A Suburban Kitchen Renovation Puts Pockets of Space to Use


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

open concept kitchen

“After” photos by Miao Jiaxin for Sweeten

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

Guest blog post by Sweeten homeowner

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Leaving urban life in Brooklyn for New Jersey

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

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

Reviewing inefficiencies at home

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

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

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

kitchen island

Trouble with contractors

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

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

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

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

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Finding hidden spaces at home

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

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

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

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

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SHOPPING GUIDE

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



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10 Easy Pieces: Everyday Stainless Steel Flatware


Copyright © 2020 Remodelista, LLC. All rights reserved. Remodelista, Gardenista, 10 Easy Pieces, Steal This Look, 5 Quick Fixes, Design Sleuth, High/Low Design, Sourcebook for the Considered Home, and Sourcebook for Considered Living are ® registered trademarks of Remodelista, LLC.

The Remodelista editors provide a curated selection of product recommendations for your consideration. Clicking through to the retailer that sells the product may earn us a commission.



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The New Unsuburban Kitchen Booth, 10 Favorites


Recently, we identified the kitchen booth as a trend to watch. Defined as an L- or U-shaped banquette or two facing benches (think 1950s diner), the new kitchen booth is on the rise. Here are our current favorites.

An L-shaped booth in oil-finished white oak by designers Space Exploration from Kitchen of the Week: An Ikea Kitchen with an Elegant Upper Cabinet Solution.
Above: An L-shaped booth in oil-finished white oak by designers Space Exploration from Kitchen of the Week: An Ikea Kitchen with an Elegant Upper Cabinet Solution.
A corner booth is created from a built-in bench and partial glass wall by architectural designers Studio Oink in a Washington, DC, remodel. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Remodelista; styling by Alexa Hotz from A Luminous, Euro-Style Row House in Washington, DC, Courtesy of Studio Oink.
Above: A corner booth is created from a built-in bench and partial glass wall by architectural designers Studio Oink in a Washington, DC, remodel. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Remodelista; styling by Alexa Hotz from A Luminous, Euro-Style Row House in Washington, DC, Courtesy of Studio Oink.
A booth created in a kitchen dining nook by Tamar Barnoon. Photograph by Laure Joliet from Kitchen of the Week: In Los Feliz, A Moody, Romantic Spanish Modern Update.
Above: A booth created in a kitchen dining nook by Tamar Barnoon. Photograph by Laure Joliet from Kitchen of the Week: In Los Feliz, A Moody, Romantic Spanish Modern Update.
A Copenhagen kitchen features Dinesen Heart Oak furniture (and floors) for a built-in booth. See more of the kitchen in Remodeling data-src=
Above: A Copenhagen kitchen features Dinesen Heart Oak furniture (and floors) for a built-in booth. See more of the kitchen in Remodeling 101: The L-Shaped Kitchen.
Designed by architect Thomas Kroeger of TKA, the Hofhaus Kitchen in Düsseldorf, Germany, features a mustard yellow built-in booth.
Above: Designed by architect Thomas Kroeger of TKA, the Hofhaus Kitchen in Düsseldorf, Germany, features a mustard yellow built-in booth.
Designed after the wood booths at restaurant Chez Panisse, Jim Rosenfield created a booth from untreated strips of fir at the Marin Country Mart Office. Photograph by Mimi Giboin for Remodelista from Marin’s Most Beautiful Office Space?.
Above: Designed after the wood booths at restaurant Chez Panisse, Jim Rosenfield created a booth from untreated strips of fir at the Marin Country Mart Office. Photograph by Mimi Giboin for Remodelista from Marin’s Most Beautiful Office Space?.
Designer Kara Rosenlund created a built-in U-shaped booth at the end of her kitchen. See more in Kitchen of the Week: A Blank-Slate Queensland Cottage Kitchen for a Stylist.
Above: Designer Kara Rosenlund created a built-in U-shaped booth at the end of her kitchen. See more in Kitchen of the Week: A Blank-Slate Queensland Cottage Kitchen for a Stylist.
A custom-built cherry booth in the Oakland, California, house of photographer Aya Brackett from Kitchen of the Week: Aya Brackett’s Hippie House Update in Oakland.
Above: A custom-built cherry booth in the Oakland, California, house of photographer Aya Brackett from Kitchen of the Week: Aya Brackett’s Hippie House Update in Oakland.
A booth-style seating area designed from antique church pews in the British Standard-designed kitchen from Kitchen of the Week: A Brightly Colored (and Cost Conscious) London Kitchen.
Above: A booth-style seating area designed from antique church pews in the British Standard-designed kitchen from Kitchen of the Week: A Brightly Colored (and Cost Conscious) London Kitchen.

