Editor’s Picks 2021

A look back at 2021’s top renovation stories that made dream homes come to life

Sea green open kitchen with white counter kitchen island and double window after renovation

With 2021 coming to a close, we take a look back at some of our most popular remodels and stories on Sweeten’s blog.

These eight posts represent a 360-degree view of common renovation questions when a homeowner decides to renovate. Where do you start? How do you find a contractor to trust? Who are some of the vetted contractors you could meet? How do you choose timeless materials?

The culmination of these questions is revealed in our homeowners’ renovation stories—and the questions answered. These homeowners were guided through the renovation process by their Sweeten contractor. Then they graciously shared their new homes and journeys on our blog. 

Sweeten matches home renovators with vetted general contractors, offering advice, backup, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

The best home remodeling tips to get you started

kitchen under renovation

There are many moving parts when considering a renovation. Sweeten’s Renovation Checklist offers an eagle’s-eye view of what you can expect during the process—from pre-renovation to punch list.  

An experienced partner to take you through the renovation process is valuable. Should you accept a friend referral for a contractor? At Sweeten, we carefully vet the general contractors in our network—each with their own strengths in the types of projects they do. A friend referral won’t check off the most important boxes when looking for the right team. This includes securing multiple bids and knowing whether a contractor is the right one for your specific project. If you’re considering a friend referral, here’s more information to know before you decide.

Sweeten also supports you from start to completion. If your project goes off track, a friend may not be in a position to help you. (Read how we vet our contractors here.)

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Women general contractors are changing the look of construction

White kitchen island with seating and undermount sink with faucet facing open kitchen after renovation

To honor Women’s History Month in March, we highlighted some of the women-owned and women-operated general contracting firms in Sweeten’s network. These entrepreneurs found success in a traditionally male-dominated industry. The job of the general contractor is a complex one. It is a delicate balance of communication and logistics, with many plates spinning at once. “Using these executive functioning skills, women are great at that,” notes Sweeten’s founder and CEO Jean Brownhill. Read our blog post series on Sweeten’s contractors who are changing the narrative. 

Renewed and remodeled kitchens that inspired us

Image of a kitchen with patterned floor tile and blue cabinets

This small-space kitchen in a 100-year-old co-op is proof that you can do a lot with a little. While the space measured 90-square-feet, the kitchen proper required compact-sized appliances. Highlighting the value of reassessing a space’s layout, this Sweeten homeowner was even able to install a small dishwasher for the first time. 

Renovating also requires flexibility. While the homeowner had a vision in mind, plans changed when they discovered that plumbing and electrical upgrades were necessary. The budget had to be redirected and materials costs cut.

A bold color palette brought her personality into the kitchen: a purple island, blue-and-white floor tile, and cabinets in Brittany Blue.

white kitchen with patterened floor tiles and golden oak cabinets and butcher block countertop and range hood after renovation

For Chrissy and Matt’s kitchen, their renovation would result in a customized cookspace that was still within budget. Thinking outside the box, they combined a mix of complementary materials. They chose plywood cabinet bases for their cost-effectiveness and simple aesthetic look. Natural clay backsplash tile provided texture while a Moroccan-patterned cement tile floor would add the graphic pop.

A good tip when designing your kitchen cabinets: measure the cookware, small appliances, and tableware you’ll be using. Because the couple was able to customize their cabinet dimensions, they took measurements of items such as the height of the coffee grinder and Chemex pitcher, and custom-fit exactly where they would be stored.

The right remodeling materials for a big impact

When choosing materials, many surfaces and finishes may look similar. With a little research, you may find differences in criteria that are important to your vision, such as maintenance and durability.

Carrara and Calacatta marbles may both be from Italy but they are very different. Sweeten’s guide to Carrara vs. Calacatta marble clearly lists the characteristics, the costs, and the pros and cons of each. White marble is no doubt on many “must-have” lists as the look complements every finish, era, and style. But Carrara and Calacatta each have their own nuances—and their own fan clubs. One thing is for certain, they both elevate a kitchen with elegance and universal appeal. 

The value of the right renovation team

Sea green open kitchen with white counter kitchen island and double window after renovationSteve and Lewis, who were first-time renovators, were about to renovate an 1882 three-story rowhouse. Each floor would be open-concept, so walls, bricks, and joists would be removed. It was a major investment and alteration, with added complexity: nothing existing was good enough to keep. To tackle this complete gut, they found the right professional renovation team to help them through the process from start to finish. An architect and a Sweeten design-build firm recreated a live/work home. New features included radiant-heated floors, a custom kitchen, and a relocated building entrance.

“Throughout the job, we enjoyed a collaborative exchange with the architect and contractor,” said Steve and Lewis. “As first-time (and last!) renovators, we’d embarked on possibly the most stressful project of our lives. Luckily, we had chosen our team carefully.” Looking back, they share this advice, “Issues that arise and seem monumental during the process get solved, and are forgotten once you move in. Now when we enter our home, we feel serene.” 

Repurpose and function for a Los Angeles bathroom

wet room bathroom

Several elements make Liz and Kevin’s mid-century bathroom a modern inspiration. The soaking tub sitting in the shower not only has a wet-room feel but has potential space-saving qualities. Spotting a vintage six-drawer walnut dresser, Liz repurposed it as a sink vanity. And the orange penny tile would match the family’s personality. It “felt like a risk, but a little playful, like us,” said Liz.

The renovation came together during the pandemic, so there would be delays. But the couple searched and found a woman-owned contracting firm at Sweeten who would guide them through the process.

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

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