Modern Kitchen and Bath Renovation in Turn-of-the-Century Brooklyn Apartment

By November 9, 2014Commentary, New Work

Is it a good idea to mix modern and traditional? I think so. I recently finished the design and construction and have detailed the process here.


The set-up: The apartment is small but feels open and airy because it has many light-filled windows. The kitchen and bath had been renovated in the last decade using the cheapest possible materials and a minimalist, all-white design scheme. Most designers would choose a style of kitchen that would match the ornate 1900s-style wood trim in the rest of the apartment. However, when researching appliances, the designs are all super-sleek and modern. I decided the mix of old school cabinets with modern appliances would look terrible. Why not go all modern?


The living room features 22-inch baseboards and thick ornate mahogany window trim.

Ikea or Custom? Tough Choice, Believe It or Not.

I had a very small budget. Friends have done Ikea kitchens and were very happy. After researching the options, I realized my small galley kitchen was not a good candidate for the pre-manufactured sizes available at Ikea or Home Depot. I could do it, but I would not use the space efficiently. In a 7 ft. x 10 ft. space, every inch counts. However, these research missions did provide valuable inspiration.


I created a mood board with different materials to see how they work together. The photo in the center is a Home Depot kitchen.


Ikea’s Red Hook showroom proved to be a good inspiration hunting ground


DIY Architecture and Interior Design Plans

I asked an architect for an estimate to do the whole job but my budget did not allow for it. I decided to go it alone even though it is risky. In order to get construction estimates, I needed drawings with every little detail worked out. Luckily, as a graphic designer, I’m able to do accurate drawings. I used Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to sketch out the floor plans, elevations, tile patterns, electrical layout, plumbing concepts, and more. I also am lucky to have already done three renovations so I am familiar enough with the requirements of both the NYC Buildings Dept. and the Co-op’s board. That being said, I made plenty of mistakes.


A rendering to scale of the kitchen as I envisioned it including photos of the actual appliances. Click to enlarge.


Actual working session with Joaquin Ebratt of City Kitchen Systems


Finding low-priced, high-quality appliances, fixtures and building materials helped me stay on budget


I purchased a Duravit sink (retail $650) and Dornbracht faucet (retail $1,600) from – both for $150.

There’s a terrific local resource that was the only reason my renovation project stayed within my modest budget. Build It Green. Located in Brooklyn and Queens, this reuse center has second-hand, vintage, and remaindered high quality building materials. I went there many times during this project, hunting for the items I needed. My first trip yielded a mint-condition Miele 18-inch dishwasher. I also purchased the bathroom sink, vanity, two mirrors, and the vintage, mirrored bathroom door. I cannot recommend them enough—plus, it is good for the environment to recycle these large, toxic items.

The kitchen cabinets came from City Kitchen Systems. One of the best suppliers in the business. Joaquin Ebratt has a deep understanding of the available materials and price points for these expensive, custom made items. The kitchen appliances came from Yudin’s Appliances—a New Jersey retailer who gave me trade pricing and free delivery, as well as no sales tax. The tile came from Decor Planet— a hidden gem under the elevated F train deep in Bensonhurst. The custom vents came from Architectural Grille in Gowanus. The floating shelves by Sumo came from Smart Furniture. The white quartz counter came from Empire Tile, also in Gowanus. The door casings and baseboards came from Dykes Lumber in, you guessed it, Gowanus. Windows We Are replaced all of the windows in the apartment as well. Lighting fixtures by Lighting by Gregory on Canal Street. Shower glass panel by Rosen Paramount.


You Have to Break Eggs to Make an Omelette

Demolition is a challenging and difficult assignment in a wood frame, brick, vintage, 4-flight walk-up apartment building occupied all day by work-at-home freelancers. Ugh. I found the right team to do it. Marcelo Moya and crew were able to rig a pulley down to the courtyard for hauling debris. He demolished the kitchen and bath, rebuilt it following my designs, and solved the myriad engineering problems that occurred along the way. He’s my hero.


The old tub was only 48 inches long. Modern tubs are 60 inches.


I found a 48 inch tub online at Home Depot. We had to install it three times to get it to fit.


Details like this are cool. We removed the drop the ceiling and boxed in the heat riser. The walnut panel from Build It Green reuse center matches the vanity and the grille has a hinged door to allow for access to the steam valve.


Floating Shelf by Sumo with undercounter LED lighting hidden inside an aluminum track from Home Depot.


The finished results are modern, efficient, functional and upscale in look and feel. I only went 5% over budget. It took 9 months from concept through completion. Now I’m ready for the next kitchen renovation. Click the images below to see large images.

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