This week’s guest author is from Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Evelyn is coming to Sweeten find a general contractor to help redress decades-long wrongs in the kitchen and bathroom of his lovely co-op. Read on for the full story on a classic before and after!
Guest message from Evelyn, a homeowner in Manhattan
After living in New York for nearly 10 years, I realized it might be time to put on my grown-up shoes, build solid roots, and pay a mortgage rather than just rent. I remember asking my real estate agent how people usually know which place to buy. He just said you just know. He was right. It took a few months of research and just as I felt more discouraged, I walked into what was going to be my converted studio and I KNEW this was going to be my home. And we lived happily ever after.
Except, while I loved my new home at first sight, it was not without imperfections. For a cooperative building that has been in existence for over 90 years, it was in great shape, well maintained and in a great Upper West Side neighborhood. I can’t say I have much to complain about… yet, when I first searched for an apartment, I had two basic requirements. I wanted a workable kitchen that was hoped to be separate from the rest of the living space and I wanted a decent bathroom. Fortunately, both requirements were met, but there was room for improvement.
The kitchen, while lovely and full of space, was not conducive to large kitchen shots. The dishwasher had a leak problem – temperament is a good way to describe it. The floor had cracks. The counter space was limited and only one person could move in there at a time. There were these wonderful glass cabinets that were attached to each end of the galley kitchen. While I appreciated the storage and display possibilities, the awkward height and width ended up making my kitchen smaller. As for my bathroom, it just needs an update.
I hate cleanliness and wanted a home that was easy to care for but suited my particular needs. I wanted to take my kitchen to the modern age but keep some of that retro vibe. For me, after months of aspirations pinned to Pinterest, that meant a black and white (black and white) kitchen with pops of color.
I got off to a false start with my renovation a few years ago. I spoke to some contractors referred to me by friends, but I was not in the right space financially or mentally to go through a renovation. Fast forward two or three years later, and it was now or never. Again, I had no idea how to get started. But cheers the Internet! I googled various New York contractor sites and found Sweeten.
What attracted me the most about Sweeten was the pairing system. I posted what I wanted and the contractors found me. I was able to read about them and see their previous work. It made it a less daunting task. In my case, Sweetener expert Jon it wasn’t one that matched me. I was browsing the site, noticed his work and emailed Sweeten to see if they could match us. When I first met Jon, I felt at ease. He was smart, had great ideas, and understood the kind of vibe I was looking for.
My budget was decent but nothing too crazy. I spent a weekend at IKEA to figure out my game plan. One of the most important decisions for any kitchen is the cabinets. I chose IKEA’s whiter and shiniest cabinets. Even on the sunniest days, my apartment doesn’t have a lot of natural light. I thought that making my kitchen as white as possible would help brighten at least part of my home – I was right. The glossy finish was practical; it is easier to clean. As for the interior, I was quite fascinated by the drawers. In all the places I’ve lived, drawers have never been a great option, aside from the utensil drawer. Seeing the various ways I could get my bowls out by pulling out a drawer instead of digging into the back of a piece of furniture was revolutionary! I wanted as many drawers as possible and definitely a pull-out trash can.
Although I had a lot of ideas, the actual execution (measures, what would actually work versus what I wanted) was a little out of my realm. Luckily Jon was great in all of this. He was shooting me with ideas or measurements of what I had to look for. I would send him the appliances, etc., and he would evaluate whether it was the correct size or not (hurray for teamwork!). Since I have a kitchen in NYC, full size appliances weren’t in the cards. I opted for a taller refrigerator (European-sized if you like, with freezer drawers on the bottom), a compact dishwasher, and a much deeper sink (I got it from Amazon, 10 inches deep). With the measurements in mind, I also managed to find a really good sized but still compact oven.
I have tried to remain reasonable with my appliances. I went for solid brands but didn’t fare big on price. My insanities were contained in unexpected accessories. Crazy favorite is my blue Kartell lamp (which was actually recommended by Jon, excellent taste). I also went a little lavish for my floor. I knew I wanted large-scale black and white tiles set in diamond shapes, but almost every tile shop insisted that white tiles could never be the pure white I wanted. I was considering options that I could settle for when luckily I came across a really experienced seller. He explained that pure white tiles would be a problem if I opted for porcelain or ceramic, but he had another option: glass. To get my desired look, he recommended glass for white and granite for black. My previous floor was prone to damage if something dropped; this dream floor wouldn’t have that problem plus the tile is super glossy to boot. Perfect.
To complement the black and white effect, I decided to use white subway tiles and a black countertop. With my aversion to cleanliness, a black quartz countertop would hide clutter a little easier. I originally thought about making granite, as everyone does, but I like that quartz has a lower maintenance and also more uniform in color and tone (since it is not a natural stone).
One of the biggest transformations was the addition of my window seat, one of Jon’s ideas from our initial meeting. There used to be a radiator in that space, but, in all the years in my apartment, I’ve never used it. With the window seat complete with open shelving underneath, the wasted space became not only a place to sit, but I could have more storage. While Jon suggested inserting panels to hide the shelves, I decided to keep them open. I prefer open shelves as a great way to display some of my colorful kitchen accessories, cookbooks and other knick-knacks. I was excited by the idea of a window seat, but didn’t expect the liveliness, coziness and warmth it brings to my new kitchen. Absolutely love it!
My bathroom was a less dramatic change, but the changes made were much needed. Initially, I wanted a super blue floor. After discovering it was an impossible question, I left it to Jon’s discretion. He sent me a few options and I opted for a less crazy but still lovely blue-gray slate. The tiles were huge (love it) and it’s easy to clean.
In addition to the tiles, I knew I needed to update the shelving above my bathroom. When I first moved in, I installed a budget locker from Bed Bath and Beyond. Very functional, as I had very little space, but it was just … there. After exploring a few ideas, I went to open shelving. I found this large West Elm wooden shelf that we cut in half. The brackets holding up the shelving weren’t exactly my favorite. I wanted something discreet more in line with my aesthetic. I had shown Jon a photo of an idea, but I didn’t think much about getting that exact look. But to my surprise, he found a perfect facsimile, if not something better. Basically, they were just old pipes that were recycled as shelf brackets. And they look great.
Overall, I am extremely happy with the results. The renovation itself was a lot of work, but suffice it to say what I learned was immense. Having no idea where to start, Sweeten really made a very scary and life-changing task seem less daunting. With so much information and helpful service, I had to find the perfect contractor for me to make my dream come true. And if I were to embark on such a feat again, Sweeten is definitely the first place I would go.
Kitchen Select >> Cabinets and hardware: IKEA / microwave: 2.1 cu cu. ft. Over-the-Range Stainless Steel from Samsung / refrigerator and range: Summit 9.85 cu. Lower freezer refrigerator And 30 inch 5.8 cu. ft. Gas cooker with self-cleaning oven And 5 burner hob with stainless steel grill from Home deposit / faucet: Kohler by Home Depot / sink: Kraus KHU101-23 23 inch undermount stainless steel kitchen sink from Amazon / pendant lamp: FL / Y Pendant in light blue from Kartell / yellow stools: 24-inch Tabouret Lemon Metal Counter Stools from Overstock.com / dishwasher: 18 ”dishwasher Bosch / dining table: custom porch from Room and board / bench: made to measure / paint: Behr
Select the bathroom >> Wall shelving: western elm
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