‘Spotlight On’ for a Designer’s Own Home
Humble renovation materials make for smart upgrades and plenty of storage
- Homeowners: Designer, Matthew Stewart, posted his first personal Clinton Hill renovation on Sweeten
- Where: Brooklyn, New York
- Primary renovation: Updating a new kitchen, bathrooms, and a multipurpose guest room for a 1,000-square-foot apartment
- With: Sweeten general contractor in NYC
- Homeowner’s quote: “At the outset, I got a lot of high bids. [My contractor] was the one who convinced me it could be done within my budget.”
- Our role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering guidance, tools, and support—for free.
Written in partnership with homeowner Matthew Stewart. “After” photos by Pixy Interiors.
I found a place that needed work and left me with some budget to renovate. It was challenging to work full-time and oversee the renovation. I tried to keep things simple.
The goal for my home was to feel peaceful and light, but I had a pretty tight budget for all that I wanted to accomplish. I focused on fairly humble materials for the renovation that I really liked and how to use them expanding on traditional neutral colors. Work is always visually intensive for me and I wanted a minimal, quiet space to serve as a backdrop for art and objects.
Navigating the renovation plan
I’ve seen many projects through construction in my professional career. However, it never personally affected my life before. The biggest challenge was: would I be able to figure out the design of the space, hire a contractor, and complete the work in the short window I had before I would have to move in? I ended up having to move into a construction site. It was a lot to have workers show up every morning and not have a kitchen for many weeks. But you forget the hardships quickly once it’s done and you’re enjoying living there. Thankfully, my partner at the time and I were able to help each other through it. He has great taste and helped me the whole way through.
“I’ve always liked appliance garages. It goes back to the fact that my grandparents had one in their very modern kitchen from the ’60s.”
Planning a mixed-materials kitchen
Mixing wood and laminate as finishes for the cabinetry was an important idea when I was planning the renovation. It emphasizes the volumes and makes the scale a little more human. The countertops and peninsula are concrete, which I like because the material can take any form. However, it’s also a natural material for a renovation that weathers over time.
I’ve always liked appliance garages. It goes back to the fact that my grandparents had one in their very modern kitchen from the ’60s.
Renovating two bathrooms
I was especially excited about the new bathrooms and having a tub to soak in with a smoked glass panel. From the beginning, I knew the partition would not be clear glass.
In the other bathroom, the general idea was to make a very small space feel as big and open as possible. The renovation materials are pretty simple, but the details and extra showerhead make it feel more special.
A Murphy bed and storage
In the guest bedroom/office, the millwork is a combination of knotty pine and laminate, with a painted wood frame. The red laminate panel breaks up the finish and calls attention to the sliding door. They are both closets and shoe storage.
I made the open shelving in the hallway myself using laminated pieces of reclaimed wood. In a way, it’s the heart of the apartment. I knew I wanted to find a spot for these shelves and the hall was just the right fit. It turns a slice of space that wasn’t so usable into a place for display.
Plants were always an important component. All of the artwork is from friends and acquaintances or people in my community.
My Sweeten general contractor
My Sweeten general contractor was instrumental in completing the project and helping me do all of the things I wanted to do. At the outset, I got a lot of high bids. He was the one who convinced me it could be done within my budget.
He helped me find the millworker who did all the cabinetry. I did all the designs and drawings for them and selected all the finishes. A Murphy bed kit was purchased online and my contractor built the frame, the custom panels, and installed it.
I highly recommend working with design professionals. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of work involved. And don’t get too hung up on specific choices, sometimes it’s easier to just pick something nice that you know you like and move on.
My new home makes me feel happy and relaxed, and it helps me focus. Living in the space has forced me to declutter and live more simply. And it’s been a good exercise to direct interests for future projects.
Thank you, Matthew, for sharing your renovation with us!
When you’re ready to get started on your kitchen or home remodel, work with Sweeten to renovate with the best contractors.
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.
KITCHEN RESOURCES: Laminate and douglas fir cabinets: Custom by general contractor. Hardware: Rejuvenation. Concrete countertops: Trueform Concrete. Ceramic backsplash tile: Mosa. Silgranit sink: Appliances Connection. Faucet: Appliances Connection. Pendant lights: Verner Panton.
LIVING SPACE: Paint throughout in Alabaster: Benjamin Moore.