A Living Room Renovation Puts A Pool Table in the Spotlight


College friends collaborate on a living room renovation & kitchen update to create a grown-up man nest

bachelor pad renovation

“After” photos by Kate Glicksberg for Sweeten

  • Designer Bennett Gale posted his project on Sweeten on behalf of his client Dan.
  • Where: Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York
  • Primary renovation: Living room renovation to expand + kitchen remodel in a 900-square-foot co-op
  • Notable: The remodel transformed a cramped living room into a swanky billiards chamber.
  • Result: An open kitchen, a dry bar with party potential and plenty of room to cue pool
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

A living room renovation gives room for a fave sport

Sometimes even man-cave passions are well worth making room for. Designer Bennett Gale knew this when he agreed to help his friend Dan, who had purchased a one-bedroom apartment in a 1960 New York City building, with its remodel.

“For the longest time, the only piece of furniture that Dan had—before he even bought a bed—was a pool table,” recalled Bennett, who works as a project manager for a luxury real-estate developer. The dark-wood billiards console—sturdy, angular, and clad in camel-toned felt—was a prized possession and an essential feature in the project. Dan, a finance executive who’d moved into the co-op about a year before starting on the redesign, had made it the apartment’s centerpiece.

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Designer, Bennett Gale

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“BEFORE” of kitchen

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A pool table in a Manhattan apartment may sound like a literal elephant in the room, but Bennett, who had been close with Dan since college, understood its importance and was happy to discuss it. The table had a modern design and good bones. With a set of 4 – 5 table leaves that let it multitask as a dining surface, the nifty four-legged table was also practical—Dan had gathered many a friend around it. The issue was that his otherwise sparsely set living room felt tight when the table was in use. “I wanted to create more space around it,” said Dan. Plus, more elbow room would be useful for pool cues!

Planning an entertainment space at home

Dan and Bennett worked together to post the job on Sweeten and soon hired a contractor. Then they set out to upgrade the co-op into the ultimate bachelor’s pad. (Note: Dan’s girlfriend has moved in since the renovation—and reportedly, loves the space.) The original scope of the project, Bennett said, grew substantially. “We’d planned to open up the wall between the kitchen and the living room, but once we dug into the plans, it became clear that by taking out a few walls and relocating a closet, we could make better use of the space.”

He proposed a full reconfiguration that would knock out a lot of flow-hampering sheetrock, give the kitchen an eye-catching redo, and elevate the living room to become a spacious entertaining hub. The makeover would bring light and a chic, loft-like sprawl to the downtown apartment.

Conversations about specifics began in the kitchen. Bennett and Dan put a lot of research into cohesive surfacing choices. “Dark-wood parquet flooring dominates a lot of the space,” Bennett said, “so we lightened up the walls and chose materials that coordinated with the wood.” Dan opted for kitchen cabinets in a custom textured veneer with blond accents; dark matte-bronze cabinet hardware and coordinating lighting fixtures complement the stained wood. The natural marble that Dan settled on for the countertops is a warm white with earth-toned veining that echoes the deep brown pool and dining table.

kitchen bar

Sample testing the countertop materials

Quality and durability were primary factors. Dan had decided to go “all in” on natural marble for the countertops and backsplash. “We did countless tests on countertop samples in order to determine whether we should go with honed marble or polished,” Bennett said. “Olive oil, red wine, hot sauce, pickle juice, and soda were tested to observe how it would stain or etch.” Dan chose a matte honed finish, which is more resistant to discoloration and allows scratches and marks to blend. “From multiple slabs, we identified one with as much veining and movement as possible,” Bennett said. 

With materials picked and sourced, the real work began. The crew opened the kitchen, installed cabinetry and appliances, and created a three-stooled stretch of counter seating on the opening’s living-room side. From there, the apartment’s other unnecessary walls got the sledgehammer. Bennett’s plan included taking out a hallway wall to give more space around the pool table.

To complete the space expansion, the removal of a corner closet revealed a protruding column. Bennett designed a dry bar to fill the accidental niche. “That awkward corner became a great opportunity,” Bennett said. “We negotiated with the contractor to have the bar included in the build-out. It ended up as a great display.” The closet was relocated to an oversized and inefficient foyer.

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Choosing the right general contractor team

As is the case in most every home-construction job, the team hit some snags. During demolition, contractors discovered that the electrical wiring needed to be upgraded. Bennett emphasizes the importance of reading and understanding co-op or condo board rules and sharing them with contractors, who must not only work within the regulations, but also lock in the appropriate licenses and insurance coverages for the project.

A cooperative relationship between the construction crew and building staff is an absolute must, according to Bennett. “Get the super involved early,” he says. “These individuals almost always have previous experience with renovations in the building, and can often provide valuable insight on the exact issues you’ll encounter.” Fortunately, Dan received support from Sweeten throughout the process, and from Bennett, his friend (and architect!) “I would have been lost without his experience, guidance, and recommendations, not to mention his help pushing back on the contractors and the building when I needed it,” he said.

All challenges aside, though, “I’m very happy with the finished product,” Dan said. “I accomplished exactly what I was looking to do.” 

Thank you, Bennett and Dan, for sharing the results of a great collaboration! 

SHOPPING GUIDE

KITCHEN: Porcelain floor tiles: Tile Depot. Kitchen cabinets: Provided by contractor. Bronze cabinet hardware: Emtek. Calacatta Calvini honed marble countertops: Stone Source. Grohe Brushed Chrome faucet: AJ Madison. Bosch refrigerator, Bertazzoni dishwasher, range, and hood: P.C. Richards & Son. Light fixtures: Y Lighting.

