A Living Room Renovation Puts A Pool Table in the Spotlight

College friends collaborate on a living room renovation & kitchen update to create a grown-up man nest

bachelor pad renovation

“After” photos by Kate Glicksberg for Sweeten

  • Designer Bennett Gale posted his project on Sweeten on behalf of his client Dan.
  • Where: Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York
  • Primary renovation: Living room renovation to expand + kitchen remodel in a 900-square-foot co-op
  • Notable: The remodel transformed a cramped living room into a swanky billiards chamber.
  • Result: An open kitchen, a dry bar with party potential and plenty of room to cue pool
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

A living room renovation gives room for a fave sport

Sometimes even man-cave passions are well worth making room for. Designer Bennett Gale knew this when he agreed to help his friend Dan, who had purchased a one-bedroom apartment in a 1960 New York City building, with its remodel.

“For the longest time, the only piece of furniture that Dan had—before he even bought a bed—was a pool table,” recalled Bennett, who works as a project manager for a luxury real-estate developer. The dark-wood billiards console—sturdy, angular, and clad in camel-toned felt—was a prized possession and an essential feature in the project. Dan, a finance executive who’d moved into the co-op about a year before starting on the redesign, had made it the apartment’s centerpiece.



Designer, Bennett Gale



“BEFORE” of kitchen



A pool table in a Manhattan apartment may sound like a literal elephant in the room, but Bennett, who had been close with Dan since college, understood its importance and was happy to discuss it. The table had a modern design and good bones. With a set of 4 – 5 table leaves that let it multitask as a dining surface, the nifty four-legged table was also practical—Dan had gathered many a friend around it. The issue was that his otherwise sparsely set living room felt tight when the table was in use. “I wanted to create more space around it,” said Dan. Plus, more elbow room would be useful for pool cues!

Planning an entertainment space at home

Dan and Bennett worked together to post the job on Sweeten and soon hired a contractor. Then they set out to upgrade the co-op into the ultimate bachelor’s pad. (Note: Dan’s girlfriend has moved in since the renovation—and reportedly, loves the space.) The original scope of the project, Bennett said, grew substantially. “We’d planned to open up the wall between the kitchen and the living room, but once we dug into the plans, it became clear that by taking out a few walls and relocating a closet, we could make better use of the space.”

He proposed a full reconfiguration that would knock out a lot of flow-hampering sheetrock, give the kitchen an eye-catching redo, and elevate the living room to become a spacious entertaining hub. The makeover would bring light and a chic, loft-like sprawl to the downtown apartment.

Conversations about specifics began in the kitchen. Bennett and Dan put a lot of research into cohesive surfacing choices. “Dark-wood parquet flooring dominates a lot of the space,” Bennett said, “so we lightened up the walls and chose materials that coordinated with the wood.” Dan opted for kitchen cabinets in a custom textured veneer with blond accents; dark matte-bronze cabinet hardware and coordinating lighting fixtures complement the stained wood. The natural marble that Dan settled on for the countertops is a warm white with earth-toned veining that echoes the deep brown pool and dining table.

kitchen bar

Sample testing the countertop materials

Quality and durability were primary factors. Dan had decided to go “all in” on natural marble for the countertops and backsplash. “We did countless tests on countertop samples in order to determine whether we should go with honed marble or polished,” Bennett said. “Olive oil, red wine, hot sauce, pickle juice, and soda were tested to observe how it would stain or etch.” Dan chose a matte honed finish, which is more resistant to discoloration and allows scratches and marks to blend. “From multiple slabs, we identified one with as much veining and movement as possible,” Bennett said. 

With materials picked and sourced, the real work began. The crew opened the kitchen, installed cabinetry and appliances, and created a three-stooled stretch of counter seating on the opening’s living-room side. From there, the apartment’s other unnecessary walls got the sledgehammer. Bennett’s plan included taking out a hallway wall to give more space around the pool table.

To complete the space expansion, the removal of a corner closet revealed a protruding column. Bennett designed a dry bar to fill the accidental niche. “That awkward corner became a great opportunity,” Bennett said. “We negotiated with the contractor to have the bar included in the build-out. It ended up as a great display.” The closet was relocated to an oversized and inefficient foyer.



