This week we return to Clinton Hill with Ketrina, art director of the Wall Street Journal. We LOVE this neighborhood (oh hey, Sanaya, Kyle and Angela and Billy and Sally!) And were thrilled to help Ketrina take care of business in her previously tiny kitchen. Read on for Ketrina’s debrief on her Brooklyn kitchen remodel.
Guest post by Ketrina, owner of the Clinton Hill house
I bought a one-bedroom co-op condo in Clinton Hill nearly five years ago after selling the condo I owned in New Jersey. With a tenant living in my home in New Jersey, I have rented a house in Bed-Stuy for more than two years and thought it was time to try and fulfill my goal of owning in Brooklyn. My new place was a sponsor unit on a high floor with sweeping east-facing views. The kitchen had (what looked like at the time) pretty good improvements: black granite counter tops, black tile floor, and new stainless steel appliances. The lockers, while not my favorite style, were perfectly in place. My friends were quite impressed with my new digs.
I had the chance to tear down the zigzag dividing wall separating the kitchen from the living room during the contract negotiations, but I was too indecisive and stressed out of the buying process to pull the trigger. At the time, most of my efforts in the kitchen involved making toast and coffee, so being a little cramped didn’t seem like a problem. But after closing, I sank into a brief period of buyer’s remorse. Those cabinets, which looked fine, were actually quite poorly installed: nothing was level, the hinges had paper stuck in to close them properly, and the refrigerator was wedged between the counter and the kitchen wall. When I opened the refrigerator doors, they hit the door and chipped the door frame. I was totally disappointed. Hoping for a quick fix, I contacted the people who had done the work to redo the entrance and replace the fridge, but I wasn’t happy with how everything had turned out after that second attempt.
A few months later, I began to see a recurring water leak from upstairs neighbors – more than once, water ran down through my cabinets, causing kitchen walls and furniture surfaces to bend and fade. At this point, I was pretty down in the kitchen. I had already removed some of the damaged furniture from the wall and lived for a year with an entire section missing. I knew I wanted to renovate, but hesitated with the potential cost and fear of another flood.
I learned that some of my neighbors had been passing by Sweeten to find contractors for their renovations and I was surprised and encouraged by the variety of configurations available for what seemed like a rather limited space. So I finally published my project on Sweeten, imagining an adult kitchen with an island / peninsula, completely open to the living room. I didn’t really have a vision for what I wanted other than something that would play well with the living room decor. I like warm orange and brown colors, and I specified that I needed experts who could handle both the design and construction of the space. Sweeten introduced me to confectionery experts Paulina and Albert and I immediately liked them. Paulina has a great attitude and personality, plus she is an experienced architect with design ideas that make a lot of sense. He seemed as excited about designing it as I was, so it was an easy decision to move forward with the team.
During our first design meeting, we talked about the combination of colors and finishes. What drove me crazy was that the next night Paulina sent me sketches that basically represented what the kitchen looks like now that it’s completed. I had read references from other clients about Paulina on Sweeten who talked about how she was very reliable and would take care of everything. And it is absolutely true. As someone who had never done a big home project before, I was a little freaked out at how overwhelming it all seemed. But after visiting Paulina and Albert’s shop in Queens, I was so encouraged and relieved, knowing that I was working with real professionals. In that meeting, we chose the style of the furniture and she gave me two samples for the worktop material and two options for the lacquer color of the furniture, totally respecting my desire not to be overwhelmed with choices. It also dissuaded me from unnecessarily changing the kitchen floor, one of the best decisions in the rhine to save time and money.
Once the work started, everything seemed to happen very quickly. Paulina’s designs put my color scheme on the custom solid wood cabinets, painted to match the color of Benjamin Moore’s Early Morning Mist. Albert created a walnut veneer, an open corner cabinet above the sink, and continued the walnut accents with a ceiling, floor-to-ceiling pipe cover, and dining peninsula. I found the recycled glass tile backsplash from Complete Tile in Manhattan – exactly what I was looking for – and I also chose the Mother of Pearl / Mother of Pearl quartzite countertops. Stone is my favorite thing about the new space: it’s like having a work of art right in my kitchen.
I chose a simple metallic bronze cabinet knob from myknobs.com and got the door handles for storage under the dining peninsula from Overstock. Paulina recommended some great pendant lights from Restoration Hardware and I found an inexpensive alternative from Brooklyn Bulb Co. To solve a space problem, I decided to replace my dishwasher with an 18-inch Bosch model, allowing Paulina and Albert to create two complete lines of base units along the back wall of the kitchen. The partition wall has fallen off (you can see my boyfriend’s little farewell graffiti from the night before the demo!), The cabinet bases have gone in, the soffit and pipe cover have been installed, and the next thing I heard, the counters were brought in and we had just finished.
I never thought I could or want such an original cuisine. I would say I really appreciate Sweeten, Paulina and Albert for making this process, for the most part, worry-free. Paulina and Albert kept my budget and managed to keep the project on schedule despite my kitchen’s persistent attempts to get behind it with some unnecessary mess of the wall. The kitchen craftsmanship is fantastic and evident, from the way the floor has been perfectly patched to the super cool way the cabinets are finished underneath with LED lights, to the bonus upper and lower cabinets next to the stove (which also cleverly conceal the pipes). I love the pull-out spice cabinet! I am not exaggerating when I say that it is as if a small miracle had happened with this project.
Bravo, Ketrina! All that stone and that nut is absolutely beautiful. We are so excited to see this project come to life and are here to help other New Yorkers create spaces they love. Post your renovation project on Sweeten and we’ll introduce you to contractors selected based on the neighborhood, budget, scope and style of your project.