A Fresh Home Renovation Trend: Mint as a Neutral

light green galley kitchenPale yellow used to be the cheerful go-to color and beige was the sought-after neutral; now, mint is quickly becoming a popular home renovation trend, popping up in newly-renovated kitchens. Mint brings a light and fresh vibe. Here, examples of this kitchen design trend recently completed by Sweeten contractors. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

A galley kitchen goes minty-green

Laura and Tim lived in their 1929 brick townhouse in Rego Park, Queens, for many years before deciding to renovate. They loved their home. However, it became what Laura calls “grungy and old.” The kitchen had been damaged by a leaky shower from the bathroom above and needed new cabinets, flooring, and wall treatments.

The couple turned to Sweeten for the overhaul. Their contractor enclosed an outdoor patio connecting it to the back of the kitchen. With the introduction of skylights and a new color palette, the kitchen became a cheerful space for the family to gather.

Laura and Tim selected Shaker-style cabinet fronts in mint green. The hue “matches the feel of the old house but is also clean and modern at the same time,” said Laura. Moreover, the brushed bronze hardware and stainless-steel appliances provide a nice contrast. “The kitchen came out beautifully,” Laura said.

The mint home renovation trend brings the outside, inside

Two years after buying their two-bedroom apartment in Queens, Gina and Andrew decided to renovate. The couple wanted to fix the kitchen’s small, awkward layout and create a space that would inspire them to cook. After hiring a Sweeten general contactor, they were on their way.

The pair was inspired by the lovely mix of greens in their co-op courtyard. To bring this into their design, they chose beautiful lower cabinets in the shade of agave. Warm brass hardware stands out against the more muted green cabinets. “I never used to cook and after our renovation, I’m cooking up a storm,” said Andrew.

A compromise on color becomes a designer kitchen

Design is definitely in this couple’s wheelhouse. A former architect and interior designer, Maggie and Adam knew that they would have to make some concessions when designing their co-op. Their focus: the kitchen.

Their kitchen was small and outdated. Luckily, they were able to make it much larger by removing the surrounding wall, changing the location of the refrigerator, and adding shelves instead of upper cabinets.

According to the couple, the kitchen really reveals the way they communicate. “The kitchen shows the full-scale of compromise between our distinct design ideas,” said Adam. “For instance, the light green lower cabinets add the layer of color that fit her style, but have a gray tone that doesn’t stray from my own style.”

It was important to Maggie to “add a personal touch, warmth, and texture to the kitchen,” which they achieved through the mint-green cabinetry—a style that is classic yet contemporary.

Find more inspiration in the Before & After: Kitchen edition.

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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8 Paneling Designs to Hide a Fridge Door

Let your fridge blend neatly into its surroundings with these paneling ideas

One of the first things you notice in a kitchen is the refrigerator. It is big and usually holds souvenir magnets, wedding invitations, or to-do lists. With more homes featuring open-plan layouts, its size and boxy shape interfere with the visual harmony. Paneling and built-ins can help hide a fridge door and integrate it into cabinetry, unifying the look of the entire kitchen.

The homeowners below lassoed their oh-so-necessary refrigerator into functional design statements with their general contractors from Sweeten. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

A custom touch for a fridge

For their East Hampton kitchen, homeowners Jennifer and Alex wanted to keep the redesign simple but inviting. They chose to add a large island for entertaining and splurged on a wine fridge and quartz countertops. To make the design more modern, they decided to install an integrated refrigerator, which streamlined the look of the cabinetry.

refrigerator paneling

A repurposed structure

When Ainsley and Simon’s architect discovered that the column in the kitchen was merely decorative, they came up with a plan to tuck the refrigerator inside of it and add custom panels. “You don’t look at it and think it is a fridge at all,” Ainsley said.

refrigerator paneling to hide fridge door

A seamless built-in

Lauren’s front door led directly into the kitchen. She had to choose between a traditional entryway or a hybrid space that would add square footage to the kitchen.  She chose the latter and added a seamless wall of cabinetry with a refrigerator and pantry—plus, a coat closet.
kitchen storage and integrated refrigerator

A wall of closets

To improve the flow between their living and kitchen space, Tara and Brian’s contractor came up with an idea to move the refrigerator to a wall already outfitted with closets. Now the refrigerator fits right in with the cabinetry instead of jutting out in the main cooking space.

refrigerator paneling

A fridge in disguise

Casey and Kumar’s apartment is full of clever storage solutions to maximize their limited space. The kitchen is one such example thanks to creative built-ins, which also hide the fridge door. Custom cabinetry covers the refrigerator along with a neighboring pantry, and the whole unit conceals a structural column.

wooden cabinets to hide fridge door

Closet-turn-fridge spot

Scandinavian chic was the look that homeowners Roxana and Gabriel were going for in their Long Island City loft.  They turned to a Sweeten contractor who was able to update their space to match their minimalistic style. The refrigerator, which moved from the main kitchen area into what was formerly a coat closet proved to be one of the biggest challenges. They had to find the right size appliance and custom cut the Ikea panels to fit.  

