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How to Fund Your Next Home Renovation

Daria Kirpach

With interest rates still low, here’s a look at the best ways to pay for big-ticket home improvements.

This article appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of This Old House Magazine. Click here to learn how to subscribe.

Has more time at home given you ambitions for upgrading your surroundings? Maybe you’re yearning for a “sanity shed” where you can take undisturbed work calls in the backyard. Or you have visions of a family room refresh that also creates space for a family study hall.

Ways to Pay for a Home Remodel

Once you’ve talked to contractors and worked up a remodeling budget—with room for unexpected expenses, of course—the next step is finding the funds. Do you dip into savings or borrow the money?

With mortgage rates hitting historic lows, tapping your home equity seems like a good idea, even if recent changes in the tax law make it less likely that you can deduct the interest. A soaring stock market may have left you with a plump portfolio to draw from, while interest rate cuts mean the cash you have sitting in the bank isn’t doing much of anything, making that a tempting target.

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What to Know Before Upgrading Your Garage Door

Nat Rea

For many of us, the garage door is the primary way we come and go. While replacing one is a big decision, it’s also an opportunity for a major upgrade. Here’s how to pick the right one.

Shown: Steel pulls and X-bracing simulate the look of swing-out carriage doors. Coachman door, $4,300; Clopay

This article appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of This Old House Magazine. Click here to learn how to subscribe.

They’re battered by the elements, assaulted by basketballs, and commanded to perform their disappearing and reappearing act countless times each week. When, after decades of service, a garage door stops working well—or looking good—you can take comfort in the fact that a new one is among the best investments you can make, allowing you to recoup nearly 95 percent of the cost when you sell.

“Garage doors have come a long way over the last fifteen years. Springs are safer, R-values are as high as 18, and they’re quieter and need less maintenance. Manufacturers now realize that looks matter, adding design options that make them a focal point.” —D.J. Seeber, Business Development Manager, Cambek Designer Door, and a 43-year industry veteran

Why Upgrade My Garage Door?

A new garage door is also a comparatively inexpensive upgrade given how drastically it can bump up your curb appeal.

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How to Know When to Replace Wood Floors

Sweeten’s guidance on replacing wood floors covers everything from cosmetic updates to functional concerns

(Above) Maggie and Adam’s new floor renovation

Natural, versatile, timeless…wood floors can last for decades or even generations. But if there’s damage after years of wear, or the stain just isn’t suited to your style, replacing them may be your best bet for safer and better-looking floors. Ahead, we share five reasons Sweeten homeowners decided to replace wood floors and revitalize their spaces.

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

1. When it bolsters the overall design

With low ceilings at just a little over eight-feet high, Maggie and Adam worked to create an illusion of a taller height. A ceiling plan for each room was planned out by the couple. This included narrow interior doors, white walls, colorful art, and 7-inch wide hickory flooring throughout.

2. When you want to add soundproofing

When Christina decided to renovate her studio co-op in Murray Hill, the building requested that she install a layer of soundproofing. Even if soundproofing isn’t mandated, it can add a layer of ease and “acoustic comfort” to your space. And, Christina pointed out that the installation process isn’t as bad as you might think. About replacing her floors, she said: “the entire removal and installation was surprisingly a relatively fast process.”

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Support Black-Owned General Contractor Companies | Sweeten

Support black-owned general contractors and contracting firms with Sweeten

At Sweeten, we value every clients’ vision for their home. And we value our shared vision for a better, more just, and inclusive world.  

Many Americans are now wondering how they can best effect change. One way is to hire professionals from groups who have historically been overlooked, and provide opportunities to those who have had to work harder to succeed. 

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

Please consider supporting the following black-owned general contractors on Sweeten’s platform. We heartily stand behind these contractors’ work. They all have the expertise and dedication to build the home of your dreams.

Sweeten General Contractor Saladin | NYC

General contractor Saladin co-owns her contracting firm. She joined Sweeten back in 2018. Servicing all of New York City, Saladin can complete full-service gut renovations, additions, basements, and decks. Additionally,  her firm also specialize in kitchen and bathroom remodels. At Sweeten’s annual awards ceremony for their contractors, the firm earned the 2019 Breakout Performance Award. Sweeten Stories featured two of their renovations on the blog: Kyli and Luke’s 1920 house (top image), and updating the brownstone of actor Danielle Brooks of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black (bottom image). Click here to read reviews and see more of Saladin’s work.

