Before & After / By Stacey Freed / December 20, 2018
A Home Renovation Unveils a Work of Art
Hurdles give way to a Brooklyn family’s dream home
Once their son was born, this Clinton Hill family found their converted junior two-bedroom was no longer functional for them. The couple, one an artist and also in government and the other a TV producer, had purchased the 1,200-square-foot, mid-century co-op with the intention of renovating. In their previous apartment, they learned that by remodeling all at once rather than a project at a time, they could get everything they wanted in a home and it would be less expensive in the long run. They posted their project to Sweeten, a free service matching renovators with vetted contractors. They wanted to open the kitchen, add storage, and bring the electric up to code, so they chose their general contractor to take on the project. See how they achieved this with full-time jobs, a child, and a co-op board that threw them a few curves.
Guest blog post by Sweeten homeowner in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
When we purchased our apartment, the wiring wasn’t up to code, so we knew we needed to replace the electrical panel. Tile floors had been covered in synthetic carpeting. There were no closet doors, few overhead lights, and a popcorn ceiling. My goal was to turn the apartment into an understated, functional, and cohesive space that wasn’t over-designed—something comfortable and cozy but tidy and calm. I’m tired of the Scandinavian look and of white floors, so I chose dark floors and hardware throughout to contrast with white walls.
To make things unfussy, bright, and cohesive, I used similar colors, light fixtures, and hardware. The furniture is neutral; color would come from my artwork and our eclectic accessories. Plus, I had to account for my son’s colorful toys, which would end up looking even more disruptive in a visually busy space. Building out the closets was essential to allowing us to settle in properly, and I’m glad we didn’t wait to do this (which was the original plan). We had our radiator covers custom-designed to be very minimalist so that they concealed the support legs and included a removable door that allows us to access the control.
We made several changes during the process and added quite a few things to the scope of work, such as new doors, skim coating the living room walls, and installing new closet interiors. It added several thousand dollars to the job, but we are glad we did them.
The biggest part of the project was making the kitchen wider and extending it to include more storage. I wanted an open space with a large island for doing art projects and for cooking prep, and so I could see and interact with my family more.
When the kitchen wall was demolished, there was an electrical tube that came out from the ceiling! You never know what you will find until you open a wall. Our Sweeten contractor clipped it—we were relieved it didn’t have an impact. The electrical in the island is powered by wires running under the new subfloor that was built on top of the concrete slab floors. The co-op didn’t understand how this would work and was concerned, but our contractor talked them through it and got it approved.
I wanted the kitchen design to be invisible, minimalist, and to reflect the light and view. I spent a lot of time thinking about understated cohesion. I love the stone in the kitchen and find it calming. The stone on the island is one slab and so is the backsplash. I paid extra to have the stone vendor carry the slabs up 17 flights of stairs. It was crazy but having a seamless backsplash and island is worth it.
We had custom-designed cabinetry and I especially love our broom closet with a pull-out rack and an integrated outlet. Like I said, I wanted things to be functional!
(Photos above) Master bathroom
(Above) Hall bathroom
The bathrooms, too, were designed to be functional and safe with lots of drawer storage and thermostatic controls on the shower. It’s a huge improvement from the existing controls where we had to mix the water to find the right temp. New hardware on both vanities was swapped out and added legs to the cabinets. I chose handmade Spanish white subway tiles; each tile is unique and has an interesting shape. I picked classic black-and-white tiles, shaker doors, and molding that are reminiscent of old NYC apartments. The chair rail trim adds texture.
The project was stressful on several levels: I designed the space and even though we’d done a renovation in a previous apartment, this job was much larger. I planned every detail and all the materials. I had to ensure that we had enough material, which involved a tremendous amount of legwork. I also coordinated their timely delivery and made sure we got our permits on time by getting on the phone with the expeditors, some of whom were causing unnecessary delays.
All of this was happening while I was working full-time and had a young child. If you can hire a designer whose aesthetic you trust to select all the materials for you, then do it!
The other bump in the road was our co-op board, which at one point shut down our work. We thought they were going to fine us because of the kitchen electrical issue. Thankfully, the situation was resolved, resulting in only a one-week delay. If you’re in a co-op, document everything and get a sign-off from management on everything.
We were lucky, too, that our Sweeten contractor was on top of things. He created a project timeline, which was helpful. He was careful to check with us on all details before moving forward with work. He suggested a few vendors that we ended up using. The on-site foreman was excellent and communicated well with me.
Now that the dust has settled, though, I love my home and appreciate all the details and hard work that went into it. It’s satisfying to realize a vision and get to enjoy it as a family. We love our view, the open kitchen, the balcony, and, of course, the space is so functional! I really feel like it has everything I need.
Thank you for sharing your renovation story and the beautiful results!
KITCHEN RESOURCES: Cabinets: Ikea. Cabinet hardware: Build.com. Quartz countertops/backsplash in Statuario Maximus: Caesarstone. Sink/faucet: Brizo. Refrigerator/dishwasher/stove: Bosch. Lighting: Illuminate Vintage. Floors: Preverco.
MASTER BATHROOM RESOURCES: Floor and wall tile: Home Tile Center. Shower fixtures: Hansgrohe. Sink/vanity: Ikea. Vanity knobs and vanity legs: Anthropologie. Toilet: Toto. Lighting: Illuminate Vintage. Medicine cabinet: Kohler.
HALL BATHROOM RESOURCES: Floor and wall tile: Home Tile Center. Shower fixtures: Hansgrohe. Sink/vanity: Ikea. Pulls: Home Depot. Hairpin legs: Etsy. Toilet: Toto. Lighting: Illuminate Vintage. Medicine cabinet: Kohler.
NURSERY RESOURCES: Closet system: Elfa.
Sunghee and Joseph renovated their kitchen in the Clinton Hill Co-ops.
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