LIVING SPACE: White Dove paint: Benjamin Moore. Pool table: Blatt Billiards. Sectional sofa: West Elm. Light fixture over pool table: Tech Lighting.

ADUs or accessory dwelling units can transform into home offices, living space for family or as a rental, or a retreat.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.



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A Rowhouse Prepares as a Multigenerational Home


Making a whole-family (separate but together) space comfortable for everyone

Respected schools and green space are standard wants for families looking to upgrade from an apartment to a house. However, this Brooklyn couple had an additional need when searching for a single-family home: multigenerational space for an aging parent. Nadia and Stephen’s daughter, Charlotte, was three years old when the pair of management consultants launched their search. They were coming from a comfortable brownstone apartment they’d rented for almost 12 years. But their family was growing in a way that’s becoming more common among “sandwich generation” members and they needed to make space for an important addition to the household: Stephen’s mother. 

Their search for a multigenerational space led them to the South Slope/Greenwood Heights area, where they found this 2,030-square-foot brick rowhouse. Built in 1901, the three-story building needed work, but suited the needs of all four family members. The house was in a good school zone and even had a small backyard for Charlotte and the family dog, Sake, to play. The pair posted the project on Sweeten, a free service that connects renovating homeowners with vetted general contractors. They soon found a general contractor who would create a living space for three generations under one roof. 

kitchen, multigenerational kitchen, kitchen island, construction, home renovation

“After” photos by Pixy Interiors for Sweeten

Guest blog post by Sweeten homeowner Nadia

The truth is we had a long list of desires when it came to buying our first home together. We wanted a house that was true to the time it was built, but clean and crisp and modernized. We bought it knowing that it needed a renovation, and as such lined up our contractor as we were finalizing the purchase. We wanted to start our renovation within a week of the closing and pay both mortgage and rent for no more than eight weeks. 

Because Stephen’s mother was moving in with us, and she is unable to manage stairs, we needed a first-floor space for her. The house was a two-family home, with an upstairs apartment that was separate from the garden-level duplex. We decided to create a single-family house using the parlor level as entertaining space, allowing us to live separately, but together.

portrait, NYC, Brooklyn, construction, home renovation

I have a background in interior design and Stephen has renovation experience, but this was for both of us our first construction project in New York City. Our vision was of a house that would feel contiguous but not too chopped up and not sterile. To that end, we drew lines with a well-curated mix of surfaces, and the outcome is fantastic. 

The house most needed a revamp on the garden and top floors along with proper bedrooms and a full-house fire/CO2 monitoring system. Our plan was to tear out the existing fake-wood flooring on both levels and replace it with hardwood, and save the original floors on the parlor level. We chose a dark-wood flooring with a hand-scraped finish that was not ridiculously expensive. We needed it to hold up to kids, dogs, a walker, and it really has. 

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On the garden level where my mother-in-law has her own apartment, the foyer was updated with full marble slabs on the walls and floor. In the back, the laundry room got a better egress to the backyard. Additionally, it functions as a mudroom with custom cabinetry and a pull-down drying rack where we can hang wet clothes. The bathroom received a simple replacement of fixtures and a coat of paint which changed it completely.

It’s amazing how much the wrap-around pantry holds.

The existing kitchen was L-shaped with very little counter space and a mobile dishwasher. As a big cooking family, we are very heavy users of the kitchen. By shifting the main kitchen to one wall—including a dishwasher, wall oven, and a larger sink—it provided space for an island, a wrap-around pantry, and dining table.

pantry, kitchen pantry, wraparound pantry, kitchen, multigenerational kitchen, construction, home renovation

It’s amazing how much the wrap-around pantry holds. Since it’s the other main kitchen wall, we could only fit 12″-15″ deep cabinets. Instead of upper and lowers, we installed full-height 15″ upper cabinets and are able to store an enormous amount of pantry and serving items. The cabinet finishes are white and acacia and topped with a highly durable quartz surface including a big, walk-around island. 

Heading up to the parlor floor, we removed the stair runner and painted the stair treads, risers, balusters, and spindles in one color. We used the black paint in a flat finish on the stair boards, and a pearl finish on the railings for extra luster.

The bathroom gut reno on the top floor focused on creating a stand-up shower. Stephen and I travel a lot for work and have huge pet peeves. We wanted to turn on the water without getting wet and have a shelf or bench to put a foot upon or sit on. We chose a glass surround with a frameless structure to make the room feel as open as possible. The custom vanity is made of walnut, with four drawers that maximize countertop and storage space. It all fits nicely in a tiny-but-functional 5’ x 8’ bathroom space. 

 

We ended up skim coating almost the entire house, and our Sweeten contractor worked miracles on the original plaster that was uneven and had an unappealing, thick texture. It gave us a lot more understanding of how hard it really is to properly repair plaster so that it looks like new!

The most difficult part of the renovation was the last six weeks, when we were living in the house, still under construction, with a three-year-old. Living in a space being renovated is challenging and exhausting, but our contractor staged the work so we could move in, and the crew became like family! It’s doable if you have fully functioning bathrooms and kitchen. Sweeten assisted throughout, from matching us with a contractor to providing a full bid review, and checking in about issues or concerns.

In the end, we increased the scope of what we wanted to do significantly and our costs grew—but we got it all done in the range of $100 to $150 per square foot. Doing it simultaneously means that now we can enjoy our home and our time together as a multigenerational family.

Thank you, Nadia and Stephen, for sharing your new home with us!

