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A Traditional House Remodel Offers a Dose of Modern

Good bones bring new life to a kitchen, bathroom, and a central foyer

Renovated dining room

“After” photos by Michael Hnatov for Sweeten

“I’m shocked by how long it took us to renovate,” the owner of this Westchester, New York, home said. “You know what they say about having kids, though: The days are long but the years are short.” The house, at 5,500 square feet, was also large, and in great, if not quite stylish, condition. It felt livable, and that’s why these finance execs-cum-parents of now high-school-age daughters put the finishing touches on their renovation nearly a decade after buying it. 

white kitchen cabinets
Before dining and kitchen
kitchen renovation
thick marble countertop
Before dining room
trim molding dining room
built in storage
home office
open shelving
double sink bathroom
built in media cabinet

The single-family house, built in the early 1960s, is like many in this Westchester County suburb. Its layout featured a formal entry hall and a dedicated dining room, plus a finished basement that boosts the total square footage. When the family of four and their pets moved into the home, it had just received a round of pre-sale renovations. 

The kids were in elementary school. “We always knew we’d update it and make it more our style at some point,” the owner said, “but we weren’t in a rush.” They’d lived happily in Manhattan for 15 years, and then in a rental in Scarsdale for three more before committing to the new home. “We wanted,” said the owner, “to live in our home long enough to find a clear vision.”

When the goal of the project crystallized, it was fairly simple: They wanted to preserve the home’s great bones and traditional features—including old hardwood floors, large windows with a diamond grill pattern, some stained-glass touches—and blend in a modern-classic feel. Some plans were solely functional.

The bathrooms, which had not been renovated since the home was built, were outdated and slated for a full redo. But the rest of the house would get a gentle, progressively modern update that would play off and enhance what was already there.  

Foyer stairs

“We were excited about the job as a whole,” the owner said, but “relieved to know we could do a lot just by just adding a few touches.” In the end, they did a bit more than that. The home’s spacious foyer, already a stunner, got a dramatic makeover, featuring daring large-slab marble tile and a deco-style beaded chandelier. Those bathrooms got their gut-jobs, redone with glass-walled showers, gleaming fixtures, and statement lighting.

The mudroom received a sleek redesign, with functional storage, and whimsical bright-blue penny-round floor tile. And the kitchen received a playful update, with a painted hardwood floor, a boldly mirrored backsplash, and a wraparound marble overlay on the existing peninsula providing a stylish second life for the high-end cabinetry that was already there.

The process, the owner warned, was grueling at times, especially since the family of four lived in the house throughout. “We expected some inconvenience—especially since we have a dog and a cat—but it was a big challenge,” the owner said. “Towels and blankets under doors went a long way, but dust found its way around.”

penny tile mudroom
bathroom before
glass enclosed shower
Black sink vanity

Despite inconveniences, the project also bore happy surprises, like the ugly, thin carpet in the office that lifted to reveal a beautiful parquet floor. The Sweeten contractor cleaned it up and stained it white, which markedly opened the space. “We now have three rooms with different patterns of wood floor,” the owner says. While to some this might sound like a nightmare scenario, these little-bit-of-everything-loving homeowners find the mixed-up style “very cool.”

Because one never knows when a gorgeous discovery will save the contractors a few days’ effort, this homeowner suggests taking time to map out the renovation process in detail, with contingencies. And ask for the tough love you need to maintain your timeline: ordering deadlines for materials so you’ll have them before they’re needed; assignments for moving things around the house as work carries on.

“Our contractor,” the homeowner says, “was patient and thoughtful about what needed to be ordered. More important, he completed work on time, if not early. He was easy to work with, responsive and flexible. We also knew that, should that attitude change, Sweeten had our backs.”

Opportunities for efficiency and satisfaction can be found by playing an active part in the project, the homeowner said. Living in the house throughout the process, he says, allowed the family to see it day-to-day. “My favorite part,” he said, “was watching the rooms finish one by one and seeing the larger picture slowly emerge.” 

In the end, he said, the family stayed close to their budgeted figures and felt real satisfaction in the job’s completion. “It’s great to be done and the house finally feels like our home,” he said. “The vision we had came together, and now we can build on it with details like family photos and objects we love.”  

Custom Woodwork in 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.

SWEETEN_Eric_Kitchen-Before-01

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

Upper East Beauty!

Three Modern Baths and Two Custom Built-Ins in One, Sweetened Upper East Side Condo

There is something undeniably delightful about a great bathroom before and after — this week, we have three! It’s possible that I love to live vicariously through other folks’ bathroom renovations because the depths of despair in the “before” photos appear to know no bounds; New York City sure seems to have more than its fair share of aged, beige tiles, peeling laminates, and harsh lighting all piled into miniature rooms upon which dwellers  make endless daily demands. Despite the obvious space limitations, the bathroom can be the ideal place to showcase beautiful design and materials precisely because there is so much to fit into a typically tiny space. Hard-working fixtures and finishes are forced to play nicely together as they compete for square inches, and a bathroom renovation somehow feels contained — a great before and after bath serves as a reminder that every home has to make space for basic bathroom essentials. Even the tiniest of urban baths can do so stylishly.