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Here’s How to Make a Galley Kitchen Bigger

A bigger galley kitchen is just around the corner, thanks to “kitchen stretching”

The key to making a galley kitchen layout work is all about maximizing the available square footage. But when you’ve optimized every inch and still need more space, the question becomes: how do you make a galley kitchen bigger?

Demolishing the entire kitchen and its surrounding walls is not always a realistic option. Bringing down walls partially provides some openness while not eliminating all walls which are important for storage. Another way to expand a galley kitchen layout is by allowing the kitchen to extend into nearby living spaces. See how the five Sweeten renovations below snuck in a little more outside their two walls.

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

Bring out the best in high ceilings

To lessen the overlap of paying rent and a mortgage at the same time, Martha aimed to renovate her new co-op as quickly as possible. Her first decision was to open up the 700-square-foot apartment that she’d share with her daughter. Bringing down a wall—even partially—between the galley kitchen and the living room highlighted the 10-foot ceilings in the rest of the apartment. The now-open kitchen had enough space to straddle a small dining area between the two rooms. 

A patio comes inside

Laura and Tim were ready to trade in their “old and grungy” kitchen in their 1929 brick townhouse.  They remodeled their galley kitchen and kept the layout—with one major change. They enclosed an outdoor patio at the back of the kitchen that had a drafty door which was poorly located as well. The new plan was to envelop the patio into the cook space and the adjacent dining area. What started as a kitchen remodel turned into a full-blown extension project. A skylight in the new enclosure brought in a stream of natural light.

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A Guide to Small Bathroom Renovations in Houston

Dreaming of a bathroom renovation in Houston, but don’t know where to begin? Start with this guide. 

It’s no surprise that baths are topping many remodeling lists these days. In Houston, real estate comes in a variety of architectural styles, from French Country and bungalow to Queen Anne and ranch. Plus, bath trends today cover a range of décor styles that are compatible with your home’s architecture. For those considering their own Houston bathroom renovation, here are the need-to-knows and items to plan for before you begin.

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

What are your goals?

For most people, updating the bathroom design is the #1 priority. Who doesn’t welcome a glow-up, especially in the bathroom? Modernizing dated cabinetry and hardware, and installing more stylish faucets are go-to options. So is swapping out a tub for a shower. Or, upgrading the shower with a thermostatic system with integrated volume control. Maybe your luxury shower dreams include multiple body sprays and a rain shower! Many homeowners opt to remove old, tired for a refreshed version. Another key focus in bathroom renovations is adding extra storage. 

What are your needs?

That’s easier to figure out. Who will use the bath? In a medium-sized bath, do you prefer a tub or shower? Single or double vanity? Take clear notes on any must-have features in your bath. 

Budgeting for a bath remodel in Houston 

To help you sort it out, here is what you can expect to pay in Houston, on average. Retaining the footprint in a mid-range bathroom remodel in Houston starts at around $15,000, up to $25,000. Costs will vary based on the materials used, as well as the complexity of installation. For example, a mosaic backsplash is more affordable when the tiles are installed on a sheet. Micro mini tiles installed individually will be more labor-intensive—and more expensive. 

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Steam Showers: How to Create a Luxury Home Spa Experience

Andrea Rugg

Here’s a guide to installation and costs for a luxury steam shower unit and how to find a dealer.

These days, you may have been hearing homeowners opting to invest in steam showers to recreate a luxury spa experience at home. So what is a steam shower? Simply put, it’s a warm, vaporous steam room haven that takes the place of your ordinary shower stall.

Along with the benefits to your skin and sinuses, a steam shower doesn’t take a long time to generate heat like a whirlpool tub or sauna. And when you’re done steaming, you just turn on the shower for a refreshing rinse.

How Does a Steam Shower Work?

Harry Campbell The Anatomy of a Steam Shower

Steam shower design is fairly straightforward. To summon steam, you simply hit the digital controls in the shower stall. That triggers an electric valve to fill the breadbox-size steam generator with about a gallon of cold water. Then, just like a plug-in teakettle, the generator's electric element brings the water to a boil. A pipe channels the hot vapor to the steam head, or disperser, which fills the stall with tropical moisture that never gets above a safe 118 degrees Fahrenheit.