WATCH VIDEO:

KITCHEN RESOURCES: Wall paint in OC20 Pale Oak; trim paint in Oxford White 869 in pearl: Benjamin MooreCeiling paint in ProMar 400 Interior Latex: Sherwin Williams. Wooden floors in 5″ pearl finish Baroque White Oak: Vintage Flooring. Cabinets & cabinet hardware: Ikea. Countertops in Calacatta Miel Quartz: Quartz Master. Backsplash in Sicis Vetrite Tela Grey 8×24: Tile Depot NY.  Undermount 24x18x10” sink: Kohler. Faucet in Arctic Stainless: Delta Faucet. French door fridge: LG. 800 Series dishwasher, range & speed oven: Bosch. Lighting track: WAC Lighting.

BATHROOM RESOURCES: Calacatta floor tile; Azuma DG 2×2 shower floor tile; 3×12 wall tile: Tile Depot NY. Hardware, shower fixtures, sink, and vanity: Kohler. Toilet: Toto. Bova 3 vanity light; Aero Pure Low CFM Energy Star ceiling fan; Paloma faucet: Wayfair. Vanity mirror/medicine cabinet; mirror: Ikea. Wall paint in OC20 Pale Oak in matte; trim paint: Oxford White 869 in pearl: Benjamin Moore.  Ceiling paint in ProMar 400 Extra White in matte: Sherwin Williams.

BEDROOM RESOURCES: 52″ Cedarton 5 Blade LED ceiling fan with remote: Wayfair. Wooden floors in 5″ pearl finish Baroque White Oak: Vintage Flooring. Wall paint in OC20 Pale Oak in matte; trim paint in Oxford White 869 in pearl: Benjamin Moore. Ceiling paint in ProMar 400 Extra White in matte: Sherwin Williams.

LAUNDRY AREA RESOURCES: Washer/dryer Combo: LG. Contemporary 2 floor tile in silver: Tile Depot NY. Reider 1-Light LED Flush Mount light: Wayfair.

LIVING ROOM & DINING ROOM RESOURCES: Wall paint in Revere Pewter: Benjamin Moore. Ceiling paint in ProMar 400 Extra White in matte: Sherwin Williams. 

Sweeten founder and CEO weighs in on what to know before renovating a brownstone.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.



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A Renovated Railroad Apartment Makes Sense for a Home Office


Remodeling for when one room leads to the next and the next

dining room

“After” photos by Pixy Interiors for Sweeten

For every homeowner, there are certain household features that just aren’t negotiable: from space layout to square footage and modern features. Some owners are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure their home matches their preferences which was certainly true for Lavanya and Regis, a couple who had to try (and try again) before finding a space that truly felt like home.

They had sold an apartment that she had loved, and proceeded to buy and move into another that they both really disliked. Lavanya, the executive producer for Artifex Productions, a New York City-based production company, decided to give it another try, saying, “We were on the hunt for something like the old place.” 

The renewed search was for a railroad-style layout with distinct spaces that could serve different purposes for home and business activities. When she and her partner Regis, who manages an NYC-based restaurant, and Frankie, their 11-year-old Jack Russell terrier, saw it, they knew it was the one. They snapped up the place, posted their project onto Sweeten, a free renovation platform connecting homeowners with vetted general contractors, and quickly found a contractor with the chops to help them implement their vision for their unusually-shaped home. 

floor plans

The long-skinny layout, which was introduced in New York City in the mid-19th century and is also referred to as a “floor-through,” is known for its small, narrow rooms. However, with some help, it can become the perfect layout for a couple with at least one work-at-homer. Lavanya knew from the first apartment she and her husband had that a long, rambling railroad-style flat could be configured to create a private office for her to work in without feeling like the rest of their home life was overlapping with her space.

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They found their new apartment in South Park Slope, Brooklyn. The two-bedroom condo was 700 square feet and, as is typical, stretched from the front of the prewar building, built around 1910, to its rear. One thing railroad-style apartments are known for is the immodest “bathtub in the kitchen.” Although their new apartment didn’t feature one of those, the overall layout still didn’t fit the couple’s day-to-day needs.

When Lavanya and Regis signed their Sweeten contractor, they understood that they would need a six-month renovation to cover work across multiple rooms. To begin with, the condo was strangely configured: the master bedroom was at the apartment’s back end, far from the bathroom, and next to it was the dining area, which, as the former owners had it arranged, was separated from the living area by the kitchen. To the couple, the apartment’s arrangement felt backward. 

To help the couple, their contractor recommended Jennifer Levy of CAVdesign Interiors to make sense of the space they were working with and create the right flow that would work for them. The team decided to flip the layout so that the area that had been the living room would become their bedroom. The rear bedroom, which was large, would become a living area and office. 

[P]ocket and barn doors…saved a ton of space and made our whole home feel modern and cool.

The kitchen had issues, including old, honey-colored wood cabinets and a layout that was far from its efficient capacity. The floors throughout the apartment were uneven and stained a reddish color which felt outdated. Their goal was to make the main rooms bright and airy by integrating glossy white-painted wood floors, built-in storage, and recessed lighting on dimmers.

Next up for redesign was the bathroom. The tub had been shoved into a corner and closed off by an unattractive partial wall, creating a very narrow and dark opening. The toilet and sink were installed too close together and the bathroom had minimal storage. Ultimately, the duo wanted to reconfigure the room to create a more spacious, spa-like environment. 

soaking tub

Their Sweeten contractor installed solid oak wood floors and painted the planks with a high-performance floor paint. They ran into challenges while updating the lighting when the electricians realized that installing the dimmable lighting would require replacing the wiring to bring it to code. This ended up creating many new holes in the walls, which then needed to be patched and skim coated putting the project behind schedule. One bright consolation was the brand new dimmer switches—one of their favorite features.

