A Fresh Home Renovation Trend: Mint as a Neutral

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

A galley kitchen goes minty-green

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

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

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

The mint home renovation trend brings the outside, inside

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

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

A compromise on color becomes a designer kitchen

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

Their kitchen was small and outdated.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

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

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

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

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


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8 Paneling Designs to Hide a Fridge Door

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

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

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

A custom touch for a fridge

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

refrigerator paneling

A repurposed structure

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

refrigerator paneling to hide fridge door

A seamless built-in

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

A wall of closets

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

refrigerator paneling

A fridge in disguise

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

wooden cabinets to hide fridge door

Closet-turn-fridge spot

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

Panels unify the kitchen

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

A puzzle of panels

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

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

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

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Surviving a Renovation: Should I Stay or Go?

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

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

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

Moving out during demolition

(Above) Carly’s new apartment

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

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


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

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

Expecting while renovating

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

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

Surviving their renovation: A couple toughs it out

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

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

Moving into a rental

(Above) The light-filled renovated living room

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

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

Neighbors offer hospitality

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

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

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

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

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

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Build Your Own Library with Custom Bookshelves

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

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

Statement shelves

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

Custom dining room shelves

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

Hallway shelving

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

Foyer built-in

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

Wall-to-wall bookshelves

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

Space-saving bookshelves

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

Natural room divider

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

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

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

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

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The 411 On Kitchen Cabinet Door Designs

kitchen cabinet styles

There are many decisions that go into a kitchen renovation—it can be hard knowing where to start! Selecting cabinets is one of the most important decisions you will make. They not only affect the overall design aesthetic of your space; but also your budget. It is important to understand the types of doors available, as they’re the focal point of the actual cabinets. Here, Sweeten, a free renovation platform that matches homeowners with licensed general contractors and tracks their projects, breaks down the most common types of cabinet doors, plus the different kitchen cabinet door designs being used in kitchen renovations today.


Before we get into the different kitchen cabinet door designs, let’s review the types of doors. There are two main types of cabinet doors: inset and overlay. These are also called “partial” and “full”.

  • An inset door is typically more expensive than overlay varieties, and has doors and drawers that sit flush inside the face frame. This design has been around for many years and is often associated with Shaker and Mission styles.
  • A full-overlay door is one that almost completely covers the cabinet face and leaves only a short portion of the frame exposed. This creates a uniform look found in contemporary cabinetry. Because of the extra material needed to cover the face, these doors usually cost more than the less expensive partial-overlay. A partial overlay door is exactly what it sounds like—it partially covers the cabinet face, leaving between a one- to two-inch frame. Smaller apartments or starter homes often feature this type of design. 


Cabinet Door Designs: Open Panel


An open panel simply means that the door itself has no center panel, which can be filled with any material. The most popular material for open panels is glass and mullions. In the photos above, we see how Sweeten renovators have incorporated open-panels with glass fronts into their kitchens. There are many reasons to add glass-door fronts into cabinet designs. For example, glass-door fronts can be used to break up the monotony of multiple cabinets of the same material in larger kitchens.

Renovators have used open panel cabinets to display family keepsakes and/or beautiful glasses and dishes. They also provide an added depth to make smaller spaces appear larger. Or, they can just be a nice compromise between fully-closed cabinets and open-shelving. For one Sweeten renovator, they decided to install cabinets top and bottom with glass fronts, displaying their favorite cookbooks, wine collection, and larger culinary gear.

Cabinet Door Designs: Raised Panels


First, what is a raised-panel cabinet door? It is a door that is made of a frame with a panel in the middle that is “raised” to be flush with the frame itself. These tend to be more traditional in style and have a high level of detail that can be intricate. They draw the eye in, adding depth and interest to the cabinet design.

For one Sweeten renovator, replacing the cabinets didn’t fit in with their budget (they were also tackling other rooms in their home as well as the kitchen) so they opted to refinish their country-style cabinets with a more updated gray hue, keeping the look of the raised panel doors. Other Sweeten renovators specifically chose raised-panel cabinet doors to match their colonial-style home in Brooklyn. They ordered them in a gray-blue color and paired with brushed-gold accents to make their kitchen feel modern yet warm.