Luxuriate as long as you want: Steaming for 20 minutes consumes a mere 2 gallons of water. By that reckoning, steam is a "green" way to bathe. (Even a water-saving showerhead sprays about 50 gallons of water in the same period.) Your electric bill is bound to go up, however.

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Read This Before You Hire an Architect

Whether you’re redoing a room or planning a whole-house remodel, an architect can be a sound investment. Discover Personal Loans unveils how to find—and work with—a pro who will help you accomplish your home goals

Sponsored by Discover Personal Loans

Does a new addition to your family have you thinking of a new addition for your house? Has your home business outgrown your kitchen table? Or maybe you need to open your home to an elderly relative who can’t navigate the stairs of your center-hall colonial. The fact is, our lives change—but our houses don’t, at least not on their own. If you want to stay in your home as your life progresses, you’ll probably consider remodeling.

Whether you’re adding a bath, enlarging a kitchen or doubling the size of your house with an addition, remodeling usually involves money, lots of planning, and often more than a little stress. It can also raise many questions beyond design and other choices, such as what tile to use on the new bathroom floor. One of these questions usually is: Should I hire an architect?

In this DIY world, an architect is often seen as a luxury—and can be a costly one at that. You can certainly complete a masterful remodel—even a large one—without an architect’s help. You typically can, that is, if you or your builder have a talent for design, if you have a clear idea what you want, and if you (or your builder, or someone you know) can produce plans that satisfy your local building authorities. In all these situations, you could get by without an architect. But then there is another question you might ask, ‘Do I really want to?’

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How To Drill Through Ceramic Tile With Ease

iStock

With the right tile drill bit, you’ll be able to drill into ceramic without cracking it. Read our guide to learn how.

Whether it’s a newly tiled bathroom or an existing one, having to put holes in tiled walls is a common task. Almost anything that mounts to the wall—from installing hardware for toilet paper rolls and soap dishes to a new medicine cabinet—is going to require drilling through tile.

In most cases, these bath accouterments will be mounted using wall anchors, so getting through the tile is only part of the job. You also need to drill through the substrate behind it in a way that doesn’t cause damage which would prevent the wall anchor from working.

Steps for Drilling Through Tile

Step 1: Figure out what kind of tile you have

In general, there are three kinds of tile:

Glazed ceramic tile is the most common, what you’ll find in almost every older home, and the easiest to drill through. Glass tile is used more as an accent and has only been around for 15 years or so. Porcelain tile looks a lot like regular ceramic tile, but it’s much harder.

Step 2: Have the right bit for ceramic tile

Standard drill bits don’t work on tile, but not to worry. Ceramic tile can be drilled with a carbide bit, while glass and porcelain call for a diamond-tipped bit.

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An Accessible Kitchen and Bath Remodel Make Good Sense

A pre-retirement Brooklyn remodel—focusing on accessibility—adds comfort and security to a co-op

“After” photos by Miao Jiaxin for Sweeten. Styled by Jennifer Condon.

Homeowner: Finding nerve to renovate after nearly 26 years in his apartment, Mickey Heller posted his accessible kitchen and bath remodel on Sweeten Where: Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, New YorkPrimary renovation: Gut remodels of the 1,000-square-foot co-op’s kitchen and bathroom with the future in mindSweeten general contractorSweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection— for free

Written in partnership with Sweeten homeowner Mickey

Renovation hesitations

The prewar co-op, sits across the street from the Brooklyn Public Library and a short walk from the Brooklyn Museum. When it was built in 1926, it boasted the highest elevation in Brooklyn. I purchased my apartment a few years after graduating law school—a two-bedroom, one-bathroom, 1,000-square-foot unit with six windows facing Underhill Avenue. In the more than 26 years since I moved in, I’ve maintained the apartment in its mostly original state due to the fear the daunting task of renovating sparked in me. 

 

This year when, looking to the future and my retirement, I decided it was time for the redo. I live by myself and my vision had evolved for a long time. I wanted a contemporary but classical look for the kitchen and bathroom, sleek, bright, and cohesive. In the galley kitchen, I wanted to increase cupboard and counter space, and install a washer/dryer and dishwasher. In the small bathroom, I wanted to remove the large bathtub and install a walk-in shower.

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See How 7 Kitchens Added Color To Achieve That “Wow” Factor

These Sweeten renovators opted to add color to their kitchens, with head-turning results 

The use of color is perhaps the single most important ingredient when re-designing a space. It can add a point of interest that elevates the design and makes it stand out. But a “pop of color” doesn’t mean the color has to be overly bold. It can be a nicely balanced rich hue that helps define the look of the space. Here, we share examples of Sweeten renovators who added color to kitchens and turned up the overall design of their homes.

