Home Care

Creative Home Gym Storage for Small Spaces

A yoga mat with weights set up in a living room.

Maximize the space in your home with these unique ways to hide or disguise your workout equipment.

If you think your living space is too small to include a home gym, think again. All you need is a well-organized storage system to keep your fitness equipment in a centralized place. When it’s time for your daily workout, your gear will be right where you need it to be—and there won’t be any excuse for not getting started! Read on for tips on how to store your exercise equipment efficiently.

Ways to Store Your Workout Equipment

cart with casters

Like to keep your gym stuff hidden? Store everything on a handy cart with casters, so you can roll it in and out of the closet. The moveable baskets are great for holding items such as resistance bands and towels, while the remaining tiers could offer ample storage for sneakers, weights, and other gear.

Retro-style metal locker

A retro-style metal locker adds storage in a bedroom.
iStockForm meets function with this retro-style metal locker, perfect for boosting the design of your home gym while hiding away your gear. You can even use magnets to attach inspirational notes and photos onto the sides of this cool steel cabinet!

weight rack

Eminently practical, weight holders can be stylish, too. This tree rack fits three pairs of weights and its compact profile is great for a smaller workout space. Position this rack on a storage shelf or bench to complement the look of your home gym.

decorative hamper

A decorative seagrass hamper next to a window with a plant and a pair of women’s shoes.
iStockHampers make great fitness equipment catchalls; the trick is to choose a basket that fits your home gym decor. Select a wire mesh design for a more industrial look, or a woven seagrass one for a natural, yoga-inspired vibe.

n entry bench

A small wooden entry bench holding two rows of shoes.
iStockA rustic entry bench can serve as a storage station for your gym equipment, holding everything from running shoes to ankle weights. The best part is, you can incorporate it into your workout routine as a bench to perch on while you’re doing bicep curls or one-leg squats.

Metal bins

Reminiscent of classic locker room design, these sturdy metal bins offer an efficient storage solution for everything from fitness equipment to post-workout drinks and snacks. Plus, the industrial-chic look fits in with many types of decor, gym-themed or not.

Wall racks

A woven hamper sits in the corner of a workout room.
Chad HolderKeep your resistance bands, jump ropes, and weights tidy by hanging them up on a super-strong wall rack. Some racks are designed with solid steel prongs to hold heavy gym items. These units help decrease clutter in your exercise space, while increasing its functionality.

With these creative home gym storage ideas, you can stock up on your go-to fitness equipment while keeping clutter to a minimum—and get your daily exercise from the comfort of your own home.

Did you miss our previous article…

Home Care

Creating a Forever Home: Aging in Place


Fall 2021 Reno Planner, aging in place, entryway
Peter Sucheski

Here’s how you can go about aging in place not just gracefully but gradually—without giving up the house you love.

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

Just about everyone wants to live at home, well, forever, says James Vitale, an Altadena, CA, architect who specializes in disability access. But fewer than half of those age 55 or older and planning to remodel in the next three years paid attention to making their homes age-proof, a recent study by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies found.

This mind-set is changing, however, driving up the value of homes that are safe and comfortable for all, especially in areas that promote walkability and community ties. Call it universal design, accessibility, aging in place, or simply living in place; the goal is to make life easier for people of different ages and abilities, and it doesn’t have to mean adding an elevator (though some homeowners do).

How to Create Your Forever Home

Josh Safdie, an architect in Newton, MA, says, “A fair amount of what I typically recommend in terms of prepping a house to be adaptable over time is pretty invisible,” whether it’s a minor update or a whole-house remodel. Here are some worthwhile steps you can take now, with an eye toward the future.

Make entry access easier

Aim for a no-step entrance, with a flat landing outside that’s sheltered from the weather.

Fall 2021 Reno Planner, aging in place, entryway
Peter Sucheski1. Barrier-free is best. Create a flush threshold, or one no higher than 1/4 inch if it’s beveled or 1/2 inch if it has tapered sides. 2. Add doors at least 36 inches* wide with easy-to-grasp lever handles. 3. A bench offers a place to change footwear and store it underneath. Hooks at various heights, usually 44* to 60 inches, catch coats and bags. 4. Rugs should be laid over nonslip rubber pads, the edges secured with carpet tape. An open aisle at least 40 inches* wide welcomes all.

Consider options for first-floor living

“Begin by assessing what you have,” Steve Salley, an architectural designer in Orleans, MA, tells clients who say they want to move downstairs. “Eliminate any variations in level. Then get a good ‘as-built’ floor plan drawn, and have your designer use overlays on a computer or drafting board to see what can be done without building new space. Start with an open mind—you don’t have to go right to a full-blown addition.”

Of course, adapting existing space can mean “untangling the hold a room has on us,” says Deborah Pierce, an architect and author of The Accessible Home, pointing to seldom-used dining rooms as ripe for conversion. Must-haves include a well-designed full bath (at right); an efficient kitchen (see page 58); sleep space (small is fine, but away from public entries and preferably enclosed); and designated spots to pursue a hobby, read quietly, watch TV, work at a computer, or just gaze out a window. Pay attention to window heights—and views when you’re seated.

First-floor living also means a first-floor laundry. “Right now, move the laundry out of the basement,” says Pierce, who recalls claiming space under the stairs in one client’s home.

Open plans work for different age groups, allowing parents and grandparents alike to hear and see what’s going on in different areas. Pierce recommends creating roomy pathways around the perimeter of living spaces and adding chair rails chunky enough to offer a handhold. For added safety, consider some sturdy built-ins and carpets installed flush with the floor.

Some structural elements to keep in mind: Passageways ideally should be 3 feet or wider. If rooms need to be closed off, French doors can preserve sight lines; pocket or sliding doors can be easier to manage than hinged ones, and provide a wider clear opening. Casement windows may be easier to operate than double-hungs. Flooring should be a single unified plane, without thresholds or steps. “Whenever I open up a space, I say, ‘Let’s get rid of the threshold,’ ” says Pierce. “A level, flush floor improves mobility, while thresholds just collect dirt.” When unavoidable, step-downs should be flagged with accent strips or contrasting colors. When space allows, replace a handful of steps with an indoor ramp, designed to decline an inch per foot.

Create a safer bathroom

Slipping in the bath is scary at any age, and the cause of many injuries. Luckily, a bath designed with safety in mind can still feel luxurious.

Who says an accessible bath can’t look great? Curbless showers with oversize niches are not only aging-friendly but also evoke boutique hotels—especially when coupled with a handshower that slides on a rail, an inviting bench, and warm air from a ceiling heater. Bidet toilet seats, lever-style faucet handles, and entry doors that pocket or slide open like a barn door boost both style and function.

