Kim Kardashian and Kanye West Bought Land in La Quinta: Here’s Why


Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West already own a massive house in Hidden Hills, CA, but apparently that’s not enough space. Witness their most recent acquisition: an undeveloped 2-acre plot for $6.3 million in La Quinta, CA.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the plot was quietly purchased at the end of last year through a trust, and the seller is a corporation with ties to billionaire businessman Ronald Burkle.

The Kardashian-West parcel is located in the Madison Club, an exclusive golf and tennis community in La Quinta, which is a two-hour drive (or, in Kardashian-West terms, a short private plane ride) from Los Angeles.

Why Kim and Kanye purchased property in La Quinta

So has this A-list couple just discovered the joys of hitting the links? Odds are, La Quinta attracted Kimye for far different reasons. For one, the Madison Club isn’t just any old golf club, but one with an exclusive clientele, counting Cindy Crawford and Rande Gerber among its members.

Best known as a winter playground for the rich and famous, “this spot is also close to Coachella, SoCal’s largest music festival grounds, so you can expect Kanye to headline there for a few years simply out of convenience,” says Tyler Drew, CEO of Anubis Properties in Los Angeles.

The couple’s latest land grab is also conveniently located close to family, as Kardashian West’s mom, Kris Jenner, has her own mansion on the same street. Little sister Kylie Jenner also owns a piece of property nearby.

“This seems like a very strategic move from the Kardashian-West clan, as creating a family land bank is something wealthy families have been doing for decades,” says Odest T. Riley Jr., CEO of WLM Financial, a real estate brokerage firm in Inglewood, CA.

And compared with Los Angeles, La Quinta is a bargain, with acres of wide-open desert for the taking.

“You get so much more for your money here—there’s no way Kim and Kanye could have picked up 2 acres for this price in the vicinity of L.A., and even if you could find it, you’d have to tear something down,” says Cara Ameer, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker in Los Angeles.

Another perk of La Quinta’s remote location is fewer hassles when it comes to construction.

“Building something rather large in the desert doesn’t come with as much red tape as it does closer to L.A.,” adds Drew.

With an empty lot, Kimye can put their personal imprint on a mansion that’ll suit the needs of their growing family.

“I could see them building an all-encompassing compound where they wouldn’t have to stray too far for what they need, including a huge pool and grotto, guesthouse, and a private spa or massage rooms so people can come to them,” says Ameer.

So would this mean they’d just kick back at home, or might they also socialize with their neighbors at the Madison Club?

“I doubt they’ll sit by the pool,” says Ameer, “but I’m sure the Madison Club is extending facility privileges to all of the Kardashians, and I could imagine them plugging into the health and wellness aspects of this club as well as hiking and biking on their trails to relax.”

The Kardashian effect on La Quinta

While this growing swell of “KarJenner” sisters (and the attendant paparazzi) could leave the neighbors tearing their hair out, there’s an upside as well.

“The Kardashians buying in the Madison Club and specifically La Quinta is good for property values and raises the prestige factor overall,” says Ameer.

“This purchase could benefit the club by highlighting how exclusive the brand is—and from a business perspective, all free publicity is good publicity,” adds Riley.

Potential downsides to an investment like this one could include resale issues—and even the baking sun.

“Living in the desert isn’t a year-round thing to do, as the temperatures really start to soar from April through the fall, so there’s a short window of comfortable weather in which to enjoy this property,” says Ameer. “This spot swells with crowds in the winter months and has a lot of properties that are second homes or rentals, so there aren’t many year-round residents. Though this probably suits the Kardashian-Wests, as they’re on the move more than anyone else.”



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An Indoor-Outdoor Kitchen Remodel in Melbourne


When we last checked in on Anna Pipkorn Skermer and Jane Kilpatrick of Pipkorn Kilpatrick, the Melbourne-based interior designers had just tackled their first big commission: an extraordinarily refined houseboat: see Lake Luxe, Scandi-Style.  Today, we’re spotlighting another nature-centric project of theirs: Kilpatrick’s own indoor-outdoor kitchen in a charmingly tiny Edwardian brick row house in Melbourne’s Fitzroy.

