My Sweeten Story: Ceiling Beams Frame a Childhood Home in NYC
A duplex with a black-and-white palette surrounded by pop art
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Paint: Benjamin Moore