A Suburban Kitchen Renovation Puts Pockets of Space to Use


A suburban kitchen renovation helps ex-city dwellers get a bigger, more stylish kitchen in Montclair, NJ

open concept kitchen

“After” photos by Miao Jiaxin for Sweeten

  • Homeowners: A couple posted their suburban kitchen renovation on Sweeten
  • Where: Montclair, New Jersey
  • Primary renovation: Kitchen update
  • Notable: Gaining square footage with a better layout
  • Result: Room for an island and connection to the dining room
  • Sweeten general contractor
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Guest blog post by Sweeten homeowner

Find New Jersey Contractors

Leaving urban life in Brooklyn for New Jersey

My wife and I both grew up in apartments in New York City. When we were planning to start a family, we divided our living room inside a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. We created another bedroom believing it would give us enough space. It was tight but manageable. However, when our daughter turned four years old, we were less than thrilled with our school district and we knew it was time to move.

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My buddy, who lives in Montclair, New Jersey, suggested that we visit his town, and we fell in love with the area and the houses. We found the school we wanted our child to attend and searched for a home nearby. The market was crazy competitive. We lost six bids before we finally found a home in the neighborhood we wanted.  

Reviewing inefficiencies at home

We bought the house, a two-level residence on a wide quiet street, knowing it needed work. We closed in June and didn’t plan on moving in till late August, so we had a little over two months to renovate. The kitchen was in bad shape. It was small and felt claustrophobic with cabinets looming over on all sides.

There was only about eight feet of usable counter space and about 20 square feet of space to move around. The stove looked like it came out of a movie from the 1940s. The floor tiles, which were cracked and loose, were what my neighbor called, “McDonalds” tiles—the ugly red terracotta tiles that are in some older McDonalds restaurants.

The house is almost a hundred years old. I’m guessing that most of the fixtures were original and that nothing was maintained. The plumbing was a mess—all the valves were corroded. At some point, the electrical box was changed, but no permit was pulled and the box was not up to code. We wanted to start renovations with the kitchen.

kitchen island

Trouble with contractors

We had the names of a few contractors who were recommended by our realtor. Some never called me back and three actually came by to see the house. One of the three never made a single measurement but quoted us $28,000 with no details. When I asked, he said it includes everything except counters, cabinets, and fixtures. I kept having to ask questions to try to nail down what exactly he was going to do.

Yet another contractor made measurements and told me he couldn’t start until November or sometime before Christmas. He still wouldn’t provide me with an estimate but kept asking when I was available to go shopping for cabinets with him. Speaking with my new neighbors, they told me it’s difficult to book any contractor in Montclair you don’t already have a relationship with.

One wall had an old butler’s pantry, and by removing it, we gained a whopping 18 square feet.

By August, we were pretty desperate. We spoke with an architect friend, and she recommended using Sweeten. She drew us a rough drawing of what we wanted, and we posted the job. Fortunately, we immediately received serious responses from contractors from outside of Montclair. After receiving several estimates, we found the Sweeten contractor we wanted to hire.

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Finding hidden spaces at home

Work started in September. We were able to expand the kitchen by tearing down two walls. One wall had an old butler’s pantry, and by removing it, we gained a whopping 18 square feet. It was enough space to add an island counter, which gave us an abundance of counter space to do our cooking. There was an unused cellar entryway that we removed and made into a walk-in pantry. The wall between the dining room and kitchen was removed to create a bigger space and an open kitchen design.

Our Sweeten contractor was terrific throughout the whole process, acting as both contractor and design consultant. Being a really old house, there were some unanticipated structural issues during demolition, but he was able to deal with it all. He added a header beam and support columns to support the ceiling. Our contractor also helped us move some pipes and changed all the old corroded water valves. All of the existing DIY electrical wirings were all cleaned up.

We love our new kitchen. Opening up the space between the kitchen and the dining room, made the tiny space feel really big and flowing. In fact, I was able to take advantage of all that counter space to do a ton of baking with my daughter over the holidays. We couldn’t be happier with the result, and can’t wait for our next project.

Thank you for sharing your new New Jersey home with us! We love how your suburban kitchen renovation turned out. 

Find New Jersey Contractors

SHOPPING GUIDE

Carrara Morro quartz countertop, redwood porcelain floor tile in natural glaze: MSI. Cabinets: Forevermark. Ducted under cabinet range hood: Hauslane. Five-burner gas cooktop: Cosmo Appliances. Artec Pro pull-down kitchen faucet, Kore Workstation: Kraus. Profile combination microwave wall oven: GE. Refrigerator: Samsung. Dishwasher: Whirlpool.



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A Williamsburg Studio Goes Boutique-Hotel Chic


Brooklyn’s White Arrow gives a tall, narrow space stunner status. Just look up.

Williamsburg loft

Photos courtesy of White Arrow

  • Designing partners Keren and Thomas Richter of Brooklyn’s White Arrow posted their project on Sweeten on behalf of client Jared S.
  • Where: South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York
  • Primary renovation: Top-to-bottom upgrades took the existing finishes in a grayed-out-modern, 668-square-foot studio from stark to a luxe-chic state of relaxed
  • Notable: The remodel brought needed storage and stretch-out room to the narrow condo.
  • Result: A home towering with sleek touches and rich tones, and offering space for everything
  • Sweeten general contractor
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.
double height loft ceilings

It’s hard to say anything but yes to the job next door. “This project, right around the corner from our home and office, was the most convenient project we’ve done,” said Keren Richter, principal designer and founder, with husband and partner Thomas Richter, of White Arrow. But that wasn’t the only aspect of the condo, part of a historic 19th-century building conversion in South Williamsburg, that drew them to the remodel. The lofted duplex, with its 19-foot ceilings and armspan-width, was unique in its shipping-tube configuration. And then there was the owner. Jared had stayed all over and sought to bring an alluring boutique-hotel vibe to the place.

“I’d been bouncing around between cities for a while—Amsterdam, San Francisco, back to New York City,” Jared said. “I wanted a place to call home, that would really be a sanctuary. I spoke with the design team about the aesthetics of spaces I loved, like SoHo Farmhouse, the Bowery Hotel, the Maritime in Chelsea, Brooklyn’s Wythe Hotel, the Freehold, the Clover Club, and the Walter.” The White Arrow duo was reeled in.