To remake the quarters for Kilpatrick and her husband, the duo created a new “flow-through floor plan from front door to backyard,” ending in a clean-lined kitchen that’s fully open to the backyard. The front of the house was largely preserved. What had to be fully reconfigured was an existing north-facing addition out back: a clutch of small spaces ending in an awkward bath/laundry that was the sunniest room in the house. The laundry duo is now tucked out of sight, and a brick terrace and plantings have taken center stage off the large open kitchen. The remodel was completed 10 years ago and recently photographed to prepare the house for sale—Kilpatrick and her husband now have three young sons and need bigger quarters. We think this one looks hard to equal.

Photography courtesy of Pipkorn Kilpatrick.

The center of the house is a bright kitchen and dining area with custom bifold doors and a transom window that fully connects indoors to out. The shotgun hallway was created by flipping the position of the original hall. The charcoal paneled partition hides the fridge and laundry.
Above: The center of the house is a bright kitchen and dining area with custom bifold doors and a transom window that fully connects indoors to out. The shotgun hallway was created by flipping the position of the original hall. The charcoal paneled partition hides the fridge and laundry.

The house dates to the 1890s and brick salvaged from the remodel was reused to pave the new terrace. The plantings include an herbs garden in an old wooden crate.

A polished concrete floor adds to the indoor-outdoor vibe. The kitchen cabinets are a flat-pack design that Kilpatrick and her husband painted and assembled themselves—&#8
Above: A polished concrete floor adds to the indoor-outdoor vibe. The kitchen cabinets are a flat-pack design that Kilpatrick and her husband painted and assembled themselves—”we were on a tight budget”—and had their builder install. They’re finished with Carrara marble counters and Bosch appliances.

The small sink, Kilpatrick says, is scaled to the room: “it’s big enough to wash big pots and deep enough to hide dishes when doing a quick clean.”

Kilpatrick carefully stuck to a palette of whites and grays offset by warm wood tones. A frameless skylight over the kitchen further brightens the space.&#8
Above: Kilpatrick carefully stuck to a palette of whites and grays offset by warm wood tones. A frameless skylight over the kitchen further brightens the space.” Note the pantry/work area tucked off the kitchen—the fridge stands out of view opposite the desk.
The nook is used as a place to study and to charge phones.
Above: The nook is used as a place to study and to charge phones.
The partition is composed of readymade V-groove paneling. (See others example in A DIY Kitchen Overhaul for Under $500 and DIY Beadboard Ceilings, Before and After.)
Above: The partition is composed of readymade V-groove paneling. (See others example in A DIY Kitchen Overhaul for Under $500 and DIY Beadboard Ceilings, Before and After.)
The ash dining table is Hay&#8
Above: The ash dining table is Hay’s Ypperlig design from Ikea surrounded by Thonet’s classic Hoffman Side Chairs. The hanging lights are Nud Classic Black Lamp Holders.
A tall mirror enhances the sense of space and brings the garden into the room. The purple potted plant is a smoke bush.
Above: A tall mirror enhances the sense of space and brings the garden into the room. The purple potted plant is a smoke bush.
The little brick house retains its Edwardian crenellations and other period detailing—and now has a front-door view out to the garden.
Above: The little brick house retains its Edwardian crenellations and other period detailing—and now has a front-door view out to the garden.
The floor plan shows the new kitchen-dining setup and artfully relocated laundry and full bath (which had formerly occupied the back). &#8
Above: The floor plan shows the new kitchen-dining setup and artfully relocated laundry and full bath (which had formerly occupied the back). “We flipped the hall through to the kitchen so you could see the rear garden from the front of the house—and avoid walking diagonally through the living room,” says Kilpatrick.

Craving outdoor access? Here are three more remodels that connect kitchen to garden:



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12 Tasks to Tackle This Fall


Cooler weather is coming — prep your home for its arrival while it’s still nice outside.

The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting cooler. The kids are trudging off to school again with their backpacks, and leaves are falling from the trees.

Yep, it’s official: Fall is here. Now’s the time to finish up any pre-winter maintenance projects and get your home and yard ready.

Take care of these 12 tasks to get your home clean, warm and cozy for the cool days to come.