The kitchen was a success without many problems to solve. The contractor suggested hiding the refrigerator, freezer, and dishwasher behind panels that matched the cabinetry. The room was spacious enough that their new washer and dryer found their place behind a closet without conflict. The finishing touches included handmade tiles for the backsplash and a custom butcher-block counter.

Lavanya was especially excited about the closets custom-designed for the bedrooms, with sliding shoe racks to accommodate her self-professed “footwear addiction.” That organizational theme continued on many of the interior thresholds with pocket and barn doors; this idea, which their contractor embraced, saved significant space and made their whole home feel modern and stylish.

 

The bathroom redesign was a creative collaboration between Lavanya and Regis who enjoyed both the planning process and end result. They opted for a hand-poured concrete floor and custom cabinets, along with luxurious hand-made tiles for the shower and a deep, cast-iron soaking bathtub (a non-negotiable for the couple.) New shower fixtures, including a rain showerhead, a towel heater, and a dimmable backlit mirror pulled it all together. 

Every step of the way, their Sweeten contractor was fantastic: “Relaxed and professional from the outset, he helped me stay calm, even when delays and surprise expenses came up. The electricians and plumbers were exceptional as well,” said Lavanya. During the renovation, their contractor came up with ideas to keep costs at the right place and also substituted some expensive ideas with affordable ones.

“We love our gleaming floors and the brightness of the rooms, and our beautiful, modern bathroom. It’s like we live in a white palace!” Lavanya shared. 

Thank you, Lavanya and Regis, for sharing your space with us!

WATCH VIDEO:

LIVING AREA RESOURCES: Corotech floor paint in Bone, wall paint in China White: Benjamin Moore. Ceiling fan: The Home DepotDimmers: Lutron.

KITCHEN RESOURCES: Ringhult kitchen cabinets: IKEA. Brushed steel cabinet hardware: Sugastune. Craft-Art American Cherry butcher-block countertops: Specialty Kitchens. Foundation Brick Paper Matte backsplash tile: Ann Sacks. Faucet: Grohe. Sink: Kohler. Refrigerator and dishwasher: Blomberg. Range: KitchenAid.

BATHROOM RESOURCES: Savoy Ricepaper wall tiles: Ann Sacks. Soaking tub: Toto. Rainshower and tub faucet fixtures: Hansgrohe. Toilet: Whitehaus. Sink: Toto. Faucet: Grohe. Vanity: Robern. Countertop: Corian. Hardware: Sugastune. Towel heater: Myson. Mirror and lighting: Custom. Shower curtain track: Ocelco Hospital.

Sweeten founder and CEO weighs in on what to know before renovating a brownstone.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.



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A Studio Loft and Balcony Check All the Boxes


A renovation gives a design-obsessed owner the ultimate pad

For a lot of singles in New York City, a 500-square-foot Greenwich Village studio with both a lofted bedroom and an outdoor balcony would sound like a pie-in-the-sky find. But new homeowner Carly Schulte had a higher vision for this downtown co-op—she knew when she saw it that she could improve on it. She snapped up the apartment and posted her project with Sweeten, a free service that matches renovators with vetted general contractors. Here’s how Carly literally raised the lofty studio’s roof, with a Sweeten general contractor, making it a party-friendly place that feels larger than it really is.

Greenwich Village Studio loft

“After” photos by Pixy Interiors for Sweeten

Guest blog post by Sweeten homeowner Carly

I was lucky in the apartment hunt. I’d only been to a handful of showings, but when I saw this place, I knew I wanted to make an offer. I have a soft spot for lofts, and the balcony made it a must-have. I’d been planning—and saving—to buy an apartment for years, and it was a good thing I waited. The sellers were motivated. I put in a bid and pulled off the purchase.

I’d envisioned an overhaul that included renovating the kitchen and bathroom, modernizing the loft and stairs, and adding a giant wall-to-wall built-in of shelves and closets in the living room, but it was once I was there that I clarified my goals. I realized I wanted to expand the kitchen, since I love to cook; I needed a larger kitchen peninsula that would serve as both a work and eating surface. 

Although I left things like cabinet dimensions and stair specs to the professionals, I selected all the flooring, cabinets, [and other finishes].

It dawned on me, too, that I wanted to raise the ceiling. One of the apartment’s previous owners had actually dropped it by at least five feet, wasting space and blocking light. In my mind, high ceilings are pretty much universally beloved and will definitely add value when I ultimately go to sell the apartment. I saw that by reclaiming the height, I could enclose the sleeping loft, allowing it to feel private but still be bright. I designed the windowed loft wall by looking through Instagram and showing the drawings to my Sweeten contractor. He found a way to make the enclosure with sliding glass panels that transmit both air and light.

I knew when I hired my contractor that I wanted to work this way, doing my own design work, and I was happy to find a contractor who would work with me. To say I was hands-on would be an understatement. Although I left cabinet and stair specs to the professionals, I handled most of the materials including the cabinets, tile, and appliances, as well as the layouts for each room (which was surprisingly time-consuming).

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When it came to aesthetics, I stayed neutral, particularly in more permanent elements like flooring and cabinetry. But I have a huge interest in texture, and I was excited about mixing flat, modern, cool elements, such as the steel staircase and black cabinetry [a great way to create depth], with warmer ones, like the wood-grain floors and golden-brown leather and upholstery. 

To achieve the look I wanted, we had to do the work. It was a challenge, with bumps. The worst came early, when we demolished the kitchen and found asbestos. Remediation cost about $6,000 and added three months to the timeline. I would strongly recommend asbestos testing during the diligence phase to any potential buyer. Had I tested up-front and knocked some of the abatement costs off of the purchase price, I would have saved money.

