A Cheerful Apartment Remodel on the Upper East Side
A family planned for an additional bedroom, a full co-op renovation, and a wish list of materials with a budget just under $150,000
- Homeowners: A family posted their apartment remodeling project on Sweeten
- Where: Upper East Side, New York City
- Primary renovation: A layout reconfiguration to add a home office and expand the bathroom, plus the transformation of the kitchen, floors, and walls, and more
- With: Sweeten general contractor
- Homeowner’s quote: “Sweeten helped me connect to a wonderful contractor. As a first-time renovator, knowing that a strong company was backing me up, I had peace of mind.”
Written in partnership with homeowner Cher. “After” photos by Kate Glicksberg.
Long vision for apartment shopping
The biggest change in our apartment remodel on the Upper East Side was to convert our big primary bedroom into two smaller rooms. One would become my four-year-old daughter’s bedroom and the other one for a home office and guest room.
My name is Cher and I work as a marketing professional. My husband, Matt, is a data scientist. When we went house-hunting, though we were looking for a two-bedroom unit, we leaned towards a floor plan that would let us add another bedroom. As our daughter grows older, we know she will need her own space. My husband and I also wanted a dedicated home office and one that was flexible as a guest bedroom, as our family often has visitors.
Creating an extra bedroom
The home we found is in a great neighborhood, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. It’s in a pre-war co-op building built in 1920, close to Central Park and in a good school district. Public transportation is steps away. Our unit is around 1,000 square feet.
More importantly, the primary bedroom is 18.5’ X 11’ with two windows on two different walls. I knew I could reimagine this room, divided into two legal bedrooms. In accordance with NYC building guidelines, each room would be 9’ X 11’ and have a window.
Once we purchased the apartment we immediately set out to renovate it. Sweeten helped me connect to a wonderful, trusted contractor. As a first-time renovator, knowing that a strong company was backing me up, I had peace of mind. The permitting paperwork took three months to process and the renovation took four months. Sweeten brings homeowners an exceptional renovation experience by personally matching trusted general contractors to your project, while offering expert guidance and support—at no cost to you.
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A facelift for a slim kitchen
We also planned to renovate our kitchen. It is narrow, so if we used a normal dishwasher, opening the door would block the flow. We chose to install Integrated double dish drawers, which are a perfect solution for a tighter galley space. If you have a small family like us, you don’t have to run a half-loaded dishwasher. I love the ice-blue cabinets and we chose custom hardware to match our style.
A bathroom mini–expansion
The apartment had one teeny-tiny bathroom, and our plan was to expand it, taking space from a hallway next to it. With a bigger room, we could move the vanity and fit in a 48’’ freestanding unit with storage for toiletries and cleaning items. I also chose the biggest recessed medicine cabinet possible to store my beauty products.
I wanted our bathroom to feel clean and bright, so I used the same design—but with different finishes—for both floor tiles and wall tiles. The floor tile has a matte finish so it’s not slippery; the wall tile is polished to bounce light. All of the fixtures in a gold finish contrast against the tile color and bring warmth to the space.
Designing for personality
The wood floors throughout the apartment were original, but very yellow. I want to lighten them, so I asked the floor contractor to bleach them and then apply a white stain. I love real wood floors as they make the space warm and inviting. We also painted the walls.
Wanting our space to feel peaceful, I chose a neutral color palette for our living room—mostly white, black, and earthy tones. The space needed to have personality, so we built architectural details, creating archways and painting them in dark, moody colors. The door heights increased from 7’ to 8’ high to take advantage of our lofty 10’2’’ ceilings.
I wanted each room to have functionality and personality. My daughter is sweet, funny, and playful and her favorite color is pink, so pink chinoiserie wallpaper covers her room. The navy plaid pattern in the office/guest room expresses my husband’s scholastic and understated style. White furniture with walnut and leather earthy accents decorate this small room.
Working in ⅛” increments
I wanted to make sure we were using 100 percent of the space, so I was super precise when I talked to my contractor. I asked them to work in ¼-inch, even ⅛-inch increments. They found the math challenging, but got the hang of it. The process was very smooth, except when we encountered supply issues—we waited 17 weeks for the kitchen cabinets and nine for the shower fixtures. But thanks to the contractor’s flexibility, we optimized the time.
Transparent partners—Sweeten and general contractor
For our Sweeten contractor, a promise was a promise. If he said his subcontractor or his team would be there, they were there; there was never a no-show. Every time I checked in there were people in each room working, and tremendous progress was visible. I appreciated his transparency and open communication. He was candid and honest when it came to costs. The construction crew’s attention to detail and craftsmanship was wonderful!
Budget and timeline success story
I had no idea how expensive it would be to renovate in NYC, but seeing the new layout coming together, honestly, I enjoyed every part of it. I think other renovators will feel the same if they have an overall plan, focus on quality rather than brand names, and check in with contractors regularly. Finding mistakes earlier makes them easier and less costly to fix.
Our Sweeten contractor finished our project under our timeline, and under our budget. Our total costs are between $120K to $150K. I feel peaceful, fulfilled and like I succeeded. We truly love our new home.
Thank you, Cher and Matt, for sharing your new home with us!
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.
- Floor tiles: Floor & Decor
- Kitchen cabinets: CliqStudio
- Cabinet hardware: Signature Hardware
- Countertops: Custom by contractor
- Ruvati 23-inch undermount 16 gauge sink: Ruvati
- Kohler Otira kitchen faucet in Vibrant Brushed Moderne Brass: Appliances Connection
- Fisher & Paykel double door refrigerator: Fisher & Paykel
- Fisher Paykel Integrated Double DishDrawer™ dishwasher, 30” stove from the Classic Range line: Designer Appliance
- Bathroom floor tile, shower, and floor tile: Floor & Decor
- Hardware: Signature Hardware
- Kohler Shower fixtures, toilet, and sink fixtures: Appliances Connection
- 48” Maroni vanity from Wyndham Collection, 36” Aquadom Signature Royale medicine cabinet: The Home Depot
- Litze sink faucet: Brizo
- Lighting: Kuzco Lighting Rona light fixture: build.com
- Chandelier: CB2