Choosing the right general contractor team

As is the case in most every home-construction job, the team hit some snags. During demolition, contractors discovered that the electrical wiring needed to be upgraded. Bennett emphasizes the importance of reading and understanding co-op or condo board rules and sharing them with contractors, who must not only work within the regulations, but also lock in the appropriate licenses and insurance coverages for the project.

A cooperative relationship between the construction crew and building staff is an absolute must, according to Bennett. “Get the super involved early,” he says. “These individuals almost always have previous experience with renovations in the building, and can often provide valuable insight on the exact issues you’ll encounter.” Fortunately, Dan received support from Sweeten throughout the process, and from Bennett, his friend (and architect!) “I would have been lost without his experience, guidance, and recommendations, not to mention his help pushing back on the contractors and the building when I needed it,” he said.

All challenges aside, though, “I’m very happy with the finished product,” Dan said. “I accomplished exactly what I was looking to do.” 

Thank you, Bennett and Dan, for sharing the results of a great collaboration! 


KITCHEN: Porcelain floor tiles: Tile Depot. Kitchen cabinets: Provided by contractor. Bronze cabinet hardware: Emtek. Calacatta Calvini honed marble countertops: Stone Source. Grohe Brushed Chrome faucet: AJ Madison. Bosch refrigerator, Bertazzoni dishwasher, range, and hood: P.C. Richards & Son. Light fixtures: Y Lighting.

LIVING SPACE: White Dove paint: Benjamin Moore. Pool table: Blatt Billiards. Sectional sofa: West Elm. Light fixture over pool table: Tech Lighting.

ADUs or accessory dwelling units can transform into home offices, living space for family or as a rental, or a retreat.

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

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A Rental Property Upgrade into a Spacious Williamsburg Apartment

Walls go up in a sleek upgrade to a Williamsburg rental property

rental property updates to Williamsburg loft

“After” photos by Kate Glicksberg for Sweeten

Appealing to the ideal renter

Originally when entrepreneur, we will call him AC, bought his apartment,  he intended to live there himself. However, after a few months, he decided it would make an even better investment property as a rental. To make it more renter-friendly, he wanted to enclose the upstairs loft. Doing so would convert the apartment into a two-bedroom —opening it up to a whole new market. He also wanted the design of the space to reflect the neighborhood vibe and attract young professionals with a modern aesthetic and lifestyle. To take on this rental property upgrade, he needed a professional for the renovation.

Finding the renovation team

AC posted his project on Sweeten and hired this general contractor. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

“The contractor I found through Sweeten was great because he was very flexible with the changes to the scope of the work,” says AC. “Plus, the Sweeten team was accommodating and always on top of looking after my project.”



Choosing the finishes

To appeal to young professionals, AC chose on-trend luxe materials and finishes. He put in brass hardware that pops against the deep-blue kitchen cabinets. The cabinets weren’t originally this color, but AC knew that simply painting this rich hue would drastically change the look of the space. He was right. It went from drab to sophisticated.

He also made other smart paint choices. He brought the stair railing up-to-date with a new coat of paint and gave one of the bedrooms a masculine dark-blue accent wall. The bathroom was refreshed as well, adding interest with gray walls instead of plain white. 

upgraded bathroom sink in rental property

Creating a second bedroom

A lot of the renovation was more behind-the-scenes. The newly-enclosed bedroom required the electrical to be rewired and recessed lighting was added. They also changed the narrow hallway into a more useful space by configuring it as a small office area. 

AC’s advice to those thinking of renovation? “Just to be realistic,” he says. “With little changes, you can make a big impact.”

Thank you, AC, for sharing the results of your rental property upgrade.

Style Finds: Paint: Farrow & Ball. Kitchen hardware: CB2.

Check out another inspiring loft renovation.

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

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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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Long-time Renters Shine as Renovating Homeowners

A co-op refresh including an unplanned kitchen remodel

It was something like the seven-year itch that had Jessica and Alex setting off on their own. Having lived in a Manhattan rental for six years, they received a lease renewal from their landlord for the seventh. Jessica a real-estate development executive, and Alex, who works in finance as a strategist, sat down to discuss their New York City future. They decided to sign the lease but make it their last. 