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“We agreed we wanted to give the home the trappings of a sophisticated urban hotel,” Keren said. “It needed to be great for entertaining, hosting guests, relaxing and working,” which Jared, a digital agency founder, had been doing from home for years. The apartment, despite its high ceilings, was extremely narrow, with a ground-floor kitchen and living room that pushed the boundaries of its small footprint.

“Our goal was to make the home feel spacious and accentuate the positive,” Keren said. The walls, she explained, were a “disjointed arrangement of extrusions and unflattering angles,” including an inset stretch of exposed antique brick and a boxed-in, underutilized loft-bedroom platform. “We streamlined everything, reconsidering odd bumps as opportunities for storage and display,” she added.

“Every square foot had to be well utilized,” Jared said. He wanted to add nooks and niches to put his things, and make the place truly feel like his own.

We streamlined everything, reconsidering odd bumps as opportunities for storage and display

The designers and their client also agreed that, instead of demolishing the place, they would elevate the existing finishes and fixtures. “We set out to minimize the rustic details the developer had selected during the conversion, and bring the home to a quiet level of cohesiveness with a new color palette,” Keren said.

Following White Arrow’s plan, their Sweeten general contractor streamlined the place’s odd juts and angles, and adding custom integrated display shelving in the kitchen as well as the home office-niche. Workers refinished the white-oak flooring with a more neutral, beige color tone and painted the dark exposed brick. “I knew I wanted lighter floors for a more Scandinavian aesthetic, but was wary of bleaching them,” Jared recalls. He trusted the team and has no regrets. Similarly, whitewashing the brick felt risky when the designers suggested it—but it “totally opened the room,” Jared said.

painted green cabinets

“Our client took some creative leaps,” Keren recalled. Repainting the gray kitchen cabinetry in a vivid green was a biggie. “The color is a total showstopper, and we are so glad he was game!” Keren remarked. Their Sweeten contractor retiled the kitchen backsplash with marble penny tile and changed all door hardware and plumbing fittings in the kitchen, as well as the two bathrooms, which got new grout and caulk, toilets, vanities, medicine cabinets, and fixtures.

Throughout the place, the contractors added new lighting locations and dimmer switches and swapped in new fixtures. “We added dramatic chandeliers and sconces that draw the eye up to take in the dramatic, high ceilings,” Keren said. “Living finishes” such as an unlacquered brass kitchen faucet, bring warmth and texture. A home-media specialist integrated a sound system and a wall-mounted TV.

It was with the furnishings that the designers really connected with the hotel aesthetic they strove for. “We chose distinctive, contemporary pieces in rich materials and jewel tones,” Keren said. Both Keren and Thomas were excited to shop and showcase an unusual mix of international designers, including Muller Van Severin, Gio Ponti, Atelier Areti, Harto, Maison Sarah Lavoine, Slash Objects, and Trnk. “We sought out furnishings that would do ‘double duty’ to maximize small spaces,” Keren said—sophisticated sofa beds, the secretary desk that Jared describes as “an ingenious space-saver.”

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“Every piece,” Keren said, “is of the right proportion and scale,” including the king-size bed that Jared considered a must-have in the loft bedroom. The designers searched endlessly to find the furniture pieces that would allow every room to feel both luxurious and functional. To mellow the mood of the bedroom, Keren said, they added “a floor-to-ceiling, emerald-green velvet drapery to hide the formerly visible ensuite bath.”

The project had a fast turnaround, thanks to Sweeten’s vetting and follow-up during the project, Keren said. “The contractor was easy to work with and accommodating as the scope grew.”

As for the owner—Jared has been pleased to have his own digs to hunker down in during uncertain times. “The designs are super smart and well executed,” he says. “The living-room nook is discrete and conducive to relaxation. I am really happy.”

Thank you, Keren and Thomas of White Arrow, and Jared, for sharing the results of an inspired collaboration!

SHOPPING GUIDE

KITCHEN: Wood flooring and matte white-washed finish stain from Bona Traffic: Bona. Kitchen cabinets: Existing cabinets  refinished with oil paint in custom emerald green: Fine Paints of Europe. Cabinet hardware: House of Antique Hardware. Countertops: Caesarstone. Bianco Carrara 1” penny rounds backsplash: Builder Depot. Sink: Existing. Unlacquered brass faucet: Studio Ore.

LIVING ROOM: Aura paint in Cloud White: Benjamin Moore. Blue-velvet sofa: Clad Home. Leather chair: Trnk. Side table: Slash Objects. Ceiling light fixture: Atelier Areti. Coffee table: Sonder Living. Rug by The Rug Company: Farrow and Ball. Desk: HARTÔ. Borge Mogensen desk chair reissue: Fredericia. Sconce: Muller van Severin for Valeire Objects. Sound system: Sonos.

DINING AREA: Table: &Tradition. Borge Mogensen desk chair reissue: Fredericia.

BEDROOM: Vintage Harvey Probber Danish Mid-Century modern walnut headboard: 1stDibs. Lamp: Maison Sarah Lavoine. Dresser: Vintage. Sconces: Cedar & Moss. Nightstand: West Elm.

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 Williamsburg Studio Goes Boutique-Hotel Chic


Brooklyn’s White Arrow gives a tall, narrow space stunner status. Just look up.

Williamsburg loft

Photos courtesy of White Arrow

  • Designing partners Keren and Thomas Richter of Brooklyn’s White Arrow posted their project on Sweeten on behalf of client Jared S.
  • Where: South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York
  • Primary renovation: Top-to-bottom upgrades took the existing finishes in a grayed-out-modern, 668-square-foot studio from stark to a luxe-chic state of relaxed
  • Notable: The remodel brought needed storage and stretch-out room to the narrow condo.
  • Result: A home towering with sleek touches and rich tones, and offering space for everything
  • Sweeten general contractor
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.
double height loft ceilings

It’s hard to say anything but yes to the job next door. “This project, right around the corner from our home and office, was the most convenient project we’ve done,” said Keren Richter, principal designer and founder, with husband and partner Thomas Richter, of White Arrow. But that wasn’t the only aspect of the condo, part of a historic 19th-century building conversion in South Williamsburg, that drew them to the remodel. The lofted duplex, with its 19-foot ceilings and armspan-width, was unique in its shipping-tube configuration. And then there was the owner. Jared had stayed all over and sought to bring an alluring boutique-hotel vibe to the place.

“I’d been bouncing around between cities for a while—Amsterdam, San Francisco, back to New York City,” Jared said. “I wanted a place to call home, that would really be a sanctuary. I spoke with the design team about the aesthetics of spaces I loved, like SoHo Farmhouse, the Bowery Hotel, the Maritime in Chelsea, Brooklyn’s Wythe Hotel, the Freehold, the Clover Club, and the Walter.” The White Arrow duo was reeled in.