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

Blue kitchens for the win

The use of the color blue has seen an uptick in use in the last few years. As seen in these Sweeten renovations, the shade, placement, and amount of blue may vary, but each project uses the hue to its fullest potential. Laura and Walter’s renovation of their Park Slope apartment included a kitchen and bath remodel but it’s the kitchen where they made the most dramatic choice. They used Lucerne from Benjamin Moore to give style to their entire kitchen.

Conversely, Sweeten renovator Arnish wanted his kitchen to be more neutral for resale purposes but still wanted to add some personality. He did so by putting in white upper and base cabinets but using blue (almost black) cabinets in the peninsula.

These Sweeten homeowners wanted a “classic [kitchen] with flair.” To achieve this, Tracey and Brian incorporated blue when redoing their kitchen—a project that they had dreamed about since they moved into their Pelham Manor home 14 years ago. Blue is Tracey’s favorite color, so like Laura and Walter, they found a color from Benjamin Moore they liked. However, they were pleasantly surprised when they realized Omega had cabinets in almost that exact shade, eliminating the need for a custom paint color.

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A Modern Two-Bath Chicago Renovation To Entice Buyers

A two-decade-old condo undergoes a resale-focused renovation in Bucktown, Chicago 

“After” photos courtesy of Sweeten homeowner

Before: Making old bathrooms new again

For this Chicago homeowner, updating her bathrooms were important. Plus, time was of the essence: she was living in the 1,500-square-foot condo in Bucktown (located on the northwest side of the city) and wanted to sell. However, she knew that putting some money into refreshing the place with a renovation would increase the resale value. So, that’s exactly what she did! 

“BEFORE” of master bathroom

“DURING” of master bath

She turned her attention to the master and hall bathrooms since they were the biggest concern. They felt outdated, with an early 2000s brown-hued vibe. (A well-designed, new bathroom is one of the top aspects that appeal to potential homebuyers.)

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Should You Move, or Remodel? See What 6 Sweeten Renovators Did

What can homeowners do when they need more space at home—but don’t want to leave?

Many homeowners find themselves in a tough spot when their home’s space, design, or location stops working for them. Many wind up asking themselves: should I move, or remodel?  A Zillow study found that when given a choice between spending a fixed budget on a down payment or using the same amount to remodel, 76 percent would opt to renovate.

Between leaving their neighborhoods and staying put, these homeowners ultimately made the choice to reimagine their homes with Sweeten’s help. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection— for free.

A big refresh for a beloved loft

Leah and Brian loved the Logan Square loft they had been calling home for several years. The Chicago neighborhood’s energy and the industrial brick warehouse added to the lifestyle they were enjoying. But with time the wear-and-tear takes a toll on materials and daily functioning. They decided to renovate and stay in the area. The couple posted their project on Sweeten to update the entire space including a new kitchen and floors. Without structural changes, Leah and Brian brought out the best of their 14-foot ceilings.

When you can’t go bigger, get creative

Surging prices in her Fort Greene co-op building made upgrading from a studio to a true one-bedroom out of the question for Mollie. She had to decide to either move elsewhere to get more space or remodel her cozy studio. Luckily, Mollie realized the market value of her apartment (and that she could borrow against her equity)! She came to Sweeten, was matched with a general contractor, and reconfigured the 500-square-foot apartment to suit her playful style.

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A Clinton Hill Full Home Renovation Scores Storage & Style

Renovate or buy a second home? A new layout in an apartment made all the difference

“After” photos by Kate Glicksberg for Sweeten

Homeowners: Courtney + Jim gave their home one more chance and posted their full home renovation in Clinton Hill on SweetenWhere: Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, New YorkPrimary renovation: Reconfiguring, more storage, and even a peninsula made 800 square feet work betterSweeten general contractorSweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Written in partnership with Sweeten homeowner Courtney

Wrestling with the idea of renovating

We moved to Clinton Hill over ten years ago, and always loved the neighborhood with its history of housing for returning servicemen who worked in the Navy Yard. On a total whim, we went to an open house in the Clinton Hill Co-ops and made an offer on the first apartment we saw: an 800-square-foot, one-bedroom that had been converted into a junior two-bedroom.