Exterior prep

1. Fix cracks in concrete and asphalt

Depending on where you live, these may be the last weeks this year when it will be warm and sunny enough to repair driveway and sidewalk cracks.

2. Clean out the gutters

No one loves this job, but we all need to do it annually. A few hours of work can prevent big problems later on.

While you’re up on that ladder, visually inspect your roof for damaged shingles, flashing or vents. You can also inspect the chimney for any missing mortar and repair it by tuck-pointing, if needed.

3. Turn off outdoor plumbing

Drain outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems, and cover them to protect them from the freezing weather to come.

4. Start composting

If you don’t already have compost bins, now’s the time to make or get some. All those accumulated autumn leaves will bring you gardening gold next summer!

5. Clean outdoor furniture and gardening tools

It may not yet be time to put them away, but go ahead and clean your outdoor furniture and gardening tools so they’re ready for storage over the winter.

6. Plant bulbs for spring-blooming flowers

Plant bulbs in October, as soon as the soil has cooled down, to reap big rewards next spring. If you’ve never planted bulbs before, select a spot in your yard that gets full sun during the day.

shutterstock_155900531

Interior prep

7. Prepare your furnace for winter duty

If you didn’t already do it last spring, consider getting your furnace professionally serviced in time for the cold season. At a minimum, visually inspect your furnace and replace the furnace filter before you start using it on a daily basis.

8. Clean the fireplace and chimney

Clean out the fireplace, inspect the flue, and ensure the doors and shields are sound. Have the chimney professionally swept if needed. Now’s also the time to stock up on firewood!

9. Keep the warm air inside and the cold air outside

Inspect your windows and doors. Check weatherstripping by opening a door, placing a piece of paper in the entryway and closing the door. The paper should not slide back and forth easily. If it does, the weatherstripping isn’t doing its job.

Also, now’s the time to re-caulk around windows and door casings, if needed.

10. Light the way

Bring as much light into your home as you can for the colder, darker months. To accentuate natural light, clean your windows and blinds, especially in rooms that get a lot of sunlight.

Add lighting to darker spaces with new lamps. And consider replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs.

11. Create a mudroom

Even if you don’t have a dedicated mudroom in your home, now’s a good time to think about organizing and stocking an entryway that will serve as a “mudroom” area for cold and wet weather.

Put down an indoor-outdoor rug to protect the floor. A fun and rewarding weekend project is to build a wooden shoe rack, coat rack or storage bench for your entryway.

12. Home safety check

Replace the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide monitors. A good way to remember to do this is to always replace the batteries when you change the clock for daylight saving time.

Create a family fire escape plan, or review the one you already have. Put together an emergency preparedness kit so you’re ready for any winter power outages.

Once you finish with your autumn home checklist, you can enjoy the season in your warm, comfortable home.

Related:

Originally published September 2016.



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A Renovated Railroad Apartment Makes Sense for a Home Office


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

dining room

“After” photos by Pixy Interiors for Sweeten

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

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

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

floor plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

soaking tub

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

WATCH VIDEO:

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

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

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

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

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



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Keller Williams launches new home search app


Keller Williams has launched its new neighborhood-based home search app to coincide with the updated website that was launched earlier this year.

The new home search tool is web- and app-based, and aims to give homebuyers and sellers a deeper understanding of the city they are searching in by neighborhood.

(Image courtesy of Keller Williams. Click to enlarge.)

On Jan. 1, the real estate company launched a redesign of its website, becoming more user-friendly and hyperlocal.

The experience will be continually updated to feature Keller Williams’ expanding home-search capabilities, the company said in a release. It is powered by data feeds from Keller Williams’ acquisition of Smarter Agent, announced in September 2018.

“I believe that in a lot of ways the cell phone is the remote control for people’s lives,” Keller Williams Vice President of Industry, Jason Abrams said to HousingWire in January. “…The app is less about the company and more about the relationship with the consumer and the real estate agent. When I think about an app, each real estate agent needs to have their app in the consumer’s phone.”

The company said the app is designed to empower agents, not replace them.

Via the app, homebuyers can view the market stats for any neighborhood, discover what neighbors have to say about an area, calculate commute times to popular destinations, check the report card of nearby schools, explore restaurants, grocery stores, shops and more.