While some homeowners crave a spacious, all-in-one wet room, Safdie argues that a bath with enough room to eventually accommodate a caretaker or a wheelchair doesn’t have to be bigger than 80 square feet. Salley adds that “someone who feels unstable is better off in a smaller shower because he can put out a hand for support.”

Not ready to give up a tub? Drop a deck over it, Vitale says, with extra sit-down space along one side or at the end so bathers can perch and swing their legs in. Properly installed grab bars along the sides of the tub and one on the wall are essential with this setup.

“Put in grab bars with pretty finials,” suggests interior designer Toni Sabatino. Or go for ones that cleverly disguise themselves by doing double duty as toilet-tissue holders, towel bars, or shower shelves.

A sink with a wide rim and a lip can hold toiletries and contain splashes. Wall-hung and console models look sleek and open up space underneath.

In general, aim for shelves that fall between hip and shoulder height when standing—in a cabinet that sits on the vanity top, for example. If there’s a drawer, a slanted insert designed for spices can organize medications. Rocker-style light switches work for everyone.

Non-glare finishes are kind to aging eyes, and a ribbon of contrasting wall tile “steadies the eye, which steadies the mind, which steadies the body for balance,” says Sabatino.

Expert advice

“In a bathtub or shower, you need three points of contact, so two grab bars within reach. I call it the mountain climber’s rule.” —Jerry Allan, architect

Does adding on make sense?

“The rule of thumb for an accessible addition in my area is about 600 square feet, at a rough cost of $180,000,” says Salley. “That sounds high till you compare it with the cost of five years in assisted living.” To create a buffer zone, he likes to design a connector space when adding on, he says, “so you don’t just pop open a door and look at a bedroom.”

Even if downstairs living is still in the far-off future, any addition should be designed for maximum flexibility, with passageways at least 3 feet wide, say, and blocking for grab bars hidden in walls. Aim for spaces that can be subdivided or adapted, or designed from the start with accessibility in mind: a rear addition, for example, with a no-barrier, ramped entry from the driveway, and a mudroom wide enough for a wheelchair to maneuver through.

Your designer should be able to provide a second, just-in-case floor plan showing the family room, say, subdivided to create a bedroom, keeping any exterior door in the public spaces. Rough plumbing can be hidden in a wall and tapped for a future full bath. “I designed one house so that if the buyer later wants a first-floor suite it won’t affect other areas of the house,” says Michael Nikolas, a developer in Norwalk, CT. “I built in extra space in the family room and included a home office, roughly twelve by ten feet, that could become the bath.” Similarly, a side addition that holds a downstairs den or home office can accommodate guests or boomerang children now, and a caretaker later.

If you are adding a TV room or home office, consider incorporating a wall bed—some are designed to function as desks by day—that can open to serve guests today and offer a first-floor-living option in the future. If a powder room is in play, plan for it to be able to expand into a full bath at some point. “We conceived one first-floor plan with an expandable half bath between the kitchen and living space,” says Grant Saller, an architect in Washington, D.C. “We added temporarily fixed pocket doors to conceal the shower compartment so that the doors could be opened one day and the powder room turned into a full bath.”

If keeping the main suite upstairs is a priority, a 5-by-5-foot shaft in an addition can do time as a stack of useful closets now, while holding an elevator later. Newer options for residential elevators­—including forklift-style and pneumatic models­—are putting them within reach for more homeowners.

Make a comfortable cook space

An accessible kitchen is better for all—who doesn’t want essentials within easy reach, and appliances and prep space at a back-saving height?

“It’s about space planning and understanding how you want the kitchen to function in its future life, as much as it is about choosing the right products and finishes,” Safdie says of the accessible kitchen. “It can still look the way you want it to look—there’s no countertop material you can’t use, no cabinet style you can’t have.”

Fall 2021 Reno Planner, aging in place, kitchen prep area
Peter Sucheski7. Make a work aisle between counters or appliances at least 40 inches* wide for wheelchair users, with 54 inches* of open space at the end of a peninsula or island. 8. Wheelchair turnaround space needs a radius of 5 feet* or a T-shape measuring 36 by 60 inches*, and a pathway that turns a corner should be 42 inches* wide. 9. Provide work surfaces at different heights, including a section of countertop 34 inches* high and 30 inches* wide; a table can work, too. 10. Deeper, raised toekicks­—9 inches* high and 6 inches* deep—accommodate a wheelchair footrest.Open plans, already popular because they encourage socializing and keep the cook in the loop, also maximize the flow of light and sightlines. Layered lighting is pleasing as well as aging-friendly. Prep space at different heights also adds airiness to a space, as does a peninsula supported by a chair-accommodating pedestal.

Safdie encourages renovators to build in flexibility. Slide-in base cabinets, installed over flooring that extends to every corner, can come out to create open knee space. He likes KraftMaid’s Passport Series, which includes base cabinets with raised toekicks, cabinets sized to put the countertop at a good height for wheelchair users, and ones that situate sinks, microwaves, and cooktops within easy reach for all. Deep drawers and cabinet pullouts—a boon to everyone—ease the retrieval of heavy pots and dishes.

Frequently used items should be within reach of all; for someone seated, that’s generally no higher than 48 inches above the floor. U- or D-shaped drawer and cabinet pulls are easiest to grasp. Motion-sensing faucets can be a convenience, but they can be quirky, so try before you buy. Here are some other elements to keep in mind:

Layout: While wheelchair-accessible kitchens feature a T-shaped turning space or one with a 5-foot radius, a kitchen does not have to be large to be aging-friendly, Pierce points out. “A well-designed kitchen allows you to pivot from the sink to the stove to the fridge with ease, like in a cockpit,” she says. Opt for pocket doors, as elsewhere, and bring in as much natural light as possible, with windows lodged low enough to frame seated views. Skylights can help, too. Add a pantry if space allows, with frequently used items on easy-reach shelves, an appliance lift, and backup prep space that can be tapped during holidays.Appliances: “Certain ones are easier to use,” says Salley, “like side-by-side refrigerators with lower shelves within everyone’s reach, and cooktops with controls in front, so nobody’s reaching over hot food.” Also kinder to the cook: a wall oven that hinges on the side. Microwaves belong at countertop height or on a cart—not over the range, awkward no matter the height or agility of the user.Prep Space: Work surfaces at varied heights can suit someone who is seated and also people of different heights doing different tasks­—say, kneading dough versus making sandwiches. Rounded corners—on countertops, open shelves, tables—make for safer, easier traffic flow.Floors: Flooring should be durable, nonglare, and slip resistant. Options include wood, laminate, rubber, and some vinyl and porcelain tile.

