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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Top Instagram Posts that Got Our Attention for 2019

These 7 photos tallied the most “likes” for the year

Every week Sweeten posts on Instagram (@sweeten_home) to inspire and share what our home renovators have succeeded in bringing to life. Snippets of “before and after” stories, highlights of favorite design details, and even opportunities to pay homage to #internationalcat day portray a wonderful mix of dream spaces come true and living your best life at home. 

From two-toned galley kitchens and wallpapered entryways, Sweeten, a renovation platform connecting homeowners to vetted general contractors, reveals the top seven posts our Instagram audience (of nearly half-million followers) loved the most in 2019. 

A Kitchen Sheds Its Gloomy Outlook 

We are amazed at the dramatic transformation that took place in this space, all without changing the layout. The homeowner’s goal was to replace the dark kitchen cabinets and countertops and the smaller-than-standard appliances. Blue-and-white upper cabinets, and an oversized farmhouse sink, and a tiled floor on the diagonal come together to create a bright and airy space.

Floating shelves that replace upper cabinets is a recurring trend to keep the kitchen from feeling too top-heavy. Plus, it’s nice to display favorite pottery or to have everyday items at easy reach. The end result is a kitchen that is not only more functional, but also more inviting. 

A spa-worthy walk-in shower

The homeowners’ goal for their bathroom? To make their second bath as zen as possible. That’s why she picked out colors so calm and muted that they could soothe her to sleep. After years of having bathrooms with poor ventilation, a large window was a bonus for this walk-in shower—it was also safer for the grandmas who visited often. A sit-down bench and grip bar in the shower along with an integrated sink mix functionality and a timeless look. 

Windowless? Yes. Dark and closed-off? No! 

Tara wanted a modern bathroom and Brian favored fixtures with single handles instead of two. Other decisions they made together for their renovation incorporated floor-to-ceiling subway tile with the ever-popular hexagon shape on the floor. Also, you can’t go wrong with classic black-and-white. Opting for a stationary glass panel instead of a shower door lends the open feel in this small space. Finally, the matte black shower hardware (a trend we anticipate for 2020) contrasts against the warmer walnut and brass tones elsewhere in the bathroom. 

The ceiling is ready for its spotlight

Talk about a lasting first impression! We love the use of a geometric floor-to-ceiling (literally) wallpaper in this eye-catching entryway, which creates the illusion of a taller space by drawing the eye up. We love this photo for reminding us that the ceiling is also a surface ready for its close-up. 

The makings of a family home

By knocking down a partial wall between the eating area and the kitchen, the renovators of this duplex instantly created a cohesive and extended cook space. Banquette seating adds to the streamlined look but we also love the different textures from fabric to wall paneling to wallpaper. 

Hallways deserve some love too

An open and airy hallway can bring just as much joy and utility as the other more high-traffic spaces in the home. By taking advantage of a bump-out in the floor-plan as a space for some additional storage and decor, this hallway went from unassuming to functional and pretty. 

A vintage touch for a remodeled kitchen

Blogger Sarah Jacobson @_thegrandapt took over our Instagram for a day. To turn the kitchen into her “happy place,” Sarah opted for a spacious double farmhouse sink, salvaged open shelving, and a niche storage spot to stash favorite cookbooks. The end result? A cozy kitchen with an antique farmhouse feel. 

Ready to remodel and create your own insta-worthy space? Whether it’s a big change or a small design trend, a Sweeten contractor can help realize your vision. And of course, Sweeten will help monitor your project until it’s finished.

Ready to renovate in 2020? Take a look at these kitchen and bathroom trends for a big dose of inspiration.

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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Renovating For Different Life Stages

Changes spark home remodels from a growing family to first homeownership

kitchen and pantry

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

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

A family grows up, a house evolves

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

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

A second baby, flexibility pays off

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

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

From a rental to owning, a milestone reached 

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

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

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

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

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The Eat-In Kitchen Gets a Makeover

Dining in style, from kitchen tables to islands with seating

In the eat-in kitchen, the “eat-in” part is usually the last piece of the puzzle. Kitchen design typically revolves around cooking while the notion of dining in the space is often an afterthought. However, Sweeten, a renovation platform connecting homeowners to a vetted general contractor, has seen a growing trend in considering both activities during the design stage. While small spaces demand multiple functionality in the kitchen, a more thoughtfully layout combines seating, a more organic flow, and space planning.

Explore the possibilities that these Sweeten homeowners undertook with their eat-in kitchens, from dining tables to counter seating. All will invite family and friends to “break bread” with you at home!