Cabinet Door Designs: Recessed Panels


Recessed panel doors are known for their streamlined look and lack of decoration. The most widely recognized style of recessed-panel cabinet doors are Shaker-style cabinets. The style dates back over 200 years when the Shaker community flourished on the East Coast. The Shakers were known for growing their own food, making their own tools, and crafting their own furniture. This is how the Shaker door originated. Although Shaker cabinet door history goes back hundreds of years, it is considered a more contemporary option in kitchen design. They are good at blending into many different styles of kitchens—from contemporary to traditional to transitional.

When homeowners Erin and Jonathan hired a general contractor through Sweeten,  they knew they wanted a more contemporary look for their 750-square-foot apartment in Brooklyn. They opted for sleek stainless-steel appliances and a dramatic waterfall island topped with marble-like quartz. But they wanted some classic updates, too, like Shaker-style cabinets and a herringbone tile backsplash. For another Sweeten renovator who redid her kitchen in her 1929 townhouse, she decided upon Shaker fronts in a minty green to “match the feel of the old house but also to be clean and modern at the same time.”

Cabinet Door Designs: Slab/Flat Front


The defining characteristic of slab cabinets (sometimes referred to as flat front) is the lack of a frame and panel. They are a sleek option for those looking for a modern sensibility in their kitchen spaces. Minimalist by design, slab-front cabinet doors lack expensive detail but still create a luxurious look as seen in this kitchen by Sweeten renovator and chef Arnish. To use his own words, Arnish wanted a “sleek, modern, and high-end” kitchen, so he chose bright white cabinets with a slab front and instead of handles or pulls, his Sweeten contractor recommended “tip and touch” for a cleaner look.

When homeowners Roxana and Gabriel were thinking of updating their Long Island City, Queens, loft, they wanted it to be in keeping with their Scandinavian, minimalist style: integrated appliances with all clean lines and everything stowed away in cabinets and drawers.

When selecting cabinets for your kitchen, it comes down to personal preference. Do you want a more modern, streamlined look, which can be achieved by slab or recessed panel cabinet doors? Or, do you like more traditional raised panels and glass fronts? Either way, the choice is yours. We hope this guide to kitchen cabinet door designs helped you narrow down your style preference and added some inspiration along the way as well! 

These kitchen organizational ideas are conversation-starters. Click here to jumpstart your kitchen wishlist.

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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11 Takes on a Work From Home Space

open kitchen and dining space with desk(Above) Erin and Chris’ home office

We may call them laptops, but we all know that a desk and it’s organizational layout is the crucial formula for any work from home space. Whether you have a whole room or a section of a single wall to use, you can still create the functional working space that you need.

See how the homeowners below turned to Sweeten, a free service that connects renovating homeowners with vetted general contractors, for help transforming closets, spare bedrooms, corners of living rooms and kitchens—and even a stairway landing—into efficient places to get work done.

Kitchens do double duty with office nooks

For many families, the kitchen is the heart of the home, where they spend most of their time. Kitchen desks provide space away from the cooking mayhem, especially for anyone without a designated room for an office. These Sweeten renovators added this feature into their homes and created a perch for recipe-reading or working from home.

white kitchen with desk

A separate office wasn’t in the cards for Laura and Randy, but they found a solution: a kitchen desk niche. It’s right off the main kitchen area and matches the rest of the white cabinetry. Bold, patterned wallpaper gives the desk a sense of separation from the rest of the kitchen, too.

blue kitchen with work from home space

With climbing prices in her Fort Greene co-op building, Mollie faced a problem. She could cash out (but deal with the huge hassle of moving) or stay where she was. The neighborhood was ideal, but the look of her outdated studio apartment was not. She decided to remain and turned to a Sweeten contractor to help fix-up her 500-square-foot home. Her contractor came up with a plan to update her kitchen and found space within it for a desk nook, which Mollie made her own by adding interesting patterns and bold blue hues.

kitchen nook for work from home space

Barbra and Sean waited almost 10 years before renovating their 1,100-square-foot home in Kensington, Brooklyn. After living there for so long, they knew exactly what they wanted and what they needed to make their space work better for their family. Their kitchen had an existing spot for a desk so it seemed natural to carve out a similar area in their fully remodeled kitchen as well. The renovators found a desk that fit right into the opening, and used leftover wallpaper from their foyer to give it a finished look.