Expert advice

“Measure your own comfort range for working and reaching things in the kitchen. Investing in an adjustable table allows you to try out different counter heights. Many homeowners find they prefer lower work surfaces.” —Deborah Pierce, architect and author of The Accessible Home

Remember to factor in the subtle stuff

Don’t overlook improvements that enhance peace of mind, says Afton, MN, architectural designer Georgiana Allan. She encourages clients who cannot get out as much as they would like to create “a suite of experiences” in their homes, including the following:

Ways to engage with the world: This can be as simple as an inviting view from a window low enough to see through when one is seated—of a bustling street, a body of water, even a bird feeder. Building in a guest room can encourage others to visit; a home office with a computer and solid Internet access opens a path to virtual travel and museum tours.Private getaway space: This becomes important when two or more are living in close quarters. It can be as small as a window seat boxed off by closets, or as large as a room set aside for working, reading, meditation, or exercise.Dedicated hobby space: Whether you make quilts, pot plants, or build models, it’s another way to enjoy keeping the mind­­—and the hand—­engaged. “If your materials are all in one place you will gravitate to it,” Allan points out.As with many aspects of home renovation, the payoffs of designing with your future in mind can be immediate, says Sabatino. “Make your home beautiful, safe, and comfortable for all—including that athletic nephew who broke his leg skiing—and you will age naturally and gracefully, never needing to have the aging discussion at all.”

Make daily life a little easier

Aging-friendly finishes, fixtures, and furnishings are easier than ever to find­, and the best have universal appeal­. The products here can work in any home, whether you’re starting a renovation or still at the planning stage.

Fall 2021 Reno Planner, aging in place, moveable kitchen island
HELP ON WHEELS: Bring the microwave or cooking supplies into right-where-you-need-them territory with a well-built cart on locking wheels. This steel one comes in maple (shown) or walnut, with wide side handles. Armin Kitchen Island, from $1,999; Rejuvenation

Fall 2021 Reno Planner, aging in place, slip-resistant flooring
SOLID FOOTING: Luxury vinyl-plank flooring that mimics a variety of wood species while standing up to wear, tear, and water? Sounds good, and even better when it meets standards for slip resistance. Optoro Collection vinyl planks, from $2.95 per square foot; Tilebar

Fall 2021 Reno Planner, aging in place, pull-out table
SLIDE-OUT TABLE: Seated workstations build in flexibility in a kitchen. This pull-out table, part of a collection of universal-design cabinets with lots of options, disappears when not in use. Passport Series two-drawer cabinet with Pull-Out Table, from $1,000; Kraftmaid

Fall 2021 Reno Planner, aging in place, night-light
LIGHT THE WAY Night-lights are useful in hallways, stairwells, and many other places. LEDs mean less bulb burnout. This lighted outlet cover directs a constant beam where it’s wanted, while keeping receptacles clear for other uses. Guidelight 2 Plus, $19; Snap Power

Fall 2021 Reno Planner, aging in place, shower grab bar
ARTFUL SUPPORT: A grab bar that serves as whimsical wall art can offer a handhold in the shower while adding a welcome color accent. Made of powder-coated die-cast aluminum in navy blue, neutral gray, or sunny yellow. Sabi In-Shower Brace, $60; Honey Can Do

Fall 2021 Reno Planner, aging in place, adjustable hand-shower
ADAPTABLE SPRAY: Hail the adjustable-height hand-shower that’s repositionable along a fixed rail. It can put the wand within comfortable reach of bathers, whether they’re seated or standing. Rain-shower SmartActive Shower Slide Bar in Starlight Chrome, $381; Grohe

Make your stairs safer

If first-floor living isn’t in the cards quite yet, do yourself a favor and bump up the style and function of the existing staircase.

Fall 2021 Reno Planner, aging in place, stairs
Peter Sucheski1. Stairs 42 inches wide allow for a stair lift or for one person to help another. 2. Aim for treads at least 11 inches deep and risers 4 to 7 inches high. It goes without saying that stairs that don’t meet code need rebuilding. 3. A second handrail, 34 to 38 inches* above stair treads and at least 1 1/2 inches from the wall, allows for holding two rails at once—the best way to travel. A low-pile runner can improve traction. 4. The top and bottom of the stairs should be well lit, with paddle-style light switches 36 to 48 inches* above the floor. 5. Lighted outlets 18 to 24 inches high at the top and bottom, and at stair landings, improve visibility and are helpful should you install a stair lift.

What is an Aging-in-Place Specialist?

Sensing a need—tens of millions of Americans are 65 or older, and the number keeps growing—the National Association of Home Builders created a program for architects, interior designers, and contractors to become Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (CAPS). A mix of technical and business how-to, the certification requires mastering at least three courses. NAHB can recommend a specialist in your area; CAPS typically charge a flat or hourly fee.

Some homeowners prefer to consult a health professional, such as an occupational therapist with a background in aging in place. OTs have their own certification program, known as SCEM. You can add such an expert to your design-build team, or simply seek out an architect or designer who specializes in helping clients age in place.


Whether you’re looking for research, helpful products, or pros to help you renovate, there are many sources to draw from as you plan ahead. Here are some good places to start.

AARP / The American Association of Retired Persons publishes the free HomeFit Guide for aging in place and other materialsNAHB / The National Association of Home Builders offers an Aging in Place Checklist and runs a program to certify builders and others as specialistsNational Institute on Aging / An arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the institute has tips on how to plan for aging in placeLiving in Place Institute / This private institute has a network of design pros who specialize in accessibility, and also runs its own certification programNeed a Lift? / Find helpful overviews of home elevators and stair lifts at RetirementLiving>* Wheelchair-friendly measurements

Home Care

About This Old House


When the first episode of This Old House premiered on February 20, 1979, the show launched a new television genre like nothing ever seen before. Four decades later, the show is still going strong entertaining and empowering homeowners with trusted home improvement content.

Founded by Russell Morash, This Old House is now in its 43rd season and remains the highest-rated home improvement show on television. It continues to resonate with audiences as recently detailed by The New York Times, Salon and The Atlantic. The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has recognized This Old House with 19 Emmy® Awards and 87 nominations.

Chris Wolfe serves as the Executive Producer of the show, John Tomlin is the Senior Producer and Show Runner, and Sara Ferguson serves as the Coordinating Producer.

