A Twenty-Something Grabs a Reno by the Reins

A remodel brings major storage points and a new bath

Mimi’s new one-bed, one-bath apartment in Manhattan’s neighborhood of Gramercy checked off quite a few boxes. But revamping an outdated bathroom and installing new wood flooring would just be the start to making the 600-square-foot home the way she wanted. With an architect’s plans in hand, she needed help getting over the hump of the process of finding a general contractor. Mimi found one at Sweeten, a free service matching renovators with vetted general contractors, who turned the drawings into reality, including a walk-in closet and an 18-foot-long bookshelf. Read on to see how she even managed a vacation in the middle of her renovation.

living roomGuest blog post by homeowner Mimi

I had been looking for quite a while—nearly a year, on and off—before I found my apartment. For the longest time, I only viewed turnkey apartments because I was intimidated by the idea of renovating my own space and didn’t even know where I’d start. But no space had the exact features I was looking for, so I had to expand my search.

homeowner portrait

before floor plan

after floor plan

Finally, I found an apartment that felt like the right size and fit for me living as a single twenty-something in the city—great neighborhood and convenient to work, plenty of light (very important since my previous apartment was on the second floor and never saw any direct sunlight), previously renovated kitchen, and a good amount of closet space. There were just a few features I wanted to update before I moved in: the bathroom was old and hadn’t been touched in at least a decade, and I wasn’t a fan of the original ‘70s parquet floors. I had also been dreaming for years of having enough bookshelf space in my apartment to hold all the books I want to accumulate and, of course, I had to have a walk-in closet.

living space before renovationliving space

My contractor helped me design and create my dream floor-to-ceiling bookshelf and media center—an impressive 18 feet of bookshelf space.

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I put in an offer that was accepted shortly before Thanksgiving, so I knew that the closing process might take a while given the upcoming holidays. Because of that lag, I was anxious to get the renovation plans approved by the co-op board prior to closing so that I could start construction as soon as closing occurred. I decided to work with architect Liz Mickey, AIA to help me visualize and design the new layout of the apartment, as well as draw up floor plans so I had something concrete I could submit to the co-op board. She gave me some great ideas, so by closing, I had a very solid idea of how I wanted the apartment to look before I moved in.

living roomAt that point, I hit a bit of a wall. Though I had a clear vision of the renovations I wanted, I was still very intimidated by the process of finding a general contractor, especially with the number of renovation horror stories I had heard from friends and just browsing online. I ended up coming across Sweeten through its blog while I was searching for both décor inspiration and renovation budget costs in the city. I decided to give it a shot and posted my project.

image of a question to sweeten founder jean brownhill regarding hiring a general contractors

The process of being matched with and choosing a contractor on Sweeten felt seamless—I found someone who understood what I was looking for and was eager to make my vision come to life. The Sweeten contractor I chose helped me design and create my dream floor-to-ceiling bookshelf and media center, which spanned the entire length of the dining and living room wall—an impressive 18 feet of bookshelf space, which I expect I won’t be able to fill for many years.

closet leading into bedroom

bedroom vanityBetween the bedroom and the bathroom, a dingy closet space was converted into a walk-through closet with pocket doors to help save space and make sure the small bathroom didn’t feel cluttered. Since all the fixtures in the bathroom looked quite old, I decided on a gut renovation of the bathroom with new tile and a much larger and brighter mirror and lighting fixture. The only minor hiccup came when my super informed me I wouldn’t be able to replace the old cast-iron bathtub because of how it was connected to the downstairs apartment; we decided to just use a bathtub liner instead so the tub would be refreshed and feel as new as the rest of the bathroom.

bathroom before renovationbathroombathroom shower fixtures

I was especially glad I found a contractor I could trust because I had actually preplanned a three-week long vacation overseas before I knew I was going to be in the middle of renovations (and ended up breaking my phone two days in!). I was a bit nervous leaving right in the middle of all of the construction, but my Sweeten contractor gave me a lot of confidence that the project could proceed without me. So I picked out all of the finishes I wanted, ordered the fixtures, packed my bags and left right in the middle of the project. Sure enough, by the time I got back, the job was nearly complete!

catI almost can’t believe how easy the process was, especially being able to leave for such a long time and come back to a nearly finished apartment, which was everything that I had hoped for. I moved in just a couple of weeks after I came back from vacation, and have had so much fun continuing to decorate the space and make it my own. It really is everything that I hoped for in my first apartment!

Thank you, Mimi, for sharing your story and your new home!

LIVING ROOM RESOURCES: Malibu wide plank hickory wood flooring in Scripps stain; BEHR bookshelf paint in English Channel Eggshell, #PPU14-19; BEHR wall paint in French Silver, #PPU18-05; Home Decorators Collection’s Palermo Grove gilded iron chandelier over dining table: Home Depot. Bookshelf: Custom by contractor.

BATHROOM RESOURCES: Carrara wall and floor tile: Stone Tile Depot. GrohFlex Cosmopolitan shower system in StarLight Chrome; Kohler Levity 60″ x 62″ Semi-frameless sliding tub door in silver with handle, #1000715289; Glacier Bay 1-piece 1.1 GPF/1.6 GPF high-efficiency toilet, #635675; Pegasus 48″ x 26″  medicine cabinet with beveled mirror, #1002545569: Lithonia Lighting 4-light chrome 4K LED vanity light, #206970480; Wall paint in BEHR English Channel Eggshell, #PPU14-19: Home Depot. Orren Ellis’ Prado 24″ wall-mounted sink /vanity set: Wayfair.

BEDROOM RESOURCES: Closet: Custom work by contractor.

Check out this first-time renovator’s abode in Midtown East.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, and scope, helping until project completion. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.

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