Slider

 

“We agreed we wanted to give the home the trappings of a sophisticated urban hotel,” Keren said. “It needed to be great for entertaining, hosting guests, relaxing and working,” which Jared, a digital agency founder, had been doing from home for years. The apartment, despite its high ceilings, was extremely narrow, with a ground-floor kitchen and living room that pushed the boundaries of its small footprint.

“Our goal was to make the home feel spacious and accentuate the positive,” Keren said. The walls, she explained, were a “disjointed arrangement of extrusions and unflattering angles,” including an inset stretch of exposed antique brick and a boxed-in, underutilized loft-bedroom platform. “We streamlined everything, reconsidering odd bumps as opportunities for storage and display,” she added.

“Every square foot had to be well utilized,” Jared said. He wanted to add nooks and niches to put his things, and make the place truly feel like his own.

We streamlined everything, reconsidering odd bumps as opportunities for storage and display

The designers and their client also agreed that, instead of demolishing the place, they would elevate the existing finishes and fixtures. “We set out to minimize the rustic details the developer had selected during the conversion, and bring the home to a quiet level of cohesiveness with a new color palette,” Keren said.

Following White Arrow’s plan, their Sweeten general contractor streamlined the place’s odd juts and angles, and adding custom integrated display shelving in the kitchen as well as the home office-niche. Workers refinished the white-oak flooring with a more neutral, beige color tone and painted the dark exposed brick. “I knew I wanted lighter floors for a more Scandinavian aesthetic, but was wary of bleaching them,” Jared recalls. He trusted the team and has no regrets. Similarly, whitewashing the brick felt risky when the designers suggested it—but it “totally opened the room,” Jared said.

painted green cabinets

“Our client took some creative leaps,” Keren recalled. Repainting the gray kitchen cabinetry in a vivid green was a biggie. “The color is a total showstopper, and we are so glad he was game!” Keren remarked. Their Sweeten contractor retiled the kitchen backsplash with marble penny tile and changed all door hardware and plumbing fittings in the kitchen, as well as the two bathrooms, which got new grout and caulk, toilets, vanities, medicine cabinets, and fixtures.

Throughout the place, the contractors added new lighting locations and dimmer switches and swapped in new fixtures. “We added dramatic chandeliers and sconces that draw the eye up to take in the dramatic, high ceilings,” Keren said. “Living finishes” such as an unlacquered brass kitchen faucet, bring warmth and texture. A home-media specialist integrated a sound system and a wall-mounted TV.

It was with the furnishings that the designers really connected with the hotel aesthetic they strove for. “We chose distinctive, contemporary pieces in rich materials and jewel tones,” Keren said. Both Keren and Thomas were excited to shop and showcase an unusual mix of international designers, including Muller Van Severin, Gio Ponti, Atelier Areti, Harto, Maison Sarah Lavoine, Slash Objects, and Trnk. “We sought out furnishings that would do ‘double duty’ to maximize small spaces,” Keren said—sophisticated sofa beds, the secretary desk that Jared describes as “an ingenious space-saver.”

Slider

 

“Every piece,” Keren said, “is of the right proportion and scale,” including the king-size bed that Jared considered a must-have in the loft bedroom. The designers searched endlessly to find the furniture pieces that would allow every room to feel both luxurious and functional. To mellow the mood of the bedroom, Keren said, they added “a floor-to-ceiling, emerald-green velvet drapery to hide the formerly visible ensuite bath.”

The project had a fast turnaround, thanks to Sweeten’s vetting and follow-up during the project, Keren said. “The contractor was easy to work with and accommodating as the scope grew.”

As for the owner—Jared has been pleased to have his own digs to hunker down in during uncertain times. “The designs are super smart and well executed,” he says. “The living-room nook is discrete and conducive to relaxation. I am really happy.”

Thank you, Keren and Thomas of White Arrow, and Jared, for sharing the results of an inspired collaboration!

SHOPPING GUIDE

KITCHEN: Wood flooring and matte white-washed finish stain from Bona Traffic: Bona. Kitchen cabinets: Existing cabinets  refinished with oil paint in custom emerald green: Fine Paints of Europe. Cabinet hardware: House of Antique Hardware. Countertops: Caesarstone. Bianco Carrara 1” penny rounds backsplash: Builder Depot. Sink: Existing. Unlacquered brass faucet: Studio Ore.

LIVING ROOM: Aura paint in Cloud White: Benjamin Moore. Blue-velvet sofa: Clad Home. Leather chair: Trnk. Side table: Slash Objects. Ceiling light fixture: Atelier Areti. Coffee table: Sonder Living. Rug by The Rug Company: Farrow and Ball. Desk: HARTÔ. Borge Mogensen desk chair reissue: Fredericia. Sconce: Muller van Severin for Valeire Objects. Sound system: Sonos.

DINING AREA: Table: &Tradition. Borge Mogensen desk chair reissue: Fredericia.

BEDROOM: Vintage Harvey Probber Danish Mid-Century modern walnut headboard: 1stDibs. Lamp: Maison Sarah Lavoine. Dresser: Vintage. Sconces: Cedar & Moss. Nightstand: West Elm.

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 Suburban Kitchen Renovation Puts Pockets of Space to Use


A suburban kitchen renovation helps ex-city dwellers get a bigger, more stylish kitchen in Montclair, NJ

open concept kitchen

“After” photos by Miao Jiaxin for Sweeten

  • Homeowners: A couple posted their suburban kitchen renovation on Sweeten
  • Where: Montclair, New Jersey
  • Primary renovation: Kitchen update
  • Notable: Gaining square footage with a better layout
  • Result: Room for an island and connection to the dining room
  • Sweeten general contractor
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Guest blog post by Sweeten homeowner

Find New Jersey Contractors

Leaving urban life in Brooklyn for New Jersey

My wife and I both grew up in apartments in New York City. When we were planning to start a family, we divided our living room inside a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. We created another bedroom believing it would give us enough space. It was tight but manageable. However, when our daughter turned four years old, we were less than thrilled with our school district and we knew it was time to move.

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My buddy, who lives in Montclair, New Jersey, suggested that we visit his town, and we fell in love with the area and the houses. We found the school we wanted our child to attend and searched for a home nearby. The market was crazy competitive. We lost six bids before we finally found a home in the neighborhood we wanted.  