From start to finish, excluding the asbestos work, my renovation spanned five months. I moved out for several weeks when the contractor knocked down walls and raised the ceiling. For much of it, though, I was there. I had no kitchen for six months and lived out of suitcases and boxes. Luckily, my bedroom remained mostly untouched, so once the enclosure was finished, I spent my home time up there. I don’t regret slumming it. The money I saved on short-term housing enabled me to buy the gas stove of my dreams!

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I heavily underestimated how long the approval process would take. The time it took just to obtain the co-op board’s approval for my plan was nearly six months. Staying in my rental apartment in hopes of a fast renovation was a big mistake. If I had it to do again, I would move in right after closing, live in my new space, and use that rent money for something meaningful. Hindsight is 20/20!

People have asked how I lived through the project. I think I blocked some of it out, but I do remember leaning on the Sweeten team after a few long construction delays made me feel frustrated and uncertain. They offered me a sounding board and helped me adjust my expectations, and as a first-time renovator struggling to parse out the delays, their guidance was immensely helpful. When needed, Sweeten contacted my contractor and helped to keep things moving smoothly.

Despite the difficulties, I love the way the place turned out. The raised ceiling, now about 16 feet high, changed the entire feel of the place. The library ladder, a functional addition facilitating access to the high cupboards, added a fun touch, and the loft enclosure made the bedroom feel cozy and intimate. My new kitchen has made cooking every meal a pleasure, and even the bathroom is beautiful, which is rare to say about a bathroom. There was stress and sweat, sure. But designing the space was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever worked on.

Thank you, Carly, for sharing your home with us!

LIVING SPACE RESOURCES: Paint in Pure White (walls) and Decorators White (baseboards): Benjamin Moore. European oak wood flooring: Sourced through contractor. Holmes plug-in wall sconce: Schoolhouse. Carbon steel hook ladder and rail: Specialty Doors Inc. Cabinet built-ins: Custom by contractor. Built-ins painted in Black Iron: Benjamin Moore. Custom staircase: Paragon Stairs.

KITCHEN RESOURCES: Kitchen cabinets: Custom by contractor. Cabinets painted in Black Iron: Benjamin Moore.  Edgecliff natural brass cabinet hardware: Schoolhouse. 24” handmade stainless-steel sink: Kraus. Trinsic single-handle pulldown faucet in champagne bronze: Delta. 18” 800 Series dishwasher in stainless steel: Bosch. French door refrigerator in stainless steel (Model #KRFF300ESS): KitchenAid. 36” gas range (Model # GR366): Wolf. Sonneman 24” Linear Pendant Light: houzz.com.

BATHROOM RESOURCES: Paint in Pure White: Benjamin Moore. Shower fixtures: DeltaGodmorgon vanity; Odensvik sink: IKEA. AQUADOM Royale 48” mirror/medicine cabinet: houzz.com. Toilet: Existing.

BEDROOM RESOURCES: Paint in Black Beauty: Benjamin Moore. Menlo Glass Globe wall sconces: Target.

Here’s a guideline on how long a one-bedroom apartment renovation takes. Set your calendar!

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.



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Long-time Renters Shine as Renovating Homeowners


A co-op refresh including an unplanned kitchen remodel

It was something like the seven-year itch that had Jessica and Alex setting off on their own. Having lived in a Manhattan rental for six years, they received a lease renewal from their landlord for the seventh. Jessica a real-estate development executive, and Alex, who works in finance as a strategist, sat down to discuss their New York City future. They decided to sign the lease but make it their last. 

After a successful search, Jessica and Alex closed on an 800-square-foot co-op in Chelsea and posted their one-bedroom, one-bathroom project on Sweeten, a free renovation platform connecting homeowners with vetted general contractors. They soon found a design-build firm for their overhaul. Read on to learn how this renovation turned a “fine” apartment to fabulous.

sunken living room with hardwood floors

“After” photos by Miao Jiaxin for Sweeten

Guest blog post by homeowner Jessica

We purchased the apartment with intentions to renovate. We both love architecture and design, and we wanted a place that we could make our own. The previous apartment, with its sunny balcony and endless closet space, had given us high standards, and working in real estate, I look at beautiful homes all the time. We wanted a home where we could make our mark and add the elements we craved.

homeowners in their newly renovated living room

We were thrilled when we landed on this one-bedroom apartment, in a 1930s Chelsea co-op. The building had great bones and Art Deco details but the apartment needed work. We’d been following Sweeten, and after closing, when we knew the reno was imminent, we looked to the service for direction. We wanted to create a clean, modern space marrying traditional and contemporary design elements accented with our personal twists. Throughout, we planned to incorporate art and photos from our travels.

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Living in the apartment for about half a year and bringing our Sweeten contractor onboard brought the project into focus. We wanted to rethink the closet layouts and planned to update the living room’s custom built-ins. We were also looking for a lighting solution since the courtyard-facing unit didn’t get much natural light.

Last but certainly not least, we planned to improve the kitchen and the bathroom. Additional cosmetic and electrical updates included new doors and hardware and USB outlets throughout the apartment. Our contractor was patient, listening to our thoughts (lots of them), answering questions and—most of all—assuring us that he could get the job done, within our time constraints and with the level of quality we were hoping for. 

A narrow galley kitchen? Yes. And we love it.

Closets and storage came first. We’d known when we purchased the apartment that we were in for a major storage deficit. With our contractor’s help, we found we could reconfigure the hall and bedroom closets, which backed up to one another. We moved the interior wall, creating a larger bedroom closet with French doors (sliding doors can restrict access). Downsizing the hallway closet felt like a sacrifice, but we outfitted the space for linen-and-shoe storage—useful and enviable extras in NYC.

washer dryer in kitchen

The kitchen was one room where plans changed. It had been renovated and we hadn’t planned on a gut-job. We love to cook and entertain, and didn’t want to forego full-sized appliances, but we wanted more cupboard and counter space. We ultimately did a full rip-and-replace. The cabinets are an off-the-shelf pick that we stacked to the ceiling; it was like putting together a giant puzzle, but was good for our budget and timeline, and gave us a ton of storage. The cabinet above the dishwasher was a last-minute call to increase pantry space. Quartz countertops and a slab backsplash give us a marble look without the maintenance. A narrow galley kitchen? Yes. And we love it.

