Finding Home in a Sunny Cook Space

Open shelves and ceiling-high cabinets leave room to enjoy the kitchen

couple portrait
Project: Make a kitchen better suited for entertaining and cooking

Before: Rob, a musician, purchased an apartment on the top floor of a Harlem brownstone six years ago. Shoko, a writer, moved into the Harlem abode two years ago, and the couple has lived together ever since. Their 900-square-foot apartment dates back to the late 19th century, though the interiors were updated in the early 2000s. Overall, they were happy with how the home looked (except the kitchen). “The kitchen’s orange-y cabinetry, shiny black appliances, and brown countertop stuck out. Rob travels a lot for work, and every time we’d FaceTime, he’d see the cabinets in the background and say, ‘Okay, that’s it. Let’s really do it this time.’ Finally, we just decided to take the leap,” Shoko shared.

oak kitchen cabinets with black appliances and hardwood floors before renovationAfter: The couple posted their project to Sweeten and were matched with a general contractor. Aside from the overall appearance changes, the couple also wanted to improve the flow and function—more storage was a must. “We decided to redo the kitchen mainly because as we get older, we find ourselves spending more and more time at home. We love to eat out, but we also love to cook and have friends over,” Shoko shared.

They worked with their general contractor and a web-based design company specializing in IKEA kitchens, Inspired Kitchen Design, to bring their vision of a minimal, but warm space to their kitchen. The cabinet bases the couple chose were outfitted with custom cabinet doors from Semihandmade (a recommendation from designer Keren Richter whose work Shoko has written about and that’s been featured on Sweeten Stories). “I loved their aesthetic, and as soon as I saw their Supermatte clay slab, I was sold on that color-wise,” she said. The open shelving and brass drawer pulls are also from Semihandmade.

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Previously, the kitchen didn’t take advantage of the ceiling height. The renovators decided to extend the upper cabinetry as close to it as possible. The extra space has now left them wondering if they should get more appliances, like a stand mixer. “That’s something I never dreamed I’d say as a New Yorker in a (relatively) small space,” Shoko shared. Their other design decisions, from the lighting to the countertops, were all part of creating a cohesive, simple look. Together, their finishes and materials feel warm, inviting, and clean.

kitchenwhite kitchen cabinets with white countertop and stainless steel gas cooking range with brass knobs and hood after renovation white overhead kitchen cabinets and white backsplash tiles and white countertop with undermount sink and wooden shelves after renovation

The couple worked very closely with their general contractor to bring IKD’s design to fruition. “The contractor’s role was incredibly important from the outset—and it grew in importance as the project progressed,” Shoko said. He focused on understanding the full intention of the design, providing recommendations and workarounds (when needed) at every stage. “Not only did he and his team install the entire project, but they were a much-needed set of extra eyes with an experienced concern for aesthetics and functionality. We feel so lucky to have found them, and couldn’t recommend them highly enough,” she continued.

Overall, getting started on the project proved to be the biggest challenge. The renovation process itself only revealed a few minor issues: the walls weren’t straight and required hidden adjustments to make the measurements work out; and some delivering delays. Regardless, they stayed on time—and budget.

white overhead kitchen cabinets and white countertop and beige under counter cabinets and stainless steel appliances and peninsula island with butcher block countertop and exposed brick wall and hardwood floors after renovation
peninsula kitchen island with butcher block countertop and pendant lights and exposed brick wall after renovationwhite overhead cabinets and countertop and white backsplash tiles and beige drawer under counter after renovationAs first-time renovators, the inevitable questions came up about what they could do in their price range, the best materials to work with, and how they could ensure they weren’t forgetting anything important. Their general contractor provided assurance (and answers) the whole way through.

“We are so happy with our kitchen. It’s exactly what we wanted. It makes our entire apartment feel brighter and bigger, and it’s a total pleasure to cook, eat, and host there. We feel even more at home than we did before,” Shoko said.

Bonus: Shoko’s favorite element of the new kitchen? It’s a tie between then open shelving and countertops. “ I love ceramics, so it’s fun to have a space to display our favorite things. We were also very excited about our new countertop. That bright white Caesarstone is a breath of fresh air,” she said.

Style finds: Bamboo kitchen floor: original. Upper cabinet fronts in Supermatte White Slab; lower cabinet fronts, drawer fronts, and toe kick in Supermatte Clay Slab; cabinet knobs in Natural Brass and open shelving in Oak: Semihandmade. Countertop and backsplash in Blizzard, #2141: Caesarstone. Stainless steel sink, #MNO162318SR: Miseno. Grohe Concetto single-handle faucet in Super Steel: Amazon. Whirlpool dishwasher, WDTA50SAHZL; Beko stove, #PRGR34550SS; Whirlpool fridge, #WRB119WFBM: P.C. Richard & Son. Whirpool undercabinet range hood, #WVU37UC0FS: Home Depot. Grain white pendant lights: Muuto. Wall paint in Simply White: Benjamin Moore. Barstools: Thrift store purchase by homeowners. Butcher block: Installed pre-renovation.

Melissa’s kitchen is anything but the classic white cook space.

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

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