After a successful search, Jessica and Alex closed on an 800-square-foot co-op in Chelsea and posted their one-bedroom, one-bathroom project on Sweeten, a free renovation platform connecting homeowners with vetted general contractors. They soon found a design-build firm for their overhaul. Read on to learn how this renovation turned a “fine” apartment to fabulous.

sunken living room with hardwood floors

“After” photos by Miao Jiaxin for Sweeten

Guest blog post by homeowner Jessica

We purchased the apartment with intentions to renovate. We both love architecture and design, and we wanted a place that we could make our own. The previous apartment, with its sunny balcony and endless closet space, had given us high standards, and working in real estate, I look at beautiful homes all the time. We wanted a home where we could make our mark and add the elements we craved.

homeowners in their newly renovated living room

We were thrilled when we landed on this one-bedroom apartment, in a 1930s Chelsea co-op. The building had great bones and Art Deco details but the apartment needed work. We’d been following Sweeten, and after closing, when we knew the reno was imminent, we looked to the service for direction. We wanted to create a clean, modern space marrying traditional and contemporary design elements accented with our personal twists. Throughout, we planned to incorporate art and photos from our travels.



Living in the apartment for about half a year and bringing our Sweeten contractor onboard brought the project into focus. We wanted to rethink the closet layouts and planned to update the living room’s custom built-ins. We were also looking for a lighting solution since the courtyard-facing unit didn’t get much natural light.

Last but certainly not least, we planned to improve the kitchen and the bathroom. Additional cosmetic and electrical updates included new doors and hardware and USB outlets throughout the apartment. Our contractor was patient, listening to our thoughts (lots of them), answering questions and—most of all—assuring us that he could get the job done, within our time constraints and with the level of quality we were hoping for. 

A narrow galley kitchen? Yes. And we love it.

Closets and storage came first. We’d known when we purchased the apartment that we were in for a major storage deficit. With our contractor’s help, we found we could reconfigure the hall and bedroom closets, which backed up to one another. We moved the interior wall, creating a larger bedroom closet with French doors (sliding doors can restrict access). Downsizing the hallway closet felt like a sacrifice, but we outfitted the space for linen-and-shoe storage—useful and enviable extras in NYC.

washer dryer in kitchen

The kitchen was one room where plans changed. It had been renovated and we hadn’t planned on a gut-job. We love to cook and entertain, and didn’t want to forego full-sized appliances, but we wanted more cupboard and counter space. We ultimately did a full rip-and-replace. The cabinets are an off-the-shelf pick that we stacked to the ceiling; it was like putting together a giant puzzle, but was good for our budget and timeline, and gave us a ton of storage. The cabinet above the dishwasher was a last-minute call to increase pantry space. Quartz countertops and a slab backsplash give us a marble look without the maintenance. A narrow galley kitchen? Yes. And we love it.

The old ’70s bathroom remained, and it was a full demo and redo. We replaced the peach and yellow bathroom tile, which appeared to be original to the building, with marble subway tile, placed vertically for some spin. We played with metals, choosing an unexpected iron vanity (the countertop is quartz) and chrome hardware. The floor tiles are porcelain, sleek and durable.



The rear-facing apartment was pin-drop quiet, but dark. The silence was a luxury to us, having endured roaring sunrise garbage pickups and the revelry of late-night barhoppers. But the long living room, which also comprises the dining area, had just two windows and no built-in light fixtures. We installed recessed LED lighting in this room and it brightened the area so perfectly that we added it in the bedroom, the bath and, finally, the kitchen.

The existing built-in cabinets spanning the windowed wall in the living room provided additional storage and brightened up the room with a fresh coat of white paint. We removed a floating center unit to accommodate a wall-mount TV. 

To finish, our Sweeten contractor detailed with all new doors and hardware and added those USB outlets, which become more useful every day. It was our idea to hang wallpaper in the foyer; the subtle raffia gives the walls texture and depth. We chose materials that would stand the test of time from both an aesthetic and durability standpoint. But it was so helpful to have an expert to guide us. There are a ton of vendors out there and our contractor had relationships with suppliers and experience with almost any material available.

Our advice as first-timers is to do the research and know what you want but keep an open mind! Seeing the work progress day-over-day and week-over-week was amazing, and we’re so thrilled with the outcome! Adding our stamp to this place was fun and fulfilling. What a great feeling!

Thank you, Jessica and Alex, for sharing your story!

