My Sweeten Story: Ceiling Beams Frame a Childhood Home in NYC

A duplex with a black-and-white palette surrounded by pop art

Living room with black ceiling beams

“After” photos by Kate Glicksberg for Sweeten

  • Homeowners: Billie Kanfer, a graphic designer/artist posted her duplex apartment on Sweeten
  • Where: Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood in Manhattan, New York
  • Primary renovation: Remodel the ground floor of a 1,100-square-foot duplex, including exposing covered ceiling beams 
  • Sweeten general contractor
  • Homeowner’s quote: “My contractor offered design input and helped me evaluate the pros and cons of the vision I had for the space. They were also efficient, fun, friendly, and very communicative.”
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Written in partnership with Sweeten homeowner Billie Kanfer

Designing a home for the future

This is actually my childhood home, where I’ve been living for nearly 26 years. My mom passed away three years ago, but about two years after she passed, I decided to renovate. The apartment needed a face lift for me to feel comfortable and happy living and growing here for years to come.

portrait of Billie and her white dog

I basically wanted to modernize and clean up the space—make it young, fresh, and sleek for myself and my dog Sammi. I wanted a more open floor plan and knew there was room enough to do that.

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Brick and white kitchen with bar stool seating
Kitchen island with art hanging on brick wall behind

While the main space was pretty open to begin with, the kitchen felt closed off with a very high bar/counter. Also, there was almost no counter space to work on which I needed to cook large meals. The kitchen needed to be part of the living room so the space would feel inclusive. Therefore, the plans included leveling the bar into an island with seating and updating the flooring.

We found more brick behind a wall that used to have a window. A built-in coat closet and shelving straddled between the kitchen and living room. It connects the two spaces nicely.

Ceiling beams: Uncovering an architectural gem

The walls already had exposed brick so the space had great texture. But I also knew there were metal beams above that were covered by a drop ceiling and arched soffits. Exposing the black ceiling beams to level out the ceiling allowed for a more loft-y feel. As a result, the space felt larger and brighter.

white and brick kitchen with island with seating
moving image of "Billie the kid" neon sign turning off and on
Kitchen with built in desk nook to the right of the refrigerator
white kitchen with black matte hardware, brick wall and art

My advice now that the renovation is complete is to have conversations with your contractors. They’re there to help.

Simple as black and white

I wanted to keep everything light. I went with white kitchen cabinets, and I love matte black accents (like the black-painted exposed ceiling beams). The combination would be perfect for the kitchen. We installed a light wood floor so that the sun could bounce off it.

My Sweeten contractor worked with a design company, which made picking materials very simple. I went to their studio, put materials next to one another to create a cohesive template.

Living room with exposed ceiling beams
Living room with white cube coffee table and brown leather sofa

Present during the construction

My contractor, who I found through Sweeten, was great. The crew arrived every day on time. They also offered design input and helped me evaluate the pros and cons of the vision I had for the space. My renovation team was efficient, fun, friendly, and very communicative.

Living room with black ceiling beam and brick wall
tv over fireplace mantel and white chairs

It was my first time doing something like this, and I lived at home during the remodel, which I found to be the biggest challenge. But ultimately that was helpful.

It’s important to be present during most of the big changes. My advice now that the renovation is complete is to have conversations with your contractors. They’re there to help. Take notes about your existing space. Your contractors should know if you want to keep certain things like a pantry or a coat closet or if you want to alter them to fit your current lifestyle.

Bedroom with walk-in closet to the right of the bed
Bedroom with blue carpet and red chair
Walk-in closet with white shelving and built-in drawers

Watching the magic

The most magical and exciting part was watching everything come to life in front of my eyes. Now that it’s all done, I love everything about my space; it’s exactly how I envisioned it.

Renovation Materials

KITCHEN RESOURCES:

Whirlpool refrigerator: Appliances Connection

Frigidaire dishwasher/stove: Appliances Connection

Cabinets, hardware, countertops, backsplash: D2 Design & Works

Silver Lake Kitchen and Bath sink, Interbath faucet: Wayfair

Bar stools: West Elm

White Oak flooring: Timbertop 

BEDROOM RESOURCES:

Paint: Benjamin Moore

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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