A NYC Bathroom Remodel Restores Prewar Beauty


For this prewar NYC bathroom remodel, tile and gold finishes reveal old-school charm

prewar bathroom renovation

“After” photos by Miao Jiaxin for Sweeten


  • Homeowner: Leah posted a project on Sweeten
  • Where: Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York
  • Primary renovation: A rip-and-replace bathroom
  • Notable: Feature and custom items were worth the wait.
  • Result: The removal of a drop ceiling brought the space closer to the original feel.
  • 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.

BEFORE

Leah, a lawyer in the finance industry, bought her prewar one-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side. She spent several years living in the apartment before embarking on a kitchen renovation. She also redid the floors. “The decisions I made after really living in the space were just better—how I moved in and out of the kitchen, how the rooms communicated with each other,” she said.

The renovation projects became exhausting, so she took a break—even though the bathroom was disjointed from the rest of the apartment, with its beige tones and frumpy ’70s aesthetic. It also had a dropped ceiling for seemingly no reason, which cramped the small space. “I backed away because it seemed like too much to take on,” she said, but she finally took the plunge and posted her NYC prewar bathroom remodel on Sweeten to find a general contractor.

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AFTER

Leah envisioned something that was reflective of her co-op building’s beautiful foyer with its marble and clean look. “I think my design was to let the space speak for itself,” she said. The Sweeten contractors she hired set out to raise the ceiling. “We didn’t know what we were going to find,” Leah said. Because they could not find any pipes or any other obvious reason for the dropped ceiling, they were able to raise it again.

She selected classic subway tiles for the walls and a marble top for the vanity. With the floors, the Sweeten contractors made a reassuring discovery—the original tiles were still underneath, and matched the new creamy hexagon tiles Leah had chosen. It was a confirmation that her design choices were in line with how the bathroom was originally meant to be.

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While Leah had planned for white and silver tones, she made a last-minute decision to bring in gold fixtures. “I wanted to add warmth,” she said of the 11th-hour choice. Luckily, she found the renovation process to be far less taxing than she had anticipated. She was in daily communication with her Sweeten contractors, who helped solve problems and helped her make those nuts-and-bolts decisions, like how far up the wall the tiles should go. “It was a very collaborative process,” she said.

BONUS

Leah decided early on where she would save money (like tile choices) with her budget and where she would spend more lavishly. Because of the small space, she decided on a custom bathtub, which took six weeks to make in South Carolina. “Every bathtub that was standard was made for bigger spaces,” she said. “I needed something that fit my dimensions.” The shower enclosure and tub combination became a showstopping centerpiece of the bathroom and were well worth the wait.

STYLE FINDS

Casa Vogue porcelain wall tile in glossy Snow White, hexagon floor tile, and white chair rail: Kohler. Bathtub: MTI Baths. Shower and sink fixtures in French Gold: Kohler. Empire Windsor vanity: Kitchensource.com. AiO Cabinet and mirror: Robern. Vanity light fixture: Restoration Hardware. UltraMax toilet: Toto. Glass surround: Alpha Glass.

Even small changes to a floor plan may free up enough square footage for an extra bathroom. Here’s how five Sweeten homeowners who added one.

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



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A Dark Bath Goes Hollywood-Glam In a Chelsea Bathroom Renovation


In this Chelsea bathroom renovation, exposed bulbs and graphic tile create an unforgettable look

Chelsea bathroom renovation "after" picture

Project: Update and brighten a small bathroom in a Chelsea studio

Before: The bathroom tub, fixtures, and drain in this circa 1964 co-op had done their job, but were now way past their sell-by date. Kristen knew her Chelsea apartment was ready for a bathroom renovation. “The shower and tub had gotten a little scary,” says Kristen, the homeowner of this 700-square-foot studio. Peeling paint on the tub and hard water stains on the tiles didn’t help. Plus, the windowless room was dark, with floor-to-ceiling slate tile and poor lighting. And there was no medicine cabinet or built-in storage.