BATHROOM RESOURCES: Floor and wall tile: Tiles Unlimited. Shower fixtures: Delta. Sink and vanity: RH.

Galley kitchens are more flexible than you may think. Here are some ways to fold them into the living spaces.

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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A Mom and Daughter Remodel Their Forever Home

By cleverly using limited space, a first-time renovator nails it

When Martha, who works in preschool special education, first saw the Hamilton Heights co-op in upper Manhattan she would eventually buy, she passed because it needed a lot of work. She continued looking, searching for a permanent space to share with her daughter, Sofia, a 4th grader. But after a year and no luck, when her realtor encouraged her to take another look, a lightbulb went off. No longer daunted, Martha embraced the possibilities of the apartment’s pre-war flourishes, including 10-foot ceilings, french doors, and transom windows.

To transform the 700-square-foot apartment, Martha, a first-time renovator, posted the project on Sweeten, a free renovation platform connecting homeowners with vetted general contractors, chose her contractor and got down to business creating their home.

renovated kitchen gray cabinets, stainless steel sink

“After” photos by Miao Jiaxin for Sweeten

Guest blog post by Sweeten homeowner Martha

We were living in a great apartment nearby for four years. But after my divorce, I knew I needed to find something to purchase in order to control my housing costs. Since I’m a full-time, working, single parent, the more I can get my costs under control, the better off we’ll be in the long term. I had an amazing real estate agent who looked at places in my price range for a full year.

Living room and bedroom

The apartment I ended up buying was the first home I saw when I started my search! But it needed so much work that I automatically said no and we moved on. After my realtor encouraged me to take another look, I saw it with new eyes. I saw the potential in it, and not just the work that needed to be done.

One of the biggest challenges was that I had a tight timeline—I was paying rent along with a mortgage plus maintenance, and I couldn’t afford that for long. So I had to use only materials that were in stock. It was limiting, but I think we made do! I wanted to open things up and make a home that was cozy and colorful, that would reflect our personalities and be welcoming.


The first few days during the demo were the best part of the process, because I could finally see what things were really going to look like.

The highest priority with the renovation was to cure the ugliness! The apartment hadn’t been touched since the ’70s. There was fake wood paneling in the hallways, old linoleum plunked down over the amazing original hardwood floors, and layers and layers of paint. The space was tight and there was a lot of wasted space in the kitchen that I wanted to find a way to utilize.

The first few days during the demo were the best part of the process, because I could finally see what things were really going to look like. I was most excited to take down the wall between the kitchen and the living room. It made all the difference in creating an open, warm area. Once we knocked that down, it gave us space for a table and chairs that we wouldn’t have otherwise. 

kitchen renovation-red hardware-stainless steel sink-gray cabinets

In the kitchen, we installed new custom cabinets, plus more cabinets next to the stove. I went for a 30-inch stainless-steel farmer’s sink, quartz countertops, and a new stove. My favorite thing in the whole house is the kitchen backsplash; I love that funky design.

My contractor really wanted me to lay a new floor on top of the old one. But I loved the color variation in the original wood so I insisted it stay. We kept all the original flooring, just refinished and stained.

The biggest challenge was that the apartment has zero closets. I didn’t have the budget to build them so we bought a couple of big wardrobes and a funky metal gym locker for a linen closet and made it work. At least we had more vertical space to work with because after we removed the dropped ceilings, we gained at least two feet!

gray bedroom-wood floors-french doors

I’m a first-time renovator, so I really needed someone who would listen, do good work, deliver on time, and stay within budget and I got all of that. My Sweeten contractor was great and I really had no headaches with my renovation, which is amazing! He was really communicative, and anytime something needed to be changed or wasn’t going to work according to plan, he explained everything to me. Then we worked towards solutions together, which was so helpful. It went as smoothly as one could ask for.

When you’re renovating, remember that there will inevitably be something or some things that don’t go according to your plan. Try to see the big picture and not freak out about the details.

I wanted our forever home to be a place of joy that you can see. Our home makes me feel free.

Thank you, Martha and Sofia, for sharing your new home with us!


KITCHEN RESOURCES: Floor tiles, backsplash, lighting, paint: Home Depot. Cabinet hardware: Hobby Lobby. Faucet, fan: Wayfair.


