A Galley Kitchen Renovation for Chef-Turned-Food-Editor

A family whips up smart ideas worthy of a chef’s cook space

“After” photos by Miao Jiaxin for Sweeten

Project: Transform a galley kitchen in a pre-war apartment into a functional space

Before: Since galley kitchens are, by definition, usually small and narrow, renovators typically decide to open up the layout as much as possible when remodeling—whether it involves partially removing a wall or creating a passthrough. However, Daniel, a director at Serious Eats and his wife, Kate (a director at VICE) decided to buck the trend and embrace their floor plan, updating it to make it a true chef’s kitchen.

There were some very visible problems that had to be addressed. The kitchen’s floor tiles had developed corrosive stains over time that could not be scrubbed clean, the cabinets extended to a generic height that wasted space, and some unfortunate layout decisions positioned an old, hulking fridge at the entryway. Worse, the fridge and stove footprints forced the right side of the galley into three abridged sections that were not useful for real food prep. On the other side, plumbing risers in the wall pushed one section of cabinetry out by a few inches, creating an odd corner in the middle of the countertop and adding a few inches of cabinet bulk right at eye level above the sink.

Design flaws aside, the room felt claustrophobic, so most visitors assumed that the problem was with the galley itself. Common in pre-war apartments, the dividing wall between the kitchen and dining room could conceivably have come down, and everyone asked about it. But Daniel and Kate found themselves advocating for preservation as the galley began to play a central role in their big-picture decision-making. Ultimately, Daniel felt really comfortable in a galley: It was like a residential approximation of a commercial restaurant line. Rather than lamenting its limits, he saw it as a pro’s set-up. Wherever you’re standing, everything is within reach!

Daniel and Kate turned to Sweeten, a free service that connects renovating homeowners with vetted general contractors, for help in finding a design and build firm. They had saved up for this renovation and wanted it to be right—making their two-bedroom, pre-war apartment in Jackson Heights, New York, even more desirable.

After: The general contractor that Daniel and Kate found through Sweeten shared the couple’s vision, committing to getting the fridge out of the entryway as well as installing custom cabinets to expand storage vertically. Offset cabinets were traded in for open shelving above the sink.

Daniel also appreciated the contractor’s focus on design decisions like cabinet door orientation and space between features, freeing him up to get a few chef’s details exactly right. Daniel wanted to avoid putting the microwave in a prominent spot and was concerned about cleanliness in an above-stove location. It now lives on an open shelf underneath the counter, where it’s an accessible tool but not a visible feature.

The Sweeten contractor created a dedicated cabinet for cutting boards, and most pots and pans are found in pull-out sliding cabinets rather than stacked in drawers, so they take up less space but are still easily grabbed. A towel bar, mounted just below the counter by the sink, has become major real estate with S-hooks added for small items for hanging.

Daniel and Kate decided on marble hex tile for the floors. It brings a natural element of warmth with a shape that is familiar in homes of a similar era, and it bounces light from the kitchen window with a little glow. Color for the custom cabinets became a tortured decision. Daniel and Kate paid extra for additional cabinet samples when they found that paint swatches didn’t really help them envision different tones, and agreed on a navy finish that paired well with brass accents already in the home.

Daniel aimed for a real chef’s prep space with sections of cherry butcher block. It needs mineral oil but is otherwise not that hard to maintain with cutting boards regularly in the rotation. Around the sink, the couple chose a section of white quartz for easy maintenance and to protect the butcher block from water stains. Standard white subway tile adds a simple gleam and contrast between the cabinet lines.

Bonus: Being avid cooks, Daniel and Kate really wanted to have appliances that could elevate their culinary skills. Key considerations for a new stove were powerful burner output and controls on the front of the oven; having the control panel on the back stand was too out of the way. Recipe experiments and heavy use mean that a food writer’s oven can get pretty gunky, so extra points for minimal nooks and grooves went to the stove they chose. The sink is an undermount with nice depth for lots of pots and pans, and the faucet is a simple gooseneck model with no side accents that might get in the way of a scrub down.


