Sarah & Michael’s Modern, Traditional Kitchen

“Gennadiy was incredibly prompt, fast, and had great ideas and attention to detail. The thing we valued most was that he was very respectful of our budget, but at the same time shared our commitment to using high-quality materials. He was a great guide in knowing where to spend versus save.”

–Sarah, Upper East Side Homeowner


Sarah, an editor at Vanity Fair, & her husband Michael, a reporter for Bloomberg News, purchased their first home in the Upper East Side late last year. Almost immediately, the enterprising young journalists set out to make an important update to the space; the two love to cook, eat, & entertain, but since their apartment, c. 1910, had very few updates made to it in the last 100 years, renovating the kitchen was top priority. Sarah & Michael knew what they wanted for the new space, taking a direction rooted in the age & tradition of the original home, rather than any Jetsonian ideal. So, with her own catalog of inspired ideas and a well-researched execution plan, Sarah posted to Sweeten to find the perfect contractor for the work. From their matches, the couple chose to work with tS member Gennadiy Kaliberda, owner of South Fork Projects. The charming new kitchen is a perfect model for the 21st C., traditional home.


Though the original kitchen had charming bones, the space was overwhelmed by warm, reddish wooden cabinets & trim that made it feel dark & dingy, and a full set of outdated appliances added to the overall drabness. Sarah & Michael appreciated the traditional character that runs throughout the entire home, so they planned for a makeover that would not undermine the spirit of the architecture. After much deliberation, the sensible solution was to paint their existing cabinets.

“The lower cabinets were high-varnish, auburn-colored oak—all contemporary, not original. Though they ‘clashed’ in age with the old wood, they had the upside of being on new drawer tracks and in great condition. The upper cabinets, the hutch cabinet, and the dark hardware were original to the apartment, circa 1910, and their functionality (on new hinges) was fantastic, but they were riddled with wood putty spots and pockmarks from a century of use.” 


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Prior to connecting with Gennadiy, the homeowners independently sourced & replaced the appliances and hired a painter who specializes in historic interiors for the cabinet painting. To transition the warm wooden scheme into something more modern feeling, that would also blend well with the addition of stainless steel appliances, the couple chose a light cool grey paint, BM Cool Breeze. Sarah’s favorite element — and a worthwhile splurge alongside the economic cabinet update — is the range. The Bertazzoni Heritage Series in Matte Cream fits perfectly as a modern throwback to an earlier tradition. At this stage, the homeowners were ready to move forward with Gennadiy for their countertop, sink, backsplash & cabinet replacement glass.


The completed space is bright, cozy, and almost pastoral, with a balanced palette of warm and cool. The new palette was inspired partially by a similar scheme Sarah had come across in a book of Scottish country houses.

“Overall, the inspiration was as much outdoors as in—I kept thinking of a kitchen you could imagine being right off of a sprawling herb or vegetable garden. Maybe if Beatrix Potter had a New York pied-a-terre.”


One of the most inventive elements of the new design is the use of antiqued mirror panels in place of the former, contemporary set in frosted glass. This suggestion came from Sarah’s aunt as a way to increase the natural light in the space, but it also ties in perfectly with the vintage theme. Sarah sourced custom-cut, 12″x12″ mirror-glass panels in ‘French Antique’ finish from Timeless Reflections. After installing the glass panels, Gennadiy sealed on & painted wooden backings inside the cabinet doors to create a solid, clean construction. For the backsplash, Sarah & Michael re-routed their initial plan to use wainscoting, and instead selected a classic-looking carrera marble subway tile.


Finding a farm sink that would work well in the space proved to be the biggest challenge of the renovation, but, determined to find exactly what she was looking for, Sarah eventually lucked out with the last one available — perhaps, anywhere. A bridge faucet from Rohl’s Country Kitchen collection completes the sink basin’s farmhouse look, and for the countertops, the homeowners chose Brazilian soapstone, fabricated by M. Teixeira.

“Gennadiy and I worked like dogs to find a fireclay farm sink that would work for a New York apartment kitchen. They’re so heavy and so huge—most are 30 inches wide and 10 inches deep, which would swallow the entire counter—that we had to really scour for one small enough, shallow enough, and with the clean, traditional shape that I wanted.  This was the sole one that would work and, coincidentally, the very last one in a showroom I called. Even in its diminutive (by farm sink-standards) size, we still had to opt for an upmount to clear the plumbing and keep the top drawer functional.  I actually like the look of it better this way—it makes more of a pronounced statement.”


We love the antique, marble & iron garden table from Italy, which Sarah purchased through a Potomack Company auction. On the hutch cabinets, chicken wire & custom toile curtains give subtle suggestions of being out in the European countryside.


Rather than painting the doors & transoms above, these wooden surfaces are left intact — the new contrast makes them more pronounced than ever before.

“[Gennadiy] works really well with young clients because he’s tech-savvy and good with communication. He’d be picture-messaging me close-ups of the veining on my marble tile from the showrooms so we could discuss it, or sending me daily photo updates—we never felt that dreaded feeling of wondering why our contractor’d gone AWOL, ever.”

We love the new space and admire Sarah & Michael’s sharp planning and great eye for detail — awesome work to Gennadiy, and many thanks to the happy homeowners for sharing!

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“I liked using Sweeten! It gave me a great place to start, since I had no idea how to begin my renovation projects. I will be using them again.”

— Mary C. from Philadelphia, PA

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