From HGTV to real-life, this Ditmas Park reno is a scene-stealer
Editor’s Note: Blane’s apartment overhaul is truly unforgettable. The post, originally published in 2016, showcases a mix of high-end materials and appliances paired with budget-friendly cabinets. An accountant by trade, Blane knows when to splurge and when to save, blending stock items with custom pieces throughout his home. Read on for a smart reno and play a fun game of “spot the pup!” in the photos below.
After “countless hours of watching HGTV,” Blane started to have big thoughts about ways he might make the kitchen and bathroom in his Ditmas Park/North Midwood condo better. While neither space was in particularly bad shape, he knew when he moved in that he would be plagued by a lack of light in the kitchen, and the bathroom felt mismatched to modern updates elsewhere in the apartment. With visions of a TV-worthy renovation, he posted his project on Sweeten, a free service matching homeowners with vetted contractors, and was introduced to this Sweeten general contractor.
Blane works in accounting at a law firm and is no stranger to budgets, so he was fastidious with his planning, choosing materials and fleshing out a game plan before even meeting with a contractor. With an initial budget of $35K, he planned to brighten the kitchen with cabinets in a lighter hue, substantially increase the limited counter space with an island, add a sliding door to the bedroom to keep the entry transition as efficient as possible, and cultivate a luxurious vibe in the master bath with an oversized walk-in shower and a neutral color scheme in place of its existing minty and slightly medical vibe.
After extensive research and some early attempts at drawing out his own cabinet footprint, he got started with his contractor. First, the team decided to tackle the bathroom. Here, Blane got his inspiration from an unlikely place. “My first purchase was actually the toilet, and things kind of evolved around there,” Blane said. “I’ve never had any sort of fancy toilet like that before. The new toilet has a remote, which I had never heard of. The Japanese are at the forefront of luxury so we’ll trust them.” The Toto toilet was just the beginning of the luxe vibe.
Blane chose a combination of slate and hexagon mosaic tiles for the wall, with a neutral mix of stone and wood for the heated (yes, heated!) floors. Then he pulled out all the stops with a walk-in, double-wide shower with a custom sliding glass door and rain showerhead, plus a double sink vanity, in a bit of long-range planning to make the apartment cohabitation-friendly. The contractor’s team capped the detailed work with a slanted, but sturdy, bench design in the shower and herringbone tile design on the bathroom floor, all in a soothing gray palette.
In the kitchen, Blane chose white upper cabinets with gray base units, giving the space a brightened, more modern effect. After heavy research focused on IKEA, the contractor actually suggested Blane swap his blueprint for a similar cabinet option from Home Depot, which gave him the same lacquered and bright uppers, with a striated gray laminate bottom set. The team removed a wall and moved the oven to the other side of the cabinet line, opening up the kitchen and improving the flow for prep and serving. To give Blane even more space for culinary exploits (and entertaining), the team brought in an island with a durable, waterfall quartz countertop with room for bar seating. Bonus: The island features its own electrical outlets, thanks to the contractor who snuck in a power source under a few floorboards.
In the dining room, Blane purchased a stunning ghost wood table, handmade by Jim at Breukelen Tafel in Carroll Gardens. To highlight the space, he and the team created a wallpapered accent wall to bring together the table, the gray walls, and the white and gray in the kitchen. “I think the wall, even though it was a simple thing, is now one of the best features of the apartment,” Blane said.
Blane admits that the process was mostly painless—despite living in the condo with a dog throughout the renovation. Though he went over his budget by 40 percent, he admits it was because of his decisions to choose more premium materials rather than any runaway labor costs. Even with the bathroom and kitchen in process at the same time, Blane was impressed that living in the rubble could be possible thanks to the team’s efforts to seal up the work zones and keep dust to a minimum. Looking at the finished product, Blane is thrilled. “I’m really happy it worked out,” Blane said. “Especially since I didn’t have a designer and I was relying on my accountant abilities to make good decisions.” Even though the contractor didn’t come from a design and build firm, his decades of experience let Blane lean on him for opinions and advice.
But Blane’s best advice for anyone going into the process is to do as much research as possible and be prepared to adjust as challenges come up. Inconvenient issues can sometimes be opportunities: when a light problem with Blane’s closet or gaps between wall and ceiling tiles were discovered, the contractor came up with elegant solutions that often improved on the original plan. “They take great pride in their work, and even came back to do a touch-up here and there as things settled in the months after the project ended, at no additional cost,” Blane said. “If the final results don’t speak already for themselves, I highly recommend them.”
Now Blane has the space to sprawl in his upgraded condo with one of Brooklyn’s most adorable dogs, his new pup, Harvey. However, he sheepishly admits he’s not always using that kitchen for intense, five-star-worthy fare. “I’m cooking now more than I was, but you get in that sandwich kick and it’s hard to change from that.”
KITCHEN RESOURCES: Martha Stewart Living Lancombe Avenue High Gloss Picket Fence upper cabinets and Martha Stewart Living Weston in Persian Gray lower cabinets: Home Depot. Cabinet knobs: Belwith. Cabinet pulls: Hickory. Undercabinet lighting: Lightkiwi. Faucet and soap dispenser: Moen. Sink: Kraus. Pendants: ET2 Online. Bellavita Bamboo Planks backsplash: Discount Glass Tile Store. InSinkErator garbage disposal: Amazon. Panasonic microwave and trim kit: Amazon. Cavaliere range hood: Overstock.com. Halo LED ceiling lighting: Amazon. Quartzmasters 1 1/4″ White Arabascato countertops: ATP Services (2729b W 16th St, Brooklyn).
BATHROOM RESOURCES: Stone: ATP Services (2729b W 16th St, Brooklyn). Hansgrohe shower wall bar set, rain shower head, and trim: Decorprice. Wyndham Collection linen tower and vanity: Wayfair. Vanity faucets: ModernBathroom. Gatco towel bar and toilet paper holder: Amazon. Toto toilet: Amazon. Somertile Cliff Hexagon Black accent wall tiles: Amazon. Metro Gris 12 in. x 24 in. wall tiles and Montagna Dapple Gray 6 in. x 24 in. floor tiles: Home Depot. Wooden White and Granite Three Finish Hexagon Mosaic shower floor tiles: Discount Glass Tile Store. Custom glass doors and hardware: Silver Glass & Mirror Brooklyn. George Kovacs Saber Chrome 12-Inch 24 Light LED Bath Lamp sconces: Bellacor. Sliding system: C.R. Laurence Co., Inc. Heated floor system: SunTouch.
The two-tone cabinet effect in Jane’s kitchen—white on top and gray along the bottom—makes the space feel bigger while adding some much-needed contrast.
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