A new baby for Lindsay and Matt would bring big changes for the couple, clearly. But one of those changes would mean leaving their cozy Park Slope walk-up to find more space and flexibility for their growing family. Committed to staying in Brooklyn, they purchased a promising co-op apartment in Ditmas Park, with hopes of converting their one-bedroom into a two while subtly upgrading a number of the uninspiring finishes in their kitchen and beyond. Read on for Lindsay’s take on their creative (and altogether pretty budget-friendly) home renovation!
Like many New Yorkers, after Matt and I had a baby we started yearning for more (or at least a different kind of) space. We lived in a Park Slope brownstone walk-up, and while our apartment was full of charm, we realized it was going to become more and more difficult to live there as our daughter grew older with its stairs, open fireplaces, jagged floors and somewhat awkward layout. So, we jumped on the real estate bandwagon, setting our sites on convertible one-bedroom apartments since two-beds were mostly out of our price range.
After being outbid several times in Prospect Heights and Windsor Terrace, we eventually ended up in Ditmas Park, where Matt had previously lived and where we first met. There, we found a one-bedroom in a building constructed in 1941 with a ton of charm, including pointed arched doorways and an inset bookcase. Our future building was a co-op, and ours was a sponsor unit that had recently undergone a renovation including a new kitchen and bathroom.
Since the place was in pretty good shape, the major component of our renovation was to separate the single bedroom into a master bedroom and nursery. We debated over a few layouts and decided to demolish the closets, build a partition, and create a new door opening from the living room.
As an architectural historian and frequent reader of design blogs, I was familiar with Sweeten and the service they offered. With the baby, work, a long unfinished doctoral dissertation, and the seemingly unending closing process, I didn’t have much time to do the legwork to find contractors or figure out how to schedule things. When the contractor we selected dropped out for a bigger Manhattan project right before closing, we decided to post our project with Sweeten–who were great in helping us find someone else in a pinch. In the end, they matched us with Sweeten Expert Paul, who was incredibly competent and quickly helped reduce my anxiety about the whole project. We had decided most of the big things, but he was great in helping us think through the smaller issues, such as where to put outlets and what kind of paint to choose.
By this time, our scope had also expanded a bit. In addition to some (unexpected) electrical work, we decided on a few aesthetic upgrades in the kitchen and bathroom, where the finishes were somewhat “cheap” and bland. We weren’t going for total transformations here. Just a handful of subtle upgrades to the existing decor that also aligned with our overall budget.
Since our budget was pretty small, we aimed to get the most bang for our buck. In the kitchen we replaced the laminate countertop with a quartz Caesarstone counter and installed a new stainless undermount sink and chrome faucet, white subway tile backsplash, and new ceiling lights.
In the bathroom, we replaced the pedestal sink with a more modern sink and vanity cabinet, added metal shelves, and installed new lights. These changes were small, but they made a huge difference in how the space looked and functioned.
Overall, construction went very smoothly. We were staying in sublets, so Paul knew that the work needed to be done as soon as possible. Paul wrapped things up right on schedule and before we knew it, we lived there! It was a great first-time renovating experience and I’m definitely itching to take on the next project.
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