 

Once we had kids, we realized our place was dark, crowded, and lacking in functional storage. Paint was chipping everywhere, our ‘80s cabinets were falling off the walls, and it was just, aesthetically, a sad place to live. With two active little boys, Charlie and Wyatt, we suddenly felt like we had outgrown the place we initially loved.

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How Long Does an Apartment Renovation Take?

A step-by-step guide and timeline for a one-bedroom apartment renovation

We’ve covered the expected timelines for kitchen renovations and bath renovations, but how long does an entire apartment renovation take? Since bathrooms and kitchens are usually the most time-intensive spaces to redo, the timeline for renovating a one-bedroom apartment is not much longer. Another bonus: the more spaces there are, the more opportunity there is to implement economies of scale and to multi-task! This approach allows you to save both time and money.

If you’re considering spacing out several projects (for budgetary reasons), you should consider doing them all at once. While it’s a larger sum upfront, it’ll likely be a better value for your money. For example, while you’re waiting for your cabinets to arrive, your contractor can paint the bedroom or install baseboards. And while they are waiting for the paint to dry, they can install tile in the bathroom…you get the picture.

As always, size and complexity determine how long an entire apartment renovation will take. If you aren’t moving walls or changing electrical or plumbing, your apartment renovation will be on the shorter side. On average, you should allocate about two to four months for on-site work in a top-to-bottom one-bedroom apartment renovation. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection— for free.

Apartment Renovation Timeline: Pre-Construction Phase

While the attention is usually on the most visible construction phase, there is a lot to be done before then. Here are the details on each box you’ll need to check before breaking ground on the project.

STEP 1: Close on your property (1-3 months)

Many homeowners are in-contract or preparing to close on a property when they begin the process of planning a renovation. If this is you, don’t worry: there’s a way to get it all done. As one Sweeten post explains, you should wait until you have closed on the property, with keys in hand, before doing anything. If you’re in a hurry—wait until you’ve at least signed the contract before beginning the design process.

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Phoenix Homeowners: Here’s How to Keep Your House Cool

You’re no stranger to extreme heat! Sweeten shares top tips to keep a house cool (and save money) during the summer

(Above) Design by Phoenix-based designer Ernesto Garcia

Phoenix is a favorite place to live because of the area’s favorable weather. Precipitation is low, the sun is strong, and temperatures are high. But sometimes, the temperatures run a bit too high for comfort.

Each year, on average, Phoenix’s temperature exceeds 100 degrees on 92 days. Knowing this, Sweeten wrote a homeowner’s guide on how to keep your house cool in those blazing months!

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection— for free.

Choose the best HVAC system

Air-conditioning is a fact of life in Phoenix and the entire Valley of the Sun metro area. Passive cooling methods are crucial for maintaining a cooler home in Phoenix. But it is an inescapable fact that your home needs A/C. Choose the best possible A/C within your budget:

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Soundproofing & An Open Kitchen Complete a Kid-Friendly Apartment Renovation

Invisible improvements—like soundproofing—are worth as much as the splurges you see

“After” photos by Miao Jiaxin for Sweeten

Who: Samantha and Jameson, seeking a kid-friendly apartment renovation, posted their project on SweetenWhere: Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, New YorkPrimary renovation: A kid-friendly, gut apartment renovation of the 1,000-square-foot layout to become ideal for entertaining guests of all agesSweeten general contractorSweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection— for free

Written in partnership with Sweeten homeowner, Samantha

We bought what was essentially a flip and closed on it the month before our oldest daughter, now almost seven, arrived. We finished the buildout that became her bedroom the night before her birth. The apartment’s finishes weren’t our favorite, but we had our own place, and were a family. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom (with a creative-industry résumé); Jameson is a partner and the digital director at Athletics, a Brooklyn-based creative studio.

Outgrowing a home they love

After having our second daughter nearly four years ago, we knew the apartment needed to change. We loved its location in the Clinton Hill Co-Ops and our hope was to extend our time in this place and the neighborhood. Our growing daughters needed room more than ever, and we wanted to overhaul our kitchen and bathroom. It was time to make this home more liveable for our family.

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White Kitchen Ideas for Modern & Timeless Style

Want to create your own crisp & timeless cook space? Get inspired by these immaculate white kitchen ideas from Sweeten renovators!