Turn spare bedrooms into your home office

If you have a spare bedroom, you can turn it—or just a part of it–into a beautiful workspace like the homeowners below. Bedrooms usually have good lighting, with natural sunlight from windows as well as overhead lights. Closet space can also be used for extra work materials or storage.

spare bedroom converted to work from home space

When Jenifer Herrmann, a media executive, and her partner, Mitzie Wong, a designer, painter and co-founder of creative design firm Roar + Rabbit, found a two-bed, two-bath apartment for sale at a price that left them with a renovation budget, they snapped up the 1,050-square-foot condominium. In addition to kitchen and bathroom renovations, creating a home office space for Mitzie was a priority for their remodel. They turned the second bedroom into a home office—a perfect space since Mitzie really wanted to separate work from life with an office that could contain her art materials, books, and growing plant collection. 

second bedroom turned into work from home space

Having a work from home space was essential for first-time renovators Maria and Eric. They planned to include a home office in their 850-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment in Woodside, Queens. They worked with their Sweeten contractor to convert the second bedroom into a small office and designed it to keep with the Scandinavian-chic aesthetic featured in the other rooms in their home. 

multipurpose living room with home office

Lavanya, the executive producer for Artifex Productions, a New York City-based production company, and her partner, Regis, did an exhaustive search for just the right apartment to meet their needs. They wanted a railroad-style layout with distinct spaces that could serve different purposes for home and business activities. They found it in a 700-square-foot, two-bedroom condo in South Park Slope, Brooklyn. The long-skinny layout (a style that was introduced in New York City in the mid-19th century) was a perfect layout and could be configured into a private office for Lavanya to work in without feeling like the rest of their home life was overlapping with her space.

Work from home space—in unexpected places

There’s a saying: “There’s nothing that can’t be done.” That is just what these Sweeten renovators believed when trying to incorporate a home office into their small living spaces. With out-of-the-box thinking, they envisioned spaces that would make working from home more comfortable. We love seeing how they squeezed their desks into creative places!

home office nook in corner of room

This beautiful corner apartment in Hudson Heights, Manhattan was a perfect spot for Marisa and Cody’s growing family. They turned to Sweeten to help renovate the space, with the goal of joining the kitchen and living area. They wanted the apartment to “feel open, light, and modern, but warm and homey at the same time.” They were able to fit into the design a desk nook in the corner of one room, utilizing the ceiling height by installing storage cabinets above the desktop. 


What do you do with that little bit of extra room on your stairway landing? If you are creative like Dianna, an advertising agency director, and Todd, a college professor, you create a small office. The couple lives in a 440-square-foot studio alcove apartment, so space efficiency was critical. The office space is made possible by using a corner table that fits perfectly on the landing and floating shelves for storage and aesthetic interest.


For the DeChirico sisters, Deanna and Daria, staying in New York City’s Sutton Place neighborhood was a must. So when they found a one-bedroom that they could convert into two, in a 1962 building, they jumped at the chance. They worked with a contractor from Sweeten’s network to revamp the awkwardly laid out space into a charming home. They reduced the size of the master bedroom to make way for a shared 7’ x 10’ walk-in clothes closet. It also fits a home office decked out with a simple white desk, blue-fabric chair, and a desk lamp.

Multipurpose rooms combine work and play

Sometimes you just can’t justify allocating a whole room to an office. Instead, you have to rethink the traditional concept of a home office and utilize what you have. One way to do this: turning parts of other rooms into your work area. Here, a look at two Sweeten renovators who worked with that they had to make efficient, convenient work areas.

a multipurpose room provides work from home space

Since homeowner Toby had working knowledge of design and architecture, he was was very involved in his Manhattan co-op renovation. He partnered with a Sweeten contractor to redo his galley kitchen and the apartment’s single bathroom. The living/dining area was already open and spacious, so it was simply refreshed. He split the room into a dining area, office space, and sitting lounge (not pictured). A truly multi-purpose room!

basement work from home space in QueensGordon and Tracy looked to Sweeten to help them find a general contractor who they could trust to turn their townhouse in the Sunnyside Historic Garden District into a more family-friendly space. They knew they needed to use all three floors so, with the help of their contractor, they transformed the basement into a dual living and utility/storage space, complete with an office area. The floating desk and shelves enlarge the room, leaving space for an entertainment area, cat sanctuary, laundry room, and second bathroom.

Inspired by these renovations? Start planning your own. Here are useful tools to help you plan and budget.