Buy and sell guides are also available in the app, with real-time information about the status and full steps of a home transaction.

“With the release of the new KW App, agents will be able to enable their client to navigate the entire real estate transaction straight from their phone,” Gary Keller, co-founder and CEO of Keller Williams said in a release. “All while keeping the agent at the center of everything.”



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10 Easy Pieces: Neutral Area Rugs Under $1,000


I’ve been in the market for a good area rug for years. In fact, I’ve never owned one. I’ve always been lucky with good-enough wood flooring to sit with my indecision—and without a living room rug. The trouble is: area rugs are expensive. It’s a massive commitment, taking up 9 by 12 feet in a room and costing thousands of dollars. If you’re looking to spend under $1k on an area rug, but would still like one fairly well made and neutral in tone, here is our list of favorites.

The Stoense Low Pile Rug in Medium Grey, size 6&#8
Above: The Stoense Low Pile Rug in Medium Grey, size 6’7″ x 9’10” is only $149 at IKEA.
The Alder Rug from Room & Board comes in four neutral colors from light to dark; $999 for the largest area rug size.
Above: The Alder Rug from Room & Board comes in four neutral colors from light to dark; $999 for the largest area rug size.
From Schoolhouse, the Ribbed Wool Rug in ivory is a hearty, textured rug made from 0-percent wool; $999 for the 9&#8
Above: From Schoolhouse, the Ribbed Wool Rug in ivory is a hearty, textured rug made from 100-percent wool; $999 for the 9′ x 12′ size.
Currently on sale, the ABC Carpet & Home Contemporary Wool Rug is $data-src=
Above: Currently on sale, the ABC Carpet & Home Contemporary Wool Rug is $1,000 (normally $1,600) for the 9′ x 12′ size.
The Blake Handwoven Jute Rug is woven with two tones of natural jute; $899 for the area rug (9&#8
Above: The Blake Handwoven Jute Rug is woven with two tones of natural jute; $899 for the area rug (9′ x 12′ size) at CB2.
The IKEA Morum Flatweave Rug comes in only up to a size 6&#8
Above: The IKEA Morum Flatweave Rug comes in only up to a size 6’7″ x 9’10” for $99. IKEA offers additional colors in the Morum style as well.
Crate & Barrel&#8
Above: Crate & Barrel’s Sisal Grey Rug (it also comes in four other neutral colors) is $599.
Ferm Living&#8
Above: Ferm Living’s Shade Loop Rug is a tufted beige wool rug for €609 at Ferm Living.
The HAY Raw Rug is smaller than most area rugs (its largest size is 7&#8
Above: The HAY Raw Rug is smaller than most area rugs (its largest size is 7′ x 10′) and comes in five colors. Here, the Dark Grey Rug is $795 at HAY.
The Nantucket Rug in Nickel (shown) or Blue, is a simple striped flatweave rug made of wool and nylon; $798 for the 9&#8
Above: The Nantucket Rug in Nickel (shown) or Blue, is a simple striped flatweave rug made of wool and nylon; $798 for the 9′ x 12′ size at Serena & Lily.
The IKEA Tyvelse Rug Low Pile Rug in 6&#8
Above: The IKEA Tyvelse Rug Low Pile Rug in 6’7″ x 9’10” is $179. It’s also available in blue and black at IKEA.
West Elm&#8
Above: West Elm’s Tweed Flatweave Dhurrie Rug comes in Iron (shown) and Dark Horseradish (a beige-camel color) for $699.

Shopping for more rug styles or price points? See our posts:



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Kushner Company Reportedly Seeking Federal Loan For $1.15 Billion Real Estate Deal



Jared Kushner’s family real estate business is seeking federal financing for a $1.15 billion real estate deal, Bloomberg reports.

Kushner Cos. has been in talks with federal lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about backing for its purchase of more than 6,000 rental apartments in 16 properties in Maryland and Virginia from private equity firm Lone Star Funds, two sources told Bloomberg. It’s not clear how much money the company is seeking.