A kitchen banquette beckons for company

kitchen banquette

With only one window in the kitchen to let in light, Jenn and Jon took steps to create a brighter atmosphere for their family of four. A partial wall that sectioned off an eat-in area from the kitchen came down effectively joining the two spaces and letting the sunshine stream in. Cooking and eating together were top priorities and a U-shaped banquette lent a cozy gathering spot around the square-shaped dining table. Wallpaper and paneling give it separation and personality.

A peninsula bar multitasks

dining nook

For Elizabeth and Martin’s 124-square-foot galley kitchen, tackling the space planning and bringing a sense of openness was done with the help of their Sweeten design-build team. The couple’s comfort level for all of the renovation changes was put at ease with “sketches from every angle.” Pulling down two partial walls was step one in bringing in more light.

The new peninsula bar seats four to five stools reminiscent of a cute bistro—and holds storage. Form and function increase with more prep space, glass-front cabinets, and a mix of finishes. Clutter minimizes with the microwave tucked behind a cabinet and the paper towel holder rolls out from under the countertop.

More function for a larger kitchen

Townhouse renovation

Jill and Cy created an open concept on the first floor of their single-family townhouse. The kitchen was expanded for the family of four by turning a full bath into a powder room giving more exposure to the black-trimmed doors leading to the backyard. With ample room, a dining table and chairs fit easily in the cook space for meals and entertaining. The flat-panel walnut cabinetry, ceiling light fixture, and furniture displayed the mid-century modern aesthetic. A cut-out window seat that doubles as storage was a bonus feature.

Centerstage for an island

kitchenA salvaged slab of walnut picked up at a reclaimed wood supplier took centerstage in Tara and Brian’s kitchen. “I remember when I was a kid, the kitchen island was the center of existence,” she said. Aiming for the rustic look, two sides were live edge while the wood’s cherry red tone was lacquered.

The refrigerator was relocated within a row of existing closets off the kitchen proper creating a unified flow for the rest of the apartment. A disguised pantry covered in subway tile is a fun “Where’s Waldo?” moment. And that walnut slab? There was enough left over to fashion open shelving for the kitchen, home office, and the bathroom.

studio loft kitchen

A kitchenette found new life in its studio loft with new homeowners Serge and Uldis who worked to make full use of all of the space available. Situated underneath the loft, a small dining table and chairs enhance the cozy grotto feel. Opting for an L-shaped layout, appliances moved along the back wall giving room to install plenty of countertop surface. A mix of stainless steel and white cabinets are backdrops to a glossy black tempered glass backsplash. 


Here are six steps on how to plan your renovation and find the right 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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Types, materials, and installation to dress up your walls

Decorative trim adds timeless character and visual appeal

Renovated dining room(Above) Molding and picture frame molding by Sweeten homeowner

Are you satisfied with the overall look of the rooms of your house? Furniture and decor aside, does it have the character you crave? If not, consider introducing molding. The addition of trim along the ceiling, at the floor, and around doorways (even on walls) will add the depth and distinction you seek. This is true for new and old, modern and traditional houses alike. When introduced with imagination and care, molding also will boost the perceived value of a home.

Sweeten, a free renovation platform connecting homeowners to vetted general contractors, offers an overview of the types of molding available and their benefits. As always, consult your contractor before committing to the molding material to be sure you have a choice that will work in your room’s dimensions and structure.

Crown molding styles

You can add trim to just about any area of a room, from ceiling to floor, and areas in between. Some molding styles will work anywhere; others are designed to fit a specific location. Here’s the rundown:

  • Crown molding – Just as the name indicates, crown molding crowns the room when placed at the seam or transition between the ceiling and the wall. Styles can be very simple or highly elaborate and combined to create a unique and refined installation. You can also work with a fabricator to design and cut from wood the exact look you want, but this will cost more than pre-made (see materials and profiles below).
  • Casing – This trim serves to conceal the gap between the wall and the door or window frame. With regard to doorways, it also helps to stabilize the opening, so this is one trim you don’t want to skip. Casing and baseboard should match or closely resemble each other for a cohesive look that doesn’t dominate a room (particularly one with a crown molding).

