Some people approach a kitchen renovation with big enthusiasm and boundless energy — hours of anticipation, research, pinning, and hunting devoted to a major undertaking. Brooklynite Laura is not one of those people. When Laura decided it was finally time to overhaul the 1950s kitchen of her Windsor Terrace co-op, she took on the project with complete pragmatism. After renovating the kitchen of a prior home and watching the process drag and get buried in minutiae, Laura had no interest in obsessing over decisions—she wanted a contractor who could help her bring the kitchen into this millennium while explicitly guiding her on what was needed and when.
Laura lived in her two-bedroom, two-bath co-op for about five years before taking on the old-school kitchen. The kitchen’s footprint gave her a good bit of storage space, but the floor was shot and only looked serviceable in the five minutes after it was mopped. Laura had real affection for the original stove (complete with warming oven), but an update was clearly in order. After hearing positive things about Sweeten from a renovation-obsessed friend, she posted her renovation and we matched her with Sweeten Expert Kris, who had also worked on that same friend’s home.
Laura had ambitious plans to carve out a pantry from space in the dining room, but Kris explained that the move might be too expensive. Instead, they worked together to create a plan that would be structurally identical to what was already there—but vastly improved.
“I am someone who cannot read an architect’s drawing. The details of all the things that you are expected to keep track of, down to buying knobs for the cabinets, just drove me crazy,” Laura said. “I wanted the contractor to take care of as much as possible.” And so Kris did. He started by creating a plan that she could read and then set to work installing custom maple cabinets, translucent subway backsplash tiles, and a cheery aqua paint finish to brighten the room.
Laura chose sturdy granite countertops and Kris added a new corner built-in along with open shelving above to stash cookbooks—ending a habit of running to the study anytime Laura wanted to check a recipe. Neutral ceramic floor tiles ensure Laura won’t have to mop often for the kitchen to look its best.
The entire renovation cost about $35,000, with no big surprises thanks to Kris and his straightforward plan.
Kris was so efficient that the project initially came in under budget, so he was able to slip in some targeted updates in the bathroom and still keep the total budget on track. He replaced delightfully pink-and-white (but badly damaged) tiles with extra floor tiles from the kitchen and re-tiled the walls with simple white subway tile and high-contrast dark grout. Kris removed a throwback wall-mounted laundry shoot and added a new sink, mirror, and vanity light fixture – all within Laura’s original budget!
The process rolled along smoothly, minus a snowstorm that delayed the speedy six-week schedule by exactly one day. Laura credits the truncated schedule to slotting her soup-to-nuts demolition in the dead of winter and to Kris. “Kris was very good about letting me know what needed to be done and when it needed to be done,” Laura said. “I didn’t wind up with things I couldn’t use or make mistakes, which is what I was afraid of.”
Laura’s best advice for those renovating? Don’t listen to all the advice! While people might pressure you to go to a dozen granite places or endlessly fixate on light fixtures, there’s no need to go overboard. “I think you can do this without being a fanatic about that stuff, as long as you have a sort of basic idea of what you want.”
Kitchen Selects >> Cabinets: custom maple / range and microwave: Frigidaire Gallery Collection from P.C. Richard and Son / dishwasher: KitchenAid from P.C. Richard and Son / wall color: Jamaican Aqua by Benjamin Moore
Sweeten handpicks the best general 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 renovation on Sweeten.