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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Unique Features You Should Include in Your Next Remodel

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

open pantry Sweeten kitchen renovation

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

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

Jewelry wall: A major upgrade from boxes and bowls

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

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

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

Toe kick drawers maximize every square inch

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

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

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

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

Above-sink drying rack = natural space saver

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

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

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

An open pantry, a cook’s best friend

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

(Above) Nazli’s seamless walk-in pantry

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

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

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

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7 Ways Renovators Style Ikea Kitchen Cabinets to Work for Them

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

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

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

For High Gloss Glamour

butcher block countertop

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

Go Low on Cost, High on Style

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

For Euro-Industrial

studio loft kitchen

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

To Go Scandinavian Sleek

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

For Expanded Pantry Space

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

To Complement Hero Pieces

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

To Be Sustainable

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

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

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

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

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Before & After: Kitchen Edition

A successful kitchen renovation isn’t measured by the number of walls knocked down or the size of a kitchen island. Instead, it’s the thoughtful details and design elements culled over time from Pinterest and the hours of research on materials coming to life that brings the joy for a lifestyle that finally fits you and your family.

Here we look at 11 kitchens renovated by homeowners who came to Sweeten, a free renovation platform that matches homeowners with licensed general contractors and tracks their projects. Some were major transformations removing walls, creating built-ins, and adding new windows, while others proved that smart improvements in space efficiency, updated materials, and renewed layouts gave them the overall refreshes they wanted. 

From outdated to classic gray

After living on Long Island for many years, Rosalind and Lawrence were ready to downsize and return to their beloved former hometown of Brooklyn. They purchased a 100-year-old home in Cypress Hills and slowly started renovating the outdated spaces. After refreshes of two bathrooms, a staircase, and a walk-in closet were complete, they decided to turn their attention to the kitchen.

The main problem besides the yellow walls, dated wooden cabinets, and orange-tiled backsplash, was the lack of storage. Rosalind was forced to store her larger appliances like the slow cooker and mixer in the living room. So, with the help of a Sweeten contractor, the couple reimagined their layout and added a kitchen island that doubles as storage as well as a convenient gathering spot. Rosalind chose gray tones throughout and accented them with interesting geometric shapes.

Same layout, more storage

Shoko and Rob really liked their 900-square-foot apartment in Harlem, New York. The only thing that gnawed at them was the “orange-y cabinetry, shiny black appliances, and brown countertop.” So they decided to take the plunge and redo the small kitchen. 

They did their research and found information from designer Keren Richter on how to make the most of their cook space and turned to Sweeten to execute their vision. In addition to overhauling the look of the kitchen, they wanted to improve the flow and functionality with more storage as their top goal. Their original kitchen didn’t take advantage of the ceiling height so they extended the new upper cabinetry to get as close as possible to the ceiling. In all, they were able to create a minimalist style yet warm space to cook in and entertain.

Dark and dated to contemporary chic

How do you make a house feel more like a loft apartment? First, you open up the layout so that you have an unobstructed sightline across the first floor. For Romuald and his family, this meant tearing down a wall between the kitchen and the main living space. To regain the storage space lost by removing the cabinets on that wall, they decided to do what many do: build an island. 

They also added other design touches to fit into their cooking-centric lives. Their Sweeten contractor suggested they install an “appliance garage” to make their countertop less cluttered. Being avid cooks, Romuald and his wife have a lot of small appliances, including a toaster, coffee maker, and mixer, that would be nicely concealed—but yet easily accessible—by this storage solution. They also put in a pot-filler above the stove and a microwave drawer in the island. 

The warm gray cabinets complement the white quartz countertop and the classic subway tile of the backsplash. For ease of cleaning and added durability, Romuald installed a porcelain floor that mimics the look of real wood.

Island design

Veteran renovators Jennifer and Joe always knew their New Jersey apartment wouldn’t be complete without a kitchen remodel. They, like many homeowners, wanted an open-concept layout in order to see the amazing views of the Manhattan skyline, Statue of Liberty, and George Washington Bridge that their apartment affords. 

They asked their Sweeten contractor to knock down a wall to get better sightlines to the wall of windows in their living room. Unfortunately, the entire wall could not be removed as it was load-bearing. So their contractor took down as much of the wall as possible and utilized the rest of the space to house the refrigerator. 

Jennifer and Joe based the design entirely around the marble waterfall island, which features a deep black base with white veins throughout the countertop. The color palette of the entire kitchen plays off the two tones, with glossy black drawers and all-white upper and lower cabinetry as well as a white quartz countertop. Not one detail was spared, from the under-cabinet lighting to the textured backsplash.