This Old House is produced by This Old House Ventures, LLC, and presented on PBS by WETA Washington, DC. National underwriting for This Old House is provided by The Home Depot, GMC, Gorilla Glue, Angi, and GAF.

Did you miss our previous article…

Home Care

My Sweeten Story: A Cozy Loft in a Converted School Building

When embarking on his Brooklyn loft remodel, this interior designer stayed flexible

“After” photos by Miao Jiaxin for Sweeten

Homeowners: Alex and Sue posted their loft remodel on SweetenWhere: Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, New YorkPrimary renovation: A full-unit Brooklyn loft remodel aiming to add storage and functionality while preserving the apartment’s “80s loft” aestheticSweeten general contractorSweeten’s role: Sweeten matches renovating homeowners with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.
Written in partnership with Sweeten homeowner Alex

Elevating the best aspects of home

We have been living in this apartment in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, since 2015. It was the first place we lived together, and it felt like a real 1980s loft, which Sue and I liked a lot. The previous owner was crafty—he’d installed his own kitchen cabinets, and the spirit of the place was very DIY. Sue works in Fin-tech and I am in interior design. We didn’t do much work when we first moved in, thinking it made sense to let the apartment evolve.

The apartment comprises approximately 900 square feet. It had many vantage points, which our cat, who recently passed, really enjoyed. The neighborhood seems to have a lot of building conversions—a church here, a school there, made into residential apartments. Our building belongs to the latter group, and was converted more than 30 years ago. Visitors are often amazed at how wide the hallways are. That sort of space is not something you often encounter in NYC.

Honing in on the shared lifestyle

Looking to build on the apartment’s openness, we made a few changes early on. One was removing a spiral staircase and replacing it with an industrial-use stair; it remains in the same location in the current iteration. Another was taking out an idiosyncratic shelving system that the previous owner had installed. We are both utilitarian, and that aspect of our personalities influences our aesthetic.

We also like this word that the Dutch have, Gezellig, which translates to something like coziness. It’s not a style, per se, but achieving it was a driving force for our renovation. We didn’t want an overly designed space, but rather one that felt considered.

Practical launch pad to renovate

We planned our renovation to coincide with the water boiler warranty expiration. Each unit has its own boiler, and you always hear about these things failing shortly after their warranty goes. We figured we would try to avoid becoming a statistic. The apartment was also in desperate need of an electrical panel upgrade. We wanted to add an in-unit washer and dryer and a shower to our powder room. In addition, the apartment lacked, and desperately needed, built-in storage. 

We posted our project, and Sweeten was a great help in providing a list of relevant contractors. Since I work in this field, I did not utilize other services the company provides. I wanted to complete the renovation within an allotted time frame, and keep within a firm budget. Our Sweeten contractors were great to work with; we had a few conversations before the renovation, and they were very accommodating. 

In the end, we were able to salvage the work and it turned out nicely. It felt serendipitous.

Design tricks-of-the-trade

It is always exciting to see a project on paper come to life, but it is especially interesting when you have an experimental client—in this case, ha!, ourselves. Our contractor convinced me that we should open up the entry foyer, which I wasn’t sure of. But in the end I think sacrificing the extra storage was worth it to expand the passageway. We also separated the passthrough between the dining and living space with an oversized barn door, which disappears when retracted.

We employed other tricks as well. Take the painting and color scheme, for example. We applied a World War I ship-camouflage technique known as Dazzle—which was a way of masking the volume and shape of military ships using geometric patterns—to try to make walls and objects more or less vanish into the space. We used black behind the TV to have it blend into the space. It is also a nod to the blackboard that would have hung on the wall in this former classroom.

We stayed with a pretty strict material palette just because it is easier to manage and is also a fun challenge to stretch the limit of the material. For example, the black countertop and black backsplash is actually a paper-based product that is extremely durable. I also used it as treads for the stairs.

Being flexible during the process

No matter how simple you aim to keep it, in any construction project, there will be challenges to overcome. We moved out of the apartment during the renovation, but I went to the job site every other day to make sure we were moving forward. During one visit, I noticed that the contracting team had framed one of the walls in the wrong location. Instead of losing time having the contractor demolish the framing and restart, however, I decided to redesign that portion of the space. I did it overnight. In the end, we were able to salvage the work and it turned out nicely. It felt serendipitous. 

Paying attention to and working within the process always helps, and given my work, I am familiar with the arc a job follows. Our favorite part of the renovation was the end.  

Working from home for the past year, we were able to enjoy the apartment’s ample flow of sunlight throughout the day. It is great to have a space that works so well and feels not just in sync with the building we live in, but with our entire lifestyle. 

Thanks for sharing your Brooklyn loft remodel with us, Sue and Alex!

Materials Guide

LIVING AREA RESOURCES: Paint in Simply White and Black Forest Green: Benjamin Moore. Industrial staircase: Grainger. 

KITCHEN RESOURCES: Paint in Simply White: Benjamin Moore. Kitchen cabinets and hardware: Ikea Countertops and backsplash (white material from Krion; black material from Richlite; Elkay sink and AXOR faucet: Porcelanosa Refrigerator: Samsung. Dishwasher and stove: Bosch

BATHROOM RESOURCES:  Porcelain wall & floor tile; Vanity and sink: Porcelanosa. Shower fixtures and hardware: Hansgrohe. Toilet: American Standard

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten

The post My Sweeten Story: A Cozy Loft in a Converted School Building appeared first on Sweeten.

Home Care

How to Paint a Ceiling


A modern kitchen with a clay colored ceiling.
Julien Fernandez | GAP Photos

Make your fifth wall pop with a color expert’s how-to steps.

Walls and trim seem to get all the attention when it comes to paint makeovers. Next time you aim to liven up a room with color, look at your ceiling: It may just be the key to waking up a tired room, without a pricey remodel. We aren’t the only ones who like a little color on the ceiling. Dee Schlotter, national color brand manager for PPG The Voice of Color Program, considers the ceiling a room’s “fifth wall,” and urges homeowners to remember it when creating a space’s color design.

Tap into the paint potential with our suggestions for adding color to ceilings. Schlotter suggests going a shade lighter or darker than the wall color for a sophisticated look.

Steps for Painting Your Ceiling

Whichever end of the spectrum you decide on, follow her PPG-approved steps for getting a neat paint job for your fifth wall.

Step 1: Get the right amount of paint

Determine how much paint you’ll need by measuring the square footage of the room. Many paint labels indicate how much square footage one can will cover—typically 300 to 450 square feet, depending on the type of paint.