It’s the firm’s biggest deal in more than a decade, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Kushner Cos. president Laurent Morali told the Journal that the firm plans to borrow about 70 percent of the cost of the Lone Star package. He said Kushner Cos. was “running a competitive process” to choose a lender, the Journal reported. Morali apparently didn’t mention the federal lenders to the Journal.

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law relinquished his management role at Kushner Cos. and divested from some assets in the family business when he became senior White House adviser. At that time the company held more than $500 million in loans from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to Bloomberg.

But Kushner remains a key stakeholder in the company and real estate deals. The real estate holdings and other investments of Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, were worth as much as $811 million last year, according to 2018 financial filings.

Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Jared Kushner’s attorney Abbe Lowell, emphasized to Bloomberg that Kushner no longer manages the company, adding that he is “walled off from any business or investment decisions and has no idea or knowledge of these activities.” 

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are regulated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which is headed by Trump-appointee Joseph Otting. He used to be chief executive of OneWest Bank, which was founded by now-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is considered a close “ally of Kushner” in the White House, Bloomberg notes.

Kushner Cos. properties have been the target of several lawsuits. New York state is investigating charges by tenants that they were illegally forced out of their apartments in a Brooklyn building owned by Kushner Cos. so their homes could be sold as luxury condos.  

Last year, New York City fined the company $210,000 for filing false construction documents claiming there were no rent-protected tenants in apartments the firm planned to sell.

The Maryland Attorney General also launched an investigation of operations at some of Kushner Cos.′ Baltimore-area apartment complexes after a lawsuit by tenants accused the company of charging them improper fees.

Kushner Cos. representatives have denied any wrongdoing.



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The Renaissance Of Brick-And-Mortar Locations As Ad Space


Traditional brick-and-mortar shopping offers customers more than an opportunity to purchase—it’s a chance to have a personal interaction with a brand. From the unique way a brand merchandises items down to the lighting and design, music and employees, a brick-and-mortar store experience is just that: an experience. As customers continue to move towards a digital landscape, brands are exploring new ways to break through the digital noise and offer customers tactile, sensory, and personalized experiences—effectively turning built environments into ad space.

Similarly, commercial real estate developers, architects, and investors are exploring new ways to reinvigorate historic, underused, or shuttered spaces that once served traditional brick-and-mortar purposes but struggle to remain robust in a digital economy. Brands and real estate developers alike are turning to firms like Skylight, a placemaking and venue development firm that combines adaptive reuse, redevelopment, and forecasting to transform traditional and struggling commercial spaces into immersive brand experiences.

Skylight specializes in developing “intentional short-term real estate opportunities” for brands—most often activations, pop-ups, and launch events. Conceptually, these opportunities are designed to reenergize an underutilized built space and give customers a tangible experience with a brand. Over the last decade, Skylight has developed brand experiences for such companies as Amazon, Hermes, Nike, Hulu, Spotify, and Tesla. Brick-and-mortar locations include The High Line, St John’s Terminal, the Historic San Francisco Mint, the Row in Los Angeles, and New York’s Bleeker Street corridor.

We recently sat down with Stephanie Blake, CEO of Skylight, to learn more about the firm’s approach to brick-and-mortar and her thoughts on the ongoing push and pull between built commercial spaces and the digital economy.

Skylight is known for creating what you refer to as “intentional short-term real estate opportunities.” What do you see as the benefits to this approach?

SB: Intentional short-term real estate opportunities are the physical manifestation of the “drop” economy. It’s a disruption (and re-imagination) in both real estate and retail / brand approach to innovation and development.

It’s not replacing permanent brick-and-mortar concepts, but it is reimagining the industry in the way co-working companies changed the way we use office space and share ideas and resources to promote innovation…In a world where new collaboration, co-creation, and constant iteration is needed to maintain consumer interest, short term real estate plays provide the platform to showcase these moments while gathering intel and insights that inform the next move.

For example, Skylight worked with Nike and Virgil Abloh to find a home for their Nike “Off Campus” experience, which was created to showcase a collaboration between Nike and Off-White. Skylight brought the multi-day activation to 23 Wall Street, the former home of JP Morgan. The event, which included an immersive museum, programming, and a retail space, sold out almost immediately.

