A Brooklyn Kitchen Dazzles With an L-Shaped Layout and Island


Once kept to a single wall, a true working kitchen comes to life with an L-shaped layout and island

“After” photos by Kyle Knodell

Project: Update and enlarge a small kitchen in downtown Brooklyn with an L-shaped layout and island

Before: Looking for more square footage in downtown Brooklyn led this couple to a 3-bedroom, 2-bath 1,230-square-foot loft in a 1920s Art Deco building. The kitchen was an unusual shape, with all of the appliances huddled together along one wall, not so suitable for avid entertainers.

kitchen renovation, Brooklyn

After: To expand the space, the couple wanted an L-shaped layout with a six-foot-long island and floor-to-ceiling cabinets for storage. They posted their project on Sweeten and chose their Sweeten contractor. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Due to the building’s landmark status and paper-thin walls, condo approvals were a lengthy process. Once they were complete, the renovation itself took two months. Their contractor encouraged them to keep cooking as a focus, meaning no TV in the kitchen and leaving the “binge-fests for the den.” The couple eagerly agreed on a modern look mixing closed cabinets and open shelves while pairing white and gray shaker-style cabinets with custom black walnut slabs. One of the black walnut slabs acts as a desktop in a built-in—a workspace ideal for the husband, who is usually up before dawn checking email.

l-shaped kitchen layout with island

You could agonize over the exact CMYK breakdown in your grout, or you could choose one that’s a reasonable shade of gray, order it online, and get on with it.

A white subway tile backsplash with dark gray grout and white quartz counters serve as a simple backdrop. The couple also used brass hardware to add a modern touch. They also planned to splurge on quality countertops, which are known for their durability. To afford this, the couple decided to pass on a highly-desired farmhouse sink for a more affordable stainless steel sink. Durability was a priority for the couple. “This kitchen was built to be used,” said the homeowner. With its greatly increased prep space and extended bar seating, we couldn’t agree more!

l-shaped kitchen layout with wood topped islandkitchen renovation, Brooklyn

Bonus: After hosting their first dinner party in the space, she received a thank-you from a friend who said, “I could spend all my days in that kitchen.” The hostess’ response: “And that’s exactly our plan.”

Style finds: Cabinets: Fabuwood. Brass cabinet hardware: Semihandmade. Subway tile: Home Depot. Statuario Maximus countertop: Caesarstone. Custom black walnut slabs (open shelves, island countertop, desktop): 3 Dot Design. Light pendants: AllModern.com. Refrigerator: LG. Dishwasher: Bosch. Profile microwave: GE. Profile range: GE. Faucet: Delta. Chair (at desk) and Slope counter stools: West Elm.

Read how to minimize the mess during a renovation and how to clean up after it’s completed.

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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Surviving a Renovation: Should I Stay or Go?


Six Sweeten homeowners weigh in on staying or leaving during their remodel

One of the main points to consider when planning a renovation is how you’re going to minimize the disruption of daily life. It can be tricky if you are updating a kitchen or bathroom. Living without some elements will make surviving a renovation tough (running water, electricity, Wi-Fi), so moving out while work is being done is probably your best option. But if the renovation won’t affect your needs in a major way, then you might be able to stay.

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner. Here are six Sweeten homeowners who moved out—or stuck it out—during their renovation.

Moving out during demolition

(Above) Carly’s new apartment

Carly had been looking—and saving—for years to buy an apartment of her dreams. So when she found this 500-square-foot co-op in Greenwich Village, she snapped it up. It was a studio with a  lofted bedroom and balcony—what more could she ask? It did need work, however. She wanted to literally raise the roof in order to enclose the loft bedroom and redo the kitchen. The entire renovation took five months.

In the interest of surviving her renovation, Carly decided to move out during the messiest part of the process: the demolition and raising the roof.  “For much of it, though, I was there,” said Carly. “I had no kitchen for six months and lived out of suitcases.” But she doesn’t regret “slumming it.” “The money I saved on short-term housing enabled me to buy the gas stove of my dreams!”


Airbnb-hopping

moving out during a renovation
(Above) Zoe and Arvid’s apartment combination

Combining their apartment with the unit next door eliminated the option of living at home when work began. Since the scope of work extended beyond demolishing walls and the two existing kitchens to build a new one,  Zoe and Arvid moved into a short-term sublet. The couple embarked on an Airbnb-hopping adventure when their lease ended before the work was done. They then decided to live on-site for the second half of the project.


Expecting while renovating

moving out during a renovation
(Above) Lindsay and Roger’s updated kitchen

Renovating the kitchen while nine months pregnant made getting around the apartment a challenge for Lindsay. “You think you can live through it for a week or two, and then realize how long a week or two really is. It would have been a nice break to go somewhere where there wasn’t dust and tools and boxes everywhere,” she said. To make it work, she moved everything from the kitchen and living room into the nursery. For future renovators, she recommends going away for a weekend during heavy construction.