Step 2: Prep the room

Prep the room by removing furniture and ceiling fixtures and using drop cloths to cover surfaces you can’t move. Get more tips on protecting surfaces in our video, How to Prep a Room for Paint.

Step 3: Start with the ceiling edges

Using a stepladder, begin painting the ceiling edges where the ceiling meets the wall by cutting in with a brush, creating a border 2 to 3 inches wide. Perfect the technique by watching our video, How to Cut in Paint Edges With a Brush.

Step 4: Paint the rest of the ceiling

While standing on the floor, use a roller with an extension handle to paint the rest of the ceiling. Work in 4-by-4-foot sections, starting in a corner of one section and using diagonal or zigzag strokes to cover the section’s surface.

Step 5: Apply longer strokes

Once you cover a section, use the roller to go back over it with longer strokes to even out the paint coverage.

Step 6: Paint a new section

Start painting a new section at the edge of the previous one; before the first section dries, work to blend its edge with the new section.

Step 7: Paint Finishing Strokes

After all the sections are covered, paint the finishing strokes in the same direction, working lengthwise across the ceiling.

Home Care

How to Splash a Bath with Color

dding color to a bathroom—in small accents or large splashes—can have a big design impact

color ideas for bathroom

Adding colorful accents to your bathroom when you renovate is a good way to show your own style and personality. These colorful accents can be in the form of vanities, wall paint, and tile.  By selecting your favorite hue and incorporating it into your next bathroom remodel, you can effectively create any mood/vibe you like.

Here’s how some Sweeten renovators incorporated colorways outside of neutral making a trip to the bathroom a happy event.

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

Bold in blue bathrooms


Blue comes in all shades, making it a good color choice to accommodate many design styles. Sweeten renovators Katherine and Chris needed more space for their growing family. They found a promising two-bedroom in Park Slope, Brooklyn, that they could transform with the help of a Sweeten contractor. Their contractor overhauled the bathroom and the couple decided to add a splash of color with a dramatic blue vanity and storage closet.

shower tile

For their 1,800-square-foot full apartment renovation, Dara and Mauricio posted their project scope to Sweeten and found a contractor to update their bathroom. “In terms of style, we tried to reach a middle ground between our preferences,” says Mauricio. “I chose a more eclectic style for the second bathroom: gray-and-blue patterned tiles on the floor and shower wall mixed with large white subway tiles.”

Peggy and her husband also found themselves in a similar situation in that they couldn’t put off a renovation any longer. Except for this couple, there wasn’t a new baby on the way: the bathroom was leaky and in bad need of repair. They wanted to stay true to the feel of their circa late-1800s brownstone, so Peggy selected classic design elements, including a blue vanity.

When Kate and Daniel redid their bathroom, they went spent a lot of time researching different styles online and on social media. They went with classic subway tile for the walls and hexagonal tile in a royal blue colorway for the floor.

Greens with envy

With so many different shades of green to choose from, it is no wonder so many renovators are finding it easy to pick the one that suits their style. Brooklyn residents Gus and Katherine (above) used a clever mix of tiles for their bathroom remodel, which includes a herringbone ceramic in Jadite for a statement wall.

Fellow Sweeten renovators Kavi and David also selected an unconventional tile for their bathroom renovation. They replaced a subdued floor with a cement Dandelion tile in Lawn/Milk. These hex tiles with watercolor edges and abstract white lines depict sunburst.

Allyson, an attorney who purchased a 1920s home in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, also used green to make a design statement in her bath. “I really wanted my bathroom to reflect my love of travel and combine vintage and mid-century modern elements,” says Allyson. Her Sweeten contractor installed shower tiles in a rich aqua green that features a windblown texture—the idea behind them was to make you feel like you’re surrounded by water.

Orange is the new black

wallpaper, bathroom, home, design, renovation

These Brooklyn homeowners turned to a Sweeten contractor to remodel their apartment that hadn’t been updated since the 1980s. A black color scheme was chosen with a pop of color in the flooring tile. They installed black tile on the wall by the sink, and offset it with a geometric tile on the floor in burnt orange.

women general contractors
Liz and Kevin, residents of Los Angeles, were thrilled with finding a home in SoCal. The catch? The 1923 house had water damage that required the bathroom to be gutted. With the help of a Sweeten contractor, they were able to transform the space into a modern oasis. They took a chance and added a striking backsplash to the sink area. “The orange,” Liz said, “felt like a risk, but a little playful, like us.”

Back in black

Today, a lot of home design blogs are touting “blue is the new black” or “yellow is the new black.” But rest assured black is back—and here to stay. Look no further than Sweeten renovator Veronica’s bathroom remodel. She worked with a Sweeten contractor to update her entire bath after she found a leaky pipe in her Manhattan co-op. She was happy to get rid of the outdated beige tile and old jet tub and replace them with more chic options. By painting the walls black, it lends a modern aesthetic to the room. “The bathroom got very little light to begin with, so I decided to embrace the cave-like atmosphere and go dark,” Veronica says.

When Alicia and Ed got a new dog, Roxy, they realized they wanted a pet-friendly neighborhood. They found a 1,400-square-foot brownstone in Brooklyn but it needed to be renovated. The bathroom had broken tiles and much of the space was outdated and in need of repair. For the guest bathroom, the couple selected a black-and-white color palette. The result is a classic yet sleek aesthetic.

Want to see more? Check out Sweeten’s before & after bathroom transformations.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten

The post How to Splash a Bath with Color appeared first on Sweeten.

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Home Remodeling

2021 Cost Guide for a Home Remodel in Miami

The costs to remodel in Miami: Kitchen, bath, whole home, and outdoor, plus resale value and permit tips

modern home remodel in Miami
Whether you own a modern beach-side condo, an on-the-bay house, or a bungalow away from it all on a quiet street, the process of doing a remodel in Miami can be enjoyable—with a rewarding outcome. 

A budget is the start of any renovation, and every project is unique: from materials, adding value and lifestyle to your home, and working with the HOA.Sweeten, a free renovation platform that matches homeowners with licensed general contractors and tracks their project, offers this cost guide to remodeling in Miami to provide a jumping-off point to get you on your way. 

