Renovating a Duplex in Time for the Baby-naming Party
Simple touches give this condo a personalized stamp
Brooke and Sam knew they were home when they walked into this 1,800-foot, loft-style Brooklyn condo. The three-bedroom Fort Greene apartment was modern and gave them room to grow. That was good, because by the time they’d closed on it, they had one-week-old baby Leroy in their arms. Brooke, a digital media exec, and Sam, a tech specialist, loved the sleek two-floor space, but wanted to freshen up the kitchen and (three!) baths, and give the apartment whimsical style. While in contract, they’d posted their project on Sweeten, a free service that matches renovators with vetted general contractors. Soon, they’d chosen their contractor and had keys to the condo. Here’s how new mom Brooke took the designer’s seat and pulled off a baby-friendly redo in a flash.
Guest blog post by Sweeten homeowner Brooke
We closed on our home one week after I gave birth to our daughter. The search for an apartment lasted longer than planning for the baby. For almost 2 years my husband and I would visit multiple open houses on a weekend throughout Brooklyn while we rented an apartment in Park Slope (a few blocks from where my husband grew up.) I had sold the apartment on the Upper East Side that I had purchased before we were married in the hopes of us finding a place to purchase together. Finally, while I was pregnant, we found it. When we saw it, we knew Fort Greene was our home.
The building is a resident-managed condominium built in 2010. The apartment is a duplex with 1,800 square feet of living space. We loved the clean, modern look and the openness and light in the apartment. It wasn’t perfect, though. All three of the bathrooms needed updating, the kitchen felt tired and the stairs weren’t kid-safe. The upstairs felt challenged: There was no master walk-in closet, a huge landing off of the stairs not fully maximized, and the laundry was tucked into a closet with a small space for linen. We had a vision and felt sure we could fix these problems while adding real value to the property. [Don’t have a clear vision for your renovation? Here is a good article from The Zoe Report on where to start.]
We had one month left on our Park Slope lease and 10 weeks of work to do. This was my second renovation, but my husband’s first. He felt we needed a designer and architect in addition to a contractor. We weren’t moving plumbing or taking down walls, so an architect wasn’t needed. I convinced him of my designing abilities by creating mood boards on Houzz and pins on Pinterest and making a cohesive design plan. This DIY approach was key to keeping down costs and saving us time.
[A neutral bathoom] would ensure that a future buyer wouldn’t find the bathroom too edgy. But I also wanted it to be fun.
For the safety of our baby, we wanted a new banister with a closed glass barrier, and to install backings between the treads of the open stairs. Our Sweeten contractor helped me find a way to do this without compromising the style of the modern staircase, which was excellent!
While the bathrooms were the main focus, we didn’t have much budget for the kitchen, but it needed a refresh. I decided to replace two sets of cabinet doors with black-framed glass facings to give the space a new feel and continue the open feeling of the glass banister through to the rest of the first floor. I changed out the pendant lights with a coordinating set that has white-glass shades and black cords. This quick-fix was exciting!
(Above) Kids’ bathroom
I was most looking forward to working on the kids’ bath. I wanted tiles that were neutral and sophisticated—this would ensure that a future buyer wouldn’t find the bathroom too edgy. But I also wanted it to be fun for our little girl. When I saw the blue with pink and yellow floral wallpaper, I knew it was perfect. The shower tiles, with a textured gray pattern, are my absolute favorite feature.
(Above) Powder room
In the powder room downstairs, we decided to use wood-looking ceramic tiles on the floor I had leftover from a previous renovation. Since the tiling would be neutral, I wanted to add something amusing and sophisticated—the black-and-white floral wallpaper was a find. The large-scale pattern, absent of color, makes the small bathroom pop without looking too busy.
(Above) Master bathroom
In the master bathroom, we had fun with hexagon floor tiles. The textured gray tiles are Sam’s favorite find—they were a splurge, but by using them to skirt the tub, we didn’t need many. We chose a large mirrored medicine cabinet to increase storage and make the tiny space feel larger.
Overall, we made closet storage more efficient including closing off the washer and dryer, which was located on the second-floor stairwell landing, into its own closet. Now, as a full laundry room, it hides all the linens and clutter.
Through it all, our contractor and his team were incredible. They understood that I was on a tight timeline and pushed to get things done quickly. They set up a materials shopping list for me and suggested successful materials from previous renovations they’d done. They helped us source and purchase materials at good prices. My advice as a veteran renovator: when working with contractors, appreciate their expertise!
We never had a problem we couldn’t solve with our construction team. We stayed at my mom’s Upper East Side apartment for a month while we finished, and I traveled back and forth from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Our renovation took roughly 10 weeks from start to finish.
We had a hard move-in date, as I had booked our baby-naming party and had invited 45 people to the apartment. We hit it! We moved in on Tuesday and everyone came on Saturday. It was a challenge, but worked out perfectly. Every day, my husband and I look around and think, “Wow, we did it.” We designed a space that feels like us—bright, comfortable, and home!
Thank you, Brooke and Sam, for sharing your new home!
KITCHEN RESOURCES: Custom cabinet doors: Cabinetmaker sourced through contractor. Pendant light fixtures: Alibaba.
KIDS’ BATHROOM RESOURCES: Fine Point Floral wallpaper in blue: Chasing Paper. Atelier White matte floor tiles: Sourced through contractor. Cubo Velluto Calacatta Gold Textured shower tiles: Artistic Tile. Gillette vanity: Allmodern. Medicine cabinet and toilet: Kohler. Sink faucet: Moen. Shower door: Dreamline. Tissue holder & towel ring: West Elm. Towel hooks: build.com. Lighting fixtures: Home Depot.
POWDER ROOM RESOURCES: Black and white floral wallpaper: Anewall. Calacatta Gold Polished floor tiles: Provided by contractor. Santa Rosa toilet: Kohler. Sink: American Standard. Faucet and shower system: Moen. Mirror: Wayfair. Shower door: Dreamline. Rough-cast black towel bar, tissue holder & robe hook: CB2. Lighting fixtures: Home Depot.
MASTER BATHROOM RESOURCES: Saigon Black Matte Hexagon Field Floor tiles: Sourced through contractor. Tub skirt tiles: Pratt & Larson. Vanity: decorplanet.com. Medicine cabinet: allmodern. Shower, tub, drain & shower system and faucet: Delta. Santa Rosa toilet: Kohler. Towel bar, robe hook & tissue holder: Etsy. Lighting fixtures: houzz.com.
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