A Bath Refresh: From Leaky to Luxe

A renovator redoes her bath out of necessity and finds the beauty in it

Project: Fix leaky plumbing in a Manhattan co-op and while you’re at it, renovate the entire bath

Before: When commercial photographer, Veronica, moved into her Upper West Side apartment in 2014, she considered it move-in ready.  “All I had to do was paint and tile the kitchen,” she explains. “I hoped to redo the bathroom one day, but it seemed like an overwhelming and big job—and especially expensive in New York City.”

Cut to a few years later. She received a complaint from her neighbors directly below and after investigating, it turned out her tub was leaking into their apartment. “I had a plumber check it out, and he confirmed I’d have to get the tub replaced to fix the leak,” says Veronica. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), that meant the attached surrounding tile would need to be replaced. “It kind of became a domino effect of redoing everything, but I figured it was a good time to make some upgrades,” she says. 

Veronica was more than happy to get rid of the outdated beige tile and grimy old jet tub and posted her project on Sweeten, a free renovation platform that matches homeowners with licensed general contractors and tracks their projects. “I was really looking forward to designing a bathroom that had a walk-in shower with a glass door,” she says. The light fixture didn’t work and the vanity was small and crammed in next to the shower so it was a no-brainer to replace those as well. 

After: The bathroom was transformed from a basic beige bathroom into a rich, modern space. Through Sweeten, Veronica found the contractor who would renovate her space with her vision in mind. “The bathroom got very little light to begin with so I decided to embrace the cave-like atmosphere and go dark,” Veronica says.

Black bathroom tile

She added matte brass fixtures for warmth as well as marble floor tile for texture. “My favorite thing is the walk-in shower,” says Veronica. “It’s so much easier to clean, it makes the tiny space feel more open, and it gives a modern look and feel.” 

Having a wall-mounted sink without a vanity also opened up the room. Veronica was “glad not to have crammed in an 18-inch vanity that doesn’t hold much anyway and visually disrupts the room.” Initially, the plan was to install a wall-mounted toilet but found out that it was out of the budget and required permits.

black and gold bathroom

Bonus: A cabinet above the bathroom door serves as added storage for towels and other supplies.

Style finds: Metro collection floor and wall tiles in graphite: Nemo. American Standard Decorum 20″ sink: Build.com.  Kohler exposed hardware, #K-9018-BDG p-trap with long tubing outlet; set of two npt angle supplies; Glassware House frameless fixed glass panel, #GW-SFP-35.5-PB; San Souci elongated one-piece toilet: Wayfair. Mirror: Pottery Barn. Dewdrop Globe vanity light: Shades of Light. Paint in Day’s End: Benjamin Moore. Cabinet above door: Ikea.

Thank you, Veronica, for sharing your new bathroom with us!


Check out another stunning renovation born out of a water leak.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, and scope, helping until project completion. 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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8 Bathroom Vanity Style Ideas

If you are thinking about redoing your bathroom—whether it is a minor refresh or an extensive update—choosing the right vanity is essential. It can be a nice focal point for your design as well as a functional item that will keep you organized.

We pored over some of the bathroom renovations done by contractors in Sweeten‘s network, a free renovation platform that matches homeowners with licensed general contractors and tracks their projects, and found some common motifs—designs that keep coming up in recent bath transformations. Here is a look at some of the classic vanity styles that might inspire you as you plan your next renovation.

Similar to exposed plumbing vanities in the fact that they are largely known for their space-saving qualities, pedestal vanities are making a resurgence, or so many believe. However, we would argue they never really went away. They have always been a classic option when it comes to updating a square-foot-challenged bathroom. They come in a range of designs—from contemporary to traditional—allowing them to blend into many different design environments.

When you are thinking about a bathroom model, one of the main ways to ensure that your new space will work for you is to consider how to reconfigure the layout to maximize space and storage as well as to make it suit your lifestyle. This is an opportunity to get clever and rethink the traditional vanity format.