Remodeling costs per square foot in Miami

Here’s a breakdown of the typical costs to remodel in Miami, Florida. The costs are across five categories: full home, kitchen, bathroom, deck additions, and permits. These figures are compiled from Sweeten general contractors and Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value Report

Full home renovation:Starting at $100 – $250+ per square feet (psf)
Budget kitchen remodel: starting at $150 psf or $15,000 (based on 100 sq ft)
Mid-grade kitchen remodel: Starting at $325 psf or $32,500 (based on 100 sq ft)
High-end kitchen remodel: Staring at $650 psf or $65,000 (based on 100 sq ft)
Budget bathroom remodel: Starting at $300 psf or $10,500 (based on 35 sq ft)
Mid-grade bathroom remodel: Starting at $570 psf or $19,950 (based on 35 sq ft)
High-end bathroom remodel: Starting at $630 psf or $22,050 (based on 35 sq ft)
Basic wood deck addition: $40 psf or $13,000 (based on 325 sq ft)
Concrete patio addition with roof, electrical, plumbing, and a cooking area: $50,000
Keep in mind that every professional contractor will want to have a detailed conversation with you. They will also inspect your home before developing an estimate specific to your needs and wants.

Pro tip: Do not wait. The pandemic has caused a backlog in the supply of materials in many sectors. For homeowners interested in renovating, it’s smart to schedule and sign with a contractor to lock in your material prices. You’ll also want to book a start date on the contractor’s schedule. If you do wait, prices will only continue to go up and your material order starts at the back of a long queue.

How much does it cost to remodel a home in Miami?

If you’re renovating a house in the Miami area, expect costs to range from $100 to $250+ psf with $175 psf as the middle range for a full-scale remodel. If you’re aiming for a budget that is in the upper-middle-range, Miami-basedSweeten general contractor Adrian said you can expect to pay over $200,000 or about $200 psf. However, several elements affect this, like square footage, the state of the original home, and how expensive your tastes are. “It has all to do with the finishes,” Adrian said. By finishes, he means the elements you can see such as tiles, faucets, and kitchen countertops. With materials, plan to add to the timeline for installation and materials and labor costs. Using higher-end finishes will push your budget upwards by at least $50,000, he said. With the pandemic, material and labor costs have gone up due to higher demand. “There’s been a 20 percent in materials,” said Adrian.

The budget for renovating an apartment can be higher than house renovations. “If you’re doing a house, often you can work on the weekends,” said Adrian. In a condo, there are tight rules about when construction work can and can’t be done. These hours are put in place by thehomeowners association (HOA) for each building. Often, this means only working within an eight-hour or so window Monday to Friday. This extends the timeline of a project, thus increasing the budget. HOAs might also charge a condo owner a fee to remodel their apartment. 

Disposing of trash adds to the cost of condo renovations. With a house, a general contractor can park a dumpster out the front. For condo remodels, general contractors will likely hire a separate contractor to come and lug construction trash away. This involves negotiating tight hallways and elevators as well as timeframes given by the HOA.  

How much does it cost to remodel a kitchen in Miami?

A kitchen renovation in the budget value range can come in starting at $150 psf or $15,000 for a space measuring around 100 square feet, according to Hancen, a Sweeten general contractor in Miami. To get a new kitchen at this price, it needs to be a rip-and-replace job, meaning a layout of the kitchen must stay the same with pipes and appliances remaining where they are.
Homeowners should look at materials like pre-made shaker-style cabinets and appliances from big-box stores like Home Depot. “I’ve also noticed a trend for concrete countertops,” said Hancen. “These can be cheaper than quartz, but they take more to maintain,” adding that a sealant needs to be applied annually. 

For a mid-grade kitchen remodel in Miami, Sweeten has seen costs starting at $325 psf or $32,500 for a 100-square-foot room. According to the 2021 Cost Vs Value Report, a mid-range kitchen remodel costs on average $73,645. This works out to $368 psf for a 200-square foot space. Almost 54 percent of that cost is recouped in the value it adds to a home. The example kitchen the report gave was 200 square feet with laminate countertops, semi-custom wood cabinets, and a stainless steel sink with a standard single-lever faucet. It also contained a built-in microwave, dishwasher, and custom lighting. Other than the addition of a kitchen island, the layout, such as where the oven and dishwasher were installed, remained the same as the original design.
Sweeten general contractor Domenico, also servicing Miami, recently completed a kitchen renovation in this price range. It included a countertop made from Dekton, a stain-, scratch-, heat-, and UV-resistant material. The cabinets were custom with self-closing doors, which took $40,000 from the budget. The appliances were from GE. 

Sweeten has seen high-end kitchen renovations in Miami start at $650 psf or $65,000 for a 100-square-foot space. The 2021 Cost Vs Value Report quotes $145,718 for this finish level, adding the same amount of value to a home’s resale value—50 percent—as a mid-range kitchen remodel. This included custom cabinets, built-in sliding shelves, stone countertops, and imported ceramic or glass tile backsplashes. The appliances were also upgraded, including a commercial-grade cooktop and vent hood, plus designer faucets and a water filtration system.

How much does it cost to remodel a bathroom in Miami?

At the budget level, expect a solid rip-and-replace bathroom with no behind-the-wall surprises to come in starting at $10,500 for a 35-square-foot room. Contractor Hancen specializes in bathrooms for the Miami area. He has completed a very basic 50-square-foot bathroom for $300 psf, he said. However, this is contingent on the layout staying the same and having no issues like leaks or mold discovered once the project begins. If you’re after this price, stick to a prefabricated vanity and ceramic tiles, which come out to about $2 psf. When it comes to faucets, toilets, and bathtubs, the brand American Standard is a good example of affordable, quality products. “These are the most well-priced materials I’ve seen and the most popular,” said Hancen.
The next step up is a mid-grade bathroom renovation. Expect the starting costs for this finish level to be $570 psf or $19,950 based on a 35-square-foot space. According to the 2021 Cost Vs Value Report, the average cost for this type of bathroom remodel in Miami is about $22,567 and about $644 psf. The example bathroom the report gave was a 5’ x 7’ space and involved installing a new porcelain-on-steel bathtub, ceramic tiles, and a lit and recessed medicine cabinet. A renovation in this vein can add about $12,051 to a home’s value.
A high-end bathroom remodel in the Miami area starts at $630 psf or $22,050 for a 35-square-foot space. According to the 2021 Cost Vs Value Report, the average price in this category is around $70,286. For this budget, you could expand your bathroom to around 100 square feet and can play around with elements like a freestanding soaker tub and a shower with recessed shelves, a frameless glass enclosure, and body spray fixtures. You’re also likely to afford a double sink and double-mirror vanity with custom drawers, and wall cabinets.
The cost of tiles can add up. On a recent project, Domenico’s client picked out a tile that had the appearance of wood and cost $20 psf. Another client wanted a wave pattern created out of tiles. “It was more difficult to install adding to the labor costs,” he said. “Occasionally, breakages happen, so that also needs to be covered.” 

