Author Archives: Sweeten

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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.

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 


Storage Savy Co-Op Reno with Sweeten

Living in New York can be quite expensive, especially when you’re starting a new business. This is what led Gloria and her husband to purchase a cozy co-op in Queens. Gloria, a materials scientist, and her husband, the owner of a budding hot sauce company, wanted a comfortable space that the whole family could enjoy - including their cat. The other main requirement? Tons of storage. “Eventually, we bought a two bedroom for a reasonable price that hadn’t been updated since it was built in the ‘50s, which meant we would have to nearly gut the entire place,” says Gloria. Finding a contractor proved difficult at first, but the couple was soon put at ease after they posted their project to Sweeten. Once they found the right contractor, it was off to the races.

6141 Ocean Foam

“Garden-style co-ops tend to be small so we picked light colors to make the rooms feel spacious and bright,” says Gloria. This is reflected in the nearly all-white kitchen, which gives a clean and elegant vibe. A few gold accents create interest and add a dynamic touch to this chic space. A Caesarstone countertop in Ocean Foam adds a subtle amount of visual texture without detracting from the sleek aesthetic of the overall kitchen.

The couple wanted their kitchen to have plenty of storage, so they opted for cabinets that stretch from floor to ceiling. And for those nights when the couple wants some microwave popcorn, they can open up into their new full-sized pantry, where the microwave is craftily hidden. They opted for a single drawer dishwasher so that they could use the extra drawer under the dishwasher for - you guessed it - more storage!

A similar color palette was used for the bathroom, which was also upgraded with plenty of room for storage. They replaced the sliding glass door with a bathtub and shower curtain to allow for easy cleaning. The herringbone pattern used on the floor tiles gives the room warmth and dimension. The real unsung hero of this room, however, is the mirrored medicine cabinet. It “hides a lot of our toiletries and is deceptively large; we had most of it buried into the wall so it would not stick out too far,” says Gloria.

With plenty of storage and a successful renovation under their belts, the couple can happily say that they’ve transformed their house into a home.



A Sweeten Reno for the Chef’s Kitchen

For years, Tracey, Stephen and their three young children were always renters in New York City. But in August of 2016, the family purchased their first home in Brooklyn’s East Flatbush.

The 1940’s attached row house had enough space at 1,930 square feet, however, it also had a kitchen with a drop ceiling, wood paneling, an unsightly ceramic floor and a sink that was falling apart. “We entertain a lot, and the kitchen blocked us from that. The stove was crooked because of the floor, and there was a thick layer of grease on everything that would not come off. The pipes were old as I don’t know what,” says Tracey, a freelance violist who runs the private Dixon String Studio and avid cook with a culinary degree. “I wanted a modern, bright, clean design.” Tracey and Stephen, a high school guidance counselor, posted their project to Sweeten, a free service matching homeowners with vetted general contractors, and the renovation was soon underway.
1141 Pure White

While Tracey wanted her chef's kitchen, she didn’t want it to feel sterile. “This is a home, not a restaurant,” she said. “And the kitchen is the center of our home.” The design combines her love for both modern and Japanese aesthetics.

The dishwasher and stove were the two things Tracey was looking forward to the most. “We are a family of five and a dishwasher is crucial,” she said. And the stove? “Beloved. It allows me to create. I needed more power out of my stove. In our last apartment, it took me 100 years just to boil water for pasta.”

Also of importance to Tracey and Stephen? Storage. In addition to the open shelving, they installed pull-out drawers for the recycling, spices and miscellaneous cooking details that come with the chef territory.

As a chef, Tracey expresses her love and nurturing through her food, so having adequate counter space was essential. She chose Caesarstone countertops in Pure White. It’s durable enough to withstand avid meal prep and a breeze to clean – an important quality to any cook!

The couple loved working with their Sweeten contractor and designer. “They were the absolute greatest,” Tracey said. “The level of professionalism was top notch. The kitchen was completely gutted and done in five weeks. They worked hard and were consistent. You never felt like you were just being fit into their day. We felt like priority clients.”


Thinking of renovating your home? Get started today with Sweeten.


A Shaker-Style Kitchen Basks in Natural Light

When Anne and Michael moved into their two-bed, one-bath apartment in the Clinton Hill Co-ops, the space was in need of an overhaul. Instead of jumping right into a renovation, the couple decided to live with the kitchen for a couple of months to understand how to customize the space to their needs. They moved into the bedrooms but kept the living room and kitchen fairly empty. “We felt it was a plus to live in the space for a minute before diving into our first renovation, even if the space did feel quite sparse at times.”

Prior to the renovation, the small, cut-off kitchen was saddled with an outdated color palette and cheap materials: wood-paneled cabinets, a busily speckled countertop, and pink square floor tiles that brought out an unflattering orange hue in the cabinets. The two small doorways leading into the kitchen created an awkward flow and isolated the space from the rest of the apartment.

Anne and Michael posted their project on Sweeten after being stuck in a “contractor no man’s land.” They had spoken to handymen who felt the scope of the project was too ambitious for their skills, while contractors they met only wanted to take on larger and costlier projects. “Neither of these options felt right. Sweeten was great; we posted the project and the budget and got serious responses from contractors specifically interested in a project of our size. Filling out the Sweeten project form helped us to clarify the specs of the renovation for ourselves as well.”