For example, in one of the bathroom renovations featured above, you will notice that there is room for two sinks but the homeowners elected to install only one in favor more counter space—an unconventional decision but one that worked for them. In another renovation below, you will see the sink is placed in the corner with a long narrow “runway” countertop running along the wall, yet another example of out-of-the-box thinking.

The exposed plumbing trend probably started as a way to save space in small bathrooms but is now a design statement. These out-in-the-open water and waste traps come in two basic types: the European P-trap and the standard U-pipe, both named for their shapes. While there are usually only these two basic styles, sink traps do come in all different finishes to suit your design aesthetic: chrome, brass, oil-rubbed, copper, stainless steel, brushed nickel, among others. Plumbing has never looked so good!

It might not be the first thing you think about when deciding on a vanity for your bathroom but your choice of an undermount, vessel, or vanity top sink can drastically change the look of your space. An undermount sink is flush with the counter, giving it less chance of debris to be caught in between. A vanity top sink is just as it sounds, one placed on top of the vanity itself. It is considered a more modern-day choice but can be used effectively in any bathroom style, from rustic to contemporary. A vessel sink is usually (but not always) exposed on all sides and sits atop the vanity. It is more sculptural in appearance and doesn’t have faucet holes, making it necessary to mount the fixtures on the wall or counter.

White goes with everything. Basically, you can’t go wrong with a white vanity. But don’t be mistaken, not all white vanities are created equal. There are so many styles to choose from—from classic two-drawers, one-cabinet configurations to two long drawers with open storage space underneath. But to truly make a white vanity your own, consider the hardware you select. Do you fancy classic knobs, contemporary pulls, or none at all? Choose your favorite!

Wall-mounted or floating, vanities are great for so many reasons. First, they are non-traditional so always a nice option for those who like to try something different. Second, they instantly make the space appear larger and give you extra room underneath if you like to place storage bins or baskets (however, these Sweeten renovators opted for a more streamlined look). Floating vanities are also easier to clean around and provide more square footage for radiant heat. Lastly, they can be placed at any height you desire, freeing you from the confines of the standard 30″ to 36″ vanities.

Many people are enamored with double sinks—and for good reason, and really one big reason: SPACE. They provide extra “breathing room” for larger families, or just for couples who like their own space. Even though double-sink vanities often take up more counter surface,  we bet you will find the trade-off is well worth it.

Has this inspired you to remodel your own bath? Then you might want to check out how long bathroom renovations typically take here.

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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7 Kitchen Trends We’ll See in 2020

Sweeten reveals the hottest design ideas for the modern kitchen

2020 Kitchen trends

With the New Year approaching, we’ve pored over thousands of renovations completed by Sweeten general contractors over the past few years. Our mission: to take note of design ideas with staying power that could prove to become classics, and identify new styles sprouting up with the potential to transcend the word “trend.”

As a renovation platform that connects homeowners with vetted general contractors every single day, we consider ourselves lucky to help people create a space that reflects their lives. In the kitchen, the trends range from larger-scale concepts (breaking the “triangle” in the kitchen) to details with big design impact (the shine of brass, the cool chic of herringbone).

The classic shade of blue that we noted last year as a trend was recently named by Pantone and Sherwin-Williams as the “Color of the Year” for 2020.  It’s turning out to be the new neutral. Learn what renovators are doing to transform their cook space to function better, handle more storage, and look more beautiful. Which of these top seven trends can you see in your own kitchen renovation?

The “semi-open” concept

Yes, you heard right. For years, anything you saw, read, or watched about renovation talked about the idea of knocking down walls to make the living space more open and airy. However, now we are finding that homeowners are deciding that a little division can be a good thing. Instead of tearing down full walls, they are opting to put in archways or installing sliding doors that give rooms a little hint of or a lot of separation.

Thoughts to consider budget-wise: Taking down a wall while leaving parts of it up (in an arch shape) costs less than custom fitting sliding doors. 