The good news is this is an investment with about 48 percent of the budget added to your home’s sale price. 

dding outdoor space to your home

In Florida, there is plenty of sun and enviable weather to take advantage of by renovating or adding an outdoor space to your home. Many Miami residents will use these spaces as an additional living space and even kitchen. 

For one project, Sweeten contractor Adrian added a 900 square foot patio to a house that had a budget of $50,000. “It was essentially another room to the house without the walls,” he said. It had a tiled roof supported by four columns, which was necessary so the structure could withstand a powerful hurricane. The flooring was Cuban tiles and there were fans and lighting so electrical work was required. According to the 2021 Cost Vs Value Report, a 16′ x 20′  wood deck costs $15,216 and $20,879 for a composite one in the Miami area. If you went for a simple wood deck in a simple linear pattern, you could recoup close to 67 percent of the budget in the bump it gives to your home value. For this price, you could get a built-in bench and planter with stairs and railings.

Permit costs in Miami

The cost of permits, from a typical building permit to electrical, mechanical, and plumbing permits, are calculated indifferent ways. Some permit costs are calculated by square footage. Some are calculated by the value of a project so an exact figure can take some time to figure out. That’s why general contractor Adrian puts an estimate in the initial budget. For example, with a $250,000 renovation, he puts a budget placeholder of $1,500 for the main building permit with an additional $500 each for plumbing, electrical and mechanical, if the project requires it. 

Miami-Dade county covers a huge amount of land and almost three million people. Each city—such as Miami South and Miami Lakes—in the county has a building official who issues permits for projects located within that city’s jurisdiction. Residential permits typically take 30 business days to process. 

These Miami remodeling costs are a launchpad so you can begin creating an initial budget. Sweeten’s Renovation Checklist is a downloadableroadmap to organize all of the moving parts of a renovation. (Don’t forget to include your “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves”!)

©2021 Zonda Media, a Delaware corporation. Complete data from the 2021 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at www.costvsvalue.com.

Remodeling your home in Miami? Sweeten can help!

Post your project on Sweeten and we’ll match you with vetted local general contractors to provide estimates for your remodel in Miami, plus we’ll support you throughout your project duration. Meet with your contractor to develop an accurate budget, and you’ll be on your way to the home you’ve always wanted.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten

The post 2021 Cost Guide for a Home Remodel in Miami appeared first on Sweeten.

Home Remodeling

A Sweeten Story: A Brooklyn Brownstone Bathroom Gets Its Turn

With a new layout, a laundry, and a lot of tiles, this Brooklyn brownstone bathroom was worth the wait

“After” photos by Kate Glicksberg for Sweeten

Homeowners: Isis and Stephano moved into their pre-war home and posted their Brooklyn brownstone bathroom project on SweetenWhere: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New YorkPrimary renovation: Expansion, reconfiguration, and renovation of the Brooklyn brownstone’s fourth-floor bathroom, which does double-duty as a laundry roomSweeten general contractorSweeten’s role:Sweeten matches residential renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering know-how, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

Written in partnership with Sweeten homeowners Isis and Stephano

Purchasing the right Brooklyn brownstone

Priorities tend to shift when moving into a fixer-upper. Such was the situation of Isis and Stephano’s family bathroom. After closing on their brownstone in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, at the end of 2018, the couple and their children moved in during the summer of 2019 after an initial renovation. The house, built in 1899, is a four-floor structure comprising of two units—a family-size triplex sitting above a garden-level rental unit.

It seemed perfect to Stephano, a nurse anesthetist, and Isis, a brand and experiential marketing specialist, who had two kids and a third on the way. They’d been looking for a home to suit their expanding family, and needed room to accommodate guests, including their parents, who frequently come for extended visits.

One factor that had made buying the house possible was that it needed work. “We did small renovations prior to the move,” Stephano said, “but we didn’t complete everything—we knew we had more to do.” While getting settled, they continued bit by bit. But the bathroom, which had been on the “right away” To-Do list, soon found itself demoted. “We’d gutted it but weren’t able to immediately redo it,” Isis said, “because we had to prioritize repairs to the roof and work on the downstairs unit.” The top-floor bathroom found a role as a makeshift laundry room.

Common renovation questions: How much, and How long

During the nearly two years that followed, the family muddled through. “We had everyone sharing one bathroom,” Stephano said—including, at times, Isis’s dad. The limited bathroom space wasn’t ideal for obvious reasons. So when they saw their way clear to start working on the room, they felt more than ready to begin. The couple posted their project on Sweeten and soon met several qualified contractors.

“The biggest questions we had were: How much and how long?” Isis recalled, explaining that, like everyone, they’d heard horror stories of inflamed budgets and timeline extensions. What she and Stephano also asked the candidates was, How well do you communicate? “We know surprises happen that can extend the life of a project,” Isis said. “We hoped to work with a team that could convey all key info that might affect the timeline, so that we could collaborate on workarounds.”

Sweeten soothed jitters in the process, she says. “The company helped us gut-check our initial budget based on the market for our area, presented solid contractors for us to meet, and then checked in to make sure we felt pleased with our selection,” Isis recalls. “I felt good about the consultant who supported us and the insights shared.”

Creating a smarter layout

Once they had made their contractor choice, the project began—haltingly. Isis and Stephano had hired a designer to help them create the space, and brought the resulting plans to the table when discussing the project with the contractor. “The designer had measured, provided renderings, and even put us in touch with vendors,” Stephano said; items they’d already ordered for the bathroom included a barn door, a vanity, and the stone for its two-sink top. Then—a hard stop. “Our contractor,” Stephano said, “realized that many of the measurements didn’t jibe.”


“The biggest questions we had were: How much and how long?” Isis recalled.

The original washer and dryer, left behind by the previous owners, wouldn’t fit in the space the designer had planned for it. The vanity sizing was off, too, and the door from the recommended vendor was too heavy to be installed as intended. “It wasn’t the best experience,” Isis said, looking back on the disappointing start. But they plodded on, fueled by visions of functional space for doing the family’s laundry, and a shower lit by the morning sun, thanks to an existing, well-placed skylight.

Borrowing space to get a bigger bathroom

The original bath had been cramped, and since the new imagined design had it doubling as the laundry room, they set out to solve this major appliance problem first. When they originally gutted the bathroom, they took out the closets originally behind the bathroom. By rethinking how those spaces could work, they were able to take some square footage to accommodate. They rebuilt a closet off of the guestroom and created a custom closet for the appliances.