Here, three full baths complete an Upper East Side family’s condo renovation. Scroll down to see how design duo Sweeten Experts Lauren and Adam and Sweeten’s expert general contractor Alan worked together to create modern and simple baths throughout this home, and take a bonus peek at the custom millwork that brought similar form and function elsewhere in this uptown Manhattan renovation.

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In the master bath, Lauren and Adam worked to balance two competing values: the bath itself is the largest of the three, with plenty of room for his and hers sinks, a sizable window, and a full tub, but the condo’s owners wanted to create a sense of privacy and make room for more storage. To take advantage of the bath’s spacious footprint but minimize sight lines into the master bedroom, the designers left the layout of the room generally intact, swapped in high-end tiles and custom cabinetry, and split the tub into a standing shower with a bench and expanded shelving.

Here, 6″ Carrera marble hex tiles create an understated geometric floor foundation, evoke the feel of a refined version of the identically shaped black asphalt pavers that ring Central Park, and are complemented by simple white subway wall tiles from Heath Ceramics. Alan’s millworkers built the vanity with white-lacquered cabinets and drawers and inverted the medicine cabinet, previously wall-mounted and hanging over the sink counter. This subtle detail really stands out: Lauren and Adam chose a walnut inset ledge to line the vanity mirror, creating a slightly recessed niche and allowing for an additional lighting strip to sit just inside the top line. The Toto toilet, Duravit sink, and Lefroy Brooks sink and shower faucet fixtures complete this clean-lined look

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In the second bath, Lauren and Adam found ways to balance continuity with diverse details by using 6″ square Carrera marble floor tiles and by making the shower the centerpiece of this room with luminous green Heath subway tiles on the inner shower walls. White subway tiles from Daltile, lined with neutral gray grout, complete the shower surround. The underlying footprint of this bathroom was altered to meet the owner’s suggestion of relocating the entry door – a move that allowed Lauren and Adam to focus the viewer’s eye on the shower details, add shallow storage shelving behind the newly-converted closet door, and take advantage of the narrow niche next to the shower stall to warm up an impeccably-tiled room with open cedar storage shelves and a compact cabinet. I can not get enough of that tiny oil-rubbed bronze door knob – the owners sourced both the knob and the vanity lighting fixture from Rejuvenation. The bathroom sink, chosen for it’s asymmetrical corner counter, is from Pozzi Ginori, and the plumbing fixtures have been outfitted with Grohe.

Bath 2

In the third bath, Lauren and Adam continued to rely on subway tile but added variety and character with a cubed navy floor tile from Mosaic House, a red cedar inset vanity ledge and cabinet, a gently-squared Duravit tub and sink set, Grohe plumbing fixtures, and a wall-mounted Rejuvenation vanity sconce, identical to the light selected for the second bath.

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For one final example of the beautiful design and flawless execution that accompanied this project, look no further than the intricate built-ins that now line the master bedroom and the family’s living room. Lauren and Adam worked closely with the condo’s owners to make the most of these wall-to-wall units. The owners came to the table equipped with sketches and inspiring images, and had specific proportion requests in mind for each piece. While they intended to use the living room shelving to house the tv, they were smart to focus on a design that would minimize the appearance of the tv by placing it alongside other interesting items, and by slightly off-setting the tv area so that the tv is not the focal point of that wall. The team played with ideas like incorporating a bar area or bench seating, but ultimately created a piece that houses books and media and art without overtaking the room.

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In the master bedroom, Lauren and Adam designed a full-wall custom built-in that is unbelievably functional and simultaneously well-integrated. With no visible pulls or hardware, it is easy to miss all of the elements that the wall now accommodates: a workspace by the window, storage cabinets, deep drawers, and hanging wardrobes — all concealed by lacquered doors and inset handles. The workspace has pocket doors that open and slide back toward the wall, which gives the owners the option to keep the desk open or slightly sectioned off from the rest of the room.

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Many, many thanks to Sweeten Experts Lauren, Adam, and Alan for this insider’s look at the design and craftsmanship throughout this home. So fun to see a renovation that included everything AND the kitchen sink! We are beyond psyched that we were able to bring this team together — if you are thinking about similar projects or feeling inspired by the transformations in each room of this home, post your project on Sweeten and let us help you find the right designers and general contractors for your space.
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http://blog.sweeten.com/inspiration/five-design-tricks-transform-uptown-kitchen/

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