The old ’70s bathroom remained, and it was a full demo and redo. We replaced the peach and yellow bathroom tile, which appeared to be original to the building, with marble subway tile, placed vertically for some spin. We played with metals, choosing an unexpected iron vanity (the countertop is quartz) and chrome hardware. The floor tiles are porcelain, sleek and durable.

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The rear-facing apartment was pin-drop quiet, but dark. The silence was a luxury to us, having endured roaring sunrise garbage pickups and the revelry of late-night barhoppers. But the long living room, which also comprises the dining area, had just two windows and no built-in light fixtures. We installed recessed LED lighting in this room and it brightened the area so perfectly that we added it in the bedroom, the bath and, finally, the kitchen.

The existing built-in cabinets spanning the windowed wall in the living room provided additional storage and brightened up the room with a fresh coat of white paint. We removed a floating center unit to accommodate a wall-mount TV. 

To finish, our Sweeten contractor detailed with all new doors and hardware and added those USB outlets, which become more useful every day. It was our idea to hang wallpaper in the foyer; the subtle raffia gives the walls texture and depth. We chose materials that would stand the test of time from both an aesthetic and durability standpoint. But it was so helpful to have an expert to guide us. There are a ton of vendors out there and our contractor had relationships with suppliers and experience with almost any material available.

Our advice as first-timers is to do the research and know what you want but keep an open mind! Seeing the work progress day-over-day and week-over-week was amazing, and we’re so thrilled with the outcome! Adding our stamp to this place was fun and fulfilling. What a great feeling!

Thank you, Jessica and Alex, for sharing your story!

BATHROOM RESOURCES: Floor and wall tile: Tiles Unlimited. Shower fixtures: Delta. Sink and vanity: RH.

Galley kitchens are more flexible than you may think. Here are some ways to fold them into the living spaces.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.



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For an East Hampton Beach House, A Simple Plan to Remodel


A second home welcomes with an open concept, child-friendly stairs, and new baths

The plan was all about the plan when Alex and Jennifer Figueroa bought this cedar-shingled beach house in East Hampton, Long Island, a little more than a year ago. The parents of two young boys, Alex, a banker, and Jennifer, a speech language pathologist, could see in the 2,500-square-foot home a perfect place for their sons, Hudson, 4, and Easton, 2, to run and play. The couple, both of whom live and work in New York City, would use the ’70s house as a weekend and vacation home, as well as a short-term rental property. 

They wanted to convert the chopped-up first floor to an open-plan living space, gut renovate the kitchen and bathrooms, and make the whole house a family-friendly place to relax. Posting their project on Sweeten, a renovation platform connecting homeowners with vetted general contractors, they quickly found a design/build firm that they wanted to hire. Here’s how they elevated a great shore house to make an ultimate getaway.

open concept kitchen

“After” photos by Lena Yaremenko for Sweeten

Guest blog post by homeowner Alex

We purchased the house and plowed into renovations immediately. With two young kids, we were anxious to get this beach-house dream going. We also knew it would make an excellent Airbnb and wanted to have the house ready to list before summer.

East Hampton family portrait

East Hampton exterior

Photo: Courtesy of homeowner

The house, which was built in 1979, had five bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms. It needed a refresh. We wanted to give it an open, modern beach-house feel, and were looking to reconfigure the first floor to an open-plan concept, which would require not just knocking down a wall but removing essential, load-bearing beams.

We also knew we would need to work on the staircase, which looked dated and was not to code. It had a railing, but was essentially open, and unsafe since a kid could literally duck under it and fall through, or climb over. Since the stairway goes to the top floor, wrapping around to ascend nearly 2.5 stories, it was a definite safety hazard. We knew too, going in, that we’d have to do gut remodels of the kitchen and bathrooms, which had never been renovated.

We started on the first floor. Our Sweeten contractor had warned us that revising the floorplan would be the biggest part of the project, and it was. The kitchen, which was nestled in the house’s center, had a wall that contained a support beam. That essential wall, which separated it from the foyer, was the one we wanted to do away with. It took removing multiple load-bearing beams but that wall came down. From our contractor’s suggestion, we lowered the ceiling a few inches to conceal the perimeter beams making the ceiling entirely flush and with no seams.

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Now, the first floor is completely open and the space that was once three separate rooms—the kitchen, dining room, and den—is one continuous area. The change gives the home a much more open and airy feeling, letting the light filter through.

We felt so pleased with the merging of the rooms into one large space that we reinforced it in other ways. Instead of replacing the dated floor tile that we tore out of the kitchen with the large faux-concrete slabs we had purchased, we decided to do the entire ground floor in the same hardwood flooring. Our contractor urged us to consider this as it would give the downstairs a cohesive look. We’re glad we listened, as it looks sleek and seamless.

The install day for that island was really an exciting milestone. Our open plan now had a center.

The successful reconfiguration of the downstairs led us to the next big task: The staircase remodel. We had a good idea of how we wanted to approach it. Safety was the primary concern, but given that the stairs are a focal point as you enter the home, looks also mattered. We decided on wood-trimmed glass panels placed vertically to create a transparent enclosure, making the staircase safe while staying true to our goal of light and openness.