Reviewing inefficiencies at home

We bought the house, a two-level residence on a wide quiet street, knowing it needed work. We closed in June and didn’t plan on moving in till late August, so we had a little over two months to renovate. The kitchen was in bad shape. It was small and felt claustrophobic with cabinets looming over on all sides.

There was only about eight feet of usable counter space and about 20 square feet of space to move around. The stove looked like it came out of a movie from the 1940s. The floor tiles, which were cracked and loose, were what my neighbor called, “McDonalds” tiles—the ugly red terracotta tiles that are in some older McDonalds restaurants.

The house is almost a hundred years old. I’m guessing that most of the fixtures were original and that nothing was maintained. The plumbing was a mess—all the valves were corroded. At some point, the electrical box was changed, but no permit was pulled and the box was not up to code. We wanted to start renovations with the kitchen.

kitchen island

Trouble with contractors

We had the names of a few contractors who were recommended by our realtor. Some never called me back and three actually came by to see the house. One of the three never made a single measurement but quoted us $28,000 with no details. When I asked, he said it includes everything except counters, cabinets, and fixtures. I kept having to ask questions to try to nail down what exactly he was going to do.

Yet another contractor made measurements and told me he couldn’t start until November or sometime before Christmas. He still wouldn’t provide me with an estimate but kept asking when I was available to go shopping for cabinets with him. Speaking with my new neighbors, they told me it’s difficult to book any contractor in Montclair you don’t already have a relationship with.

One wall had an old butler’s pantry, and by removing it, we gained a whopping 18 square feet.

By August, we were pretty desperate. We spoke with an architect friend, and she recommended using Sweeten. She drew us a rough drawing of what we wanted, and we posted the job. Fortunately, we immediately received serious responses from contractors from outside of Montclair. After receiving several estimates, we found the Sweeten contractor we wanted to hire.

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Finding hidden spaces at home

Work started in September. We were able to expand the kitchen by tearing down two walls. One wall had an old butler’s pantry, and by removing it, we gained a whopping 18 square feet. It was enough space to add an island counter, which gave us an abundance of counter space to do our cooking. There was an unused cellar entryway that we removed and made into a walk-in pantry. The wall between the dining room and kitchen was removed to create a bigger space and an open kitchen design.

Our Sweeten contractor was terrific throughout the whole process, acting as both contractor and design consultant. Being a really old house, there were some unanticipated structural issues during demolition, but he was able to deal with it all. He added a header beam and support columns to support the ceiling. Our contractor also helped us move some pipes and changed all the old corroded water valves. All of the existing DIY electrical wirings were all cleaned up.

We love our new kitchen. Opening up the space between the kitchen and the dining room, made the tiny space feel really big and flowing. In fact, I was able to take advantage of all that counter space to do a ton of baking with my daughter over the holidays. We couldn’t be happier with the result, and can’t wait for our next project.

Thank you for sharing your new New Jersey home with us! We love how your suburban kitchen renovation turned out. 

Find New Jersey Contractors

SHOPPING GUIDE

Carrara Morro quartz countertop, redwood porcelain floor tile in natural glaze: MSI. Cabinets: Forevermark. Ducted under cabinet range hood: Hauslane. Five-burner gas cooktop: Cosmo Appliances. Artec Pro pull-down kitchen faucet, Kore Workstation: Kraus. Profile combination microwave wall oven: GE. Refrigerator: Samsung. Dishwasher: Whirlpool.



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A Manhattan Office Renovation Expands Working Space


An office renovation in Manhattan helped this tech brand update a full floor while modernizing their workspace

commercial office renovation

“After” photos by Kate Glicksberg for Sweeten


  • Project: A tech brand expands office space in its NYC headquarters
  • Location: Manhattan, New York
  • Sweeten general contractor
  • Interview with Piper Skillman for Chapter Interiors
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Sweeten: How did you and your client come together?

Piper: Packet sought an interior design agency to align its growing office space in Lower Manhattan with its dynamic, emerging brand. Packet’s co-founder and CMO, Jacob Smith, reached out to another one of our tech clients (White Ops, who is also a customer of Packet) for a referral, and after noting our work there, gave us a call.

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Sweeten: What is the client’s brand?

Piper: Packet creates the high-touch aspect of high-tech — making cloud infrastructure more delightful to consume for the top digital businesses in the world. Clients, partners, and employees needed to experience the brand the moment they entered the office and throughout their journey in the space.

Sweeten: What led to the opening of this new office space?

Piper: The tech company, which was founded in 2014, had recently doubled its staff and was planning on another year of team growth. While the company is about 70% remote, NYC is its headquarters and one of its global “hubs” where the team gathers regularly. When another floor in the building they occupy became available, Packet immediately grabbed it.

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Sweeten: How do your new design and the materials used to represent your brand?

Piper: The brand colors dictated our palette but it was important for us as designers to go beyond an easy and obvious link. It was essential to convey their brand experience throughout the space.

When selecting materials for their Manhattan office renovation, the sense of tangible authenticity—a certain “human-ness”—guided our choices. We opted for wood floors with character, felt walls, linoleum work surfaces, and a special dyed-through MDF that you leave exposed (as opposed to painting.) In addition to tactile fabrics, patterns that reference those seen in their cloud data centers further connected the space to the physical aspects of the product and brand.

In terms of space planning, Chapter Interiors strived for activity-based workplace design. Instead of asking the person to adjust to the space; we investigate how clients work and build spaces to suit. This results in an array of environments for employees—spaces that facilitate certain aspects of work and help optimize performance. An example was helping Packet design for different types of work (e.g. talk-heavy sales vs headphones-on engineering) while finding places for people to gather, recharge, exchange ideas, or be active.

office phone booth(Above) A phone booth for calls and video meetings

Sweeten: With companies working remotely because of COVID-19, do you foresee companies downsizing their commercial workspaces? How will office spaces change and service in the post-COVID world?

Piper: Yes! Reducing your footprint is an excellent opportunity to redesign your space (and save money.) In the short term post-COVID world, barriers will be erected and procedures will be put in place to minimize germ transmission. The longer-term implications are rethinking why people should go to the office.

Companies still need space for employees to gather. Moving forward, I see workplaces geared towards collaboration, team building, and brand connectivity with consumers and partners. Dedicated desks and independent work while at the office is less and less important. Numerous studies during the pandemic have proven that working from home does not hinder overall productivity.

