A Small Kitchen Converts to an Industrial Warehouse Vibes

A cook space transforms with reclaimed wood, kitchen shelving and a waterfall countertop

small kitchen

Editor’s Note: This post, which originally ran July 2015, shows that smart storage never gets old. Here’s a look into what happens when Manhattanites make bold changes in a small kitchen—like taking down kitchen walls! This Hell’s Kitchen renovation would have been stylish even if it had stayed within its original dimensions, but taking a wall down was the first step in making the space virtually unrecognizable. Scroll on down for the play by play on this ambitious Manhattan kitchen renovation.

Dan and Mike moved into this one bedroom, one bathroom co-op in Manhattan’s storied Piano Factory building in 2013. The building, converted from a 19th century warehouse that once served as the manufacturing site for the inner workings of pianos, is an industrial brick building in Hell’s Kitchen with a beautiful Romanesque entry and a graceful courtyard. Dan and Mike loved the building’s history and architecture, but found themselves in an apartment constructed in the grand tradition of many 1980s co-op conversions: boxy rooms, segmented living spaces, a dated pass-through in the wall that sectioned off the small kitchen from the living area, and kitchen finishes that were unchanged from the apartment’s first owner. Worse still, the kitchen’s sizable window was hidden in the back of the room, blocking light and limiting the impact that a windowed kitchen should have.

Dan, a technology scout for a chemical company, and Mike, who works in finance for a construction company, liked the layout and the slightly retro feel of the original kitchen but envisioned opening up the room, making it part of the larger living area, and finding creative storage ideas to make the space work harder and smarter for them. Armed with an architect’s drawing, Dan and Mike posted their project on Sweeten, a free service matching renovators with vetted general contractors, to take down the wall, gut the kitchen, and extend the counters and cabinetry. They were introduced to their Sweeten contractor to handle the demolition and full re-build.

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Though they loved the industrial past of the building, Dan and Mike didn’t want to go too far with an industrial modern aesthetic. They set out to create an updated look balanced by raw and unfinished accents to fill the open plan room, and played with different natural and synthetic wood finishes to maintain a measure of warmth and masculinity amid the clean lines.

Demolishing the wall had an enormous impact on the space, and Dan and Mike took the newfound breathing room even further by removing the upper line of cabinets altogether and replacing the original base laminates with a full set of IKEA cabinets and drawers, which their Sweeten contractor installed with custom doors and hardware from Semihandmade. The new, more functional base cabinets gave the couple enough storage capacity to go minimal on top—Dan found salvaged Douglas Fir pieces and created open floating shelves in a shop in Greenpoint. This move allows the open kitchen to flow more seamlessly into the living room, and significantly reduced visual heft through to the kitchen’s window.

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In their search for a tougher and more durable alternative to concrete countertops that wouldn’t stain easily, Dan and Mike found Dekton, an ultra-compacted blend of raw materials that Dan reports is virtually impenetrable. Dan couldn’t help but reveal his expertise as a tech scout for a chemical company when he explained that the material was also attractive because its raw materials are free of synthetic resins that are often used in construction. Dan and Mike loved the look of a waterfall counter and worked with their Sweeten contractor to create the effect so that the kitchen entry was marked and separated visually by the countertop extension of the cabinet peninsula.

To contrast with the striated cabinetry and porcelain floor tiles finished with an end-cut wood grain look, the couple selected a classic white subway tile and neutral gray grout to line the walls from floor to ceiling, and added a gray and black mosaic tile accent to meet the height of the kitchen’s window.

Their Sweeten contractor helped to complete the transformation by stealing twelve inches of brand new pull-out pantry space from a walk-in closet adjacent to the kitchen, and adding an ultra-minimal storage rack for pots and pans. Dan and Mike chose stainless steel appliances throughout and especially love the 30 inch Wolf range with its signature red knobs, as well as the unconventionally tall Summit fridge—a great find for tight kitchens.

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“In some ways, we bit off more than we could chew. Sweeten introduced us to a contractor who was really easy to work with, flexible about our plans, and helpful with things that were uncertain or unexpectedly discovered behind walls,” says Dan.

So many thanks to Dan and Mike for this eye-opening tour of their spacious little-kitchen-that-could!

Custom cabinet doors add a unique touch and are a great way to personalize pre-fabricated cabinets. Becky and Sarah chose a similar style for their cabinets, creating a striking white-on-wood contrast in their kitchen renovation.

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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