Chelsea bathroom renovation "before" pictureChelsea bathroom renovation bathtub "before"

After: Knowing that she wanted the bathroom to be bright and modern with classic elements and storage, Kristen posted her project on Sweeten and was matched with a general contractor. Because of building regulations, she wasn’t able to change the location of the plumbing, so the work was cosmetic only. Flash forward to the finished room…now, the crisp, light lavender-gray walls and tub paired with the black-and-white floor tile. A porcelain-tiled shower and Hollywood-glam mirror lighting brighten up the bathroom considerably.

“I’m glad I chose porcelain over marble because it requires less upkeep,” said Kristen. She decided to pass on installing a vanity. This gives the illusion of more space—as does the stripe pattern on the floor tiles. A free-standing cabinet is part storage and part display. The overall feel of the space hits the modern yet classic style she was looking for.

porcelain shower "after" picture

bathroom renovation

SLIDESHOW BELOW:

Kristen’s biggest challenge was finding all the materials that would work together. It was difficult, she said, narrowing down selections, “considering the many options out there.” Her contractor “provided a lot of information to help make decisions.” In addition to having a Renovation Checklist, Kristen had a list of products and materials to order for her project. “I checked off each item once I had sourced it. This was really helpful because there are some things I never would have thought of, like a new vent for the wall,” Kristen said.

Having an organized list also allowed her contractor to make sure it was all compatible with the space. The contractor, she said, “helped incorporate eco-friendly elements into my renovation, telling me what to look for in a toilet, showerhead, and faucet.”

Tile ideas at the airport

Her other challenge was that she was traveling during the renovation. But her contractor took care of any bumps, even going directly to the manufacturer when there was an issue with a showerhead. At one point, she said, while she was at the airport waiting for a flight, the Sweeten contractor’s tile installer called with a layout question. “Luckily, this airport had a lot of tile,” she said with a laugh. “So I walked around and looked for different layouts to help reinforce my decision.” Who needs subway tile when airport tile offers loftier inspiration?

Style finds: Floor tile: Cement Tile Shop. Battiscopa Renaissance Calacatta porcelain wall tile: AKDO. Shower and sink fixtures: Brizo. Pedestal sink: Signature Hardware. Toilet: Toto. Lighting: Illuminate Vintage via Etsy. Hutch: Target. Medicine cabinet: Robern. Art: Neue Galerie.

Marissa created a glamorous bath with high-contrast design, combining black walls with gleaming tile and a sparkling chandelier.

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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A Brooklyn Kitchen Dazzles With an L-Shaped Layout and Island


Once kept to a single wall, a true working kitchen comes to life with an L-shaped layout and island

“After” photos by Kyle Knodell

Project: Update and enlarge a small kitchen in downtown Brooklyn with an L-shaped layout and island

Before: Looking for more square footage in downtown Brooklyn led this couple to a 3-bedroom, 2-bath 1,230-square-foot loft in a 1920s Art Deco building. The kitchen was an unusual shape, with all of the appliances huddled together along one wall, not so suitable for avid entertainers.

kitchen renovation, Brooklyn

After: To expand the space, the couple wanted an L-shaped layout with a six-foot-long island and floor-to-ceiling cabinets for storage. They posted their project on Sweeten and chose their Sweeten contractor. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Due to the building’s landmark status and paper-thin walls, condo approvals were a lengthy process. Once they were complete, the renovation itself took two months. Their contractor encouraged them to keep cooking as a focus, meaning no TV in the kitchen and leaving the “binge-fests for the den.” The couple eagerly agreed on a modern look mixing closed cabinets and open shelves while pairing white and gray shaker-style cabinets with custom black walnut slabs. One of the black walnut slabs acts as a desktop in a built-in—a workspace ideal for the husband, who is usually up before dawn checking email.

l-shaped kitchen layout with island

You could agonize over the exact CMYK breakdown in your grout, or you could choose one that’s a reasonable shade of gray, order it online, and get on with it.