It makes sense to combine working from home with time at the office. The best analogy I’ve heard so far is that working from home versus going into the office will be similar to eating at home versus going out to a restaurant. Employers need to make coming into the office special by providing spaces that foster activities that are worth traveling for. This ties into our strong belief in activity-based-workplace-design.

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Sweeten: How was your vision executed by working with your Sweeten general contractor?

Piper: The site manager was wonderful. From day one it was clear she cared about the quality of work and was very hands-on. Together, we worked to problem-solve several issues to make sure the final product was cost-effective, durable, and displayed craftsmanship. I would love to work with her again!

Sweeten: How did you, as a client, work with Sweeten?

Piper: We work with contractors all the time— yet still, find the process of finding the right contractor daunting. For Packet’s office renovation in Manhattan, I had very targeted needs, and Sweeten helped me quickly vet and compare contractors.

Sweeten: Can you describe the “before” space?

Piper: Words can’t describe this space before! It was raw, with filthy carpet and random paint patches throughout. Bad shape… But the potential that Packet saw was great, with pervasive natural light, airy ceiling height, and breathtaking views.

When starting a business, here’s how to finance a brick-and-mortar renovation.

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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7 Ways to Protect Home from Flooding in Houston


Though Houston floods are inevitable, damage to your home is not—here’s how to protect your home from flooding

Ways to protect your home from flooding in Houston, Texas

Houston citizens can list many great things about the city. Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the South and it boasts a vibrant culture. Its residents enjoy a relatively low cost of living. But if there is one aspect about Houston that most residents would like to change, it’s the floods. In Houston and Harris County, floods envelop huge sections of the city on a regular basis. Sweeten outlines ways to protect your home from flooding in Houston. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Why Houston floods devastate homes

Houston’s wet season, from May to October, brings a punishing round of tropical storms, hurricanes, or just old-fashioned heavy rain. 

Houston rests near Galveston Bay, four major bayous, and numerous creeks. Floods are a fact of life in a city surrounded by so much water. If you live west of the city center, generally you will fare better during flooding. Residents of EaDo (East Downtown), Garden Oaks, Highland Village, and Midtown tend to fare better than other areas.

Moving eastward from the city center increases the likelihood of high water levels and floods. Kingwood, Spring Branch, the Heights, and Sharpstown all chronically flood. Hurricane Harvey and Tropical Storm Imelda turned these neighborhoods brown with floodwater. The storms hit Meyerland, located mostly within the 100-year floodplain, particularly hard.

Houston and Harris County are so heavily paved-over that runoff water cannot keep pace with these huge inundations of water. Short of moving to another city, you can take a number of steps to protect your home.  

Tip 1: Grade soil away from your house

Houston’s mostly flat topography only rises about 50 feet above sea level. You won’t find steep hills and high elevation in this city. But you can create a type of micro elevation on your own property.

When building or renovating your house, redesign your property’s grading. Regrade with proper water, erosion, and storm runoff management in mind. You want to avoid your yard and home turning into a lake.

Tip 2: Install a sump pump and maintain it

If your Houston house has a basement, it undoubtedly already has a sump pump. If not, install one immediately. Sump pumps discharge interior water to the exterior. It is valuable for high waters or for minor interior flooding. It will not protect your home against catastrophic flooding.

Your sump pump should be ready to turn on at any time. If not, it may experience power loss, clogging, or switch issues. If the unit cannot keep up with the water, install a larger unit. The average lifespan of a sump pump is about 10 years. If your sump pump is at the end of this lifespan, consider replacing it.

Tip 3: Raise your house

The best solution to protect your home during a Houston flood is to elevate it. 

At a very minimum, the City of Houston requires homes to have a one-foot elevation above the 100-year floodplain. But that minimum nowhere nearly addresses catastrophic events like the rapid 12-inch rainfall that fell during Hurricane Harvey. If you plan on elevating your house, experts recommend elevating your home over 18 inches. Six-foot elevations are not uncommon.

When building a new house, resist the urge to build slab-on-grade if living in a flood-prone section. Instead, explore elevated foundations of three feet or more. 

If you already own a house, you can retroactively elevate your house. This retrofit begins much like a house move, with the house raised by jacks on piers. But the house isn’t loaded onto trucks and moved. Instead, a new, higher foundation is placed under the house.

Elevating your home starts at about $75 per square foot. It’s a major project that can take up to three months to complete.

Tip 3: Dry floodproof your foundation

Imagine the outer part of your home’s foundation wall as the hull of a boat. Water constantly surround a boat’s lower half, so it must be watertight. 

Dry floodproofing treats your foundation with sealants and membranes. If water surrounds the lower section for a limited period, there should be little or no leakage into the home.

With dry floodproofing, the emphasis is on positive-side (exterior) sealants and membranes. Workers also apply negative-side (interior) sealants and membranes. 

FEMA recommends homeowners opt for a “substantially impermeable wall.” The wall helps limit water accumulation. In 24 hours, water will accumulate to a 4-inch maximum with a sump pump. Entrust this project to a qualified contractor who has experience in dry floodproofing. Contractors well-versed in this project can often exceed that FEMA minimum performance level.

Tip 3: Install flood vents

In lieu of dry floodproofing, consider installing flood vents. Contractors can install FEMA-compliant flood vents in your foundation walls. In dry times, these vents prohibit vermin from entering underneath your house. During floods, these vents open freely to allow the passage of floodwaters. At the same time, these vents block debris that can damage the structure.

Flood vents may also help you reduce your flood insurance premiums. Houston homes receive so much structural damage because of the force of the water on the foundations. Flood vents reduce that pressure.

Only certain types of foundations require flood vents. Many older Houston homes have a crawlspace foundation that supports the house with piers or columns. This foundation often has a skirt or non-load-bearing wall around the house perimeter. Sometimes, brick or concrete comprises the skirt wall instead of wood. Because the wall cannot hold back floodwaters, dry floodproofing is not a viable option. 

Many licensed Houston contractors can advise you on how to protect your home from flooding in Houston. They can assess whether dry floodproofing or flood vent installation is your best option.

Tip 4: Install and maintain a backflow valve

During floods, one unhappy byproduct is sewer or water drainage backflow. During this, backflow sends sewer water into the house. Floodwater itself is dirty enough. But when sewage pipes directly into your home, that only adds insult to injury. 

Some backflow valves are automatic, such as ball float valves in floor drains. On the other hand, manually-operated gate-style valves open and close by turning a wheel. 

