Renovating a Bathroom & Kitchen to Make Home a Happier Workplace

Navigating work-from-home? One homeowner improved her high-traffic surroundings with a bathroom and kitchen renovation

Photos courtesy of Sweeten general contractor

  • Who: Brooklyn homeowner Michele posted a project on Sweeten  
  • Where: Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York
  • Primary renovation: Overhaul the bath, and the kitchen will follow (which happened during the COVID lockdown)
  • Notable: A plan to install a new dishwasher turned into a gut kitchen remodel
  • Result: A live-and-work abode that inspires career productivity and also serves as a perfect nesting place
  • Sweeten general contractor
  • 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 Michele

Getting excited to renovate

I lead a digital product design team for a large San Francisco-based company. I’ve lived in this apartment for a little over a decade, and I had been meaning to renovate my bathroom since I moved in, but I always found a reason not to. The bath hadn’t had an upgrade since the building’s 1980s conversion to co-op! The pedestal sink wasn’t fully attached to the wall, the tub tiles were loosening, and the glass tile floor, which a previous owner had painted, was flaking.

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open shelving kitchen
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glass kitchen cabinets
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My apartment is on the top floor of a 1910s five-story building, and it suffered damage during a co-op-sponsored roof renovation a couple of years back. When the building’s contractor completed the repairs, I got excited about renovating. My recently acquired work-from-home job gave me more incentive. I’d updated my home office to suit the remote role, but experiencing my out-of-date bathroom all day, every day, prompted me to get planning.

Finding inspiration from other renovators

I spent so much time on Sweeten, reading this blog, and looking at other people’s projects! It was a tremendous help seeing what other people had done. I had strong ideas about how I wanted to proceed, but I needed help turning them into particular products, finishes, and colors. Sweeten provided me with a range of contractors and design-build firms who gave me numerous options. I chose my Sweeten contractor because his ideas matched mine.

I’d done advance planning for the bathroom and had a clear idea of what I wanted: a floating vanity, a drop-in tub, oversized subway tile, and dramatic tile flooring. I was attracted to images of gray kitchens and bathrooms with boldly patterned floors. I envisioned something that was calm and streamlined, to make the space feel bigger and take advantage of the high ceiling. My apartment is modern and open. I wanted the bath and kitchen to feel integrated, rather than set apart from the rest of the space.

The contractors were great at explaining problems long-distance: I’ll never forget the crew piling on a conference call about my formerly crooked bathroom wall…

A new dishwasher becomes a full kitchen remodel

In the kitchen, my plan had been to simply install a new dishwasher. Then it was suggested that a pantry could be added in the then-unused space at the kitchen’s entrance. The original kitchen plan I had posted to Sweeten was of a smaller scope, but after meeting them, I asked the contractors to submit follow-up bids for a full kitchen remodel.

In the kitchen, I worked with my contractor to come up with a plan. I put together the light and dark gray cabinets with chrome handles and found a quartz countertop flecked with both colors. I picked the same flooring that the designer had used in their showroom.

kitchen before

pattern tile bathroom

Transforming the bathroom wasn’t so hard. I saw a tile floor I liked in the sale listing of another apartment in my building and tracked it down. Finding a bathtub that would fit the small space was a challenge, but we did. (The white tub looked yellow next to the tile, so we had it reglazed.) Because of pipes in the wall, we couldn’t create storage niches in the shower, so the team extended the interior windowsill with a white quartz surface material—a shampoo perch. The floating sink is mounted a bit higher than standard because I’m tall.

A timely business trip

The project’s biggest challenge was also something of a stroke of luck: My boss asked me to travel from New York to San Francisco, starting the day demolition began. I stayed for almost three weeks. While I was away, the Sweeten construction team kept me posted and sent pictures daily. The contractor was great at explaining problems long-distance: I’ll never forget the crew piling on a conference call about my formerly crooked bathroom wall while I waited outside an executive office at work!

Instead of hiring a project manager, I worked as my own. I had spreadsheets for how much had been spent versus budgeted. I tracked what had been ordered, shipped, and delivered. I’m not that organized, but I turned into a full-on spreadsheet ninja. It kept me from panicking.

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Finishing the bathroom and kitchen renovation during COVID-19

By the time COVID-19 hit and the lockdown was ordered, we were 95 percent done. We had to wait for the lockdown to lift and for my building to let the crew return, clearly articulating when they would arrive, and wearing masks as required.

Eventually, we finished. After expanding my renovation’s scope, I spent significantly more than I originally intended to—close to $100,000 all told, but that includes fully updated plumbing and new floors in both rooms. 

I have enough storage space in the kitchen and bathroom that nothing falls out when I open a cabinet! I love cooking; I’ve got a lot of ingredients and equipment, and it’s so nice not to feel like I’m overstuffing every corner. Having a floor-to-ceiling pantry is a fantastic luxury in a smallish apartment! I’m also enjoying the dishwasher. I love the way the kitchen tile feels under my feet, and how the rooms are designed for me, with my interests and needs—even my career—in mind. That customization is the greatest luxury of the whole thing.

Thank you, Michele, for sharing your bathroom and kitchen renovation tale with us!

Materials Guide

KITCHEN RESOURCES: Rodano Acero floor tiles: PorcelanosaKitchen cabinets: Hanssem. Cabinet hardware: Häfele. Countertops and backsplash in Frozen Terra: Caesarstone. Sink: Kohler. Faucet: Grohe. Refrigerator/dishwasher/stove: Jennair. 500 series dishwasher, 800 series range, and microwave: Bosch. Robert Sonneman ceiling light: Ylighting. Paint in White Dove: Benjamin Moore.

BATHROOM RESOURCES: Bathroom floor tile: Moroccan Mosaic & Tile House. White 8×16 polished ceramic wall tile; 6” polished white bull tile: TileBar. Deckard hardware and shower fixtures: Pfister. Shower glass doors: Mirage Shower Doors Corp. Andrea tub series: MTI. Ambra sink/vanity: Wayfair. 48” medicine cabinet: Fresca. Drake toilet: Toto. Aston ceiling lighting and Vega Minor light (above vanity mirror): Kuzco. Aura Bath and Spa paint in White: Benjamin Moore.

Before you purchase tile, here’s how to measure your bathroom correctly for the right amount and type of tile.

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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