (used on the island and countertops) keep the kitchen looking fresh, clean and modern.





Going into the renovation, the couple had one non-negotiable feature they wanted to add: a double oven. “I was concerned I would be giving up valuable pantry space, but the layout worked out perfectly and there was room for everything we wanted, even the custom built-in taps,” says Bellamy.



Bellamy and Zak are avid home-brewers and their contractor happily created an in-wall tap to help them indulge their passion. Because the tap was designed for easy access, the couple can change it out and connect to wine or cold-brew if they ever want a change of pace.   



Our next stop on the tour is the first-floor bathroom. This space didn’t require any major changes, as the structural foundation was sound and built for easy living. As we mentioned earlier, Bellamy and Zak are not ones to shy away from a DIY project. The two showed off their skills by adding whimsical wallpaper and wainscotting. The couple's favorite feature of this chic bathroom is the heated bathroom floor. “Worth every penny in the winter,” says Bellamy.  



Let’s journey upstairs to the top floor of this gorgeous brownstone, which had previously been a separate apartment with its own kitchen. The contractor helped to design a brand-new floor plan that included a master bedroom, master closet, master bathroom, guest bedroom and laundry room.

The old kitchen was replaced with a laundry room and a closet was created for each bedroom. “The master bedroom closet is one of my favorite rooms,” says Bellamy. “It had been a small room that we converted and had the contractor close off one of the entrances. He finished it as an empty room and we used Ikea Pax cabinets to build our dream spot.”



Moving into the master bedroom, we're struck by the indigo behind the headboard. The color is bold, playful and picks up on the blue details of the ornately-decorated rug.



Remember the entry doors we mentioned from the foyer? Bellamy put them to good use as a beautiful headboard in the guest bedroom. The doors add personality to the room and complement the neutral color palette.



When everything was said and done, it took about five months to complete the top two floors. To save money, both Bellamy and Zak played an active roll in the renovation. Namely, they did all of the painting themselves—that includes multiple coats on the ceilings, walls and trim! Bellamy even created a fun tie-dye paint effect over the bed in the single-story garden rental.



“I’m glad we did it, but it was a grueling several months and I’m pretty sure I gave myself carpal tunnel,” says Bellamy. Rest assured, Bellamy, you and Zak can sit back, relax and brew some beer in your beautiful, newly renovated home.  

For more Sweeten renovations: A Kitchen Set Straight | Renovation Made Easy With Sweeten

From Dated to Devine: A Sweeten Kitchen Reno

We open this Sweeten transformation story with a drab and cramped one-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights. When Jane purchased the space, the post-war apartment had a walled-off kitchen, vinyl flooring and original  1950s cabinets—but not in the fun, retro sort of way.  Coupled with the absence of functional counter space and chipped white paint on the radiator, one message was loud and clear: it was time for a makeover. Like a magical fairy godmother, Sweeten swooped in and paired Jane with an architect to give her space a much-needed facelift.



The architect’s first move was to knock down the non-loadbearing wall between the kitchen and the living room. He also managed to shift the oven over about a foot to create additional counter space between the oven and sink. When it was all said and done, the architect took the kitchen space from 76 square feet to a total of 91. The new open layout allows for a continuous flow from the kitchen to the foyer.


2141 Blizzard

A bright white Blizzard countertop complements the light color palette used in this modern space. The architect adds dimension and warmth to the kitchen with a large window and wooden kitchen peninsula. “The peninsula is great because it allows me to entertain guests in the kitchen and in the living area,” says Jane.

Design Tip: Use a slightly darker paint color for bottom cabinets to make your space feel even larger.

To top it all off, a single light pendant near the window and a streamlined custom radiator cover keep the space looking fresh and unique.



The newly renovated space is clean, bright and open. “I’m very pleased with my new kitchen,” Jane says. We just have one question for Jane - when can we visit?

 

For more Sweeten renovations: A Condo Overhaul | A Pre-War Update