A DUMBO Renovation Goes Chic-Casual
Tile patterns, smart storage, wall-to-wall headboard—this two-bedroom has it all
Deals are hard to come by in DUMBO. The stylish historic district in Brooklyn, which bears a geographic acronym standing for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, is arty, chic, and predictably pricey, given its East River shoreline and stunning views of Manhattan gems. So when Jenifer Herrmann, a media executive, and her partner, Mitzie Wong, a designer, painter and co-founder of creative design firm Roar + Rabbit, found a two-bed, two-bath apartment for sale at a price that left them with a renovation budget, they snapped up the 1,050-square-foot condominium with a plan to overhaul the interior before moving in. They posted their project, which included a gut renovation of the kitchen and baths, on Sweeten, a free service that matches renovators with vetted general contractors. The Sweeten contractors they chose were soon ready to take Jenifer and Mitzie’s abode from ho-hum to knock-out modern, a transformation that was featured in both House Beautiful and Apartment Therapy.
We had a clear vision from the day of the close: to create a living space with a look and feel of casual luxury. The building, in historic DUMBO, is a block from both Brooklyn Bridge Park and the waterfront. The apartment is a true two-bedroom—with windows and natural light in both—overlooking the street and trees. We knew we loved the neighborhood because we already lived there for a few year as renters. Besides the location, we were also attracted to the price point. It was reasonable enough that we could buy the condo and have money to renovate before moving in. Mitzie is a furniture designer who has created collections for West Elm, to name just one brand. We were confident that this was a good canvas, and that we could make a home here.
We were looking to add character to each room, with a focus on mixed materials and quality finishes. We were excited about renovating the kitchen and the two bathrooms, especially the master. Maximizing storage was key in every way, since Mitzie works from home. The second bedroom would be her workspace, and she wanted (needed!) to separate work from life with an office that could contain her art materials, books, and ever-growing collection of plants. We were determined to accomplish it all, transforming the condo into a home reflecting both of our personalities and styles.
Once we’d hired our Sweeten contractors—and asked a lot of questions about costs and the timeline—we began with concept boards. These kept us organized with the number of decisions we had to make throughout the planning. We started with a set of detailed floor plans and measurements (CAD renderings were helpful for seeing the big picture). The color palette was off-white, blue and gray, with accents of pink in textiles and black for hardware. We created a list of materials we wanted to incorporate such as marble, brass, and wood. All of these hues and surfaces are visible in our living room, which is the heart of our place.
Our first phase was flooring. We installed white oak floorboards throughout the apartment to lighten up the entire space. It has a subtle, scraped texture that feels wonderful to walk on barefoot. Since the same wide floorboards were used throughout the apartment, we eliminated the saddles at our door thresholds to maximize that continuity. We made a schedule for ordering materials and a checklist for received items—a system that carried us through the renovation, helping us track appliances, fixtures, hardware, and odds and ends.
The kitchen was a dark and boxy room that needed love. Our goals were to maximize storage, update the appliances, and simplify the overall aesthetic. This was especially important as the kitchen opens to our living room. A large island was a key addition, to function as a dining and entertaining area. We chose a refrigerator and freezer with panel doors matching the cabinets. On the other end of the kitchen wall, our contractors removed the door frames holding the washer/dryer for a streamlined effect.
Our apartment was filled every day with a team of busy contractors and subcontractors. It surprised us, but once the project was complete, we missed seeing and chatting with these talented guys.
In our bedroom, the focus was on one wall, where paneling was added to give the room depth and character. This accent wall moved the attention away from some existing buildouts in each corner of the room, and a recessed area that could not be reconfigured. Our contractors hired a master carpenter who created the paneling with 2 1/2″-wide lengths of plywood, and finished the wall with satin-finish paint. In this room as well as the second bedroom, which became Mitzie’s office, we added custom closets and remote-control blinds. Mitzie’s plants in her office were outfitted with grow lights to keep them green year-round.
We found a great tile company and chose the same style for the floors in both bathrooms but installed in different patterns. Our big goal for the master bath was to add a double vanity—a tight squeeze and ultimately a feat, since we didn’t find a 60-inch-wide unit with storage that we both liked. The vanity we chose has no cabinets, but luckily, during demolition, our contractors pointed out an extra 6-8″ in depth between the wall studs—space for hidden storage. The carpenter who’d created the bedroom paneling custom-made a four-door, concealed built-in. Both bathrooms have tile from the same company and similar fixtures; the shower recesses and door saddles are cut from the same marble slab as the kitchen countertops.