For more kitchen design trends, see our posts:



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Five Favorites: Chic Black Dish Drainers


Noticed lately; a new crop of black dish drainers for the domestic Goth. Here’s a roundup of our favorites:

Above: The Combe Wire Dish Drainer with Rubber Wood Handles is £29 from Made; in the US, it’s available at Crate & Barrel for $49.95.
Above: The Yamazaki Tower Black Wire Dish Drainer Rack is $55 at Crate & Barrel.
Above: The Stainless Steel Over the Sink Multipurpose Roll-Up Drain Tray by Kraus is $24.95 from Wayfair.
Above: The Brabantia Large Dish Drying Rack is $72 at West Elm.
Above: The Popity Home Dish Drainer is $28.99 from Amazon.

For more kitchen intel:

10 Easy Pieces: Countertop Dish Drainers

Domestic Science: How to Clean a Dishwasher

Trend Alert: 12 Modern, Fragrant, All-Natural Dishwashing Liquids



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Steal This Look: An Economical Kitchen in an English Beach House, Ikea Hack Included


Copyright © 2020 Remodelista, LLC. All rights reserved. Remodelista, Gardenista, 10 Easy Pieces, Steal This Look, 5 Quick Fixes, Design Sleuth, High/Low Design, Sourcebook for the Considered Home, and Sourcebook for Considered Living are ® registered trademarks of Remodelista, LLC.

The Remodelista editors provide a curated selection of product recommendations for your consideration. Clicking through to the retailer that sells the product may earn us a commission.



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Pink and Green Color Kitchen Remodel in East London


Danish-American couple Catherine and Toke Nygaard moved from California to a Victorian townhouse in East London. Their remodel, by Mike Tuck Studio, includes the ultimate Scandi-meets-Brit kitchen made up of Plain English cabinetry, Dinesen flooring, modern British craft furniture, and an unexpected color palette (pink and green). The look as a whole works so well, it’s infectious: All of us at Remodelista are taking note. Here’s a list of the kitchen’s key elements, right down to every light fixture (there are many) and accessory.

A shot of pink by way of a custom beadboard dining bench and pink Louis Poulsen pendant lights. Photograph by Luke Hayes from Kitchen of the Week: A Greatest-Hits Kitchen for a Danish-American Couple in London.
Above: A shot of pink by way of a custom beadboard dining bench and pink Louis Poulsen pendant lights. Photograph by Luke Hayes from Kitchen of the Week: A Greatest-Hits Kitchen for a Danish-American Couple in London.
The kitchen cabinets and island are from Plain English&#8
Above: The kitchen cabinets and island are from Plain English’s Osea kitchen, done up in a custom shade of olive green (see source below). Photograph by Luke Hayes from Kitchen of the Week: A Greatest-Hits Kitchen for a Danish-American Couple in London.
Can&#8
Above: Can’t go wrong with a Plain English-meets-Gaggenau approach. The cooktop and vent hood shown are both from Gaggenau (see below for the source). Photograph by Luke Hayes from Kitchen of the Week: A Greatest-Hits Kitchen for a Danish-American Couple in London.

Materials

The Plain English Osea kitchen cabinets are painted with Papers & Paints&#8
Above: The Plain English Osea kitchen cabinets are painted with Papers & Paints’ Olive Colour .

The beadboard-back dining bench was custom-made by the couple’s contractor, Lionhead Construction, and painted in Little Greene’s Pink Slip.
Above: The beadboard-back dining bench was custom-made by the couple’s contractor, Lionhead Construction, and painted in Little Greene’s Pink Slip.
Kitchen countertops are Belgian blue limestone. Artistic Tile stocks Belgian Bluestone Honed Limestone Stone Slab and CoorItalia carries Belgian Blue Limestone.
Above: Kitchen countertops are Belgian blue limestone. Artistic Tile stocks Belgian Bluestone Honed Limestone Stone Slab and CoorItalia carries Belgian Blue Limestone.



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Everything You Need to Know About Soapstone Sinks in the Kitchen


How much does a soapstone sink cost?

Standard soapstone sinks can range in price from a few hundred to over $1,000. The standard-size sinks at Vermont Soapstone run from $400 up to $1,000 for a 36-inch two-bowl sink. “Custom sizes will cost more,” says Bowman. “Our 36-inch two-bowl custom sink is in the $1,200 to $1,500 range.”

