A New Jersey Condo Gets a Bright Side
A condo renovation in New Jersey combined different design styles for a happier, brighter home
“After” photos by Jonathan Ayala for Sweeten
- Homeowners: Chong + Adam posted their project on Sweeten
- Where: Fort Lee, New Jersey
- Primary renovation: Kitchen and two bathrooms in a 1,090-square-foot condo
- Notable: One wall holding the pantry came down and was replaced by a peninsula.
- Result: More storage and an increase in natural light
- 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.
From rental to property owner
Chong and Adam were ready to ditch the small one-bedroom, railroad-style apartment they were renting in Jersey City. Eager to put down more permanent roots, they looked for homes in Fort Lee, NJ—a good midpoint between his work in central New Jersey as a business analyst and her job at a molecular biology lab in Manhattan. They found a 1,090-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo on a quiet, pedestrian-friendly street in a well-maintained high-rise built in the ’60s.
Chong said that for years she read “with envy the various home blogs and design sites, one of which was Sweeten.” She daydreamed about having her “own home and a kitchen with ample counter space and height-appropriate storage.” She wondered if she would forever store pots and pans in the oven and have to keep a step stool in the kitchen to reach the upper cabinet shelves.
As soon as they closed on their condo, Chong said, “I posted our condo renovation project to Sweeten and was matched with our contractor. From our first meeting, we were on the same page as to how to bring the unit out of the ’60s and ’80s. We loved his energy and creativity, and also felt assured that Sweeten had done the legwork for us in checking his credentials and reviews of past work.”
To maximize planning for their New Jersey condo renovation, they came to the first meeting with lots of ideas. Their contractor, Chong said, “allowed us to make the design decisions while they focused on the nuts and bolts of how to make it all happen. Aesthetically, I favored simple lines with a touch of an industrial feel, and Adam liked warm, traditional finishes.”
Kitchen drawers make the difference
The first item on their New Jersey condo renovation checklist was to slightly enlarge the footprint of the kitchen. At about 8’x8’, it was not very large, and a floor-to-ceiling pantry blocked natural light from the living room. In the small footprint, a standard-depth refrigerator made access to the pantry awkward, and there was limited counter space.
Adam will say out of the blue, ‘I love our place.’ And I really do, too.
They opted to tear down the pantry and put in a peninsula, adding about a foot of space along its length. The peninsula addition forced a change to the kitchen’s entry, so they cut a portion of a hallway wall and redirected some electrical lines and a light switch. Drawers in the peninsula solved storage issues from the loss of the pantry. As a result, they gained easy access to frequently used items, storage for pots and pans, and “most importantly, little use for a step stool,” Chong said.
There was a challenge to the floor plan since the kitchen wasn’t level with the rest of the space; the contractor had to do some research so he could raise the kitchen floor. “He did a great job of making it seamless without the need for any transition pieces,” Chong said.
Updating the bathrooms
The two bathrooms were easier in terms of design, but the plumbing and electrical changes were more extensive behind the walls. Once the updates were made, the bathrooms came along quickly. The guest bathroom was set in a traditional style, while the master bath would be a little more modern. “We love the minimalist handles and how the handles and the glass doors together make the bathrooms look larger,” Chong said.
In the rest of the apartment, some of the walls were repaired and plastered with new baseboards and fresh coats of paint were applied. They also removed all of the old carpets and discovered parquet floors. “We liked the original walnut color, so our Sweeten contractor simply screened (removed the old finish without sanding) and coated the floors with a satin finish,” Chong said.
Working with their Sweeten contractor
Their New Jersey condo renovation took about four months from the day they signed a contract with their Sweeten contractor to the date of final inspection. “Considering how he was limited to the work hours and days set by my building’s management, he kept to a good pace,” Chong said.
While there were no major surprises or roadblocks, she and Adam moved into the apartment about halfway through the renovation. During their overlap, Chong said, “Our contractor, ever the gentleman, was very accommodating and respectful of our privacy and comfort.” Now, after a few months since the renovation’s completion, “Adam will say out of the blue, ‘I love our place.’ And I really do, too.”
KITCHEN: Oxford Linen Ice porcelain tile floor tiles, #100235829: Floor and Décor. Shaker-style kitchen cabinets in charcoal gray: Hanssem. Oberon cabinet hardware: Amerock. Cabinet pulls, #BP40519BBZ: Amerock. Misterio polished countertops, #BQ8815P: Pental Quartz. Bright White Ice backsplash, #914100887: Floor and Décor. Cardale faucet, #R72247-SD: Kohler. LG refrigerator, #LFC21776S7: Home Depot. Kenmare dishwasher, #KDFE104DSS: Home Depot. Maytag range: Home Depot. Collier lighting, 3381HB: Hinkley.
GUEST BATHROOM: Festival White and Black Dot Octagonal porcelain floor tile, #100104629: Floor and Décor. Bright White Ice ceramic wall tile, #100112689: Floor and Décor. Delta Greenwich hardware, #138284: Home Depot. Moen Kingsley faucet in chrome, #6121: Lowe’s. Ellenbee Collection sink/vanity, #C21124-SS: Lowe’s. Allen + Roth Winsbrell lighting, #B10077: Lowe’s. Mirror, storage, and cabinets, #33116: Lowe’s.
MASTER BATH: Festival White Herringbone porcelain floor tile, #100230804: Floor and Décor. Festival Pure White Glossy ceramic wall tile, #914101065: Floor and Décor. Delta Greenwich hardware, #138284: Home Depot. Kohler Ellison faucet, #K-R72780-4D-CP: Home Depot. Style Selections Drayden Gray sink/vanity, #CM18F30-SS: Lowe’s. Allen + Roth Kenross lighting, #18652-000: Lowe’s. Kohler vanity mirror, #CB-CLC3026FS: Lowe’s.
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