Note that backflow valves prevent your house’s sewage from discharging into the sewer main. Standard backflow valves provide no way for you to flush a toilet. Speak to your contractor about backflow valves with ejector pump attachments. These attachments can divert your sewage back into the sewer system, while still preventing backflow from coming into your home.

More ways to prevent or mitigate flood damage in Houston

Tip 5: Raise exterior outlets 

Electrical code typically requires only that exterior outlets be accessible from grade, or ground, level. For Houston with its floods, this usually translates to “too low.” 

A licensed electrician can relocate your exterior GFCI outlets. The outlets should be at least one foot above the expected flood line.

Tip 6: Check your exterior drainage system

Your house’s gutters collect rainwater from the roof. Drainpipes move that water downward. Make sure that this interdependent system works properly which your licensed contractor can assess. If your system needs repairs, they can recommend and install solutions.

Tip 7: Install waterproof flooring at or below grade

If your home’s lowest level is on-grade or is below-grade (as in a basement), avoid installing carpet, solid hardwood, or engineered wood flooring. As long as that level remains dry, you are fine. But should that level become inundated with water, the best response is to remove the flooring.

Hard-surface, 100-percent waterproof flooring stands a good chance for successful cleanup. Consider installing ceramic or porcelain tile, resilient plank, sheet, or tile floor.

Using these ways to protect your home from flooding will provide peace-of-mind. Understanding your options based on your budget and the type of home you have is a good start.

Set your calendar and your budget, here are the starting costs for renovating your home in Houston.

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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When a Family Transforms with Design-Forward Plans


The renovation trifecta creates the perfect home

The search for a new home would be one this couple could renovate to their specifications. When the family of five purchased their 1,800-square-foot home in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, they would live in the space for 10 months. After the approvals came through, their vision for how they’d live in the space was set including an open concept living area and a larger master bathroom. They posted their project on Sweeten, and with the help of their architect Jessica Wetters and Sweeten general contractor, they hit the winning combination—a creative design flow, communication, and flexibility. And their solution to hiding their tv? Brilliant!

dining room

“After” photos by Pixy Interiors for Sweeten

Guest blog post by Sweeten homeowner

When we purchased our apartment, we knew that we were going to renovate it.  As someone who loves design, I saw the potential and welcomed the opportunity to take a space and figure out how to best make it work for our family of five including three boys (and two dogs). I did not, however, anticipate we would be undertaking a full gut renovation—and while we had renovated before, those projects were a much smaller scope.

Before we closed on our apartment, we began working with our architect Jessica Wetters on how to change the layout of the apartment. The plan was to open it up and improve the light and flow. The living spaces would be connected as well as add a bedroom and a half-bathroom. It was clear to our architect that the apartment required a full-gut renovation and that little could be saved. After a few rounds of revising the plans, we arrived at a layout that achieved our objectives.  

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Before we found Sweeten, we began working with a contractor on the budget for the project and costs kept going up. We were at the point where we were cutting parts of the project that were important to us (like millwork) and making compromises we weren’t comfortable with in order to stay within budget. I decided to post our project on Sweeten. It would allow me to add more cost estimates into the mix with their network of general contractors and see if I had unrealistic expectations. 

Sweeten matched us with three contractors, but after interviewing this general contractor, I knew he was the one for our project. Not only did he assure us that he could get us everything we wanted within our budget, but he promised that he would minimize the disruption to our lives and work with our aggressive timeline.   

As soon as we hired him, things moved quickly and once we had all of the necessary approvals, we moved into a rental apartment. Demolition began in February and work was completed over the summer. 

High end kitchen cabinet

The first decision we made was the kitchen. I knew I wanted a Henrybuilt kitchen. I love the functionality and feel of our kitchen. We also planned for a black wall in the living room using huge porcelain tile slabs to camouflage our TV and it turned out even better than I expected. I researched industrial factory doors to connect the living room and bedrooms, but it was over-budget (even the reclaimed factory doors I saw were $7,000+) so I had a door made with a similar look for a small fraction of the cost.

powder room(Above) Newly-built powder room

In addition to opening up the kitchen, foyer, and living room, we enlarged the size of our master bathroom and added closets in unused space in the master bedroom. Throughout the apartment, we replaced the hardwood floors, skim coated the walls, replaced the trim, replaced all of the lighting, and added millwork.

Even though we lived there without a kitchen which wasn’t optimal, there was no question that it would be worth it in the end. 

When I told our Sweeten contractor that our rental ended in June and that we wanted to move back in before the apartment was completed, he worked with us to allow us to do that—despite his strong recommendation that we hold off moving in. Even though we lived there without a kitchen which wasn’t optimal—his crew set up a refrigerator in the middle of the apartment—there was no question that it would be worth it in the end. 

 

When a couple of unexpected structural issues were discovered during demo that required changes to the layout, our contractor immediately contacted our architect and me and proposed solutions that ended up improving the project. Issues that could have induced panic and delays were addressed efficiently and proactively. Our contractor, our architect, and I met at the apartment nearly every week to discuss progress and make decisions to ensure that the project kept moving forward on schedule.  

We are thrilled with the results. We achieved exactly the look and feel we were going for and I firmly believe that the process went as smoothly and efficiently as it did, thanks to our contractor, his crew, and our architect.  

Thank you for sharing your design vision and renovation with us!

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KITCHEN RESOURCES: Cabinets and materials/stain: Henrybuilt. Sink: Signature Hardware. Faucet: KWC. Refrigerator: Sub-Zero. Dishwasher: Miele. Stove, range hood: Wolf. Lighting: Lambert & Fils. Bar stools: Hay.

POWDER ROOM RESOURCES: Floor tile: Artistic Tile. Wall tile: Global Stone Marble. Purist Collection hardware: Kohler. Sink/vanity: Nameeks. Mirror: Rejuvenation. Toilet: Toto. Lighting: Flos.

BATHROOM RESOURCES (vertical tile): Toilet: Toto. Floor tile: The Builder Depot. Bathroom wall tile: Floor & Decor. Shower fixtures & hardware: Trinsic Collection by Delta. Tub: Kohler. Sink & vanity: Wayfair. Shower doors: Alpha Glass. Light fixture: Matteo Lighting. Vanity mirror medicine cabinet: Restoration Hardware.

BATHROOM RESOURCES (walk-in shower): Toilet: Toto.  Floor & wall tiles: Carraratiles.com. Stillness Collection shower fixtures and hardware: Kohler. Shower doors: Alpha Glass. Sink: Nameeks. Light fixture: Sonneman.

