This week’s guest post comes to us from Heather in Manhattan, a first time buying a home and renovator who decided to redo her kitchen on the Upper West Side with the resolute goal of removing an offensive wall and filling the new open space. with elegant bases. Inspired by the open kitchen in the apartment directly above hers, Heather posted her project on Sweeten and was particularly clever in uploading inspirational photos with features her small kitchen could actually accommodate – her sources of inspiration featured nearly identical layouts. to his kitchen. We posted a photo of Heather’s kitchen in a blog post comparing custom cabinets and IKEA, and commentators asked to learn more about this beautiful milling job, so Heather was kind enough to take the stage this week with a recap. complete with its renovation.
Guest of Heather’s homeowner, a Manhattan homeowner
I bought my one-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side in the spring of 2013 after months of searching for the right space. I loved the place, but knew that the dated kitchen and compartmentalized dining room prevented my new home from really coming together. The kitchen was in need of a complete overhaul – I really wanted to tear down a portion of the wall that separated the kitchen from the living area to create more of a passage and let in the light, and my wish list included all the other classic components of a typical kitchen remodeling like new cabinets, a tiled backsplash, sleek countertops and appliances. I was ready to renew but couldn’t help but feel nervous; this was going to be my first ever refurb and I didn’t know where to start. Fortunately, I found Sweeten and they put me in touch with a design and construction company.
What I liked about my Sweeten design and construction company is that they worked as a contractor and design team. It was very helpful to have the designer’s eye on everything as I went through the process, and the contractor is an extremely skilled craftsman who handled the design (and many changes!) With ease. First, we decided on a plan that would break down most of the wall between the blocked kitchen and dining room. This change was what excited me the most: in addition to making the awkwardly placed dining room more functional, it would allow light from the kitchen window to flow into the space, which was particularly important to me.
Then we got to work designing the furniture and functionality of the kitchen. I initially thought IKEA furniture was the best fit for my budget, but my designer helped me understand that custom furniture would add more space and functionality to the kitchen, without adding much to the total cost. I was surprised to find that I could make room for custom cabinets in my budget by keeping the designs and materials simple. I learned a lot during the design process, such as how important the placement of the electrical outlet is and that the choice of paint color can be distressing. My Sweeten contractor and designer has been extremely patient with me. I’ve asked a million questions and changed my mind about materials loads of times.
Once all the key design decisions were made, it was exciting to see the project come to life. The wall came out first and it was pretty amazing … even in the chaos of the demolition I could see how big the difference would be in how I planned to use the space. There were parts of the remodel that were a lot of fun, like choosing appliances and going home to find the cabinets installed. There were also parts that weren’t as fun, like the adhesive shock on the countertop, mulling over endless lighting options and finding my ceiling was uneven and needed to be redone. I was pretty pragmatic about what I wanted in general, but I was still unprepared for the challenge of making new decisions every day. It felt like just when I had decided on something, like paint colors, my choices weren’t going to work for some reason, so design was an ever-changing and sometimes stressful process. Thankfully, I had a designer and an entrepreneur, so I wasn’t as lost as I would have been with an entrepreneur on my own. I love my stylist!
I finally settled on a neutral palette of gray and white for most materials. I found backsplash and floor tiles by Nemo (the Atom wall tiles in Eggshell and the Oxy porcelain floor tiles in Royal White). My Sweeten contractor used solid ash for the cabinets and included a pull-out mini pantry, extra drawers where foot kicks would traditionally have been, and a sponge tray along the sink. After a lot of back and forth, I decided to go with Benjamin Moore paint and alternated with White Heron on the upper cabinets (and walls) versus Gull Wing Gray on the base cabinets. I loved the look of the natural stone countertop materials, but didn’t want to worry about red wine stains or spills, so I decided to opt for LG’s Viatera in Cirrus, a durable quartz surface that still evokes a feeling of natural marble. I found an awesome French door refrigerator from Fisher & Paykel that I love, light years beyond the battered and shabby 1980s refrigerator it replaced. My new thinnest dishwasher is from Bosch and my new cooker and microwave are both Bertazzoni.
Now that it’s over, it’s hard to imagine my apartment any other way. The workmanship of every part of my kitchen is beautiful – the contractor even came back to finish some last pieces at no extra cost to me. I love receiving guests and can invite them to sit at the counter while I prepare snacks or a meal. The opening of the wall had an effect on the entire living space of the apartment by connecting the kitchen, dining room and living room and giving them a more open feeling. Undertaking a remodel is downright stressful, and it has been hard to come home with a bit of chaos every day, but the end result is fantastic and well worth the effort. I love cooking and hosting guests in my home now, and can’t wait to start planning my bathroom remodel!
Movable walls? Don’t you move the walls? Heather’s cooking would have been wonderful anyway, but we’re so pleased she was able to work with Sweeten’s experts to completely reimagine the flow of her home. If your small kitchen is ready for a transformative overhaul, post your project on Sweeten and we’ll match you with renovation experts suited to your project’s budget, location, scope and style.