Short-term real estate opportunities have allowed brands the short-term flexibility to take RISKS and EXPERIMENT with different concepts, based on the willingness to suffer losses if costs are significantly lower.

Stephanie Blake, CEO, Skylight

Can you talk about your statement that one of the biggest real estate trends for 2020 will be the utilization of the physical and built environment as ad space?

SB: Storytelling is more important. The built environment provides something that screens cannot. There is a desire to reach consumers where they are with these stories, and brands are taking notice of the way audiences go about their daily routines, particularly in cities.

The physical and built environment can be utilized as ad space. At Google over a decade (15 years) ago, the focus used to be ‘how do we convince brands to move spend from traditional media to online?’ The pendulum is swinging back, but now with new tools informed by digital products and the growing importance of data.

Brand communities, referring to any investment of time or money that customer makes into a brand beyond purchase/transaction (think Harley Davidson die hard fans getting tattoos of the brand + meeting with other fans) is the most valuable brand equity that brand aim to achieve. Skylight has followed this shift first hand through our event and client experiences; while brands historically spent marketing dollars on traditional product launches and showrooms, we are noticing a transformation to experiences that aim to form brand communities and bring fans together.

For example, The Stalls at Skylight ROW DTLA hosted a sprawling, multi-sensory production in support of Billie Eilish’s debut album. The Billie Eilish Experience welcomed over 3,000 devoted fans for a weekend of art, technology, and the unexpected inspired by the artist’s own experiences with synesthesia. Conceived by Billie Eilish herself, and produced in partnership with Spotify and Adobe, the former produce stalls were transformed into immersive rooms imagined along the themes of the tracks on her album, “When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” This provided a tangible experience in which Billie could demonstrate her unique point of view as an artist, celebrate a career milestone, and give fans a platform for engagement and community in her home city.

What are your thoughts on the future of traditional brick-and-mortar retail?

SB: Cities were built around adjacencies—the pop-up economy responds to this by sharing space within communities and affinity groups…ALL brands need to consider a physical space, even e-commerce, direct-to-consumer brands still seek out brick-and- mortar opportunities to reach consumers.

Multi-brand formats, and even store-in-store residencies that showcase a brand and its partners / collaborators embody the co-creation model where 1+1=4. There should be core pillars or elements that give the brand environment a specific messaging and point of view, or some defining element that differentiates the store from others in a very competitive retail landscape where it is more difficult to get customers in store.

For example, Skylight created an urban landscape at the intersection of art, commerce, and culture: Love, Bleecker, a collective of locally-based, digitally-native brands, each paired with contemporary artists.

Eleven new brands have joined the corridor since Skylight debuted the project, resulting in a 63% decrease in vacancy with brands that share audiences and similarities to Love, Bleecker’s tenants. Skylight created and ran a comprehensive programming calendar engaging the neighborhood residents and NYC locals, and fostered community amongst the merchants. Over 120 unique events filled the corridor, igniting community building and experiential retail.

It’s interesting that digital brands are embracing the built environment. What is driving that?

SB: Digital saturation has spurred a movement toward IRL experiences for brand engagement with consumers, but it’s also informed the way that we approach them. Just as A/B testing is essential for innovation in the tech space, in-person interactions across a variety of markets, demographics, and formats / settings is crucial for companies to keep pace with breakneck changes in consumer preferences and behaviors.

 



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Before & After: Kitchen Edition


A successful kitchen renovation isn’t measured by the number of walls knocked down or the size of a kitchen island. Instead, it’s the thoughtful details and design elements culled over time from Pinterest and the hours of research on materials coming to life that brings the joy for a lifestyle that finally fits you and your family.

Here we look at 11 kitchens renovated by homeowners who came to Sweeten, a free renovation platform that matches homeowners with licensed general contractors and tracks their projects. Some were major transformations removing walls, creating built-ins, and adding new windows, while others proved that smart improvements in space efficiency, updated materials, and renewed layouts gave them the overall refreshes they wanted. 

From outdated to classic gray

After living on Long Island for many years, Rosalind and Lawrence were ready to downsize and return to their beloved former hometown of Brooklyn. They purchased a 100-year-old home in Cypress Hills and slowly started renovating the outdated spaces. After refreshes of two bathrooms, a staircase, and a walk-in closet were complete, they decided to turn their attention to the kitchen.