Scroll through to see kitchen arches, slats made of wood, a glass wall partition, and a through-window demonstrating that there are all levels of open and closed-off spaces.

Goodbye, brushed nickel; hello, warm metallics

More luxe gold tones like gold and brass are popping up in the kitchen and can either match other warm surfaces (such as wood cabinets) or be in stark contrast for a pop against white. We see Sweeten renovators using these finishes in their lighting choices, cabinet pulls, even barstools. These warm metallic accents don’t cost more than their nickel predecessors.

Scroll through Jill + Cy’s pendant lighting and hardware, a Forest Hill’s faucet under open shelving, Jennifer + Joe’s gold barstools, and Sally + Ross’ brass shelf for inspiration on adding warm accents like these to your abode.

The refrigerator gets “frozen” out of the kitchen

Call it the break-up of the traditional sink-stove-refrigerator triangle. The modern family calls for a more updated design. Unlike in the past, we’re seeing renovators embrace the idea of zones in their kitchens. Those with the right layout and space to fit a refrigerator closer to the main action (sink and stove) are instead choosing to locate the appliance outside the kitchen proper. This allows for a better flow visually and functionally—one homeowner gained 200% of working counter space—and there is generally less bumping into one another when you are cooking together.

Check out these Sweeten renos with refrigerators outside the triangle, freestanding units within a built-in, across the hallway, and one completely in its own zone.

Textured tiles lend a magic touch

Want even more depth to your design? Think textured tiles, which we see as a lasting “trend.” Used sparingly, they add a special dimension, or you can go all out and cover the entire length of the backsplash. Tiles can be subtle or dramatic, depending on the material used, shape, color, or finish—so they really suit any aesthetic. But remember, unusual shapes or irregular sizes (such as mosaics), which often come along with using textured tile, can add to labor costs.

Here, we reveal some stylish spaces from Sweeten’s renovators, including Nilda + Brian’s bar sink backsplash, Jennifer + Joe’s wavy surface, an Upper West Side’s rolling backsplash, a Brooklyn’s glossy green tile, and Ann’s mosaic tile.

Kitchen drawers open up

Cabinet drawers make organization easy and efficient. The typical lower cabinet is two feet deep, which means it’s easy for things to get lost in the dark nether regions. With drawers, you don’t have to worry about this, plus, you can easily make sure things stay neat by adding dividers. It’s important to remember that drawers can’t be too wide or they will sag in the middle. Cost-wise, they will be more expensive than cabinets, but in our opinion, they are worth it.

Here, the functionality and design are clear from wood-toned materials, toe-kick pull-outs, deep drawers for easy access, and dividers to keep tidy.

Washer/dryers find new ways to get into the kitchen

What could be more convenient than having your laundry in the same room as where you spend most of your waking hours at home? Having the units in close proximity is a big convenience, but it’s where they’re seen—or not—that affects the dynamics of your layout. While they typically “live” behind closed doors in a hallway, washers/dryers have moved to the kitchen behind custom closets and ingenious built-ins…even in an island. 

Plan for the size (double, two-in-one) and type (stacking, side-by-side), so the unit can be incorporated into the measuring of your kitchen cabinetry, and add $7,000 to $15,000 for installation in an apartment, $3,000 to $5,000 in a house. See cost guide here

See how Sweeten homeowners integrated a laundry area into their kitchens: a closet in the kitchen, a single washing machine, hidden behind built-ins, and installed under a peninsula

Herringbone points the way

Deviating from traditional patterns is a chic way to add visual interest to a space. From flooring to tile, we are seeing a rise in the popularity of herringbone. As with most design decisions, each comes with pros and cons. Pro: it’s a cool way to use traditional materials, like subway tiles, in non-traditional ways.  Con: it can come with a higher labor cost (herringbone flooring, for example, can cost as much as 30 percent more than regular flooring). So just be sure to budget accordingly as you are sourcing your renovation materials.