Soapstone counters and an apron-front sink by Made LLC, a New York–based design-build practice. “We like to use materials that develop character as they’re lived with, becoming increasingly beautiful as they wear in over the years,” says founding partner Ben Bischoff. “Soapstone is one we come back to again and again. It’s beautiful at the start and becomes even more so as it breaks in with your work patterns.” Photograph via Made LLC.
Above: Soapstone counters and an apron-front sink by Made LLC, a New York–based design-build practice. “We like to use materials that develop character as they’re lived with, becoming increasingly beautiful as they wear in over the years,” says founding partner Ben Bischoff. “Soapstone is one we come back to again and again. It’s beautiful at the start and becomes even more so as it breaks in with your work patterns.” Photograph via Made LLC.

How do prices compare with stainless steel or ceramic sinks?

“A good-quality imported stainless steel sink is about the same price,” says Bowman. “And compared to a good porcelain farmhouse sink, soapstone is probably less.”

Does a soapstone sink have to go with a soapstone countertop? 

“We’ll sell you a sink on its own, no problem,” Bowman says with a chuckle. “In fact, we probably sell twice as many sinks as we do countertops, so those sinks get combined with all kinds of different countertop materials, like marble, granite, and the like.” No soapstone counters but still want the sink? Feel free to mix and match.

A seamless draining board, built in. Photograph by Janet Hall.
Above: A seamless draining board, built in. Photograph by Janet Hall.

What special features are available?

Because they’re made of easily-cut stone, soapstone sinks can generally be customized any way you want it. Edges can be square, beveled, or bullnose. Drainage boards can be incorporated. “We can make a three-bowl sink with all the bowls at different heights. We can add a high backsplash so the faucets can be mounted on the back,” he says.

We’ve even built a handful of soapstone bathtubs for around $5,000.” When he spoke with us, Bowman was in Weston, Massachusetts, working in the mudroom of a high-end house to install a custom sink measuring five feet wide and a foot deep—perfect for dog-washing.

More on soapstone:

Finally, get more ideas on how to evaluate and choose your kitchen sink and faucet in our Remodeling 101 Guide: Kitchen Sinks & Faucets.



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Steal This Look: A Luminous Kitchen Renovation in Rockport, Maine


Leave it to design stars Tara Mangini and Percy Bright of Jersey Ice Cream Co. to infuse an undistinguished 2004 builder’s special (see Remade in Maine: Jersey Ice Cream Co. Upgrades a Recently Built House) with rustic charm. The reimagined kitchen has tinted plaster walls, a now-signature Jersey Ice Cream Co. feature, Shaker-style cabinets, a luxury chateau-style range, and luminescent white tile. Here are the elements for re-creating the look.

The kitchen is partially constructed by Jersey Ice Cream Co. and by one of the house&#8
Above: The kitchen is partially constructed by Jersey Ice Cream Co. and by one of the house’s original contractors, Jay Fischer of Cold Mountain Builders. Photograph from Remade in Maine: Jersey Ice Cream Co. Upgrades a Recently Built Rockport House.
A large apron-front farmhouse sink anchors the L-shaped kitchen. It&#8
Above: A large apron-front farmhouse sink anchors the L-shaped kitchen. It’s paired with an unlacquered brass faucet. Photograph from Remade in Maine: Jersey Ice Cream Co. Upgrades a Recently Built Rockport House.
The pièce de résistance: a Lacanche range and white terracotta backsplash. Photograph from Remade in Maine: Jersey Ice Cream Co. Upgrades a Recently Built Rockport House.
Above: The pièce de résistance: a Lacanche range and white terracotta backsplash. Photograph from Remade in Maine: Jersey Ice Cream Co. Upgrades a Recently Built Rockport House.

Materials

Kitchen cabinets, built by Jay Fischer of Cold Mountain Builders, are painted Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist.
Above: Kitchen cabinets, built by Jay Fischer of Cold Mountain Builders, are painted Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist.
The kitchen countertops are honed Crema Delicata Marble, which is available at Stone Source among other stone retailers.
Above: The kitchen countertops are honed Crema Delicata Marble, which is available at Stone Source among other stone retailers.
The kitchen backsplash is made of Clé Tile Zellige Weathered Terracotta Tile left over from the master bath (see the rest of the house in Remade in Maine: Jersey Ice Cream Co. Upgrades a Recently Built Rockport House). The tile has a color &#8
Above: The kitchen backsplash is made of Clé Tile Zellige Weathered Terracotta Tile left over from the master bath (see the rest of the house in Remade in Maine: Jersey Ice Cream Co. Upgrades a Recently Built Rockport House). The tile has a color “made up of, literally, dozens of shades of white” according to Clé is $22.75 per square foot.