The main problem besides the yellow walls, dated wooden cabinets, and orange-tiled backsplash, was the lack of storage. Rosalind was forced to store her larger appliances like the slow cooker and mixer in the living room. So, with the help of a Sweeten contractor, the couple reimagined their layout and added a kitchen island that doubles as storage as well as a convenient gathering spot. Rosalind chose gray tones throughout and accented them with interesting geometric shapes.


Same layout, more storage

Shoko and Rob really liked their 900-square-foot apartment in Harlem, New York. The only thing that gnawed at them was the “orange-y cabinetry, shiny black appliances, and brown countertop.” So they decided to take the plunge and redo the small kitchen. 

They did their research and found information from designer Keren Richter on how to make the most of their cook space and turned to Sweeten to execute their vision. In addition to overhauling the look of the kitchen, they wanted to improve the flow and functionality with more storage as their top goal. Their original kitchen didn’t take advantage of the ceiling height so they extended the new upper cabinetry to get as close as possible to the ceiling. In all, they were able to create a minimalist style yet warm space to cook in and entertain.


Dark and dated to contemporary chic

How do you make a house feel more like a loft apartment? First, you open up the layout so that you have an unobstructed sightline across the first floor. For Romuald and his family, this meant tearing down a wall between the kitchen and the main living space. To regain the storage space lost by removing the cabinets on that wall, they decided to do what many do: build an island. 

They also added other design touches to fit into their cooking-centric lives. Their Sweeten contractor suggested they install an “appliance garage” to make their countertop less cluttered. Being avid cooks, Romuald and his wife have a lot of small appliances, including a toaster, coffee maker, and mixer, that would be nicely concealed—but yet easily accessible—by this storage solution. They also put in a pot-filler above the stove and a microwave drawer in the island. 

The warm gray cabinets complement the white quartz countertop and the classic subway tile of the backsplash. For ease of cleaning and added durability, Romuald installed a porcelain floor that mimics the look of real wood.


Island design

Veteran renovators Jennifer and Joe always knew their New Jersey apartment wouldn’t be complete without a kitchen remodel. They, like many homeowners, wanted an open-concept layout in order to see the amazing views of the Manhattan skyline, Statue of Liberty, and George Washington Bridge that their apartment affords. 

They asked their Sweeten contractor to knock down a wall to get better sightlines to the wall of windows in their living room. Unfortunately, the entire wall could not be removed as it was load-bearing. So their contractor took down as much of the wall as possible and utilized the rest of the space to house the refrigerator. 

Jennifer and Joe based the design entirely around the marble waterfall island, which features a deep black base with white veins throughout the countertop. The color palette of the entire kitchen plays off the two tones, with glossy black drawers and all-white upper and lower cabinetry as well as a white quartz countertop. Not one detail was spared, from the under-cabinet lighting to the textured backsplash.


Midcentury Scandi meets Italian modern

“I wanted midcentury Scandi meets 70s Italian modern,” says Brooklyn Sweeten homeowner Melissa of her design preference for her kitchen. The co-op building itself had a midcentury vibe so she wanted to continue it inside. 

First things first, her Sweeten contractor removed walls that were blocking off the kitchen from the living area. Once that was complete, natural sunlight bathed the entire apartment. She carefully selected a mix of different materials (matte concrete floor and counters) as well as warmer accents in her textile and paint choices. A built-in shelf intersects over a new peninsula for additional seating. She didn’t move the plumbing (which is an added cost) or change the location of the appliances. 


From the ’80s to modern industrial

For their one-bedroom co-op in a 19th-century converted warehouse, homeowners Dan and Mike wanted to bring their 1980s kitchen into a new era. While they desired a nod to the industrial roots of the building, they did want the aesthetic to be balanced.

They hired a Sweeten contractor to help redefine the space. To create an open floor plan, a wall was removed as well as the upper cabinets, which were replaced with beautiful open shelves of salvaged Douglas Fir. The base cabinets were updated from laminate to a full set of IKEA cabinets and drawers, customized by Semihandmade. A modern waterfall countertop on the peninsula was used to visually separate the kitchen entry. They also utilized different natural and synthetic wood finishes to maintain a measure of warmth and masculinity.