LIVING ROOM RESOURCES: Black wall tile: Porcelanosa.

LIVING AREAS RESOURCES: Wooden flooring: Madera. Glass door leading to bedrooms: Upstate Door. Washer/dryer: Electrolux.

BEDROOM RESOURCES: Pendant lighting: Moooi. Sconces: Flos.

To stay or to go during a remodel? Six Sweeten homeowners recount the pros and cons of each.

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 1920s Renovated Attic in Pelham Showcases a New Topper


A remodel of the top-floor gives a family everything on their wishlist

Kusum and Dave understood that renovating their 1920s attic would be challenging. They planned to add a new bathroom—in a crawlspace—located on the top-floor of their Westchester, New York home that held all the bedrooms. After several non-starts with multiple architects and having trouble finding contractors to execute the job, they posted their project on Sweeten, a free renovation platform that matches homeowners with licensed general contractors and tracks their projects.

They found a partner in the Sweeten contractor they chose—guiding them through a complete overhaul of the third-floor attic (it had started with just a new bathroom), newly-required sprinklers by town ordinance, and more knowledge of hip-and-valley rafters than Kusum ever wanted to know. Read on about the ups-and-downs of an old-home attic remodel that ended on the upside. 

“After” photos by Michael Hnatov Photography for Sweeten

My husband, Dave, an information security professional, and I, an ICU physician, moved to New York after I had just finished a clinical fellowship at Yale. We dragged our two young kids to a 1920s two-family house, originally a boarding house, which we gave an initial surge of renovations. 

Fast forward five years later, my daughter was in her last year of elementary school, and we were really struggling with only one bathroom in the upper unit where we spent most of our time. (We had originally lost a half-bath after finding out about leaking sewage on the building inspection). Dave and I knew the time had come to renovate the third floor—a quirky, converted attic space of approximately 700 square feet, which contained our three main bedrooms.

Pelham attic remodel

Informed by local recommendations, we contacted four architects and a few major general contractors.  Unfortunately, communication was disjointed, estimates were wildly different, and we kept hitting dead-ends. I was also weary of having contractors’ preference for discussing things with my husband, instead of me, the project’s decision-maker. This whole project was turning into a major headache, and we were discouraged. 

Enter Sweeten. A fellow MOP (Mom of Pelham) and Sweeten’s CMO, Randi MacColl, had posted one of Sweeten’s recent projects on Facebook, and I messaged her with my saga. We were stressed we hadn’t found an architect and then a contractor to execute the plans.

Randi’s patience with my vent was amazing, and her solution was even better. Sweeten’s team literally addressed every frustration we had been facing with this third-floor renovation project. They immediately walked me through setting up a profile to be matched with vetted contractors and supported the entire “dating” process to bring life to our vision of the space. 

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That vision was complicated. Space was tight. Storage was minimal. The designated space for the bathroom was a crawlspace but would envelop Dave’s closet to maximize the square footage for a full bath. We also had always dreamed of having a master bath in our bedroom. We requested contractors through Sweeten for just the bath project. In our minds, however, we hoped for so much more—new floors, built-ins, millwork, etc. My husband’s wish list included dealing with a perpetual leak (despite two roofers’ attempts to fix), insulating cold spots, reinforcing weak floorboards, and new windows. And little did I know that he was thinking about exposing the dry-walled chimney. 

They also had to work with an angled ceiling and what was behind it. Fortunately, our Sweeten contractor was all over this.

We met with a very manageable list of contractor/architect pairs and got bids. In the end, we chose our Sweeten contractor because of their enthusiasm, experience, innovation, and forthrightness in what they knew and did not know. The project quickly evolved from a single bathroom addition to a full-scale third-floor overhaul, inside and out, with a reworked floor plan to accommodate two new doorways. Our contractor suggested some innovative built-ins in the master bedroom and the stairwell to maximize our floor space. Storage for all our clutter led us one step closer to tranquility!  

Attic bedrooms

Hiccups and crises along the way were numerous (as with any renovation to an old house), but both Sweeten and our contractor supported us through each stressor with patience and transparency. A big uncertainty was whether we could fit a bathroom with adequate height clearance that was compliant with building codes. They also had to work with an angled ceiling and what was behind it.

Fortunately, our Sweeten contractor was all over this. A huge skylight helped to create the appearance of height in the space. We installed a custom medicine cabinet with a sloped recessed cabinet, a sink console with an expertly trimmed corner, and sconces from the U.K. to accommodate the hip wall. (I now know more about hip and valley rafters than certain diseases.)

We faced another problem with sprinklers, which were required for any third-floor living space renovation. Cost estimates ranged from the manageable to the exorbitant. Our start date was pushed two months late, but our contractors put together a timeline for completion that seemed doable considering we were still living in the space. 

During the renovation, we moved to the first-floor apartment for six weeks, after which Dave and the kids left for the summer. Adding to the chaos, I was working in the ICU for a lot of the renovation period. Thank goodness for a wonderfully dependable contractor and Sweeten for doing check-ins when I did not have the bandwidth to deal with anything non-clinical.

 

Now, the third floor has turned into a coveted space for our family. There is so much light! With the floors redone, light painting, recessed lighting, and new windows, the entire floor is welcoming and relaxing. My son’s elevated bed allows for plenty of storage bins underneath to organize his toys and a reading nook. My daughter has the perfect tween transition room, including a desk, privacy, and a creative space. We got a zen master bedroom and an entrance to our “own” bath. 

As I stated earlier, the project started with a much more limited scope, but because of code regulations requiring the sprinkler system and the decision to splurge of a significant amount of millwork, we went over budget. That being said, we as the homeowners made that decision, and were able to do so without pressure because of our Sweeten contractor’s transparency and strong communication. Both Dave and I were able to get all of the items on our wish list!   

Reflecting on the project—as it’s been over a year now since we started the search for someone to do the third floor—I offer the following recommendations to other homeowners: a) set very clear expectations of each person’s roles, timelines, and constraints; b) establish a mutually agreed upon vehicle/format of communication and a minimum frequency of contact—endless email threads are the worst; c) hire your own cleaning team, as your standards of cleanliness (especially with young kids) may be much more stringent than the contractors; and d) personality match between the contractor and the homeowner is super important to make a project successful and enjoyable. 

This essentially makes this major renovation project #6 for us as a family. To be honest, I think we have at least 2 more to go (just don’t tell Dave). We’ll just call Sweeten.

Thank you, Kusum and Dave, for sharing your attic renovation with us!