Before of stairs

East Hampton open concept kitchen

The kitchen came next. We felt excited about this part of the project. We love to cook and entertain, so our design included a large island that could be a gathering spot. We splurged on a wine fridge, quartz countertops, and an integrated refrigerator but otherwise kept the open kitchen fairly simple.

Our Sweeten contractor customized Ikea cabinets with walnut panel doors and adding a panel along the ceiling for a higher end look. We built out the big island with counter seating and a five-zone induction cooktop. The install day for that island was really an exciting milestone. Our open plan now had a center.

With the kitchen under control, we moved on to the bathrooms. We gave each one a different look, with a contrast of black marble and minimal white in the master, ocean-blue cabinetry and hex tile in the guest bath, and a console sink in the first-floor powder room. We’ve realized, now that the bathrooms are in use, that we are thrilled with the large-format porcelain slabs we chose for the master bath shower. The expansive, smooth surfaces with minimal grout lines give the room a clean look and are practical from a cleaning perspective. We love the result.

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Throughout the process, our Sweeten contractor was a reliable asset. He found a solution to every snag and never said no to a request. He was always available to answer questions and we felt at every step that his goal was to make us happy.

For us, the biggest challenge was distance. East Hampton is a two-hour drive from our home in Long Island City, so we had to manage our project from afar. On a lot of weekends we made same-day round-trips to check in on the work and gauge our progress. The payoff came when the finishes went in and months of planning materialized. The space came out exactly as we hoped it would and we are happy with the decisions we made.

All this, thanks to a very good plan.

Thank you, Alex and Jennifer, for sharing your home with us!

WATCH VIDEO:

LIVING SPACE RESOURCES: Wall paint in Bakery Box, #BL-W9: Behr. Fireplace mantle tile in Realta II: Cement Tile Shop. Custom glass doors: Crystalia Glass. Living room built-in cabinetry: custom millwork by Sweeten contractor. 

ENTRANCE/HALLWAY RESOURCES: Rhye wallpaper in hand foil: Custhom. Montara 28 .5” mirror: Serena & Lily.  Console: West Elm.  Closet Dove shelves in brushed chrome finish: California Closets.

STAIRCASE RESOURCES: STUDIOC WOW drop tiles on risers: Crossville Studios

KITCHEN RESOURCES: Cabinets customized by contractor: IKEA. Walnut panels: Semihandmade. Pental quartz countertops and backsplash: Avenza. KitchenAid microwave/oven: Build.com. Refrigerator/ freezer: Fisher & Paykel. KitchenAid wine refrigerator, KitchenAid dishwasher, Samsung induction 5 burner cooktop: Best Buy.  Meurice Chandelier: Jonathan Adler. Carlisle Metal counter stools: Threshold.

 MASTER BATHROOM RESOURCES: 4” Hexagon Fosso marble floor tile: Nemo Tile. Stone Calacatta black smooth porcelain wall tile: Florim. Kallista hardware: Build. GrohFlex Essence dual function thermostatic trim shower fixtures with control module: Grohe.  Crystalia glass shower doors: Custom by contractor.  Mason Apothecary single sink vanity: Pottery Barn.  Infinity rectangular wall mirror: CB2

GUEST BATHROOM RESOURCES: 4” hexagon Griglio Cielo marble floor tiles: Nemo Tile. Stone black smooth porcelain wall tile: Florim. Kallista hardware: Build.com. GrohFlex Essence dual function thermostatic trim shower fixtures with control module: Grohe. 60” Kendall blue bathroom vanity: Houzz. Infinity rectangular wall mirror: CB2.

SECOND FLOOR LANDING RESOURCES: 30-light chandelier: Lumens.

Remodeling in the Hamptons? Read our Hamptons home renovation cost guide to understand your budget.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.



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An Epic Brooklyn Brownstone Remodel Gets a Modern Loft Feel


A couple’s own pied-à-terre in their townhouse is finally complete

Over a couple of years, Janet and Jerry, a couple from Long Island who bought a historic Crown Heights, Brooklyn brownstone, embarked on a bottom-to-top renovation. After remodeling two of the floors as rentals with Sweeten, (See blog posts for the third floor and garden level) we get the details on the final apartment, a project high point indeed as it marks the completion of the townhouse’s top floor and the pair’s own NYC pied-à-terre. 

The backstory: The duo knew when they closed on the circa 1910 building, a “bring your architect” purchase in need of a total gutting, that a big job lay ahead. Janet, president of the New York School of Design, and Jerry, a doctor, posted the project on Sweeten, a renovation platform connecting homeowners to vetted general contractors, and hired a Sweeten architect and a Sweeten contractor. Read how a neglected and cramped one-bedroom gives way to a space with a loft-like feeling.

brownstone remodel

“After” photos by Pixy Interiors for Sweeten

Blog post by homeowner Jerry as told to Sweeten

This is it. Our apartment. The pied-à-terre we’ve long waited to move into. We have a primary residence on Long Island, but we work in NYC and spend about half our time here. We decided to invest in a multi-family townhouse in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, rent the main units and keep the smaller, fourth-floor apartment for ourselves.

From the time we first saw the top-floor space, we knew it would be our nest. Like the other apartments, this one-bedroom unit needed work. It was dark and chopped up, the kitchen was a wreck and the bathroom was in disrepair. We started thinking about how to refresh the under 600-square-foot space and make it feel larger. Our goal was to create an open and airy studio. We planned to maximize natural light and use natural materials for an organic feel. 