Style Finds: Floor tile: Marble hex tile by Heritage Tile. Custom cabinets with hardware from Rejuvenation. Range: Frigidaire. Sink: Kraus. Dishwasher: Thermador. Refrigerator: Fisher & Paykel.


Give new life to your kitchen. Here’s what you need to know on the renovation costs for a kitchen in NYC.

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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Five Boroughs, 10 Fixer-Uppers on the Market

Reno-ready properties brimming with potential

In New York City’s always-competitive real estate market, fixer-uppers are the answer to finding the right space at the right price. As evidenced by our before-and-after renovation “reveals” every week, a property can become a dream home with a little TLC and a general contractor you can communicate with and trust. We’re obsessed with scouting on-the-market properties from NYC’s real estate marketplace StreetEasy. Here, we share a few of the currently available homes that will inspire your search.

146 West 121st Street

Located in a neighborhood that routinely sees homes sell for upwards of $4 million, this five-story townhouse in South Harlem is a find. It is currently set up as an SRO (single room occupancy) and has one tenant in place already. It has 11 rooms, eight bedrooms, and three baths and is in need of a renovation, but has original details like fireplaces and wood floors and woodwork. It is a great opportunity for a multi-family investment.

Price: $1,995,000


46 Mercer Street #7W

This condo has sweeping views of SoHo—you can see all the way to Hudson Yards. Its 13-foot-high ceiling is pretty impressive as well. Oh, and did we mention the space is primed and ready for renovation? It has been completely gutted, so feel free to bring your general contractor or architect when you check it out to help you envision what your dream apartment could look like. Right now, there is a floor plan for three bedrooms and three baths—but this 2,000-square-foot space can really be what you make of it.

Price: $3,500,000


68 Middleton Street

This legal two-family home has a walk-down basement and separate front entrance. It is a three-bedroom-over-two duplex and has an existing footprint of 1,650 square feet. Another property ideal for multi-family investment, its location in popular Williamsburg is just a short walk from the neighborhood’s trendy restaurants and stores, but still has a quaint residential vibe.

Price: $1,500,000


1478 East 28th Street #1PP

Renovating a small space can help maximize its potential. Even though this studio apartment is diminutive, it has outsize potential. It has a steady stream of natural light from its living room and bathroom windows—and a large closet to boot. Re-envision the kitchen and spruce up the bathroom and you will have the perfect studio in Midwood, Brooklyn.

Price: $140,000


5601 Riverdale Avenue #4T

This co-op in Riverdale is great for commuters, with easy access to the bus, Metro-North train, and major highways. With a little updating, this studio will be a steal, as it also boasts hardwood floors, two rooms, and a bathtub/shower combo. Plus, it is conveniently located near a major shopping plaza and numerous dining establishments. 

Price: $140,000


1 Metropolitan Oval #6E

This large one-bedroom condo in Parkchester is appealing for its locale (it is close to shops and restaurants) as well as its potential. It is spacious, featuring a large living area that can take on different configurations, a nook near the kitchen that can be converted into an office or dining space, and a bedroom that can accommodate a king-sized bed and other furniture.

Price: $225,000


418 Ilyssa Way

A family room/den, laundry on the top floor, central air—and situated on a cul-du-sac…what more could you ask for? This single-family townhouse in Arden Heights has three baths and two bedrooms and plenty of natural sunlight. The galley kitchen could use a refresh. See some galley kitchen ideas from past Sweeten renovators here.

Price: $349,000


140 Daleham Street

Located on a charming, tree-lined street, this Cape-style detached house in Great Kills sits on a 50×100 lot. The homeowners have already done some of the work for you: it has a new roof and windows, as well as maintenance-free Trex decking in the spacious backyard. The basement is ready to be renovated to make it even more family-friendly. The property currently has three bedrooms, one bath, and a wood-burning fireplace—a cozy home in a desirable Staten Island neighborhood.

Price: $568,000


53-51 66th Street

This detached Colonial in Maspeth, Queens is a good home for a small family, with its three bedrooms, a finished basement, a detached garage, and a fenced-in backyard. It also has lovely wide-plank floors and three large bedrooms. Some rooms could use updating from an aesthetic standpoint, but the “bones” of a nice family home are all there.

