A Classic Bathroom in Queens
When Jamie and Chad landed their first place in Ridgewood, countless hours researching DIY methods and hosting “bad first dates” with contractors were not enough help for their Tuscan-tiled master bath. Read on for Jamie’s take on this classically beautiful Queens bathroom renovation!
My husband and I dreamt of buying a brownstone in Bed-Stuy. This dream was apparently shared by everyone else in New York, because trying to find a place—any place—was a humbling experience in getting outbid by foreign investors and other first-time buyers with resources greater than ours. After a year of frustration, we found a condo in a recently remodeled brick building in Ridgewood, Queens—a quirky little Polish-Ecuadorian neighborhood on the Brooklyn-Queens border that none of our friends had ever heard of. The good news was that the apartment was huge: the building’s original six units had been merged into three, giving us a yard and a finished basement to go with our ground-floor living space.
The bad news was that the renovations had been undertaken in an aesthetic that my husband and I described as “late-life Euro bachelor”: dark wood fixtures and liberal use of large brown Tuscan tiles that gave certain rooms the yellowish air of an Adirondack rental property you’d regret renting.
Our first year in Ridgewood was dominated by DIY projects—refacing cabinets, painting, gardening—that improved the overall look of our apartment. The projects that remained were too complicated to be mastered through YouTube videos and trial-and-error, which put us on the market for a contractor to do some larger projects. First in line: our trainwreck of a master bathroom, which when we bought the apartment had been renovated in a very dark (read: creepy) and not-so-functional (read: the showerhead didn’t line up with the tub) way.
Our search for a contractor stretched over a year. I interviewed people from all over—recommendations from coworkers and friends of friends, names from Brownstoner’s community forum, references in interior design books. There was also Angie’s List, which was effective in introducing me to a series of contractors from Long Island and Brooklyn who were well-versed in bathrooms that featured lots of fogged glass and Jacuzzis—not the bright, ELLE Décor-type vibe I was going for. These candidates would generally show up, late and complaining about parking in my neighborhood, then tell me how the fixtures I wanted were going to be too expensive for my budget, how they thought the current bathroom was fine as-is, how I should do a better job training my dogs not to bark.
It was like a series of first dates that I knew were going to be awful.
Somewhere in the process I had read about Sweeten, but let’s be clear: I was far too jaded to be anything but skeptical. I went to their site and decided to post our project out of sheer desperation. They first connected me with my Sweeten general contractor, and from day one, I was impressed. He showed up on time, listened carefully to what I was hoping to achieve, and demonstrated strong attention to detail, noticing things like the slope of the floors and the fact that the recessed lights were out of alignment. He was quick to turn around a quote (some contractors took weeks; others required me to follow up multiple times), and was very responsive to my many emails regarding questions and concerns. I took the leap and hired him.
From the start, working with Erion and his team was a delight. They showed up promptly at 9am each day, motivated and ready to begin work. And these guys worked hard! I swear, I barely saw them stop to eat! Construction debris and dust is part of the deal when you embark on a project like this, but Erion and his team were extremely tidy and took extra care to protect our house and hardwood floors. Even at the end of demo day, our house was surprisingly clean.
The best part of my experience with Erion was his openness to what I wanted and his tireless pursuit of making this a reality. I wanted a bright, clean, fresh, and timeless space—something that would age well with the house and provide a spa-like atmosphere. This bathroom has no natural light, so I made sure to choose materials that reflected light (beveled mirrors, polished nickel fixtures, high-gloss paint). Erion considered all my sourcing decisions, weighing in where I asked him to and letting me handle things everywhere else. I spent a lot of time researching the fixtures I wanted and although the approach was a bit piecemeal (and largely dictated by stores for which I had gift cards), it worked.
For the tile we wanted to keep it light and clean and I worked with the lovely people at Ann Sacks. Their showroom is beautiful, pricing competitive, and customer service exceptional. On the bathroom floor, we chose large marble squares (16 x 16) with a honed finish because it’s not as slippery as polished marble and tends to show fewer scratches. We also decided to install radiant heat to keep our toes warm in winter. For the shower walls, I knew I wanted a larger tile (less grout to clean!) but something with a bit more character than subway tile. At first, I was unsure about going with a handmade 6 x 18 tile because each cut was slightly different, but in the end it turned out beautifully and the hand-made nature of the tile gave it a textured appearance that we absolutely love. As for the shower floors, we did a micro-mosaic which makes me happy every time I look down at it.
As unexpected challenges or issues arose—as they always do in remodeling—Erion handled them with a calm demeanor, thoroughly explaining my options and letting me know how they would affect factors such as time and cost. He would talk through the pros and cons of various options and together we would make a decision on how to move forward. At no point did I ever feel steamrolled, or like he was cutting corners. Erion demonstrated an exceptional dedication to quality and was just as concerned as I was that everything be done right and look good. The end result is a beautifully serene space and the sort of justification for all my time and anguish that I’d hoped for.
Postscript: While writing this blog post, our apartment suffered severe water damage from a neighbor’s apartment. The silver lining in this situation is that we knew exactly who to call and who we could trust to do the work. Erion dropped everything to help us navigate this urgent situation, going above and beyond to help us triage damage and map a way forward. He has truly become our technical and professional liaison for maintaining and improving our largest investment, and the confidence I have in his practices, tastes, and commitment to quality cannot be overstated. Thank you, Sweeten, for connecting us.
Bathroom selects >> floors: Ann Sacks Thassos marble / shower floors: Micro Mosaic / shower walls: handmade Soleil Field / shower hardware: Amazon / double vanity sink: Wayfair / faucets: Restoration Hardware / mirrors and lighting: Pottery Barn
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