Surviving their renovation: A couple toughs it out

(Above) Sharon and Laurence’s New York City apartment

Sharon and Laurence lived in their Financial District apartment for more than two decades before renovating their bathroom. They previously had remodeled their kitchen but were wary of redoing their bathroom. The couple only has one in their apartment so they thought it being out of commission would be tough. Sharon and Laurence ultimately decided to stay in the apartment during the renovation. It wasn’t ideal but they used a neighbor’s apartment for bathroom access. Sharon thought it was better to be living on-site to deal with potential issues quickly and efficiently.


Moving into a rental


(Above) The light-filled renovated living room

For their family of five, these homeowners wanted an open and airy space. That meant renovating their Upper West Side home, adding another bedroom and bath. They also knocked down walls and updated their kitchen. They turned to Sweeten to find a reliable contractor.

The couple decided to take their three boys (and two dogs) and move into a rental while the work was being done. “When I told our Sweeten contractor that we wanted to move back in before the apartment was completed, he worked with us to allow us to do that. Even though we lived there without a kitchen, there was no question that it would be worth it in the end.”


Neighbors offer hospitality

moving out during a renovation
(Above) Nikki and Chris’ apartment renovation

Nikki and Chris had to get creative to manage the challenges of being in the space mid-construction. “Through this experience, we showered at our friends’ homes, brushed our teeth at local coffee shops, and ordered from Seamless four times a week,” Nikki said. But it was all worth it to see the daily progress and watch the couple’s vision come to life. The routine became so natural that the couple’s pug started waiting at the door each morning to greet the contractor’s team when they arrived.

Surviving a renovation (whether remaining in or leaving your home) is an important decision. We’ve outlined the pros and cons of sticking it out vs. moving out during your renovation.

Refer your renovating friends to Sweeten and you’ll both receive a $250 Visa gift card when they sign a contract with a Sweeten general contractor.

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



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Build Your Own Library with Custom Bookshelves


7 ideas to house your collection of books—whether 20 or 200

If you live with a book lover, you know that one book can quickly multiply into ten. It’s the kind of proliferation that seems to grow overnight, filling shelves, tabletops, and chairs until every surface is covered in books. But you don’t have to get rid of your treasure trove to reclaim your space (thank goodness!). Instead, think storage from custom bookshelves—from built-ins and open shelving to unique designs. For everyone who’s ever tripped over an errant book that found its way onto the rug, these custom bookshelf ideas from Sweeten homeowners will come as a welcome relief.

Statement shelves

bookshelvesBuilding custom bookcases around their fireplace was a must-have for Cat and Jordan. Their generous collection of books needed a home. Looking to design a clean, modern home, built-ins and skim coating for smooth walls did the trick. The varied spines of the books bring an added bonus of color and vibrancy to their space.

Custom dining room shelves

Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, dining room, renovationMost New Yorkers would choose to add more closets to their apartment, rather than remove them. But for Sheilaja and Sergio, a renovation goal of having a larger, open dining room was impeded by two closets in the entryway. They removed the closets and nearly doubled the size of their available space for the dining room. They added custom bookshelf storage in the dining room to showcase a mix of photographs, paintings, and drawings.

Hallway shelving

book shelvesCooking and entertaining enthusiasts Jessica and Jesse bought their Clinton Hill co-op knowing the apartment needed renovation help, especially for their favorite room—the kitchen. During construction, their contractor reserved square footage from the kitchen to widen their hallway. This added space allowed them to add in a long, built-in custom bookshelf. A functional, expanded kitchen and more space in the foyer? That’s a renovation win-win.

Foyer built-in

entrywayA classic apartment problem: how to make the best use out of a small or oddly-shaped entryway. Luckily, Hudson Yards homeowners Jeremy and Chris found a Sweeten contractor skilled in custom millwork to maximize their entryway. They solved their storage issue with a full-height bookcase with 8” deep shelves. A happy surprise: the 8″ shelves hold much more than they expected!

Wall-to-wall bookshelves

living spaceWe’ve said it before: the right general contractor really can make your design dreams come true especially for a unique home feature. In Mimi’s case, her partnership with her contractor resulted in a custom, floor-to-ceiling, 18-foot bookshelf for her Gramercy apartment.

Space-saving bookshelves

bookshelvesFloor space can be scarce in a studio or one bedroom, a fact of life that Casey and Kumar had accepted. Rather than building their custom bookshelves from the ground up, the couple placed them over the living room sofa. This allowed them to use the full length of the wall to fit as many shelves as possible. The storage keeps their collection organized and within reach, making it easy to grab a book for a good read.

Natural room divider

Making an open plan kitchen space feel harmonious can be challenging, especially when the adjoining space is a living room. Melissa and Russ didn’t want to feel like they were always in their kitchen. To provide separation, they added a partial wall, which housed a customized, built-in bookshelf in their living room. To be complementary, their contractor built a frame for the bookshelf with a lacquer panel that matched the kitchen’s framing.

Our cost guide on custom built-ins will bring you one step closer to the library of your dreams.

