Custom Woodwork in a Sweetened Manhattan Kitchen

A one-bedroom in a coveted West Village condominium designed by famed architect Emery Roth offered a multitude of positives to a new Manhattan buyer: Impossibly desirable location, soaring ceilings, deep closets, residential amenities, and a quiet retreat for work or play. But this lovely home’s kitchen was relegated to a tight little galley, and though the finishes were once beautiful, the dark and heavy cabinetry blocked light and cut access to the living and dining rooms. Eric, the new owner, came to Sweeten to find a contractor who could smoothly navigate the management requirements in this pre-war building and bring a serious carpentry and craftsmanship approach to flow and finishes in the kitchen.

custom wood cabinets

Making real design changes to a pre-war pad can prove rather daunting – many of Manhattan’s most sought-after buildings have deep historical roots, celebrity architect imprints, and cautious alteration agreements that limit updates. Eric saw an opportunity to open up the kitchen in his new place and posted his renovation project on Sweeten — we matched him with Sweeten Expert Alan, a cabinet and millwork specialist who could also manage strict building requirements and oversee all aspects of the project.

For Alan, designing new custom cabinetry to lighten the space was the easy part. Finding a way to incorporate more natural light and reconnect the rooms was the primary challenge. Eric had hoped to take down the entire wall separating the kitchen and living room where the paneled fridge stood, but the building’s interior pipes stood in the way, so the crew decided to open the wall with a large pass-through instead. The team also planned to replace floors throughout the apartment and targeted the old-school linoleum in the kitchen as a starting point.


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Alan stripped the black and white linoleum squares and laid white oak planks down in their place, finished with a glossy clear stain throughout the entire apartment. The cabinets were torn out and replaced with a detailed custom oak set, mostly constructed and completed onsite. Incorporating a lot of glass into the design, Alan created open, closed, and shelving variations in a combination of natural-stained and painted white finishes. The new pass-through provides light from the kitchen window and the living room windows in both directions, and Alan played up the new light with windowed display cabinets above the counter and bar.

manhattan galley kitchen

bar counter kitchen remodel

custom cabinetry

To make the partial wall and new footprint more functional, Alan moved the refrigerator to the adjacent wall and constructed a food pantry to mimic the rest of his oak cabinetry, finished with heavy metal hardware and pulls. Ivory Caesarstone countertops replaced black granite, and an undermount brushed stainless steel sink with matching faucet were installed. Because the kitchen’s back wall is so visible from the living room, the team went with a neutral, luminous glass-tiled backsplash and open shelving above the sink. New stainless steel appliances, including a hefty gas burner, contrast with the warm wood and are easy to keep clean. Alan took Eric’s vision for more light very seriously, adding a number of under-cabinet and recessed sources, as well as a striking ceiling fixture centerpiece. As a bonus, Alan constructed a bar counter on the living room side of the pass-through, perfect for open entertaining.

kitchen open shelving

glass tiled backsplash

oak cabinetry

eric sweeten homeowner

Huge kudos to the team for transforming a cramped and dark kitchen into a warm, inviting, and sophisticated open living room with beautiful style! For more on custom cabinetry options and costs, check out Sweeten’s guide here.  

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

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