Karen and Kevin’s Apartment Renovation – Sweeten on the Upper West Side!

When Karen and Kevin bought their Upper West Side co-op, they knew there was work to be done. To make the one-bedroom and one-bathroom ready for their family, they hoped to convert a small dining room nook into a nursery for their adorable daughter, Eleanor. Karen, an accountant in the hotel industry, and Kevin, a product manager at a software company, planned to do all renovations before moving in. Approvals took time, and the quest for a contractor stalled as some candidates balked at carving out the nursery space they envisioned. After interviewing several potential teams, Karen posted her apartment renovation project on Sweeten and met their Sweeten general contractor, who didn’t bat an eye. “He really genuinely understood what we wanted and thought he could do it,” Karen said.

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The kitchen’s laminate counters and veneered cabinets were high on the list of issues, and the couple decided to tackle major bathroom grime as part of the overhaul. Karen and Kevin worked with their contractor to design a pocket door for the nursery, prepared to rehab an old windowsill, and planned to freshen up with new paint in a few spots.

Karen's Kitchen Sweeten

The contractor’s team re-oriented the kitchen and removed a service door leftover from an earlier era. The new layout brought the opportunity to eke out more storage in every possible place—which meant custom cutting larger IKEA cabinets to fit the space. “We really wanted to max every inch we possibly could,” Karen said. But those extra inches came at a cost: time. “Custom cutting all of the cabinets was something we didn’t factor into the timeline.” Since the couple was commuting to see progress from where they were living in Red Hook, things often seemed slow, but the expanded storage turned out to be worth the wait.

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To keep the sleek white lacquered cabinets from feeling too space age, Karen and Kevin picked a warm mosaic stone backsplash and a granite countertop from Brooklyn Granite. To keep costs down, Karen tried to snag as many of her Bosch appliances from out-of-state as possible to minimize sales tax. They installed undermount lighting and Karen’s favorite feature: a built-in filtering faucet that makes loading up a fridge filter a thing of the past.

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The bathroom came with an extra long tub that was extra bulky and extra annoying. By removing the enormous 66-inch tub and replacing it with a standard-sized soaker, they made space for a larger, airy vanity with a drawer and storage underneath. “We picked the wood vanity to give it some warmth and more of a masculine feel,” Karen said. Karen was adamant about a recessed medicine cabinet with interior outlets, so gangly appliances like electric toothbrushes stayed out of site. The white subway tile also features it’s own storage niches in sleek black.

To continue the rustic-meets-minimalist vibe, the couple preserved the unfinished wood door, an original feature. After removing about “twenty layers of paint,” the door now opens and closes easily and the original crystal knob pops against the austere backdrop.

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Karen’s advice to fellow renovators stems from the botched delivery of three different toilets. Since the couple wasn’t living in the apartment during the renovation, there was a lapse before each mistake was discovered. “Our contractor warned me about this, make sure you order all the supplies and the contractor has them there right away so no one is waiting for things to arrive.” Karen and Kevin learned to allow and check for items to be on back-order or get delayed and to check deliveries as quickly as possible for accuracy and completeness.

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Although navigating the renovation process combined with caring for a new baby was stressful, the family is thrilled with the results. “Little things popped up, but we dealt with them. There was nothing too crazy or too expensive, and that’s because of our contractor. We had a good working relationship,” Karen said.

Kitchen Selects >> floor tile: 12” by 24” ceramic crossover Nemo / backsplash: Haisa Buneo Mosaic in terrace color / fridge, dishwasher, oven, and microwave: Bosch / cabinets: IKEA, custom cut to fit / countertop: Brooklyn Granite / faucet: houzz.com / wall color: Decorator’s White by Benjamin Moore

Bathroom Selects >> floor tile: 12” by 24” black matte / wall tiles: 4.25” by 12.75” subway tiles in white gloss from Metropolitan / black tile: 1” by 1” seta carbone matte / showerhead: Quality Bath / vanity: Signature Hardware / faucet: National Builder Supply / sink, toilet, toilet holder, and towel bar: Amazon / wall color: Super White and Onyx by Benjamin Moore

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

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