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It takes some time to get the feel of a kitchen. After so many dinners, breakfasts, even the occasional luxurious lunch, you reach for whatever spoon, fork, or spatula you need, opening and closing drawers on auto-pilot. It also takes time to realize all the things you wish were different about the space—cabinets that don’t make it possible for you to maximize your storage and countertops that crowd easily. So when homeowners Barbra and Sean decided to renovate the kitchen of their Kensington, Brooklyn, co-op after living with it for nine years, they had some pretty good ideas on how they wanted to change it.

And with the help of a contractor from Sweeten, they were able to transform it into a space that dramatically altered the feeling of their entire apartment.

Kensington kitchen before

Before their renovation, their galley kitchen was perfectly functional, but it was the little things that grew to become inconveniences. The space was large, but it was needlessly divided by a wall. There was a good number of cabinets, but they were too shallow to even properly store dinner plates. The cabinet fronts and countertops were dated and wore scratches and scuffs from years of use. Simply put, there was plenty of work to be done, and so they started their process with lots of research. “I never knew how many different types of doorknobs there were—or even realized I had strong preferences in doorknobs,” Barbra tells Sweeten. “Until I actually had to choose one.”

Blue and white bright open kitchen

While the renovation solved the space’s logistical issues, it also provided an opportunity for the homeowners to make a bold statement. Since the layout of the kitchen was already quite classic, they opted for Semihandmade Supermatte Shaker cabinet fronts in Night Sky for the lowers and Supermatte Shaker fronts in White on their uppers. When it came to the latter, they added another twist: Double decker upper cabinets that stretched up to the ceiling allowed them to carve out some extra storage space, nearly doubling what they already had. Now, there would be no issues about where to put the plates.

The rest of the space features classic, refined details: gold bar bar pulls from Amerock, a bronze sink faucet from Delta, white quartz countertops, and white subway tile arranged in a herringbone pattern.

Blue and white kitchen cabinets

White cabinets with built-in desk

Barbra and Sean did decide to keep one unconventional aspect of their old kitchen in their new space: A work desk. When figuring out their new layout, they made sure to create an empty alcove and found a small desk from West Elm that fit perfectly in the space. Leftover wallpaper from Hygge & West that was used in their foyer renovation both complemented the blue cabinets and added a bit of texture to the nook, making it an especially dreamy work-from-home spot.

The opened up layout of the kitchen made the already-bright co-op feel even more filled with sunlight, and a new opening into the living room puts the renovation on full display. Now, after nine years, the kitchen is perfectly suited to Barbra, Sean, and their two children—designed just the way they like it.

Bright open apartment

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.