Panels unify the kitchen

Creating an open concept living arrangement was the biggest goal for this Manhattan couple. They took down the dividing wall between the kitchen and family room and replaced it with a custom unit with storage on both sides. It was really important to the couple that they fit a fully integrated Sub-Zero refrigerator and other standard-sized appliances. “They [general contractor team] worked with me through a few kitchen iterations until we found a great open layout that permitted full-size appliances,” the homeowner shared.

A puzzle of panels

Less like appliances, more like furniture—that was Sally’s directive for her kitchen renovation. Her contractor built out a wall of cabinets covering the refrigerator, a pantry, and added narrow units designed to hold brooms and mops, too. 

Set your calendar. Here’s how long an average kitchen renovation will take.

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

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Surviving a Renovation: Should I Stay or Go?

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

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

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

Moving out during demolition

(Above) Carly’s new apartment

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

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


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

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

Expecting while renovating

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

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

Surviving their renovation: A couple toughs it out

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

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

Moving into a rental

(Above) The light-filled renovated living room

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

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

Neighbors offer hospitality

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

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

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

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

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

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Build Your Own Library with Custom Bookshelves

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

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

Statement shelves

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

Custom dining room shelves

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

Hallway shelving

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

Foyer built-in

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

Wall-to-wall bookshelves

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

Space-saving bookshelves

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

Natural room divider

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

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

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

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

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Unique Features You Should Include in Your Next Remodel

Problem-solving unique features that do double duty as inspiring design

open pantry Sweeten kitchen renovation

Function and fashion are two major factors to consider while planning for a home renovation. While we want our homes to be aesthetically pleasing, we also need them to be more efficient, organized and less cluttered. The solution? Integrating unique features into your home renovation designs can solve organizational challenges while looking beautiful and distinct.

Sweeten, a free renovation platform that matches homeowners with licensed general contractors and tracks their projects, shows how Sweeten homeowners have used unique features in their renovations to inject beauty-and function-into their homes.

Jewelry wall: A major upgrade from boxes and bowls

(Above) Tina + Andrew’s shiny Sunnyside jewelry wall, Deanne + Daria’s closed-door accessory storage.

When Tina and Andrew combined two closets in the master bedroom into a walk-in closet—“a rare thing in New York City!”—they opted to include a jewelry wall that functioned as a unique feature for display and storage. The narrow shelf underneath adds a subtle component that provides space for decorative touches.

Siblings Deanna and Daria share a Grandmillenial-chic aesthetic, so it’s only fitting that even their jewelry wall is hidden behind an old-school mirrored door. Inside, there’s plenty of room for statement necklaces, earrings, and rings, in keeping with the sisters’ more-is-more sensibility.

Toe kick drawers maximize every square inch

toe kick storage(Above) Elie + Matt’s cutting board storage drawers

toe kick storage(Above) Jessica + Jessie’s jewel-toned drawers

Elie and Matt waited before renovating their kitchen to make sure that they could fully maximize the 7×7 space to suit their needs. When they decided to take the leap, they opted for custom cabinets that included toe-kick drawers as unique features to get more storage.

Jessica and Jesse, both major foodies, knew they needed a “beautiful kitchen to cook in.” To that end, they re-engineered the space to incorporate a six-foot island with a lot of cool features, and toe-kick drawers are one of the stars.

Above-sink drying rack = natural space saver

(Above) Giulia’s nostalgic dish rack, Jo’s efficient drying rack

As part of Giulia’s plan for a “functional” kitchen, she knew she wanted a drying rack shelf above the sink, an idea she says she “stole” from Italy, her home country. The rack’s placement not only frees up counter space; it prevents the dreaded “puddles of standing water.”

Jo’s kitchen renovation aimed to create a clean, classic space while incorporating ideas from her travels and innovative materials. A bamboo drying rack above the sink—something Jo had seen in Europe—was sealed to accommodate wet dishes and provides an earthy counterpoint to the white cabinetry.

An open pantry, a cook’s best friend

open pantry, kitchen pantry, walk in pantry, kitchen renovation

(Above) Nazli’s seamless walk-in pantry

For Nazli’s open-plan kitchen, she opted to forgo upper cabinets, a storage challenge she solved with an open pantry. Although a great solution for seeing and accessing ingredients easily, it can also lead to visual clutter. Nazli avoided that pitfall by painting the pantry a dark gray, which “makes the whole space disappear” once the light is turned off.