BEDROOM RESOURCES: Fan: Wayfair. Paint: Home Depot.

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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How Long Does a Kitchen Renovation Take?

A step-by-step guide and timeline for a kitchen renovation


(Above) Katherine + Chris’ kitchen renovation

One of the most common questions that we at Sweeten hear from homeowners is “How long does a kitchen renovation take?” This usually comes right after “How much is it going to cost?” (As part of its free service matching homeowners with vetted general contractors, Sweeten developed a kitchen cost guide to help.) Our handy Renovation Checklist tells you what you need to do—but how long does it take to do it all?

Typically, we suggest that after closing on your apartment, you allow three weeks to four months for the completion of your kitchen renovation, depending on complexity, the size of your space, and scope.

For example, if you are 1) not altering the footprint, 2) not changing or adding electrical or plumbing, and 3) using stock cabinetry and appliances, it’s reasonable to expect that your renovation will be in done in a few weeks. If, however, you are moving your kitchen from one part of your home to another, requiring both city permits as well as board approvals, and using imported custom cabinets—you should give it several months. As you’ll see, the wide range is due to the fact that there can be many moving parts and multiple parties involved. Certain aspects may be beyond your control. Sweeten, a free renovation service matching homeowners with vetted general contractors, breaks down a kitchen renovation step-by-step.


While the attention is usually on the most visible construction phase, a lot needs to happen before picking up that sledgehammer. Here, the details on each box that needs to be ticked before you break ground on the project.

STEP 1: Close on your property (1-3 months)

While some homeowners already own, a significant number of homeowners are in contract or preparing to close on a property when they begin the process of planning a renovation. The best advice is that you should wait until you have closed on the property, with keys in hand, before doing anything. If you’re in a hurry—at least wait until you’ve signed the contract before beginning the design process.

STEP 2: Post your project (1-3 days)

First things first: Post your project to Sweeten and begin soliciting bids. On the Sweeten site, add some details about the space you want to renovate, your inspiration photos (optional but useful for us finding you contractors who have done similar styles), and any other information that would help Sweeten match you with the right contractors. You’ll receive 3-5 matches within three days, with links to check out contractors’ profiles online. Now’s your chance to take a look at reviews from clients and photos of their past projects to see whether they might be a good fit.

STEP 3: Schedule site visits and solicit bids (1-3 weeks)

After you’ve previewed the Sweeten contractors’ profiles, decide who you’d like to set up a meeting. An on-site visit is the best way for a contractor to understand the scope of the project, the physical possibilities, and limitations of the space, and for the two of you to see if you hit it off. After you schedule your on-site visit, check out our blog post about how to prepare for the meeting. You should expect a written bid within 5-7 business days after your visit.

STEP 4: Level bids and choose a contractor (1-2 weeks)

Once all the written bids have come in, it’s time to compare and contrast! This primer on leveling bids might come in handy. If you have follow-up questions, now is the time to ask. You can also schedule time with Sweeten to walk you through the various bids and weigh in on the selection.

STEP 5: Sign a contract and finalize construction schedule (1 week)

Once you’ve decided on a contractor, he or she will put together a contract for you to review. This will typically include a description of the work to be done, an outline of the costs, as well as the timing of payments throughout the project.

STEP 6: Obtain permits and approvals (ranges widely)

Of all the steps where hiccups or delays might occur, this is it. Obtaining the correct permits and necessary approvals have held up many a renovation, but don’t be daunted: our expert contractors are well-versed in navigating these processes and often can advise you on how best to achieve your renovation goals with the least amount of hassle. If you’re moving plumbing or gas lines, you’ll need an architect and additional DOB permits. Sweeten homeowners have reported obtaining approvals in as little as two weeks—but it’s more common for it to take a couple months.

If you live in a stand-alone house, you won’t need to worry about building board approvals, but you’ll still need the requisite city permits for any electrical or plumbing work to make sure that everything is up to code.

STEP 7: Source materials (ranges widely)

If you are responsible for sourcing all or some of the materials in your renovation, be sure to place the orders as soon as the design plan is finished. Certain items have long lead times, and you don’t want that one faucet to hold up the entire renovation. If time is a concern, look at what’s currently in stock and ready to ship. Speak with your contractor about timing the product delivery to coincide with time of installation.

