New Bath and Laundry for a Brooklyn Brownstone

This family’s 2-unit renovation was worth the wait

“After” photos by Kate Glicksberg for Sweeten

  • Homeowners: Isis and Stephano moved into their pre-war home and posted their Brooklyn brownstone bathroom project on Sweeten
  • Where: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York
  • Primary renovation: Expansion, reconfiguration, and renovation of the Brooklyn brownstone’s fourth-floor bathroom, which does double-duty as a laundry room
  • Sweeten general contractor
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches residential renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering know-how, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

Written in partnership with Sweeten homeowners Isis and Stephano

Purchasing the right Brooklyn brownstone

Isis, a brand and experiential marketing specialist, and Stephano, a nurse anesthetist, closed on their brownstone home at the end of 2018. It was a fixer-upper, with four floors comprising of a 3-story apartment for the family and a garden-level rental unit. Renovating the bathroom topped their priority list at first, but had to be postponed. “We’d gutted it but weren’t able to immediately redo it,” Isis said, “because we had to prioritize repairs to the roof and work on the downstairs unit.” With two kids and a third on the way, they were not excited about putting off the bathroom—a job that included expanding it to accommodate their growing family and a new laundry space.

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How much, and how long?

During the nearly two years that followed, the family muddled through. “We had everyone sharing one bathroom,” Stephano said—including, at times, Isis’s dad. When they finally had the time and resources to take on the bathroom project, they posted it on Sweeten, and were quickly introduced to several qualified contractors.

“The biggest questions we had were how much and how long,” Isis recalled, explaining that they’d heard horror stories of inflamed budgets and endless timeline extensions. They also tried to ascertain how well each of the candidates could communicate. “We hoped to work with a team that could convey all key info that might affect the timeline,” Isis said, “so that we could collaborate on workarounds.”

Isis was relieved that Sweeten could smooth the process. “The company helped us gut-check our initial budget based on the market for our area,” she said. “They presented solid contractors for us to meet, and then checked in to make sure we felt pleased with our selection. I felt good about the consultant who supported us and the insights she shared.”

Measure twice, cut once

Once they had made their contractor choice, the project began—haltingly. Isis and Stephano had hired an independent designer, and brought the resulting plans to the table when discussing the project with their contractor. “The designer had measured, provided renderings, and even put us in touch with vendors,” Stephano said. They ordered many of the materials for the bathroom, included a barn door for the washer/dryer, a vanity, and stone for the two-sink top. Then—a hard stop. “Our contractor realized that many of the measurements didn’t jibe,” Stephano said.

 

Finding a creative way to fit them in, Stephano said, “took amazing Tetris skills” on the part of their contractor.

The original washer and dryer, left behind by the previous owners, wouldn’t fit in the space the designer had planned for it. The vanity size was also off, and the door from the recommended vendor was too heavy to be installed as intended. “It wasn’t the best experience,” Isis said. But the couple persisted, fueled by their vision: a  functional space for laundry, and a shower lit by the morning sun through a skylight. And their Sweeten contractor found solutions to each of the problems created by the ill-chosen designer. Stephano offered his own solution to the barn door problem: he’d use his skills to build his own custom design, and worked with the contractor to incorporate it.

Borrowing space to get a bigger bathroom

To accommodate the whole family, and the laundry area, they knocked down an adjacent wall and annexed a pair of closets. They rebuilt one of the closets to house the stacking washer and dryer—a sleek new pair of 24-inch units to replace the original ones that didn’t match the designer’s drawings. Finding a creative way to fit them in, Stephano said, “took amazing Tetris skills” on the part of their contractor. The enlarged space helped with other layout and storage challenges. “The shower is spacious! We added a custom cabinet that can hold all of our toiletry needs and were able to obtain a larger, double-sink vanity,” Isis said.

For finishes they chose a combination of black, white, and natural wood, with contrasting hex tiles and subway tiles. “Subway tile felt very NYC to us, so we led with that, but also liked hexagon tile for the floor,” Isis said. “In the shower, we opted for all black, which we totally love, and we’re happy with the custom walnut shelving, too.”

Their general contractor was a great fit

Both partners feel proud of the outcome. “We took what we’d learned from other projects,” Isis said, “and used that knowledge to work really well with our Sweeten contractor and his team.” Stephano appreciated that their contractor was always available, “and was invested in both getting the work done and making sure we were satisfied.”

“I love the design, and how functional it is for all of our needs, including storage,” Isis said. “Thanks to the skylight, the bathroom has great natural light. She added, “I love the custom door Stephano made for us!” Perfectly weighted, and smooth-rolling.

Thanks for sharing your Brooklyn brownstone bathroom story with us, Isis and Stephano!

Renovation Materials:

BATHROOM RESOURCES: Geometrics 2” hex matte white wall tile; Silhouette black polished 2”x10” shower wall tile; Geometrics 2” hex glazed black shower floor tile; Geometrics two-inch hex glazed black floor tile; and Quartz Jet Black saddles: Brooklyn Tile & Design. Awaken and Purist X Handles shower fixtures and hardware, Adair toilet: Kohler. Matte black rolling shower door: VIGO. Custom-built double vanity cabinet with Urbania door panels in Mariposa: Tafisa. Nicoli matte black faucet: Delta. Carbon Loft Cornwall Metal Beveled Venetian wall mirror: Overstock. Keenan two-light wall sconce: ALLMODERN. Barn door: Custom hand-made by Sweeten homeowner Stephano. SmartStandard Barn door hardware: Amazon. 24” washer and dryer: Samsung.  

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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