Scorched by a decade of city rents, we entered the buyer market with little awareness of how volatile it would be. After a search that saw us moving too slowly on a modest but well-located unit, and then being completely outdone in a dream apartment, we stumbled upon a two-bed, two-bath condo in Williamsburg. Not wanting to get lost again, we made an offer and were surprised to get the place. It could very well have been the end of the story, but what fun would that be?
We would be the first to admit that the unit we purchased was fully functional. It was only a few years old, it was a corner apartment with a decent square footage and great city / bridge views in an increasingly popular postcode. The unit had been rented to a prolific painter who kept the white walls and creativity high. It was a useful blank canvas; what was not was the dream apartment we had lost months ago. Regardless of how excited we were to be new owners, we couldn’t shake the “if only …” feeling for that place and started thinking about how to incorporate elements from the coveted space (but now someone else’s) into our own. new house.
I had no idea where to start, but after researching New York renovations, I stumbled upon Sweeten and spent a few days following the ghosts of various featured projects on the site. This gave me a lot of ideas and the more we explored the changes for our space, the greater the scope of this potential project became, so we decided to focus on the area that could have the greatest impact: the kitchen. As it was, the apartment opened into a cramped one with little countertop space, limited space, basic appliances, and no defined dining area. There was unused space above the lockers and a strange jumble of lighting fixtures. Simply put, it was a cookie cutter kitchen in a cookie cutter condo and we really wanted something with more character.
I put together a project post on Sweeten with a pretty clear idea of the feel we wanted the place to evoke, even if the specifics weren’t quite defined. Sweeten introduced us to some design teams and we decided to work with Sweeten Expert Thomas and his design / construction team based on the images of some of the spaces they had designed in Little Italy. We let them out into the apartment to see what we had and immediately the team showed enthusiasm for the project and the kind of aesthetic we were hoping to achieve. In hindsight, this was probably the most important decision we made – identifying the team that seemed to best understand the vision we had and who showed a willingness to take us there (and stick to our budget) was key.
Thomas’s team introduced us to their design / build approach and although I had no experience with the model, it became clear that we would work closely together to get the space just the way we wanted it. But what was that, exactly? In addition to being not very spacious and functional, our complaint was that the kitchen was generic, so by looking at the neighborhood for inspiration, we imagined a design that embraced the industrial history of the area without being too rustic. We also wanted to maximize space by creating a more open floor plan. Through conversations with the design team, we focused on a classic palette that incorporates white, gray, brown, anthracite, black, etc.
Palette aside, there was little hope of gaining storage space or making the space more open without a rather drastic change to the layout. Thomas and his team guided us through possible reconfigurations; we considered installing an island or extending the counter, but due to the central location of the sink and dishwasher, the only way to fix it was to move both. Call the plumber. Bright side? We were able to place the sink in front of the window (where it probably should have been in the first place?) And create a longer countertop and additional space both above and below.
They say the devil is in the details and we learned it firsthand once we chose the floor plan and it was time to fill it in. We have an admittedly eclectic style, so conversations about materials have been long and the direction of the design has changed a few times. We walked in knowing that we liked metal, glass, tiles and wood because they suggested the “industrial” atmosphere we liked, but it was more important to assemble comfortable and clean materials. We knew we wanted appliances that allowed for easy and fun food preparation and a look that matched, so a lot of time was spent narrowing down the colors of the tiles, laminates and countertop and buying new appliances.
As part of the design / build process, we were able to combine an IKEA prefab cabinet base system with custom, polished and polished doors to create a bespoke look – a color that didn’t exist before we requested it! We finished the furniture with hardware from Anthropologie and found the backsplash panel on Nemo Tile. Thomas added repurposed open shelving from the wood his team purchased and completed the look with a decorative but spare hanging pendant from ABC Carpet and Home. The dishwasher, stove and refrigerator are all Viking. We found the table and benches at ABC Home before purchasing this seat and we love how they work here.
There are many things about design that I love, and each component is like a puzzle piece that connects to a memory. The feature that I find even more exciting is the worktop. Once we knew we would be repositioning the sink and nearly doubling the counter surface in the process, I realized it was crucial to choose the right material as it would be prominently displayed. Thomas had shown us a space that they were finishing with a soapstone countertop and we asked for the option to do this in our space. They were more than willing to help us do that work and took us to their supplier’s graveyard to look at the plates. While we were there, we saw the integrated countertop / sink setup on display and were sold. We also opted for a “cascading” border which helped distinguish the kitchen / dining areas.
I’d be lying if I said it was all completely painless, but looking back, it’s obvious that every evidence we’ve encountered, whether it’s plumbing surprises or tile irregularities or whatever, we’ve chosen a design firm committed to doing well contracted together. They were just as involved as we were in seeing the space come out the way we wanted and along the way Sweeten’s team (Jean and Shera) were both very involved and always asking how they could help. I doubt I’ll embark on another remodel anytime in the near future, but if I do, I would definitely go back to Sweeten and recommend it to anyone looking to transform their home.
Thank you, Corey, for this tour of your beautiful kitchen and your fond memories of the trip. We couldn’t agree more with you: Finding a team that understands your vision and shows willingness to reach you is the most important restructuring decision you will make. Sweeten selects contractors that match the location, budget, scope and style of each project – post your renovation project on Sweeten and get matched with contractors who get your vision and take you there.