STEP 8: Tell your neighbors you’re renovating (15 minutes)

Be a good neighbor and warn yours that a renovation is beginning imminently. Tell them what to expect and how long the project is slated to last. It’s always easier to stomach the disruption when you know there’s an end in sight! It doesn’t hurt to bring some sweets, a bottle of wine, or a gift card for a local coffee shop. When the reno is over, invite them over!


Note: While most of the steps under “Construction” are your contractor’s responsibility, it’s important to understand what should be happening when. The most crucial steps you’ll be in charge of here are making scheduled payments to your contractor (as they are outlined in your contract), and keeping your schedule open for several hours a week to answer a myriad of questions about details or changes that come up over the course of construction.

STEP 9: It’s demo time (1-2 days)

Out with the old! Now that you’re done with the paperwork, it’s time (for your contractor) to pick up that sledgehammer. Be sure items that are staying are protected with tarp or plastic while the crew gets to work tearing out everything else. Depending on how large your kitchen is, and how extensive the renovation, this shouldn’t take more than a day or two.

STEP 10: Reroute plumbing and electrical (1-4 days)

Now that you’ve stripped the space down to the studs, it’ll be easy to get new plumbing or electrical where it needs to go. Consider whether any plans need to be altered now that you can see what’s behind the walls.

STEP 11: City inspections and sign-offs (1 hour on-site)

If you needed city permits, you may need to have inspections and a final sign-off as well prior to closing up the walls, particularly with gas lines. (Check out what the city has to say about plumbing permits here, and electrical permits here.) While it may take the inspector an hour to do his job at the site, scheduling the actual appointment could take days or weeks.

While a master plumber is typically allowed to sign off on pipework for water lines in the case of a no-show by the city inspector, an inspector must examine and approve any work on gas lines. You are not allowed to close up the walls and move onto the next phase of the project before this inspection happens.

Note: With electrical work, inspectors generally are scheduled for visits once the project is 100 percent complete, and they will check the electrical panel, junction boxes, and outlets. Sometimes, because of city bureaucracy and delays, your electrical inspection may be rescheduled two or three times. Check with your contractor or architect about this.

STEP 12: Installation – floors (1-5 days)

To prevent having to redo the floors if you decide to reconfigure your cabinets in the future, make sure that the flooring is consistent throughout the space, even if some of it will be hidden.

STEP 13: Installation – all other material including cabinets and appliances (1-10 days)

Installation of all other materials is usually in this order: cabinets, appliances, fixtures and lighting, counters, backsplash, and cabinet hardware. Aspects of this may vary, depending on site conditions, and the arrival time of the materials.

STEP 14: Clean-up (1 day)

Typically, contracts allow that the space is left in “broom-swept” condition. However, you may want to hire post-construction cleaning specialists to make sure that your new floor is clean enough to eat off.


STEP 15: Final walk-through with contractor (30-60 minutes)

Review the work with your contractor: try all the drawers and doors, look closely at the edges and finishes, and make sure everything is working the way it should. If there are any problems, point them out and add them to the punch list. The contractor will either fix it on the spot (if it’s minor) or set up another time to return. Sweeten’s founder + CEO, Jean Brownhill advises to keep notepads in each space, and do not speak to your contractor for two weeks during this time, but take notes of what needs fixing as you live in your new home.

STEP 16: Punch list items (1-10 days)

Depending on what the items are—this could be anything from straightening a cabinet door to waiting on installing that last out-of-stock item—it could take anywhere from a day to several weeks. When it’s on the long side, though, that is usually due to backordered items. Otherwise, your contractor should be able to return and fix everything in a few days.

STEP 17: The final payment (10 minutes)

You’ve been making installments throughout the renovation, but when the last item on your punch list has been addressed, it’s time to pay the remaining percentage to your contractor and say goodbye.

This timeline is meant to give you a detailed look at the various aspects of renovating and a range of how long each step should take, taking into account factors that may be outside of both your and the contractor’s control. In general, Sweeten renovators report that their kitchen renovations are completed between three weeks to two months (depending on the level of complexity). The key to staying on track is isolating the steps that you think might be obstacles and allotting more time to get them done.

If you’re still stuck on that first question of “how much is it going to cost?” check out our guide on kitchen renovation costs.

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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