Old house open concept(Above) Kyli and Luke’s picture frame molding jazzes up plain walls straight up the stairwell

  • Chair rail – Functioning as both decoration and protection, a chair rail resides about halfway up a wall to protect the surface from dings from furniture placed close by. Decorative options abound here. As a natural separator, the areas above and below the chair rail may be painted a different color, or covered with wood paneling or wallpaper. Another practical benefit: if an area needs to be repaired, you don’t have to replace the surface material—paint or wallpaper—on the entire wall for a perfect match. You can just replace the damaged material above or below the molding.
  • Panel molding – This decorative molding is used to trim out raised-panel wall construction. Beadboard and wainscoting are a couple of examples.
  • Picture frame molding – This molding serves two types of applications. Use it to create a frame (or frame within a frame) on a wall, which can be further defined with paint, fabric, or wallpaper. Or run it along walls near the ceiling to support hooks for picture wires, eliminating nail holes in the wall.

SWEETEN_Nazli_Apartment-05(Above) Nazli and Larry’s panel molding, painted a deep teal blue, gives their dining room personality.

  • Baseboards – Besides casing, this trim is the most common. It sits at the juncture between the wall and the floor. The purpose is twofold: to protect against shoe scuffs and to give the floor a finished appearance, hiding any separation that may occur as the room settles. You can go narrow or wide here, as your taste and the room’s style dictate.
  • Medallions – Typically used to conceal the opening through which a light fixture such as a chandelier descends, medallions are also decorative. Available in a range of sizes, apply one or several for pure embellishment on a wall, as an alternative to art.

(Above) Egg-and-dart molding supports a layer of crown molding in Tina and Fletcher’s kitchen

How to use decorative molding

  • Molding most commonly runs along the perimeter of two surfaces to conceal or soften the appearance of the transition between them. Think window frames or crown moldings, described above.
  • It can also be applied to pleasing and elegant effect to top cabinets or a bookcase, for a built-in, bespoke look.
  • Crown molding that is at least a couple inches deep can also serve as a wall shelf or plate rail in a kitchen.
  • Go even deeper and you can employ molding for a fireplace mantel.
  • Drop crown molding a few inches from the ceiling and light it for an extra touch of drama in a living or great room, or a romantic glow for a dining room. There are two-piece molding systems available with lights in the lower molding that project upward, illuminating the upper piece. Your contractor can help you create a similar effect with a strip of LED lights.
  • Also consider UL-Listed hollow crown molding that can hide common household wiring, good for a home office.

crown molding(Above) Crown molding at the top of these twin windows and panel molding below in Janet and Jerry’s brownstone.

Molding materials and profiles

Molding is widely available through stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s as well as lumberyards and some hardware stores. You’ll find a vast selection of profiles—the shape or contour that you see when the molding is seen from its side—from crisp, straight edges to sensuous, elaborate curves. Stock items come in six- or eight-foot lengths.

  • Patterns – what you see from the front—include classic dentil and egg-and-dart, as well as floral and abstract designs.

As for what molding is made of, the most popular options include wood, of course, as well as MDF, plaster, and plastic. All of these materials can be painted, and the woods can be stained.

  • Wood – Wood molding comes in a variety of species, some hard like maple, and some soft like pine. Go for wood if you want to match walls of the same species or seek an effect from a distinctive grain, like that found in fir or oak. Wood takes stains, varnishes, clear coating, or paint. Some manufacturers will offer wood molding pre-primed and ready for painting.

For an authentic, historic look, check out salvage outlets for reclaimed wood molding from old, deconstructed houses.

As a natural material, wood will respond to changes in humidity so it’s not for rooms with a lot of moisture.

crown molding(Above) An elaborate ceiling medallion takes the contemporary edge off this hyper-modern kitchen in Kavi and David’s historic townhouse. Original molding frames the doorway.

  • MDF – Made of wood fibers and resin, medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is a stable yet flexible material, suitable for surfaces that are not completely flat or even. It resists water better than wood and is lighter than plaster but heavier than the plastic options. It should come pre-primed, ready to paint or finish once installed.
  • Plaster – A time-honored molding material going back a couple centuries, plaster offers lots of choice in ornate designs. Since it’s also heavy and rigid, it’s not good for rooms where walls are not plumb. For experienced installers only!
  • Plastic – There’s a range of options within plastics—polyurethane, polystyrene, PVC. All are flexible to conform to rooms with curves. They are also lightweight, and hence easier to handle than plaster and some woods. Of particular importance, plastics are waterproof, and so will not expand, constrict, split, or warp from exposure to changes in temperature or moisture, such as a kitchen or bath. They are also easy to cut and come ready to paint or faux finish.
  • Metal – This material is for rooms with stamped metal ceiling panels.