A dark kitchen sees the (natural) light 

Even after tackling other updates to their colonial-style home, Nydia and Jonathan knew that renovating their Brooklyn kitchen was a top priority. The old version had mismatched appliances, dated cabinets, and not enough counter space. The dark space hardly felt welcoming (or functional) for their family of five. 

They turned to Sweeten to help with the construction process, hiring a trusted contractor from its carefully vetted network. The project involved rethinking the layout to opening up the stairway to the basement, which is accessed via the kitchen. The renovation helped key kitchen elements find new locations: the refrigerator moved out of the main cooking area, the dishwasher now sits directly across from the sink, and the walls surrounding the basement stairs were taken down. By replacing existing cabinets with ceiling-height ones and adding a peninsula, the space was really transformed.


From functional to fabulous

A mutual love of cooking (and of cooking together) ultimately led Marissa and Jeremy to renovate their small kitchen in their Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, co-op. The space was so cramped that it brought about a special house rule: Only one person allowed in the kitchen at a time when cooking in order to keep the peace. 

Twenty-four inches of usable counter space was quintupled through the renovation, while other unique elements were added to suit the couple’s preferences and lifestyle. For example, they went non-traditional for the backsplash, using an antique mirror. They also installed a ventless washer/dryer combo unit and removed the space-invading gas dryer vent. “While a gas dryer dries clothes much faster than a ventless dryer, I wanted the extra counter space more than I wanted clothes dried in 20 minutes,” Marissa said. They capped off the gas vent and went long with the back counter. “I am excited about so many parts of our kitchen that I don’t know if I can pick a favorite!” she said.


A modern vision brought to life through an extension

For Laura and Tim, they decided they needed to do something about their kitchen that was “falling apart”—it had water damage from a leaky shower upstairs, the door to the patio was drafty, the cabinets were dark and “grungy,” and it generally just needed some fixing up.

The couple consulted their friend and designer Suzy Leon of Suzy Leon Design, Ltd. and came up with a plan to gut the existing kitchen but also enclose their back patio. The additional interior square footage would connect and provide a better flow between the kitchen, dining room, and outdoor space. The new enclosure would feature skylights to brighten the space. 

They kept the galley layout but chose a light color palette in the “minty” green shaker cabinets to offset the dark plank wood floors. White quartz countertops were utilized to help make the flow look more open and airy.


Reaching new heights—with less ceiling

With an 18-inch tiny dishwasher, an oven that wasn’t big enough to fit a cookie tray, and a kitchen sitting underneath a loft, a renovation was long overdue for this mom who cooked five nights a week.

One major challenge homeowners Emily and Trey faced was the inability to move the building’s intercom system that was smack in the middle of the kitchen. They hired a Sweeten contractor who came up with a good solution: create an L-shaped peninsula to accommodate the immovable pole—and give them more space and storage at the same time.

In addition to the new peninsula, they were also able to get rid of the loft above, which increased the ceiling height drastically. The result was a well-thought-out new kitchen perfect for the family of four’s busy lifestyle.


First time’s a charm

Jennifer and Jonn couldn’t believe their luck when they found their 2,100-square-foot, three-bedroom duplex in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. It was the perfect location for their family of two kids and a dog. The story goes that the co-op was the result of combining three one-bedroom apartments to create a huge two-level residence with sole access to a sprawling rear garden. Voila! The perfect home…but with one catch: It needed to be renovated. 

The couple had their work cut out for them with this space that hadn’t been updated since the ’70s. They hired a contractor through Sweeten who was able to transform their white laminate kitchen into a light-filled galley kitchen with an eat-in banquette. They used shaker cabinets and five-panel doors while incorporating metals like brass lights and stainless steel appliances for a modern look.

Kitchens are arguably one of the most pivotal spaces in our homes. From giving us a gathering point to break bread together to providing space to tackle assignments and hobbies; every kitchen should deliver the kind of peace of mind (and organizational flow) that homeowners need. 

Inspired to renovate your kitchen? Check out Sweeten’s cost guides 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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