Appliances

The range is a French Lacanche Chagny 00 Range in ivory and brass hardware. It can be ordered directly through Lacanche. For more on ranges like this, see  Easy Pieces: Retro Kitchen Ranges.
Above: The range is a French Lacanche Chagny 1400 Range in ivory and brass hardware. It can be ordered directly through Lacanche. For more on ranges like this, see 10 Easy Pieces: Retro Kitchen Ranges.
At the end of the counter is a SubZero -Inch Undercounter Wine Refrigerator. Available at AJ Madison; contact for pricing and more information.
Above: At the end of the counter is a SubZero 24-Inch Undercounter Wine Refrigerator. Available at AJ Madison; contact for pricing and more information.



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stylish tiny house beach shack with Ikea hack kitchen Marcia Mihotich and Durrell Bishop


To be filed under: The Ultimate in Simple Summer Living. Marcia Mihotich and Durrell Bishop’s tiny beach shack stands right in the sand at the mouth of the River Thames in Kent, England, and like its neighbors is little more than a wooden tent. The pleasing simplicity continues inside.

The couple happen to be two of London’s most interesting creatives—Marcia is a graphic designer and illustrator (her clients include Donna Wilson, the School of Life, and Studiomama, whose own shack is just two doors away) and Durrell is an interactive product designer at Line-us. Not surprisingly, they took a hands-on approach to their getaway. On tackling the remodel themselves, Marcia says, “It means that you often don’t quite finish everything, but it’s much more fun and you do get to know how everything works.”

Photography by Marcia Mihotich, except where noted.

Located an hour and a half from London, the couple&#8
Above: Located an hour and a half from London, the couple’s house (second from the left) is part of an enclave of 20 raised beach huts that overlook a part of the Thames Estuary known as The Swale. The nearest villages are Seasalter and Faversham, and Whitstable is an hour’s walk along the beach. Photograph via The Modern House.

The house was built in 1954, a detail the couple learned from a stamp on the wood in the ceiling. “We also came across a photo from the fifties that showed our house as fairly recognizable as it is today,” says Marcia. “I don’t really know about the inside, the previous owners had made it very much their own and we did the same.”

Marcia and Durrell&#8
Above: Marcia and Durrell’s 15-year-old son, Hal (L), and Durrell’s mother, photographer Bridget Bishop (@lostruralindustries), in the living room, a mere 10 meters (about 33 feet) from the water at high tide.



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A Modern Minimalist Galley Kitchen Design By An Annabelle Selldorf Protege


Lauren Wegel is an architect who loves succinctness. She began her career working for another New York minimalist, Annabelle Selldorf, which is how we met: see A Hardworking Brooklyn Kitchen By A Big Gun Architect. That was back in 2013, and, in recent years, Wegel has been running her own tiny firm.

The thought and care she puts into projects have won her a number of clients who have become good friends and repeat customers. Such was the case with fashion stylist Barbara Abbatemaggio and creative director Jakob Daschek. In 2015, one of Wegel’s first solo projects was their Reinvented East Village Galley Kitchen. Five years later and in need of more space for their two boys and many guests, the couple got Wegel to collaborate with them on the creation of an equally streamlined galley in their new East Village digs. Fun fact: the apartment, in a pre-war building, formerly belonged to actor Alan Cumming (scroll to the end to see what it looked like before).

Photography by Ed Hueber of Archphoto, unless noted, courtesy of Lauren Wegel.

The mandate for the kitchen was plenty of storage and a sleek but inviting look: Barbara, who is from Italy, campaigned for warmth; Jakob, who is Swedish, likes logic and order. Inspired by an old mantel opposite the kitchen, the three settled on a cherry finish for the majority of the cabinets, &#8
Above: The mandate for the kitchen was plenty of storage and a sleek but inviting look: Barbara, who is from Italy, campaigned for warmth; Jakob, who is Swedish, likes logic and order. Inspired by an old mantel opposite the kitchen, the three settled on a cherry finish for the majority of the cabinets, “a perfect match for the fireplace,” says Wegel.

“The wood has the effect  of weaving together the materials and palette, so that the kitchen, although modern, feels integral to the rest of the apartment.” The Arctic Pear chandelier just visible in the foreground traveled with the family from their last place. The brass sconce is the Double Uptown by Jones County Road.

The sink in the former kitchen was awkwardly wedged in the corner next to the window. Much discussion later, the new sink found its place in the center of the action. The counters are Bianco Gioa marble from Ionian Marble in Astoria in Queens, NY. The cabinets were custom built by Radical Design Solutions of Brooklyn.
Above: The sink in the former kitchen was awkwardly wedged in the corner next to the window. Much discussion later, the new sink found its place in the center of the action. The counters are Bianco Gioa marble from Ionian Marble in Astoria in Queens, NY. The cabinets were custom built by Radical Design Solutions of Brooklyn.



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