Renovating, especially as a first-time homeowner, can be overwhelming, but it’s also an exciting (and sometimes essential) process to feel more connected to one’s space and infuse personality. For Monique, a human resources executive, a move from a brownstone co-op in Brooklyn to 1,300-square-foot home in Queens was the idyll opportunity to go back to her roots and add even more character to her 1940s-built single-story. She knew she wanted to create an impactful entryway, replace the doors, flooring and add details that would pay homage to Craftsman-style architecture. 

Luckily, she found the perfect contractor, courtesy of Sweeten, to complete the job.

Orange painted entryway before look

Blue and white tile entryway

Before the renovation, the front hallway was painted a vibrant orange, while lime green paint was used for the bedroom. Monique also wished to rip up the linoleum and carpet floors, plus update the kitchen and bathroom, and add storage. “As a first-time renovator, I wasn’t sure how long everything would take or how involved I would be in the process,” she tells Sweeten. “I was glad that I was able to be involved in most of the decisions, even though I work full-time and couldn’t be physically present all day.”

The home, which includes a small front patio where she drinks her coffee on the weekends and a garden, is her sanctuary after a long day of working and commuting from Midtown Manhattan. While she always wanted to live in a Craftsman-style cottage, she knew she wouldn’t be able to find that kind of home in the city and opted to add such charm through renovations. 

White living room open floor plans

“I didn’t realize how much I would want a say in every design choice and how much I would care about all the little details that were going into my home.”

“The entryway was very important to me,” she says. “Moving from an apartment to a house, I could now fully set the tone that welcomed everyone into my home.” She opted for touches that make her smile whenever she opens the front door: Pacific Collection Tulum Tile from Cement Tile Shop, Seafoam paintable wallpaper from Graham & Brown, a Bellacor chandelier and custom steel front door. 

She was elated when her contractor was able to add European-style tilt-and turn-style windows, which are a way to invite the outdoors in, and find the original wood flooring hiding underneath the carpet and linoleum. It was kept and stained walnut, which felt appropriate for the cottage influence. 

In the galley-style kitchen, Monique mixed cooler blues, whites, and greys to balance the champagne bronze hardware. “I wanted a certain set of cabinet pulls that were too expensive for my budget but was thrilled to find a similar version for a third of the price,” she says. “It was these kinds of details that really started to matter to me throughout the process. I spent hours looking at door knobs and faucets, which I hadn’t expected. I didn’t realize how much I would want a say in every design choice and how much I would care about all the little details that were going into my home.”

Kitchen before with yellow walls and wood cabinets

White beaded kitchen cabinets

Semihandmade’s Sarah Sherman Samuel collaboration White Beaded cabinet fronts, a Caesarstone countertop, and white subway backsplash complete the look. Furthermore, the contractor transformed a hallway broom closet into a pull-out pantry. Another small accent, which was a big deal for Monique, was the ceramic crackle push plates for the swinging doors separating the kitchen and bedroom, which she had imported from England. 

While most of the renovation decisions were primarily for functionality’s sake, the powder bathroom was one area she indulged, deciding to install wainscotting in the very tight space. Gray daisy hex bathroom floor tile from Tiles Unlimited NY and the Shawana wall-mount sink were also installed. 

“My renovated space feels like a peaceful retreat,” she says. “I love how welcoming and warm it feels for my friends and their kids to come and hang out. My contractor understood my vision and now I’m able to relax and fully be myself in this new space.”

Visit the Sweeten blog to read more about the rest of the renovation. And to get matched with a contractor for your next project, go to

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We don’t believe that renovations should be daunting. The key is to arm yourself with the right knowledge, people, and products to achieve your goals. It also helps to ask the right questions: How much does it cost to renovate a kitchen? How do I find the right general contractor in my area? Where do I even start if I’ve never remodeled before? This is where we come in. Through hard-to-believe before and afters, first-person renovation accounts, and step-by-step DIY projects, we demystify every aspect of remodeling and give you a ton of full-house, bathroom, and kitchen renovation ideas. Semihandmade was built on a strong make-it-yourself spirit and we’re carrying that legacy beyond DIY kitchen cabinets (though we’ll certainly touch on those too) by bringing you a ton of weekend projects for novices (have you ever tried making your own planter?) and experts (try your hand at a full-wall media center). What do people really mean when they say a house has “good bones”? Before and after projects show first-hand what’s possible in a transformative remodel. How do you make the most of a narrow galley? Should you swap your upper cabinets for floating shelves? What would it look like if you opened up your small kitchen? Renovation ideas abound in our spotlighted projects. A lot goes into a kitchen renovation, but it’s usually hard to tell from a beautiful “after” shot. Our monthly series “Island Hopping” is about getting a behind-the-scenes account of what the process is like through honest conversations—you know, the kind that typically take place around a kitchen island. We’ll chat with designers, homeowners, and architects about their projects, hoping to peel back the curtain on picture-perfect spaces.
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