Midcentury Scandi meets Italian modern

“I wanted midcentury Scandi meets 70s Italian modern,” says Brooklyn Sweeten homeowner Melissa of her design preference for her kitchen. The co-op building itself had a midcentury vibe so she wanted to continue it inside. 

First things first, her Sweeten contractor removed walls that were blocking off the kitchen from the living area. Once that was complete, natural sunlight bathed the entire apartment. She carefully selected a mix of different materials (matte concrete floor and counters) as well as warmer accents in her textile and paint choices. A built-in shelf intersects over a new peninsula for additional seating. She didn’t move the plumbing (which is an added cost) or change the location of the appliances. 

From the ’80s to modern industrial

For their one-bedroom co-op in a 19th-century converted warehouse, homeowners Dan and Mike wanted to bring their 1980s kitchen into a new era. While they desired a nod to the industrial roots of the building, they did want the aesthetic to be balanced.

They hired a Sweeten contractor to help redefine the space. To create an open floor plan, a wall was removed as well as the upper cabinets, which were replaced with beautiful open shelves of salvaged Douglas Fir. The base cabinets were updated from laminate to a full set of IKEA cabinets and drawers, customized by Semihandmade. A modern waterfall countertop on the peninsula was used to visually separate the kitchen entry. They also utilized different natural and synthetic wood finishes to maintain a measure of warmth and masculinity.

A dark kitchen sees the (natural) light 

Even after tackling other updates to their colonial-style home, Nydia and Jonathan knew that renovating their Brooklyn kitchen was a top priority. The old version had mismatched appliances, dated cabinets, and not enough counter space. The dark space hardly felt welcoming (or functional) for their family of five. 

They turned to Sweeten to help with the construction process, hiring a trusted contractor from its carefully vetted network. The project involved rethinking the layout to opening up the stairway to the basement, which is accessed via the kitchen. The renovation helped key kitchen elements find new locations: the refrigerator moved out of the main cooking area, the dishwasher now sits directly across from the sink, and the walls surrounding the basement stairs were taken down. By replacing existing cabinets with ceiling-height ones and adding a peninsula, the space was really transformed.

From functional to fabulous

A mutual love of cooking (and of cooking together) ultimately led Marissa and Jeremy to renovate their small kitchen in their Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, co-op. The space was so cramped that it brought about a special house rule: Only one person allowed in the kitchen at a time when cooking in order to keep the peace. 

Twenty-four inches of usable counter space was quintupled through the renovation, while other unique elements were added to suit the couple’s preferences and lifestyle. For example, they went non-traditional for the backsplash, using an antique mirror. They also installed a ventless washer/dryer combo unit and removed the space-invading gas dryer vent. “While a gas dryer dries clothes much faster than a ventless dryer, I wanted the extra counter space more than I wanted clothes dried in 20 minutes,” Marissa said. They capped off the gas vent and went long with the back counter. “I am excited about so many parts of our kitchen that I don’t know if I can pick a favorite!” she said.

A modern vision brought to life through an extension

For Laura and Tim, they decided they needed to do something about their kitchen that was “falling apart”—it had water damage from a leaky shower upstairs, the door to the patio was drafty, the cabinets were dark and “grungy,” and it generally just needed some fixing up.

The couple consulted their friend and designer Suzy Leon of Suzy Leon Design, Ltd. and came up with a plan to gut the existing kitchen but also enclose their back patio. The additional interior square footage would connect and provide a better flow between the kitchen, dining room, and outdoor space. The new enclosure would feature skylights to brighten the space. 

They kept the galley layout but chose a light color palette in the “minty” green shaker cabinets to offset the dark plank wood floors. White quartz countertops were utilized to help make the flow look more open and airy.

Reaching new heights—with less ceiling

With an 18-inch tiny dishwasher, an oven that wasn’t big enough to fit a cookie tray, and a kitchen sitting underneath a loft, a renovation was long overdue for this mom who cooked five nights a week.

One major challenge homeowners Emily and Trey faced was the inability to move the building’s intercom system that was smack in the middle of the kitchen. They hired a Sweeten contractor who came up with a good solution: create an L-shaped peninsula to accommodate the immovable pole—and give them more space and storage at the same time.

In addition to the new peninsula, they were also able to get rid of the loft above, which increased the ceiling height drastically. The result was a well-thought-out new kitchen perfect for the family of four’s busy lifestyle.