Price: $799,000


7618 69th Place #3D

This two-bedroom, two-bath condo in Ridgewood comes with a lot of top perks for city living: views of the Manhattan skyline, a gym, a rooftop deck, a playroom, two elevators, and your own private parking spot. Inside it features 14-foot ceilings, large windows, wood floors, stainless steel appliances, and a washer & dryer. It is move-in ready but the kitchen could use some TLC. (These 11 Sweeten kitchens renovations may spark inspiration.)

Price: $540,000

Here’s how to line up your renovation with your fixer-upper purchase.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, and scope, helping until project completion. 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 Galley Kitchen and Patio Remodel as One Extending Their Living Space

A family reenergizes their galley kitchen—and adds an extension!

light green galley kitchen

“After” photos by Pixy Interiors for Sweeten

Project: Turning a “grungy” and ill-organized kitchen into a sunny space for cooking and dining

Before: In 2001, Laura and Tim bought and moved into their first home—a 1929 brick townhouse in Rego Park, Queens. The single-family home measures 1,360 square feet on two floors, plus a finished basement. Having raised their family there—a 15-year old son and a college-aged daughter—the pair were finally ready to tackle some of the issues that had plagued their charming, but problematic, house. The kitchen was falling apart and had also suffered water damage from a leaking shower upstairs. The space needed new cabinets, flooring, and wall treatments. They had recently purchased new appliances but the rest of the space had gotten “old and grungy,” according to Laura.

homeowner in her newly remodeled kitchen


They wanted to create a “comfy, modern kitchen that still matched the period feel in the rest of the house, while providing more storage and better flow.” The kitchen also had a drafty door to the patio, which they never used because of its impractical location. An interior designer friend, Suzy Leon of Suzy Leon Design, Ltd., made suggestions, and one thing led to another—taking the homeowners from a kitchen remodel to a full-blown extension project. Laura and Tim posted their project to Sweeten, and chose this Sweeten contractor to perform the work.

After: The old patio became part of the kitchen and dining space, and skylights were added in the new ceiling to bring in more light. The kitchen is now a beautifully organized and cheerful space for the family. Since it remained a galley layout, the homeowners chose simple textures and light colors to contrast a wide-plank dark wood floor with some grain and character. 


The cabinets have Shaker-style fronts in a minty green, which “matches the feel of the old house but is also clean and modern at the same time.” A tall pantry cabinet opens to reveal a column of drawers for optimal food storage. The white quartz countertop lightens up the space, and an enormous sink means there’ll be enough room for even the largest pots. The oversized undercounter sink has an instant hot faucet, disposal, and stainless steel finish to match the appliances. At one end, a wine fridge provides extra space for beverages next to the refrigerator. 

“The kitchen came out beautifully! We love the new flow, the light, and the extra space.” Laura reports that the extension is a lovely addition to the house where guests naturally gravitate, and the skylights add light and fresh air. Moving the doorway between the dining room and kitchen improved the flow to the basement.

Due to the domino effect often seen in renovations, the basement also had to be brought up to code—with updates to the bathroom and boiler, as well as the removal of an illegal kitchen on that level. They also took the renovation as an opportunity to install mini-split systems in the whole house so that they would no longer have to deal with inefficient window units. The homeowners love their new space, and are also very satisfied about having addressed their long list of broken or less-than-perfect things in the house. 

Thank you, Laura and Tim, for sharing your home!


Style Finds: Kitchen cabinets: custom. Cabinet paint in #466 Garden Path; interior paint in Chantilly Lace: Benjamin Moore. Schaub and Company Northport hardware in brushed bronze: Build.com. Flooring in Deerfield Beach: PID Floors. Prolific 33” sink: Kohler. Backsplash: 3×12 beveled subway tiles. White quartz slab countertops: Marble Systems. Sliding patio door: Andersen. Solar-powered “Fresh Air” skylights: Velux. Park Harbor Summerlake ceiling light fixture in antique brass: Build.com. Acrylic Tiffany counter stools, Parsons table (custom height): Room & Board.

If you’d like to get in on the DIY action, read what projects you can take on and what to leave to the pros.

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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