Throughout the renovation, our Sweeten general contractor proved critical in the job’s technical aspects. Their invaluable suggestions included creating a dropped ceiling to add recess lighting, hiding wires and cables, adding electrical sockets and USB plug-ins, and installing dimmers. Our apartment was filled every day with a team of busy contractors and subcontractors, including painters, an electrician, a carpenter, and a plumber. It surprised us, but once the project was complete, we missed seeing and chatting with these talented guys. Sweeten’s Client Services helped us find this team and advised us on important points like timelines and communication strategies.
Even on frustrating days, we found something to laugh about. Mitzie and I didn’t know how hard conveying a bathroom-tile design over FaceTime could prove—the flooring almost broke us up! But a five-month renovation is survivable, even when in the end you are living out of a suitcase at a dear friend’s house. In the end, we were thrilled with our relaxed and beautiful apartment and proud of our role in making it.
Thank you, Jenifer and Mitzie, for sharing your home with us!
LIVING ROOM RESOURCES: Deventier white oak floorboards throughout the apartment: PID Floors. Wall paint in Chantilly Lace, #OC-65: Benjamin Moore. Hunter Douglas silhouette remote-controlled shades: M&A Design. Roar + Rabbit rolling bar cart and layered rhombus drum: West Elm. Moderna velvet sofa: Restoration Hardware.
KITCHEN RESOURCES: Miralis cabinets in custom Hale Navy Blue: MCK+B. Dawson collection cabinet hardware: Rejuvenation. Carrera marble countertops: HG Stones. Zellige 4” square weathered white terracotta tile backsplash: Cle Tile. 22” stainless steel under-mount sink: Kraus. Stainless steel single-handle pull-down faucet: Brizo. 30” Cristal stainless steel under-cabinet range hood: Faber. 30” refrigerator/ 2-drawer freezer combo: Liebherr. 24″ double dishwasher: Fisher Paykel. 30″ stainless steel master range with 5 burners: Bertazzoni. Paint in Chantilly Lace #OC-65: Benjamin Moore.
BEDROOM RESOURCES: Ava brass wood and leather hard wired wall sconces: Lostine. Accent wall paint in Mozart Blue, #1664 and remaining walls in Chantilly Lace, #OC-65: Benjamin Moore. Hunter Douglas silhouette remote-controlled shades: M&A Design. Roar + Rabbit upholstered bed, jeweled drawer dresser, and nightstands: West Elm. Walk-in closet linen shelving and drawers with brushed chrome finish: California Closets. Rogue large oval mirror brass: CB2. 4-panel barn door and 6′ black sliding track hardware: Rejuvenation. Satin black door handles: Baldwin.
OFFICE RESOURCES: Floor: Deventier white oak floorboards: PID Floors. Closets Dove shelves and brushed chrome finish: California Closets. Paint in Chantilly White, #OC-65: Benjamin Moore. Hunter Douglas silhouette remote-controlled shades: M&A Design. White matte Aspect Grow light: Soltec Solutions. Flatweave rug: Hawkins New York.
MASTER BATHROOM RESOURCES: Floor tile in 2” x 8” solid cement federal blue rectangle tile and shower wall tile in Carrera marble 1” x 4” x 3/4” herringbone tiles (turned 90 degrees): Cle Tile. Satin black door handles: Baldwin. Hardware: 1 1/2” satin brass edge pulls and West slope collection shower fixtures: Rejuvenation. Hudson Collection 60” double washstand in Viatera minuet marble and aged brass finish: Restoration Hardware. Vintage medicine cabinets in antique bronze finish: Pottery Barn. One-piece toilet in Cotton White: Toto. Liaison medium sconce in aged brass finish: Kelly Wearstler. Paint in Chantilly Lace #OC-65: Benjamin Moore.
GUEST BATHROOM RESOURCES: Floor tile in 2” x 8” solid cement rectangle tiles and shower wall tile in Carrera marble penny tiles in Honed White: Cle Tile. Satin black door handles: Baldwin. Hex black metal towel bar: CB2. West Slope collection shower fixtures and sink faucet in polished nickel; 36″ round vanity mirror/medicine cabinet in polished nickel: Rejuvenation. Hudson Collection vanity in Carrera marble and polished nickel: Restoration Hardware. One-piece toilet in Cotton White: Toto.
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