A white subway tile backsplash with dark gray grout and white quartz counters serve as a simple backdrop. The couple also used brass hardware to add a modern touch. They also planned to splurge on quality countertops, which are known for their durability. To afford this, the couple decided to pass on a highly-desired farmhouse sink for a more affordable stainless steel sink. Durability was a priority for the couple. “This kitchen was built to be used,” said the homeowner. With its greatly increased prep space and extended bar seating, we couldn’t agree more!

l-shaped kitchen layout with wood topped islandkitchen renovation, Brooklyn

Bonus: After hosting their first dinner party in the space, she received a thank-you from a friend who said, “I could spend all my days in that kitchen.” The hostess’ response: “And that’s exactly our plan.”

Style finds: Cabinets: Fabuwood. Brass cabinet hardware: Semihandmade. Subway tile: Home Depot. Statuario Maximus countertop: Caesarstone. Custom black walnut slabs (open shelves, island countertop, desktop): 3 Dot Design. Light pendants: AllModern.com. Refrigerator: LG. Dishwasher: Bosch. Profile microwave: GE. Profile range: GE. Faucet: Delta. Chair (at desk) and Slope counter stools: West Elm.

Read how to minimize the mess during a renovation and how to clean up after it’s completed.

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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Adding a Second Bath for Convenience


adding a second bath with blue tile

“After” photos by Pixy Interiors for Sweeten

Project: Transform a one-bedroom unit by splitting the master bath into two; adding a second bathroom and an extra bedroom. 

Before: When Jeanne and Philip found out they were having a baby, it was just the incentive they needed to renovate. Changing the layout of their 1,000-square-foot apartment would be more efficient for their growing family. They wanted more space to enjoy while raising their little one—without being on top of one another. Luckily, with the help of Sweeten, a free renovation platform that matches homeowners with licensed general contractors and tracks their projects, they posted their project and found a contractor who could help fulfill their vision of adding a second bathroom and bedroom by splitting up the master bath.

before pictures of the bathroom

They discussed turning their one-bedroom into a two-bedroom and splitting their master bath into two with their contractor. Luckily, there was enough square footage to play with. The previous owner had taken a closet next to the master bathroom to make a large walk-in shower. The couple’s Sweeten contractor would use some of that space to make a guest bath and second bedroom.

After: The couple decided a design-build firm would be a good fit since maximizing their apartment’s limited space would be tricky. Plus, the contractor handled the architectural documents required by the co-op board and filed for city permits. The family’s main goal was to turn the guest bath into an ADA-compliant space. To do so, they had to add a step up due to underlying drains. Without it, the room would not be able to function in such a capacity. An ADA-compliant space follows a federal guideline to provide greater access to people with limited mobility.

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“I asked the designer to come up with different looks, then mixed and matched,” Jeanne says. “We wanted to be a bit more forward and get funkier.”

Bonus: A new wall-hung toilet takes less floor space than a traditional toilet would.

Style finds: Toilet: Kohler. Vanity: Fresca. Sin/faucet: Grohe. Medicine cabinet: Robern. Toilet paper holder and a hand towel hook Ginger. Subway tile and herringbone mosaic: Nemo Tile. Flooring Daltile. Rain shower and hand-held system: Hansgrohe.

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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A Historic Brownstone Bath Remodel Stays True to Its Roots


On-trend? No. On point? Absolutely.

classic bathroom remodel in BrooklynProject: Bring a vintage pink-and-black bathroom into modern-day while keeping it classic.

Before: For Peggy and Jack, renovating the master bath in their circa late-1800s brownstone in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, was an easy decision: they had leaks in the bathroom that couldn’t be ignored anymore. They were nearing the end of their twins’, Cayley and Sam, college careers so they could refocus their financial commitments. The outdated pink-and-black tile and the oddly-placed shower also contributed to the necessary overhaul. They wanted to modernize their Brooklyn bathroom, but not load it with trendy design statements that’d be “out” in a few years. 

renovator portrait

Before bath remodel pink tileTheir brownstone is configured as an owner-occupied triplex and basement rental unit—and they have grand plans for the historic building in the future. “ We have a multigenerational plan for living in our house, so we aren’t concerned about short-term resale maximization,” says Peggy. “We wanted to stay true to the spirit and look of the classic brownstone style, but update the bathroom with a water-efficient toilet and fixtures.” 