Check out the reno projects that bring the most value for resale from kitchens and floors to exteriors.

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 Ways Renovators Style Ikea Kitchen Cabinets to Work for Them

Chic and cost-effective? These 7 renovations show how to style Ikea kitchen cabinets to make that happen.

Aside from closets, kitchen cabinets represent one of the larger concentrations of millwork and storage designed to keep spaces organized and clutter out of sight. Whether modern or traditional or navy blue or natural wood, the cabinets you choose will have an impact on the look and feel you want your kitchen to portray. 

Some homeowners choose to go fully custom, some opt for stock cabinets, and sometimes it’s a mix. To assist in your research, Sweeten, a free renovation platform that matches homeowners with licensed general contractors and tracks their projects, has rounded up a few of our renovators’ kitchens. Here, the thinking behind their decision to incorporate Ikea cabinets into their cook spaces with the help of their Sweeten contractors.

For High Gloss Glamour

butcher block countertop

Lavanya and Regis’s gallery-style kitchen got a major style overhaul during their railroad-style apartment renovation. To make the main rooms bright and airy, they chose glossy white Ikea kitchen cabinets to complement their high-gloss, white-painted wood floors.

Go Low on Cost, High on Style

Ikea kitchenFull disclosure: Sally’s kitchen is a mix of Ikea Sektion bases and custom door fronts from Scherr’s. It’s a great example of how to get a bespoke look for less—and saved the renovator (she has four under her belt!) $25,000.

For Euro-Industrial

studio loft kitchen

Uldis and Serge, Europeans-turned-New Yorkers, mixed contrasting colors and finishes with their styled Ikea kitchen cabinets to create a Euro-Industrial feel. Their upper kitchen upper cabinets, which were a high gloss white, integrated smoothly with the stainless steel cabinets on the bottom. The end result? A sleek kitchen that doesn’t sacrifice fashion for function.

To Go Scandinavian Sleek

Ikea kitchenJen loves the Scandi-look, so when it came to renovating her kitchen, Ikea cabinets were a must. She chose the Veddinge cabinet front doors and minimalistic tab pulls to create an unfussy and practical cook space with major hygge vibes. 

For Expanded Pantry Space

We never thought pantry storage would become the crown jewel of a kitchen…but then we saw this Brooklyn kitchen. With wraparound, floor-to-ceiling shelving, including full-height 15″ upper Ikea kitchen cabinets, their multi-generational home has enough kitchen storage for all the family members.

To Complement Hero Pieces

Ikea kitchenIn a Manhattan loft this awe-inspiring with high ceilings and windows, it’s best to pick one or two show-stopping features. For this renovator, that meant the home’s original bones and a standout Carrara marble countertop and backsplash. So, when it came to styling his kitchen cabinets, he chose gray-blue Ikea to complement the rest of the apartment.

To Be Sustainable

Ikea kitchenSandra and Michael chose their Bodbyn style Ikea kitchen cabinets for a few reasons. They had originally planned to use reclaimed cabinetry, but given the kitchen’s tight layout, they needed a narrower option. “We decided to go with Ikea because we felt they offered the best sustainable options and price,” Sandra shared. 

P.S. Do you have an Ikea kitchen? We’d love to get your thoughts for an upcoming article. Leave a comment below addressing the following questions, and you could be featured! 1. How long have you had the cabinets? How have they held up? 2. Why did you choose Ikea? 3. Share any other comments/feedback you have.

Want more inspiration? Check out these kitchens before and afters.

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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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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7 Kitchen Trends We’ll See in 2020

Sweeten reveals the hottest design ideas for the modern kitchen

2020 Kitchen trends

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

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

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

The “semi-open” concept

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

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

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

Goodbye, brushed nickel; hello, warm metallics

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

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

The refrigerator gets “frozen” out of the kitchen

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

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

Textured tiles lend a magic touch

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

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

Kitchen drawers open up

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

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

Washer/dryers find new ways to get into the kitchen

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

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

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

Herringbone points the way

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

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

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

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

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

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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 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 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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Remodeling a Bathroom? Six Trends to Consider in 2020

Sweeten shares bathroom design trends for next year

Bathroom trends

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

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

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

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

Feeling Blue, In a Good Way

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

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

The Magic of Floating Vanities

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

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

Living Large

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

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

Wall Statements WIth Something To Say

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

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

The European-style “Wet Room” Comes Stateside

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

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

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

Secret Storage

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

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

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

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