Their dream space comes to life with herringbone tiles, gray kitchen cabinets, and a clawfoot tub
Editor’s Note: This post, originally published in May 2014, is one of our favorites for still having a classic and modern look years later. Allison and Jovito bought their first home together: a brick single-family row house, c. 1910, in the Ocean Parkway neighborhood of Brooklyn. Although they knew the place was in need of serious renovations, Allison, a content manager, and Jovito, an electronic prepress director, both in textbook publishing, promptly packed up and, along with their lovely cat, Momo, they moved in and got ready for some major home improvements. Allison shares their remodeling story and guides us through the style choices she and Jovito made in the process of creating their new home.
Allison’s guest post in Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn
Ten months of intense searching, eight missed offers, and a couple of hundred properties viewed later, Jovito and I finally found an adorable 1910 brick row house in Brooklyn’s Ocean Parkway neighborhood to call our own. We loved the original bones and details of the house, but the 100+ year old house was in need of some serious updating as well. Knowing that we would have some large-scale renovations ahead of us, we entered the purchase two parts excited and one slightly terrified. When we moved there was a long list of items on our “fixes” list, but we were also on a tight budget. So our energies and efforts first of all focused on renovating the kitchen and bathroom upstairs.
Having never renovated a property before, we didn’t know where to start. How would we find a reputable contractor who understands our vision, works within our budget, and does stellar work? Looking into Apartment Therapy on a day when I was feeling a little overwhelmed with all of our options, I read about Sweeten and decided to post our project on the site. We loved the idea that they would act as meeting organizers and pair us with contractors based on the purpose of the work and our project budget. Knowing that they had pre-selected their network of contractors also made the choice a lot less scary.
After meeting with two Sweeten contractors and two contractors who were referral friends, we decided to assign our remodel job to Sweeten. We appreciated his pragmatism, his patience in answering our many questions and his thoroughness during the site visit. We also liked the fact that he seemed completely indifferent to the appalling (to us), worn, “before” conditions of the kitchen and bathroom. He had seen and worked on old houses like this many times, so this also helped us feel like we were in good hands. His familiarity with building IKEA kitchens and a reasonable estimate sealed the deal.
We started the renovation of the kitchen and bathroom in mid-November. Living indoors during construction was no fun, but our contractor and his team were careful to keep the work area as clean and small as possible. On the plus side, it was thrilling for us to see the team’s daily progress and some of the relics they unearthed during the demolition. (Like 1943 newspaper pieces mentioning President Roosevelt stuck inside the bathroom walls!) The team spent a lot of time and effort making sure the new walls and floors were level, plumb and true, which is no small feat. in an old house where nothing stands straight!
The kitchen needed a gut remodel. The walls were covered in dark wood paneling and cabinets, there was a countertop with fluorescent lighting, broken floor tiles, and battered formica countertops and backsplashes. The existing soffit ran in front of the kitchen window, cutting a good twenty centimeters from the top, and with it a lot of daylight. It was a less-than-optimal layout and had certainly seen better days.
Due to our limited budget, we decided to opt for IKEA kitchen cabinets and Caesarstone quartz countertops, both of which were purchased during one of the IKEA kitchen sales. Not wanting the new kitchen to clash with the age of the house, but also wanting it to be current and new, we opted for a more traditional style of cabinet doors in a medium gray color. To keep the space open and airy, we decided to give up the wall units. We made sure we had plenty of room in the base cabinet to hold all of our pots and pans. Since we removed the countertop, we recovered some ceiling height, so we stacked the glass cabinets on the ceiling and created a sideboard to display our collection of vintage glassware and dinnerware. We chose durable white quartz counter tops to keep the room bright and to add contrast to the gray furniture.
We are hard on our floors, so we chose an extra strong wood effect porcelain tile that we found online at a closing price. Our contractor laid the herringbone tile. We really love the way it turned out! For the backsplash tile, we opted for a large format porcelain stoneware with a geometric pattern in relief and tiled all over the wall for visual impact. (It’s also incredibly easy to clean!) The upholstery is from Mondial in Bensonhurst.
We both love to cook, so it was important for us to have a range that could accommodate a lot of pots and pans and produce some serious BTUs. We were incredibly lucky to find our second hand range in excellent condition at a local salvage shop. The exhaust hood was found in the Home Depot clearing section and our brand new dishwasher came from IKEA’s As-Is section. Our counter fridge was for sale at the local Richard & Son PC.
Our ceiling lights are porcelain lamp holders made by Leviton that cost around $ 2 per piece online. The pendant above the sink is from Restoration Hardware and is based on an Italian factory lamp from the 1950s. We like that the lights can extend about four feet on each side, giving us the ability to create more overhead lighting for prep if we need it.
We decided to use brass handles, knobs and faucets to heat all the cool gray and stainless steel. It took a lot of searching to find a brushed brass faucet, but we eventually found one through Newport Brass. The solid brass handles and knobs are made by Laurey and have also been found online.
Our bathroom was very… blue. Blue tub, blue toilet, blue tiles. It had last been refurbished in the 1950s and everything was really showing its age. The bathroom floor was about 4 inches from the hallway – ghosts from past floor renovations buried underneath. To top it off, the bathroom space itself was tiny, about 36 square feet. Our budget didn’t allow us to expand the space or redirect the plumbing, so our goal was to increase the feeling of space by making it as beautiful and usable as possible. Style-wise, we wanted the bathroom to feel original to the house, so we were careful to choose pieces that had an old-fashioned feel.
To maximize space, we replaced the existing door with a retractable door and chose a dual flush toilet with a narrow tank and a small footprint. A console sink and clawfoot tub kept things airy and raised off the floor. Finding reasonably priced marble floors and subway wall tiles at Lowe’s allowed us to keep the budget, as well as sourcing salvaged and second-hand materials that helped cut costs. Finally, we’ve added an exhaust fan / light combination to help reduce humidity.
Despite the holidays, many days of snow and some surprises along the way, the refurbishment process was mostly stress-free. Our contractor did a good job keeping us informed throughout the construction and was always available to answer questions. And because we lived in our home during construction, we were also able to address and correct any communication issues immediately, which helped the project run more smoothly.
We are grateful to the Sweeten team for pairing us with the contractor and his team for an excellent first remodeling experience! I have already recommended Sweeten to several friends! Sweeten’s matching service removes much of the fear and uncertainty associated with finding a qualified contractor. And when we’re finally ready to start the next project, you can be sure we’ll contact them for another great match!
Many thanks to Allison, Jovito and Momo for sharing your beautiful home!
KITCHEN RESOURCES: Quartz worktops: Caesarstone. Laurey pulls and knobs; Bertazzoni hood: Home Depot. DCS range: Build it Green. Kitchen furniture; dishwasher: IKEA. Counter-depth refrigerator: PC Richard & Son. Wall tile: Mondial. Herringbone Floor Tile: BuildDirect. Kraus sink: HomeClick. Brushed brass tap: Newport Brass. Sink pendant: Restoration hardware. Porcelain lamp holders; ceiling lights: Leviton.
BATHROOM RESOURCES: Marble floor and subway tile: Lowe’s. Clawfoot Tub and Fixtures: Vintage Tub and Bath. Toto toilet: Direct tap. Arcade console sink; Vintage Medicine Cabinet: Build It Green. Ginger towel holder; gallery shelf: HomePerfect.
Do you like the look of Allison’s exhaust hood? Find out what kind of ventilation is right for your kitchen in our post Ventilate Your Kitchen Like a Chef.
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