After: “The idea was to have this renovation be fine for decades,” says Peggy. “We wanted something classic, electrical and plumbing up to code, and environmentally friendly but that would respect the aesthetic of our centenarian house.” Installing safety compliant features like easy tub access, grab bars, and non-slip flooring was also a priority. 


They posted their project on Sweetena free renovation platform that matches homeowners with licensed general contractors and tracks their projects, and found the right contractor for their Brooklyn bathroom renovation project. 

They originally planned to move the tub under the window, which had been done with their kids’ bathroom a few years ago.  “We like to take baths, and were motivated to expand floor space and have the window view when soaking,” said Peggy. “However, we realized that also meant we couldn’t have grab bars on a  window wall.” 

Their Sweeten contractor referred them to a designer, who then consulted on the space’s layout. The designer suggested leaving the tub in place and moving the toilet to make more space for a larger vanity. Good advice! The end result of the renovation is undeniable: “It’s clean, fresh, serene…and has no leaks!” The couple also used six inches of space behind the shower wall for building in double storage niches.

Bonus: They repurposed their hallway mirror for their bathroom, since it had the vintage feel they wanted. 

Style finds: Vanity: build.com. Hardware: Miele. Bathroom floor tile: Classic Tile. Paint: Benjamin Moore.

WATCH VIDEO:


Check out other small bathroom renovations here.

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.



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A Bath Refresh: From Leaky to Luxe


A renovator redoes her bath out of necessity and finds the beauty in it

Project: Fix leaky plumbing in a Manhattan co-op and while you’re at it, renovate the entire bath

Before: When commercial photographer, Veronica, moved into her Upper West Side apartment in 2014, she considered it move-in ready.  “All I had to do was paint and tile the kitchen,” she explains. “I hoped to redo the bathroom one day, but it seemed like an overwhelming and big job—and especially expensive in New York City.”

Cut to a few years later. She received a complaint from her neighbors directly below and after investigating, it turned out her tub was leaking into their apartment. “I had a plumber check it out, and he confirmed I’d have to get the tub replaced to fix the leak,” says Veronica. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), that meant the attached surrounding tile would need to be replaced. “It kind of became a domino effect of redoing everything, but I figured it was a good time to make some upgrades,” she says. 

Veronica was more than happy to get rid of the outdated beige tile and grimy old jet tub and posted her project on Sweeten, a free renovation platform that matches homeowners with licensed general contractors and tracks their projects. “I was really looking forward to designing a bathroom that had a walk-in shower with a glass door,” she says. The light fixture didn’t work and the vanity was small and crammed in next to the shower so it was a no-brainer to replace those as well. 

After: The bathroom was transformed from a basic beige bathroom into a rich, modern space. Through Sweeten, Veronica found the contractor who would renovate her space with her vision in mind. “The bathroom got very little light to begin with so I decided to embrace the cave-like atmosphere and go dark,” Veronica says.

Black bathroom tile

She added matte brass fixtures for warmth as well as marble floor tile for texture. “My favorite thing is the walk-in shower,” says Veronica. “It’s so much easier to clean, it makes the tiny space feel more open, and it gives a modern look and feel.” 

Having a wall-mounted sink without a vanity also opened up the room. Veronica was “glad not to have crammed in an 18-inch vanity that doesn’t hold much anyway and visually disrupts the room.” Initially, the plan was to install a wall-mounted toilet but found out that it was out of the budget and required permits.

black and gold bathroom

Bonus: A cabinet above the bathroom door serves as added storage for towels and other supplies.

Style finds: Metro collection floor and wall tiles in graphite: Nemo. American Standard Decorum 20″ sink: Build.com.  Kohler exposed hardware, #K-9018-BDG p-trap with long tubing outlet; set of two npt angle supplies; Glassware House frameless fixed glass panel, #GW-SFP-35.5-PB; San Souci elongated one-piece toilet: Wayfair. Mirror: Pottery Barn. Dewdrop Globe vanity light: Shades of Light. Paint in Day’s End: Benjamin Moore. Cabinet above door: Ikea.

Thank you, Veronica, for sharing your new bathroom with us!

WATCH VIDEO:

Check out another stunning renovation born out of a water leak.

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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