Hafeeza’s Sweetened Upper West Side Kitchen and Bath

by Kerry O'Brien

This week, I got to live vicariously through a delightful homeowner’s Upper West Side kitchen transformation. Hafeeza and her husband made the big move from a 4,500 square foot home in suburban New Jersey to Manhattan’s Upper West Side in 2013. After raising five children, Hafeeza and her husband were ready for a retirement relocation that would put the City at their feet and free them from maintaining a large home. They spent a year in a temporary spot before finding the long-term city apartment where they planned to enjoy the essentials: family and friend get-togethers and nightly meals prepared by Hafeeza’s husband, the devoted family chef. The new space was ideal for those plans, except for the kitchen, which was functional but outdated and lacked the storage and prep space they envisioned. After talking to a number of contractors who weren’t available for or interested in the scope of the job, Hafeeza took to Sweeten to find a contractor for her list of simple and smart upgrades.

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“Our Sweeten Expert was a true professional from the initial meeting until the final payment.”

– Hafeeza M., Upper West Side homeowner

Usually, when I talk to homeowners about their renovations, I get a dose of renovation envy: I want THAT sparkling new kitchen, too! But after talking with Hafeeza, I ended up with something extra and unexpected: a renewed appreciation for New York City living and the William Morris mantra we recently explored on the Sweeten blog. One look at Hafeeza’s Sweeten project post and you can see why. Hafeeza started with a call for a no-frills kitchen upgrade to minimize clutter and simplify the space. Her ideas for big and small upgrades were straightforward and to-the-point, with a few unusual details to tailor the kitchen to her lifestyle and her new city.

The kitchen is enclosed and compact, so Hafeeza planned to add new cabinets, countertops, and appliances, and initially explored removing part of the wall to create a more open feel. The couple also wanted to relocate a closet, coat the entire apartment in fresh paint, and rig the kitchen for a fridge with an ice machine. If I had to name the worldly desires of most New Yorkers, more kitchen space, new paint, and an ice machine might well top the list. However, one request stopped me in my tracks. Hafeeza and her husband wanted to remove the dishwasher. Exclamation points!!! Hafeeza laughed when I helpfully explained to her that a dishwasher is kind of an integral part of a kitchen renovation, if not the holy grail for many new homeowners. She and her husband were certain that they valued more drawer space over the gadget and were happy to pitch in on the dishwashing together. Well. That is a new and interesting dishwashing philosophy!

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We matched Hafeeza with Sweeten Expert Pedro who delivered big time with a flawless and angst-free kitchen renovation, first creating clean lines and a unified feel for the cabinets with a plywood base for the upper set, finished in acrylic laminate. The lower set of cabinets and drawers feature acrylic laminate over engineered wood. The glossy finish makes these cabinets easy to keep clean and will guard against dings and wear over time. To create more counter space without changing the room’s dimensions, Hafeeza relocated the sink from the middle of the counter to the home of the former dishwasher, leveraging plumbing already in place, opening up a more continuous counter prep area, and installing an extra-deep sink basin. Hafeeza chose a stainless steel Blomberg fridge and her husband selected a compact Bertazzoni range. They finished the look with Silestone quartz counters, a neutral and luminous glass tile backsplash, and porcelain floor tiles with a faux wood finish.

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In the end, Hafeeza and her husband decided to leave the existing kitchen wall in place. Trying to open it would have added only 18 inches to the galley kitchen. Altering the plumbing to get a fridge with an ice machine also turned out to be overly expensive and unnecessary, so they skipped that detail as well. As they adjusted their plans to get the most out of the work, Hafeeza’s husband mentioned to Pedro that they had some minor upgrades in mind down the road for the bathroom. With a few quick calculations on the back of a napkin, Pedro and the couple realized they could make room in the budget for re-tiling and new fixtures. Hafeeza found the bulk of the new fixtures at Decor Planet in Manhattan and outfitted the bathroom with an energy efficient dual-flush toilet from Fresca, a full-wall medicine cabinet with mirrors inside and out, and a new vanity with storage drawers topped by a vessel sink. With extra storage, new lighting, and an upgraded shower head, Hafeeza and her husband were thrilled to find that they could re-vamp the bathroom within their budget.

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After less than a month of work, Hafeeza and her husband moved into their new home to enjoy more than they had bargained for: the new kitchen, fresh paint throughout the apartment, gleaming bathroom finishes, and a space that let them stay focused on family, friends, and their vibrant new neighborhood. I tried (like three times!) to get Hafeeza to pick her favorite part of the new space but she wouldn’t budge. “The whole apartment! We’re just thrilled! We have New York City at our doorstep. What more do you need?!” Truly, I have been repeating that mantra to myself for the last week. Thank you, Hafeeza, for sharing your space and your unflappable urban dweller attitude with me!

Inspired by Hafeeza’s down-to-essentials renovation? Post your project on Sweeten and let us connect you with contractors to help you simplify your space.

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