Brooklyn homeowners

brownstone floor plan

In our project’s earlier phases, we’d worked to preserve the building’s architectural features. But in this unit, previous renovations had removed most original detail. Hardwood floors had been replaced with linoleum. Moldings that might have graced the overhead plaster were forgone for a drop ceiling. Only the window moldings and the fireplace remained. Given this situation, we felt free to rethink the space. We decided to use modern elements, bringing in Scandinavian style and Californian mid-century modernism as influences to the new interior.

These subtle architectural elements bring the space together while simultaneously differentiating the sleeping and living rooms. 

Our Sweeten architects worked closely with Janet to achieve several architectural changes. First, we moved the entrance from the fourth floor down to the third, making the stairway part of the apartment’s interior. This increased privacy and usable space, and also allowed us to increase the living room’s natural light with a skylight at the top of the stairs.

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Next, we exposed the living-room ceiling. Opening it to the original wooden beams provided for more vertical space and a lofty room. Initially, we were going to paint the wooden ceiling and exposed beams white. Our Sweeten contractor suggested the beams looked really good unpainted and unfinished. The adjacent sleeping area, however, would have a new lowered ceiling, and an archway. Together these subtle architectural elements bring the space together while simultaneously differentiating the sleeping and living rooms. 

A key facet of our design concept, the arch plays nicely with horizontal lines throughout the apartment, including the exposed beams and the long kitchen countertop. It also connects with a number of graceful curves, like the rounded mirror over the restored fireplace and the rounded lighting fixtures.

WATCH VIDEO: Janet and Jerry talk about the start of their renovation on NBC’s Open House NYC

With the ceiling beautified, we moved to the problematic floors, which were covered in vinyl and old carpeting. We wanted natural wood and after much searching, we chose white-oak flooring and planned to lay it in a custom herringbone, or chevron, pattern. Unfortunately, there was a long lead time for the wood to be custom cut (nearly two months, as the supplier told us that it would require shipping the planks to Europe), not to mention a high price. Just before going back to the drawing board, we found a pre-cut herringbone at half the price. It came out fantastic.

integrated kitchen cabinetry

Once the floors were down we were ready to build the kitchen. We wanted dark wood cabinets, and while we were planning, Ikea came out with a new style that not only looked great but pleased our budget! [See more money-saving ideas for your kitchen renovation.] We wanted countertops that would compliment the cabinets and wear well, and considered marble, granite, and a few synthetic materials, but ultimately chose soapstone for its durability and appearance. The veined black goes nicely with the apartment’s other dark features and looks fantastic as a backsplash.

To stay minimal, we hid appliances in cabinets; our washer/dryer combo, fridge, and pull-out freezer all fit under the counter. The pendant lights over the kitchen counter, the chandelier above the old fireplace, and the bedroom fixtures are simultaneously industrial, modern, casual, and polished.

In the bathroom, we managed another stunning redesign thanks to our Sweeten architects. The shower, a vertical space with a skylight, is flooded by day with natural sunlight, making it feel almost like it’s outside. One disappointment that turned out fine was with the stone floor tiles. We spent a lot of time picking them out, but after accepting our order, the supplier said that only one box of tile was available.

Our contractor solved the issue by taking a large slab of the same stone and custom cutting it into a single 3’x3’ shower base as well as a door saddle, and a stone shelf. We chose an in-wall toilet to maximize space.

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Having knocked down walls and invited light in every way imaginable, we felt successful in our visual opening of the space. We went even further by creating an outdoor area. The roof had formerly been inaccessible but we replaced a window with a glass door; it leads to a new roof deck with views of the neighborhood and Manhattan in the distance.

Through it all, we felt lucky to work with Sweeten, which connected us with both our architect and contractor and helped us troubleshoot on many occasions. The process came with so many rewards. While Janet says she most appreciated the design work and creative discussions, I’m just enjoying our apartment! It’s like staying in a nice hotel with a feeling of being home. The best of both worlds.

Thank you, Janet and Jerry, for sharing your entire home with us!

LIVING ROOM RESOURCES: Wall paint in Cotton Balls: Benjamin Moore. Poolesville European white oak flooring: PID. Chandelier above fireplace: Schoolhouse Electric. Theresa Rand coffee table: Menu Design Shop. Doorknobs: Omnia.

DINING AREA AND STAIRWAY RESOURCES: Hackney marble dining table, storage bench: CB2 Rattan cane chairs: Industry West.

BEDROOM RESOURCES: Ceiling light, sconce lights: Schoolhouse Electric. Mill C bedside table with laptop tray: CB2. Spindle Nightstand: Industry West. Airisto bench/side table in ash: Finnish Design Shop

KITCHEN RESOURCES: Paint in Cotton Balls: Benjamin Moore. VOXTORP kitchen cabinets and sink: IKEA. Ipanema Reserve countertops and backsplash: M Teixeira Soapstone. Faucet, #1959LF-BL: Delta . Undercounter refrigerator and freezer: Liebherr. Pendant lights: Schoolhouse Electric. All-in-one 2.3 cu. ft. front-load washer and electric ventless dryer: LG. Fellow Stagg Pour Over kettle: Williams Sonoma.

BATHROOM RESOURCES: 18″ x 18″ Marine Black Phyllite floor tiles: M Teixeira SoapstoneMatte white wall tiles 3”x9”: COLORI. Shower fixtures; Contemporary and Purist Line fittings: Kohler. Toilet: Duravit. GODMORGON vanity, ODENSVIK sink : IKEA. Faucet: Grohe. Hardware, lighting, towel bar, tissue holder, robe hook, Swedish utility rack: Schoolhouse Electric. Mirror: CB2. Waffle towels: Snowe.

ROOF DECK RESOURCES: Marvin Swinging French door. Automated shade: Shade Store.

Before you buy a townhouse, read our guide on buying and renovating a multi-story fixer upper.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.



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