Here, some inspiration from Sweeten renovators, including Nazli + Larry’s wood herringbone floor, Kim + Igor’s subway tile as a backsplash, Allison + Jovito’s tiled floor, and Racquel’s miniature pattern.

Ready to remodel your kitchen? These small and larger trends are achievable by our Sweeten contractors, bringing you one step closer to your dream cook space. And, of course, Sweeten monitors your project until it is complete.

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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Meet Sweeten General Contractor Aaron

A general contractor with hundreds of renovations under his belt

At Sweeten, the experts in our network are experienced contractors and design pros we’d be thrilled to have working in our own homes. We check their licenses, insurance, quality of work, and customer service skills. Trust and open communication are the lifeblood of our free renovation platform, and our personal connection to our experts enables us to match you to the best choices for your project. Here, get to know their personalities and click to view their portfolio, including photos from past work and client reviews, so that you can hire the right team and renovate with confidence.

View Aaron’s profile and portfolio

Where are you from and how long have you been in construction?

I grew up on Long Island and have been working in construction since I was 18 years old.

How did you get into the industry?

I began my career in the Hamptons working in the tile and masonry trade for a high-end builder. I wanted to take on other aspects of the business and started to learn framing, drywall, and finish carpentry. A few years later, I was blessed with the opportunity to work for a 55-and-over community developer. Along with three other very experienced managers, I oversaw the build-out of 285 condos. I’d say it was this experience that really cemented my career in homebuilding. When the last community neared completion, I  started my own company and to date, we have completed hundreds of projects in New York City, as well as Nassau and Suffolk counties.

What do you love most about your job?

I love educating the homeowner and giving them the opportunity to really understand all of the costs associated with their project and the different possibilities. I also enjoy the strategic and systematic building process and the satisfaction of seeing a project’s beauty when completed.

What’s the biggest challenge you face when renovating in New York?

For homeowners, it’s the financial weight of preconstruction services needed to meet the requirements of the building’s management companies, building architects, insurance fees, and DOB requirements. 

For general contractors, it is getting materials into and out of the buildings, parking, competing against other contractors that are not properly insured, and restricted working hours implemented by the buildings.

What do you think is the biggest misconception homeowners have when starting a renovation project?

The biggest misconception I find is that most people feel that they can create a scope and budget before properly planning a project. It is very important to determine if you have a fixed scope and flexible budget or a flexible scope and a fixed budget. Once this is established, you can properly plan a project by creating a wishlist. 

What do you want all of your clients to know before you work with them?

We deliver 100 percent transparency, explain all best and worst-case scenarios to avoid any surprises, are clear and precise in our communications, and take pride in our finished product. We also have a great user interface app/portal that our clients can use on-demand to manage all aspects of their project.

What is your favorite project you have done?

It would have to be a fundraiser that was put together on Long Island. It was a complete gut renovation of a home for a family with a handicapped daughter and ill husband/father. We have done a few fundraisers but this one was really special. When the family moved back into the home, the looks on their faces just made our hearts melt. Everyone on this project had a feeling you just cannot describe when it was completed.

Aaron has been a Sweeten general contractor since January 2019.

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, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.

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Remodeling a Bathroom? Six Trends to Consider in 2020

Sweeten shares bathroom design trends for next year

Bathroom trends

With a front-row seat to thousands of renovations, we marvel at how our homeowners raise the bar on design every year. They seem to push their own creative boundaries with each new home or renovation—whether in colors, patterns, or detailed millwork.

We’ve taken a closer look at completed remodels to reveal recurring trends well on their way to becoming mainstays as well as new trends popping up here at Sweeten, a renovation platform connecting homeowners to vetted general contractors.

No room is more evident of cracking the comfort zone than the bathroom. Smart design, color choices, and unlimited access to inspiration (Sweeten’s Pinterest board on bathrooms receives top views) have given renovators the motivation and materials to build the perfect personal space. 

From design-leaning trends (the new neutral, navy blue) and low-maintenance materials (large-format tile) to a taste of European style (wet rooms), the theme for 2020 is to give your inner creativity more space! Notable mention to floating vanities, which made the list again this year, and matte black fixtures.