First time’s a charm

Jennifer and Jonn couldn’t believe their luck when they found their 2,100-square-foot, three-bedroom duplex in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. It was the perfect location for their family of two kids and a dog. The story goes that the co-op was the result of combining three one-bedroom apartments to create a huge two-level residence with sole access to a sprawling rear garden. Voila! The perfect home…but with one catch: It needed to be renovated. 

The couple had their work cut out for them with this space that hadn’t been updated since the ’70s. They hired a contractor through Sweeten who was able to transform their white laminate kitchen into a light-filled galley kitchen with an eat-in banquette. They used shaker cabinets and five-panel doors while incorporating metals like brass lights and stainless steel appliances for a modern look.

Kitchens are arguably one of the most pivotal spaces in our homes. From giving us a gathering point to break bread together to providing space to tackle assignments and hobbies; every kitchen should deliver the kind of peace of mind (and organizational flow) that homeowners need. 

Inspired to renovate your kitchen? Check out Sweeten’s cost guides here.

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

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8 Bathroom Vanity Style Ideas

If you are thinking about redoing your bathroom—whether it is a minor refresh or an extensive update—choosing the right vanity is essential. It can be a nice focal point for your design as well as a functional item that will keep you organized.

We pored over some of the bathroom renovations done by contractors in Sweeten‘s network, a free renovation platform that matches homeowners with licensed general contractors and tracks their projects, and found some common motifs—designs that keep coming up in recent bath transformations. Here is a look at some of the classic vanity styles that might inspire you as you plan your next renovation.

Similar to exposed plumbing vanities in the fact that they are largely known for their space-saving qualities, pedestal vanities are making a resurgence, or so many believe. However, we would argue they never really went away. They have always been a classic option when it comes to updating a square-foot-challenged bathroom. They come in a range of designs—from contemporary to traditional—allowing them to blend into many different design environments.

When you are thinking about a bathroom model, one of the main ways to ensure that your new space will work for you is to consider how to reconfigure the layout to maximize space and storage as well as to make it suit your lifestyle. This is an opportunity to get clever and rethink the traditional vanity format.

For example, in one of the bathroom renovations featured above, you will notice that there is room for two sinks but the homeowners elected to install only one in favor more counter space—an unconventional decision but one that worked for them. In another renovation below, you will see the sink is placed in the corner with a long narrow “runway” countertop running along the wall, yet another example of out-of-the-box thinking.

The exposed plumbing trend probably started as a way to save space in small bathrooms but is now a design statement. These out-in-the-open water and waste traps come in two basic types: the European P-trap and the standard U-pipe, both named for their shapes. While there are usually only these two basic styles, sink traps do come in all different finishes to suit your design aesthetic: chrome, brass, oil-rubbed, copper, stainless steel, brushed nickel, among others. Plumbing has never looked so good!

It might not be the first thing you think about when deciding on a vanity for your bathroom but your choice of an undermount, vessel, or vanity top sink can drastically change the look of your space. An undermount sink is flush with the counter, giving it less chance of debris to be caught in between. A vanity top sink is just as it sounds, one placed on top of the vanity itself. It is considered a more modern-day choice but can be used effectively in any bathroom style, from rustic to contemporary. A vessel sink is usually (but not always) exposed on all sides and sits atop the vanity. It is more sculptural in appearance and doesn’t have faucet holes, making it necessary to mount the fixtures on the wall or counter.

White goes with everything. Basically, you can’t go wrong with a white vanity. But don’t be mistaken, not all white vanities are created equal. There are so many styles to choose from—from classic two-drawers, one-cabinet configurations to two long drawers with open storage space underneath. But to truly make a white vanity your own, consider the hardware you select. Do you fancy classic knobs, contemporary pulls, or none at all? Choose your favorite!

Wall-mounted or floating, vanities are great for so many reasons. First, they are non-traditional so always a nice option for those who like to try something different. Second, they instantly make the space appear larger and give you extra room underneath if you like to place storage bins or baskets (however, these Sweeten renovators opted for a more streamlined look). Floating vanities are also easier to clean around and provide more square footage for radiant heat. Lastly, they can be placed at any height you desire, freeing you from the confines of the standard 30″ to 36″ vanities.

Many people are enamored with double sinks—and for good reason, and really one big reason: SPACE. They provide extra “breathing room” for larger families, or just for couples who like their own space. Even though double-sink vanities often take up more counter surface,  we bet you will find the trade-off is well worth it.

Has this inspired you to remodel your own bath? Then you might want to check out how long bathroom renovations typically take 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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