White cabinets have long been a staple in contemporary kitchens. They add a fresh, clean dimension to a space’s design that is versatile and enduring. Here, five different Sweeten kitchens that use white as their main color palette for a timeless look. We love that these white kitchen ideas were executed uniquely —but all still have a refreshing, crisp result.

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

White Kitchen Idea 1: From outdated ’80s to modern-day, thanks to textures

The 80s-style cabinetry and tile just weren’t cutting it, so Erin and Jonathan turned to Sweeten to find a contractor who could help make their West Village apartment more “them.” The built-in island did the trick as did the white design scheme. From the white chevron backsplash to the white shaker cabinets to the marble-like quartz countertop, white is everywhere—a modern take on their decades-old space. “Now when we walk in the door, it’s a breath of fresh air,” Jonathan said.

White Kitchen Idea 2: White cabinets and more storage make for a happier home

It’s not an uncommon story: Couple moves into a place, they are excited, but not about their kitchen. For Elizabeth and Martin, this story rang true. They needed to improve the functionality and look of their small galley kitchen so they sought out a design-build firm through Sweeten. They wanted a clean and classic kitchen, free of clutter, and with plenty of prep space. And that’s exactly what they got.

Elizabeth and Martin worked with the designer to dream up practical storage solutions,  like the microwave cabinet and built-in paper towel holder. The peninsula breakfast bar seats four to six and offers additional storage, too. They also shopped with their designer to pick out materials. They chose copper cabinet hardware that pops against the white custom cabinets and a lava stone backsplash and quartz countertop.

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What to Know Before you Change the Layout in your NYC Co-op or Condo

Consider board approvals, permits, and costs involved during layout changes

One of Sweeten’s goals is to translate insight from NYC renovators and contractors into information you can use to make better decisions about improving your home. New Yorkers are no strangers to small spaces and close neighbors, but when you own your place, you might expect to have some control over how the interior looks and works. And you do… sort of.

If you live in a condo or a co-op, you can probably have a go at re-doing the kitchen and bath, but there are some major hurdles to making layout changes. Even for townhouse and brownstone owners, where changes to the walls and windows and roof are fair game, there are real cost implications to moving things around. Sweeten offers an outline to help you decide if a layout change is a feasible starting point for your project.

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection— for free.

What constitutes a layout change?

New York City groups layout changes into two categories of work permits. The first group involves major structural modifications to the building. The second group indicates alterations that don’t change the building’s use or occupancy terms but necessitate work on the vital systems hidden behind the walls (re-routing plumbing lines, gas lines, electrical wiring, vertical piping, or ventilation ducts). NYC’s Department of Buildings classifies the first group as “Alteration Type-I” and the second group as “Alteration Type-II.”

If you live in a co-op or condo in NYC, there’s not much you can do to make structural modifications to the building, so you probably aren’t dealing with any Type-I alterations. But, if you are planning to expand or move a kitchen or bathroom, move fixtures in the kitchen or bathroom, add a new bathroom, or take down a load-bearing wall, these updates all require opening walls and may affect existing plumbing, gas, and electrical lines — the bread and butter of Type-II alterations. The bottom line: if your renovation goes beyond directly swapping out the surface components of a room, then you are probably dealing with a layout change.

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How Renovators Used Open Shelving in Their Kitchens

Making a stylish storage statement one shelf at a time

Upper cabinets have long been a mainstay in kitchen design and frankly, always will be. But there’s something to be said for open shelves: they make a kitchen feel lighter, more effortless, and more open. Plus, they pretty much force you to stay organized because there’s nothing for clutter to hide behind. See how Sweeten renovators incorporated the look into their own culinary spaces.

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection— for free.

A touch of Scandinavian

This homeowner wanted a “mid-century Scandi meets ’70s Italian modern” kitchen. Clean lines and leaving the space as open as possible achieved this look. Custom-made floating shelves behind the peninsula, and all along the sink wall, do the trick. They provide plenty of storage for everyday items and decorative accessories without overwhelming the kitchen.

Topping the backsplash

Custom wood shelves run along one wall of Sheilaja and Sergio’s galley kitchen. They provide a nice contrast to the all-white palette. Plus, they hold books and artwork that bring a personal touch to the cook space.

Storage for space and air

This tiny kitchen looks much bigger than it is thanks to the exposed back wall anchored with white oak shelves. Upper cabinets have suffocated the space; instead, light from the living area streams in filling.

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