Refer your renovating friends to Sweeten and you’ll both receive a $250 Visa gift card when they sign a contract with a Sweeten general contractor.

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



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A Trinity House Restoration Soars to New Heights


Like a phoenix, this rowhouse rose from the ashes

Trinity rowhouse renovation

“Before and After” photos by Kingston Ko Photography for Sweeten

Today, we’re taking a look at the rebirth of a trinity townhouse in the Bella Vista neighborhood of Center City Philadelphia. The house, built in the style of a trinity, a slim structure that became popular during a population boom in the early 18th century, caught Nel’s eye while she was looking to purchase her first home. Two years later, the house was severely damaged by a fire that ravaged the entire street, resulting in a total gut.

The 1,200-square-foot home has three stories—plus a basement and roof deck with amazing city views—and had to be rebuilt from the studs up. Nel decided to keep the original floor plans intact—the first-floor dining room and kitchen, second-floor living room plus full bath, and third-floor master bedroom and bath—and bring them back to life.

With her renovation plans in mind, she came to Sweeten, a free platform connecting homeowners to vetted general contractors, to restore the house to its former glory and find a new tenant who would love it just as much as she did.

 home renovation Philadelphia

Sweeten: 
What motivated you to purchase this trinity house and what led to the renovation?

Nel: In 2014 I was looking to purchase my first home, and when I saw this house I absolutely fell in love with it. The house is a 100-year-old trinity located in the Bella Vista neighborhood of Center City Philadelphia. I’m not sure if you have seen many trinities, but they are a pretty common home type in Philadelphia where the house is three stories tall and each floor is typically a single room. I met Greg shortly thereafter and the two of us lived in the house up until we got engaged in April 2016. We decided to move out because we were thinking about starting a family and wanted to find a home with a second bedroom.

I was a bit attached to this house and since I work in real estate we decided to try our hand at renting it versus selling it. We found great tenants and everything was going well until the fire last October. The fire destroyed six houses—so basically, the entire block! It was heart-wrenching to watch something I had so many happy memories in be destroyed by fire. But, very fortunately, we have been able to rebuild, which actually has been a funny process because we were able to make some of the upgrades and changes we previously wanted to do when we lived there.

trinity house floor plan

(Above) Example of a trinity floor plan that’s similar in size and layout to Nel’s house

Sweeten: What made you choose the neighborhood back when you were looking to purchase a home?

Nel: The Bella Vista neighborhood is truly one of my favorites in Philadelphia. We have a 100-year-old Italian bakery at the end of our street and so there is always the wonderful smell of something delicious baking in the air. We are also just around the corner from a park with a bocce court, as well as from the 9th Street Italian Market. I love the neighborhood’s vibe and all of the small independent businesses and restaurants that are at our front door.

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Sweeten: What’s your favorite part of the house?

Nel: I think one of my favorite parts, aside from the 360-degree views from the roof deck, is the exposed brick wall. It feels like a piece of history which is really neat.

Sweeten: What it was like working with your general contractor?

Nel: This is actually our second renovation in 12 months, but our first time using Sweeten. I can’t tell you how wonderful our Sweeten contractor has been. He took a very stressful situation and guided us through it with ease, and we couldn’t have been happier with how everything has turned out. Greg and I have actually joked about moving back in!

Sweeten: Now that the house is finished, what are your plans for it?

Nel: We are going to keep it as a rental for now and who knows…maybe someday we will live there again!

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Sweeten: What were the challenges you faced while renovating this trinity house?

Sweeten contractor: It was the amount of work that needed to take place in the small footprint of the house. We needed to add new code-compliant systems to a home that was designed to have a small footprint over 100 years ago! Several homes on the same block that were also damaged in the fire were under construction at the same time, so parking was limited. Material deliveries on the small street were very tough, if not impossible. All of the materials for the roof deck and drywall needed to be loaded in by hand. Also, work on the roof deck was held up due to permits.

Sweeten: What was the damage done by the fire?

Sweeten contractor: The entire home was flooded by the water used to extinguish the rooftop fire. The house was dried out and all damaged organic materials were removed prior to us being hired by a restoration company.

Sweeten: What major work did you and your team tackle during the renovation?

Sweeten contractor: We installed all new electric, some plumbing, a new high-efficiency HVAC, insulation, drywall, and new finishes.

Sweeten: Did you encounter any delays during the process?

Sweeten contractor: Yes, the roof deck had to be designed by a licensed architect—we couldn’t replace what was there under the permit for the interior. The drawings for the roof deck also needed to be completed and reviewed.

Sweeten: The results are simply stunning—all of your hard work has definitely paid off!

Sweeten contractor: Overall, it was a great project, Nel was a wonderful client and we couldn’t have done it without Sweeten making the match. We are very proud of the work we did here and how the home turned out.

Thanks to Nel and her Sweeten general contractor for sharing their story, both the good and the bad, and giving us a look inside this reborn trinity!


TODAY-NEWS


Renovating in Philly? Check out our guide on kitchen renovation costs—and where that money goes.

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



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