Feeling Blue, In a Good Way

When the design leaders crowned navy as their “Color of the Year,”—Sherwin Williams’ Naval and Pantone’s Classic Blue—it was no surprise to us. Sweeten has been seeing so many renovators’ bathroom remodels take a dramatic turn toward dark blue. If you’re looking for a neutral that has pigment, deep blues are classic and comforting—think the sensible navy blue pump or uniforms. It’s also a nice contrast against light-colored tile and floors.

Here, a look at just some of the blue baths that have come Sweeten’s way, including Michelle + Nate’s floor-to-ceiling painted wall, Ashleigh + Jonathan’s mix of blue and gold, Meredith’s wood paneling, and Rachel + Michael’s blue wall above the chair rail.

The Magic of Floating Vanities

There are so many reasons to choose a wall-mounted (or floating) vanity when remodeling your bathroom. First, it makes small bathrooms look more spacious and can provide additional storage options underneath. Second, it conveys a more modern vibe and is easy to clean (no nooks and crannies to scrub around.) And lastly, floating vanities help make your tile the star, since they don’t extend to the floor, allowing more surface area for tiles.

And let’s not forget that by mounting to the wall, you can make the countertop any height you’d like—a flexibility not found in standard vanities. If you like the floating look, scroll through to see size and style options, including a double-sink vanity, a piece that blends in with a minimalist style, a red double-drawer, and a vanity with generous storage.

Living Large

Large-format tile equals big impact. LFTs, as they are known in the industry, range from 16 inches to 10 feet, meaning there are fewer grout lines to keep clean (hello, lower maintenance). Create a seamless look from shower walls, floors, or tub surrounds—you might even consider a large slab on a wall in one gorgeous fell swoop.

Click through these Sweeten renovators who have elected to try large tiles in their bathroom: Ylia + André’s porcelain shower tile, Uldis + Serge’s taupe floor tile,  Sonya + Aaron’s two-toned LFT choices, Sharon + Laurence’s polished porcelain surface, and a homeowner’s bathroom floor tile.

Wall Statements WIth Something To Say

Don’t shy away from making daring design choices for the bathroom. Instead of playing it safe, you can easily turn this traditionally small room into one that gives you a sense of joy. Whether it’s just one wall or all four, it’s possible to take a small—or big—bold step. 

Here, a little inspiration from a few Sweeten renovators who weren’t afraid to go out on a limb: cascading hex wall tile, bold wallpaper in two bathrooms, feature wall in hex tile, and floor-to-ceiling herringbone feature wall.

The European-style “Wet Room” Comes Stateside

Most notable in Europe, the definition of a wet room: a bathroom with an open floor plan that has a drain to which water is directed. A wet room differs from a walk-in shower in that they usually don’t have glass or other partitions around them and don’t have a shower tray! 

These rooms are rising in popularity for their modern look as well as their ability to be cleaned easily. Plus, they are ideal for smaller bathrooms because their wide-open design can make the space feel larger than it actually is.

Here, a roundup of a few Sweeten renovator projects that show wet rooms at their finest including a shower and tub combined in one room, a European-inspired wet room, a Japanese-styled wet room, and a green-and-white open shower.

Secret Storage

One clever storage solution can add panache to the room that wakes you up and sends you off to sleep. Why not mix some fun with function? A few Sweeten renovators tapped their ingenuity and came up with surprising ways to squeeze every inch out of their limited square footage.

Check out these clever hacks from Sweeten homeowners, from a slanted storage shelf and a built-in storage door/toilet paper holder to a disguised storage built-in, and even a built-in inside the shower. 

Ready to remodel your bathroom? As you can see from these real-life renovations, the bathroom is the perfect space to exercise your creative muscle. Whether it’s a big change or a small design trend, a Sweeten contractor can help realize your vision. Sweeten will help monitor your project until it’s finished.

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