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BATHROOM RESOURCES: Retrospect Ceramic sink console: American Standard. Niche tiles in Oceanside Sanctuary and Summer Storm; one-inch white glazed hexagonal floor tiles; 3×6 white subway wall tiles; sky blue penny rounds shower floor tile: Westchester Tile & Marble.  Purist hardware & bathroom accessories in chrome, Awaken Hydrorail shower fixtures in chrome, Veil toilet: Kohler. Magnifying mirror: Simple Human. Astro-0274 Tube Wall Light: Ideas4lighting.com. Shower glass doors, medicine cabinet, built-in wall cabinet: Custom by general contractor. Paint in Silver Cloud: Benjamin Moore. 

MASTER BEDROOM RESOURCES: Paint in Gray Owl, paint in Sea Haze on backs of bookcases/millwork: Benjamin Moore. Bedside sconces: Rejuvenation. Brayden Studio Dailey 3-light semi-flush mount: Wayfair. Built-in cabinetry: Custom by general contractor.

KID’S BEDROOM RESOURCES: Paint in Harbor Haze: Benjamin Moore. Livex Lighting Claremont drum lighting fixture: Build.com.

CLOSET RESOURCES: Paint in White Wisp: Benjamin Moore.

LIVING AREAS RESOURCES: Cantilever shelf & HVAC door: Custom by general contractor. Early American floor stain: Minwax. Paint in White Cream: Benjamin Moore. Trim (all spaces) in Chantilly Lace: Benjamin Moore. 

Here’s how to remodel an old house for maximum efficiency, flow, and modern living.

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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7 Savvy Ideas to Maximize Your Small Kitchen Remodel


These small kitchen remodeling ideas will impress

Tuck in, hang above, pull-outs, swap around. These are small space solutions for the kitchen. Ingenuity for function and storage stand out when there’s a shortage of surface and square footage. Rather than rely on floor space, furniture that multitasks or rethinking placement can shed new light on ideas not thought of before. From built-in dish racks and breakfast bars to a pegboard à la Julia Childs, see how these Sweeten homeowners made their small kitchens feel grand. And for larger kitchens, you’ll have some great conversation starters!

kitchen

kitchen sink

Jo, a product designer, took a cue from Europe and used bamboo shelves as a drying rack to sit above the sink. (Another Sweeten homeowner did this too.) She had them sealed to prevent warping from wet dishes. What a great way to keep your dish-drying tidy and organized while saving space on the countertop.


kitchen

kitchen table

The size of their small corner kitchen didn’t stop Dianna and Todd from featuring their bar front-and-center of their 440-square-foot studio. A set of wall-hung shelves display the ingredients for a fun gathering.


dining nook

A lot of floor plan variations were sketched out to maximize Elizabeth and Martin’s 124-square-foot galley kitchen. A bar-height table held storage which also seated 4-5 people for a café-style feel. To minimize clutter on the kitchen countertop, a built-in paper towel holder was designed right into the cabinetry.


dishwasher drawerDesperate for more storage in her tiny kitchen, Mollie decided to get rid of her full-size dishwasher. In a stroke of genius, her Sweeten contractor designed a pull-out drawer that could conceal a much smaller unit. The swap also meant one less bulky appliance in sight.


kitchen bar

Paul’s galley kitchen was extremely small and had little working counter space. Not only did a swap of two appliances change the entire flow but there was enough room to build a 14″ ledge with a wraparound effect. Now, a convenient and useful spot to perch can be enjoyed for coffee or reading.


kitchensmall kitchen ideasDealing with limited counter space in their kitchen, Casey and Kumar added a pull-out cutting board to make prep simpler. It’s part of a custom, floor-to-ceiling built-in that spans the width of a wall filled with various-sized cabinet doors.


Brooklyn, New York City, renovation, remodel, kitchenBrooklyn, New York City, renovation, remodel, kitchenClever organization made working within 44 square feet possible in Sunghee and Joseph’s cook space. They focused on smart storage solutions, like the pegboard panel on the outside of a narrow pantry cabinet. It also doubles as a drying rack and permanent hanging spot.

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, 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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Renovating For Different Life Stages


Changes spark home remodels from a growing family to first homeownership

kitchen and pantry

Often when life brings you to the next stage, you celebrate by renovating your home. Whether it’s owning a home as newlyweds or the kids have moved out leaving you with a lot of extra space, chances are you’re dreaming of a home that reflects your life change.

At Sweeten, a renovation platform connecting homeowners to vetted general contractors, we’ve seen updates of newly purchased houses and of long-time family homes ready for a refresh. We share the stories of three Sweeten homeowners with life transitions and who marked the occasions with remodels and new outlooks.  

A family grows up, a house evolves

When Sandra and Nelson purchased their 1922 Tudor-style home in 1997, their main focus was on the education of their three children. Fast forward 21 years and their teenage kids all grown up, the couple finally felt ready to turn their attention to renovating their home. 

The ground floor experienced a revamp with a kitchen door turning into a window for more sunlight, parquet floors gave way to chocolate-colored wood planks, and pesky drafts were fixed. An office, adjacent to the kitchen, experiences new life as a pantry and sunroom with a sliding glass deck door.

A second baby, flexibility pays off

Searching for the perfect, move-in ready, three-bedroom apartment proved to be a challenge for Katherine and Chris and their two under-two babies. Instead, a former rent-controlled two-bedroom with a floor plan that could be rearranged was the key to just want the duo was looking for. Located in the neighborhood they were hoping for and within their budget, they prepped for a gut renovation.

The kitchen moved from the back of the apartment to the front next to the living room (yes, plumbing had to move) making a nice open concept layout. The kitchen became the new third bedroom. For the bathroom, the tub changed positions and turned into a luxurious marble and penny-tile haven with blue and gold touches.

From a rental to owning, a milestone reached 

After 16 years of living with roommates, rising rent, and saving for a down payment, 34-year-old Paul was ready to purchase a home to call his own. Finding a one-bedroom proved challenging and competitive, so he landed on a “junior one-bedroom” and put up a full wall to create the one-bed layout that he wanted.

The cramped 60-square-foot kitchen needed to be remodeled for more counter space and a complete refresh. By swapping the location of some appliances, a 14-inch wraparound ledge offered enough room to act as a breakfast bar. Along with the charm of a sunken living room, Paul scored his dream first home.

If you’re looking to buy a fixer-upper, here is a step-by-step guide on the purchase and starting the reno process.

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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