Installation tips

Unless you are an experienced DIYer, it’s best to work with a pro when selecting the size of molding for a particular application. Do match the molding to your home’s era and décor. Note that mid-century architecture, in its drive to streamline, did away with most ornamentation so it will be hard to find examples from this time. However, very simple trim—molding, baseboard, and casings—can enhance even a very contemporary or minimal space to make the room feel truly finished. Here, paint the trim the same color as the walls.

The array of styles and range of materials make molding a simple and fairly thrifty addition to a room—once you’ve made your selection! It can transform a room without requiring you to move a single wall or replace a bit of furniture. If your home has a historic or traditional heritage, you have much more leeway for choosing different types of molding, including very elaborate styles. Look at pictures of historic homes online or in books for period-appropriate inspiration and guidance.

Looking for more ways to add character to your home? Hardwood flooring provides a classic look that stands the test of time.

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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How 9 Closet Organization Ideas Make a Calm Home

From organizing shoes to arranging the kids’ toys, here are ways to stay tidy

Closet organization for clothes is an accomplishment that gets any day off to a great start. Smaller closets can be combined to make one large one or another look at a floor plan may reveal extra square footage that becomes built-in storage. In entryways, kids’ rooms, or master bedrooms, clutter can be tamed and customized to the way you live.

Check out these homeowners who came to Sweeten, a renovation platform which connected them to vetted general contractors, and plotted out their visions for organization. (One couple even took advantage of a structural column.) Get ready, you might get bit by the “tidy” bug too.

bedroom closetWith a handful of design courses under his belt, Toby put his passion for design to good use during his home renovation. He had given away the square footage of his bedroom closet to his bathroom located in the next room. To make up for this, he designed and built a new full-length closet for clothes and shoes with sliding doors. The built-in also hid a dresser and tv.

Kensington, renovation, closetStorage was a big factor in Barbra and Sean’s apartment renovation. Closets went into one of the kids’ rooms, the entryway, and the master bedroom (pictured above), where their contractor suggested combining two smaller units into a single large one with a custom organization system. “There’s a lot more functional space now,” Barbra said. “I even have some half-way empty dresser drawers. I wish I had done all the closets. Someday!”

Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, renovation, nursery closetThis Brooklyn homeowner chose a neutral palette for her son’s room; the better choice as a backdrop for all of his colorful toys. Even toy closets can offer a visual respite and functional organization. “Building out the closets was essential to allowing us to settle in properly, and I’m glad we didn’t wait to do this (which was the original plan),” said the homeowner.

closet renovation ideas, custom closets, storage solutions, organization

The standard closet build doesn’t give a lot of thought to shoe storage, so if you’re really into footwear, you’ll be faced with the problem of where to store them all. With 87 pairs of shoes in need of storage, Matthew had a custom closet designed with pull-out drawers sporting a pop of orange. The drawers were each sized to his size 9 shoes and hidden behind a sleek panel door.

shoe closetAfter Zoe and Arvid broke through the wall between the two apartments they were combining, an immovable column was discovered. Making the best of the situation, the couple built a hidden shoe closet that blended in with the structural element. Their contractor added baseboards, painted it a design-forward hue, and fitted it out with push-open door hinges.

closet organizationWith two active little boys in an 800-square-foot junior one-bedroom co-op, Courtney and Jim’s main goal was to create more storage in their sons’ room. To keep their toys, sports items, and musical instruments from spilling into the common living areas, a thoughtful organizational system was designed in the existing closet. Their contractor, however, was able to find space for a second closet in their room without sacrificing floor space.

closet renovation ideas, custom closets, storage solutions, organization

A layout change that resulted in opening the kitchen to the living room gave Marissa and Cody the opportunity to demolish the three narrow closets in the main living area and build two larger ones. By taking down the walls between the closets, the couple was able to increase their storage by making use of what was previously dead space between the walls.

closet renovation ideas, custom closets, storage solutions, organization

Michael and Chenta decided to overhaul the existing closet in their bedroom. They had a large closet built with simple, oak doors and added a floating wall in front of it. The wall separated their closet from the rest of the bedroom, giving it the feeling of a walk-in closet while still allowing the space between the wall and the closet to be used as a walkway.

home renovation, closet renovation, built-in closets, organization

It’s hard to believe Maggie and Adam’s bedroom closets aren’t custom. For a made-to-order look, they had their contractor frame IKEA modules and installed LED lighting with motion sensors so the lights would turn on when the doors opened. The brass hardware gave a final refined touch, plus ties in with the hardware elsewhere in the home.

Looking to add more storage to your home? In the kitchen, a pantry will keep things under control, while a vanity in the bath is great for corraling toiletries and other necessities.

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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