If you can get past this first photo here — a challenge given the extreme cuteness of this apartment’s canine resident — you’ll hear from Lisa, an Upper East Side graphic designer who took on a renovation after her kitchen’s appliances conked out one by one. Read on down for Lisa’s take on finding the right contractor for her project.
Guest post by Lisa, Upper East Side homeowner
Last year, after renting in the Village for 20 years, I bought a small one-bedroom on the Upper East Side. The apartment is on a high floor, bright and sunny, and except for the kitchen, in perfect condition. The teeny tiny kitchen was dated and shabby with sagging cabinets, cracked tile, bulky appliances, and a huge mystery stain on the ugly laminate countertop.
Because I had no experience planning a renovation, I decided to live with the kitchen and figure out exactly what worked and what didn’t. As soon as I unpacked, one problem became apparent… the builder-grade cabinets were too shallow for serving dishes and cookware and I had to store my pots and pans in my coat closet. The lower drawers and cabinets were so narrow they were almost useless. The kitchen sink was far too shallow and there was limited counter space with only one electrical outlet.
With these issues in mind, I started my research. My dream kitchen had beautiful wooden cabinetry with sleek appliances and marble counters, but as I evaluated the actual space I had to work with (and my budget), I decided that a clean minimal style would work best in the boxy little space. Once I figured out what I was looking for, I started canvassing my friends for contractor recommendations. The horror stories scared me enough to postpone my plans for a month or so, until one by one, my appliances started dying. The stove burners led the way, followed in rapid succession by the microwave and dishwasher. When the refrigerator started making a grinding noise, I knew I couldn’t procrastinate any longer.
Fortunately, I read about Sweeten on Apartment Therapy and it sounded like exactly what I needed. I posted my project and quickly got an email from Sweeten helping me determine that because I knew pretty much what I was looking for and wasn’t making drastic structural changes, I could reasonably go with a good contractor and forgo hiring (and paying for) a designer.
I got in touch with four contractors referred by Sweeten and ultimately selected Sweeten Expert Erion. He wasn’t discouraged by the size of the kitchen, understood what I was looking for, had great taste, and showed an eye for details. As a newbie, I also really appreciated that he was very clear about costs, estimating to me what materials and labor were expected to cost for each item instead of just giving me a lump price.
I sent Erion photos of minimalist-style kitchens I liked and gave him my list of complaints about the current kitchen. From that point on, he took over. He handled everything. He recommended that we go with semi-custom cabinets in order to get the depth I wanted, and showed me samples for countertops and hardware, first editing options down to two or three initial choices, with more available if necessary.
Based on Erion’s samples, I went with white high-gloss upper cabinets and gray high-gloss lower cabinets with bar pull hardware. The countertop is Daltile’s One Quartz in Luminesce, which is a bright white that went nicely with the cabinets and backsplash and needs almost no upkeep. For the backsplash, I went with Marazzi Sistem C Bianco, similar to subway tile but with an interesting size. In order to add a little visual interest, we used three rows of Daltile Fashion Accents in nickel blend. The floor is tiled in Marazzi Soho Anthracite because, well, just because I love the look of a slate floor.
In order to maximize the little space I have, I chose a Bosch 18-inch dishwasher and a Fisher & Paykel 25-inch counter-depth refrigerator. The range and microwave are both Samsung, chosen mostly for the sleek lines and reliable reputation.
The end result is both beautiful and functional, and was on time and on budget!
Thank you, Lisa, for this tour of your gorgeous new kitchen! We’re so glad this was a great match — the teamwork really shows.
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.