A Small Kitchen Remodel in Bed-Stuy Doubles Its Storage

With a $50,000 budget, custom cabinets maximize a cooking kitchen’s potential—and gets organized

portrait of Bed-Stuy Brooklyn homeowners after kitchen remodel
  • Homeowners: A condo-dweller and her husband, in need of a more functional, storage-efficient kitchen, posted their kitchen remodeling project for a small space on Sweeten
  • Where: Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, New York
  • Primary renovation: A rip-and-replace of the kitchen, which, after years of feeding the family of three, looked worn and felt ever more disorganized
  • With: Sweeten general contractor
  • Homeowner quote: “I asked to be matched to women- or Black-owned contracting companies only, and I liked that Sweeten offered that option.”

Written in partnership with homeowner Ina. “After” photos by Kate Glicksberg.

Busy kitchen, big jumble

The main goal for our kitchen renovation was not only to brighten and modernize the look of the space, but to make it more efficient. We wanted to increase storage, for pots and pans, pantry supplies, and spices. After years of feeling like we had outgrown the kitchen, I wanted it to look and feel super organized.

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small kitchen remodel with walnut custom cabinets and quartz backsplash bedford-stuyvesant

I purchased the condo in 2005, when I was single, through Brooklyn’s Bridge Street Development Corporation, which renovated brownstones in Bed-Stuy and sold them to first-time homebuyers at a cost below market value. The building was the first condominium project, and the building and units were gut renovated. Everything was beautifully done, brand new, and high quality.

brooklyn kitchen with walnut and white cabinets and quartz backsplash bedford-stuyvesant
brooklyn kitchen with walnut microwave cabinets and quartz backsplash bedford-stuyvesant

My husband is a fantastic cook and uses the kitchen a lot. He and I got married in 2012, and he and his son, who was then 14, moved in. Later, when our son was in college, he moved back home for a period of time during the pandemic. The three of us prepared nine meals a day—breakfast, lunch, and dinner for three people.

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At that point, the kitchen cabinets couldn’t hold the amount of food we needed to sustain our family. The room configuration allowed only one upper cabinet in the corner for storing non-perishable food. One base cabinet held a jumble of pots and pans and another blind-corner base cabinet stored everything from cooking oils to the waffle maker to serving trays and plastic containers. There was so much stuff that we basically had to empty the whole cabinet to find one item.

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Time to rethink and redo

After more than 17 years and much use, the kitchen’s cabinetry and appliances began to wear and look dated. The beige-tiled floors held onto the dirt and never looked clean. We decided to redo the kitchen with a rip-and-replace renovation. After hearing about Sweeten, we thought we would list the project there to find a contractor in the Brooklyn area.

kitchen storage with appliance cabinet bed-stuy

Mindful choices, best results

Initially, I asked to be matched to women- or Black-owned contracting companies only, and I liked that Sweeten offered that option. I am a first-time renovator, so I also wanted to understand the process and what to expect. Sweeten was prompt to respond to emails and answer my questions. They also seemed to understand my other concerns, too, the biggest of which was hiring a contractor who did top-notch work. I wanted someone who could match the great quality of the original kitchen. They led me to the woman-owned company I ultimately chose.

I had no idea where to start, but our contractor was very helpful in sourcing materials. She recommended showrooms to look at prefabricated kitchen options and helped me explore materials that had the level of quality I sought. I appreciated working with her because I didn’t feel pressured to purchase cabinetry or hardware from one company. My contractor understood my vision; she was open to helping me reach it while staying within my budget—or trying to. 

kitchen with walnut open shelves and white cabinets bed-stuy
brooklyn kitchen remodel with gold faucet quartz backsplash and countertop bedford-stuyvesant

"I had no idea where to start, but our Sweeten contractor was very helpful in sourcing materials."

Custom cabinets—worth the cost

I wanted dedicated places for items—pots and pans, baking supplies, spices and oils, as well as small appliances we don’t use everyday. I wanted open shelving, too, to showcase cookbooks and decorative items. As our Sweeten contractor and I talked, it became clear to her that I was looking for custom features. She recommended a local cabinet maker who I hired to design and build the cabinets. 

kitchen with built-in cabinets around fridge bed-stuy

I am attracted to darker colors, and the south-facing kitchen window brings in a lot of natural light, so I wasn’t worried about the kitchen looking dark or small. I settled on walnut-stained base cabinets with white uppers, as I liked the contrast. Throughout the kitchen, I chose durable materials that would stand the test of time. I went with natural wood floors instead of tile. I like the look of marble but decided to go with more durable quartz for the countertops and backsplash.

Every inch put to work

We doubled the kitchen’s storage space by removing a soffit and adding a high row of cabinets that reach up to the ceiling. We built a pantry around the refrigerator. We installed drawers for pots and pans, and added a custom shelving system to the blind corner, providing organization to that cabinet space. We moved the dishwasher’s location from the right side to the left side of the sink.

small kitchen remodel with walnut custom cabinets and quartz backsplash bedford-stuyvesant
small kitchen remodel with cabinet size peninsula and quartz backsplash bedford-stuyvesant

I wasn’t prepared for living in the condo while it was undergoing renovation. We scheduled a vacation for the first two weeks, so we weren’t there for the demolition and the job’s initial phases. But when we returned, even though we were only renovating the kitchen, the entire space felt like a construction zone. The process took about four weeks.

Budget blown, but not disappointed

In the end, I spent about $20,000 more than I’d planned on the job because I chose to go with custom cabinets. The total cost was around $50,000. What about our finished kitchen made it worth that? Everything! It’s beautiful, and efficient because everything has a place. I actually enjoy cooking, cleaning and just being in the kitchen so much more now than I did before. I also have more time in the evenings to enjoy with my family.

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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