With great views and an abundance of natural light, Anne and Michael knew the big windows in their apartment needed to be the focal points of the space. A reconfiguration of the floor plan eliminated the two small entrances and created a new, U-shaped kitchen that opened up into the dining space. This allowed more light into the kitchen while maintaining a separate cooking area. Anne and Michael also traded in the orange-brown-pink for a more subdued and calming color scheme. “Our contractor helped us source our appliances, counters, and backsplash tile, which we found really helpful as first-timers,” says Anne. The couple decided on Caesarstone quartz surfaces for their countertops and felt Frosty Carrina fit their color scheme perfectly. Shaker-style cabinets were semi-custom in a cool, soft gray and paired with a backsplash made of small-scale white tile laid in a diamond pattern.

Having lived with compact appliances in a small rental kitchen, they were thrilled they could fit full-sized appliances and the storage they wanted in their new kitchen. “We just hosted Thanksgiving for ten people, and the kitchen really worked from a storage and counter space perspective. It’s exciting to be able to host like that in our new home.”

With a kitchen like this, it’s safe to say there will be many more holiday parties to come!


For more Sweeten renovations: A New Kitchen, and Baby, on the Way! | At Home with Sweeten


A Condo Overhaul With Sweeten

When you’ve lived in a 700-square-foot Manhattan apartment for four years, anything bigger feels like a sprawling oasis – just ask Sarah and Craig, who experienced that feeling when they moved into a modern one-bedroom Long Island City condo that measures 1,160-square-feet.

But over time, the shiny newness of the space began to wear off, and the improvement wish list starting growing. Topping that list? A big, white farmhouse sink to replace their disproportionality tiny one. “We like to joke that our entire renovation started with the kitchen sink,” said Sarah.

And started it sure did.

Sarah and Craig wanted an aesthetic they coined as “industrial eclectic” and wanted to preserve the industrial history of Long Island City while adding a touch of their own rustic taste. What better way to complement such a design than with Sleek Concrete surfaces? Quartz Concrete features the warmth of stone, but with a durability that typical concrete counters lack.

The kitchen’s dark cabinetry was swapped out for a bright white that, of course, complemented that big, white farmhouse sink.

In order to make the kitchen and living room into two distinct areas, the Sleek Concrete island was extended into something of a casual dining area that was ideal for pre-dinner drinks or a meal for a low-key evening at home.

One of the highlights of the new design is the bar area. A small nook of dead space fit a wine fridge perfectly, while the wooden carving on the shelf above the racks of wine and beer naturally reads “Cheers.”

And to think it all started with a kitchen sink… we’ll certainly cheers to that!


For more Sweeten renovations: A Kitchen Set StraightNew Life For A Brooklyn Retail Landmark


A Retro-Modern Update With Sweeten

Dog is man’s best friend, or so the saying goes. An addendum: “big dogs require space.” This was the case with Alicia and Ed. After adopting their Rhodesian ridgeback, Roxy, they moved from Manhattan to a 1,400-square foot duplex in Park Slope.

They loved the building, a turn-of-the-century brownstone, but issues had arisen since its conversion into condos ten years before. Although the kitchen had high-end finishes and appliances, the couple wanted to truly make it theirs and add a real wow factor befitting a building this pretty. The look they were going for- a muted, classic design with a modern twist. Knowing they needed help, they turned to Sweeten, a free service that matches homeowners with the perfect contractor for their renovation.

The kitchen had mismatched countertops, dated cabinets, and no space in the fridge for wine. Though it didn’t need a full gut, the kitchen needed a refresh.

In line with the desired aesthetic, Alicia and Ed chose Caesarstone’s Statuario Nuvo countertops and peninsula with a waterfall edge, a style Ed loved. They kept the state-of-the-art appliances, refaced the cabinets to a soft grey, and added unique touches like antique light fixtures to compliment the space.

The last thing to tackle? The fridge. Unable to find space for a larger refrigerator, they came up with a creative solution. With their Sweeten contractor’s help, they discovered they could place a wine fridge in the drywall under the staircase. The chalkboard-painted drywall gave the sense of an expanded kitchen and added a personal yet practical touch. (We’re sure Roxy loved it too.)

We love a happy renovation ending!

For more Sweeten renovations: A Kitchen Set Straight| New Life For A Brooklyn Retail Landmark





A Pre-War Update with Sweeten

Welcome to New York, a city full of landmarked buildings with outdated, pre-war apartments. With the help of Sweeten, the free New York City-based renovation service that matches homeowners with the perfect general contractor, these apartments are given a 21st-century upgrade.

Come on into Cat and Jordan’s 1,000 square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bath co-op apartment in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Their apartment had uneven walls, old cherry cabinets, a non-functioning fireplace, old parquet with a shiny yellow varnish, and an all-together old space.

The goal was simple: create a simple, sleek, elegant but functional design while preserving the traditional elements of the prewar apartment. They chose satin-finished dark grey cabinetry custom built by the contractor with contrasting Frosty Carrina counters and backsplash. Due to space constrictions, Cat and Jordan decided on a peninsula that holds kitchenware and cookware on one side and napkins, cookbooks and more on the other.

In addition, they built a standalone reverse L-shaped bar that complements the style and shape of the peninsula. It makes for the perfect gathering location when hosting and a smooth transition from the kitchen to living room.

Each of the drawers have carved-out pull tabs rather than handles for a streamlined look. Cat’s favorite addition? The drawer interiors are made of natural walnut, complete with perfectly sized compartments for silverware.

To add a touch of character, Cat found Moroccan tiles in black, white, and grey hues. The tiles were extended to the fireplace flooring to really tie the two rooms together. In addition, they designed a new fireplace mantel with clean lines and built-in bookshelves. The walls were skim coated and painted, the floors stripped and refinished and the apartment instantly became light and bright!

We love a good success story!

For more New York renovations: Renovation Made Easy With Sweeten | At Home With Sweeten