The 24-inch washer and dryer units they purchased are lean and stackable—the rewards of scouring the market for space-saving solutions. Finding a creative way to fit them in, Stephano said, “took amazing Tetris skills.” With their contractor’s help, they found more square footage by opening a wall and took space from a small closet.

Carving out a bit more room helped with other layout and storage challenges. “The shower is spacious! We added a custom cabinet that can hold all of our toiletry needs and were able to obtain a larger, double-sink vanity,” Isis said, noting that they went custom in the end to find a vanity that would fit.

Their general contractor was a good fit

The aesthetic they chose is a combination of natural wood, black and white, with tiles being the highlight. “Subway tile felt very NYC to us, so we led with that, but also liked hexagon tile for the floor,” Isis said. “In the shower, we opted for all black, which we totally love, and we’re happy with the custom walnut shelving, too.”

Both partners feel proud of the outcome, and the role they played in achieving it. “We took what we’d learned from other projects,” Isis said, “and used that knowledge to work really well with our Sweeten contractor and his team.” Stephano feels that their contractor played a big part in the project’s success. “He seemed to always be available, and was invested in both getting the work done and making sure we were satisfied.”

Having finally made its way to the top of the list, the renovated brownstone bathroom feels fresh and new. “I love the design, and how functional it is for all of our needs, including storage,” Isis said. Thanks to the skylight, the room has great natural light. “And,” Isis exclaims, “I love the custom door Stephano made for us!” Perfectly weighted, and smooth in its roll.

Thanks for sharing your Brooklyn brownstone bathroom story with us, Isis and Stephano!

Materials Guide

BATHROOM RESOURCES: Geometrics 2” hex matte white wall tile; Silhouette black polished 2”x10” shower wall tile; Geometrics 2” hex glazed black shower floor tile; Geometrics two-inch hex glazed black floor tile; and Quartz Jet Black saddles: Brooklyn Tile & Design. Awaken and Purist X Handles shower fixtures and hardware, Adair toilet: Kohler. Matte black rolling shower door: VIGO. Custom-built double vanity cabinet with Urbania door panels in Mariposa: Tafisa. Nicoli matte black faucet: DeltaCarbon Loft Cornwall Metal Beveled Venetian wall mirror: Overstock. Keenan two-light wall sconce: ALLMODERN. Barn door: Custom hand-made by Sweeten homeowner Stephano. SmartStandard Barn door hardware: Amazon. 24” washer and dryer: Samsung

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten

The post A Sweeten Story: A Brooklyn Brownstone Bathroom Gets Its Turn appeared first on Sweeten.

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Home Improvement

Dorchester Triple-Decker Reveal: All in it Together


Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, TOH crew and homeowners in front
TOH’s Kevin O’Connor, Jenn Nawada, Richard Trethewey, Tom and Charlie Silva, Mauro Henrique, and Mark McCullough join homeowner Carol Wideman and her sister Willie (in red) in front of the renovated house. | Mike Casey

The TOH team gives a fire-damaged triple-decker in Dorchester, MA, some long-overdue updates­—and its owner the safer, more comfortable home she and her family deserve

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

Walking past the tidy new fence and neat foundation plantings, climbing the refinished concrete steps, and pushing open the old oak entry door, now brightened with high-gloss burgundy paint, Carol Wideman was filled with emotion. It had been nearly two years since the fateful July Fourth night in 2019 when a stray firework that ignited her neighbor’s house caused her home in Dorchester, MA, to catch fire. For many months afterward, Carol wondered whether her family home of four decades—where children were raised and countless memories made—would ever be livable again. “Before This Old House came in, I wasn’t sure we’d be able to put the house back together,” she recalls. Today, the 1905 triple-decker is transformed. “There’s a lot of history in this house,” says Carol. “It’s been a fixture in our family and this community for a long, long time. I’m so happy it will be here for another hundred years or more.”

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, before and after exterior
Mike CaseyBefore: After the 2019 fire, the house was uninhabitable. | After: A blue-and-gray paint palette, accented with red, reflects the house’s Colonial Revival–era origins. Siding contractor: Diogenes “G” Porto, US Siding & RoofingnThe project, part of This Old House’s 42nd television season, was a homecoming of sorts for the show as well: The inaugural project house, renovated in 1979, is just up the road. “It was a rush of memories every time I drove by that old Victorian on the corner,” says TOH plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey. “Our work back then helped change the neighborhood,” he says of the area, which then suffered from urban blight exacerbated by discriminatory housing practices. “There was a similar goal this time around, not only to get Carol back in her house but also to do our part to keep the community strong and vibrant for years to come.”

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, exterior rear porches and stairs
Mike CaseyLeft: The rear porches were badly damaged in the fire, which caught on the side of the house, shown here. In repairing them, the team beefed up the inadequate existing floor joists with 2×8s. The ground-level enclosure creates ample storage space for garden equipment and outdoor furnishings. | Right: The rebuilt back staircase descends onto a new brick patio, laid in a herringbone pattern to add to its charm. In addition to creating a level surface for the patio, the retaining wall is a place for guests to perch or rest a plate during backyard barbecues. Retaining wall system: Unilock; Patio wall delivery: Landscape Depot; Patio pavers: Pine Hall Brick; Lawn equipment: Kubota; Landscape plants: Wagon Wheel NurseryA happy ending was hardly guaranteed when TOH home builder Charlie Silva first showed up on the scene. Damaged by fire, smoke, and the water used to extinguish the flames, the building was uninhabitable, leaving Carol and her sister Willie, who shared the first-floor unit with a nephew, displaced in nearby rentals. The original contractor had dropped out of the project, in part because of hardships brought on by the pandemic, from labor shortages to product delays. Then there were the vagaries of the insurance claims process, which put a major crimp in Carol’s budget. For one, the insurance company required that the house be brought fully up to code but did not cover the full cost, so there was little to spend on appliances, fixtures, and other finishes. On top of that, Charlie’s inspection revealed additional problems, including extensive asbestos on the existing ductwork. The house’s worn wood floors and paint-encrusted trim also needed attention.

”It was important to me to save certain features of the house—like the original front door—even though I knew insurance wouldn’t cover it.” —Charlie Silva, TOH home builder

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, 2nd floor back porch
Mike CaseyGray-stained decking and blue-painted railings coordinate with replacement vinyl siding in a silvery gray. Siding: CertainTeed; Exterior paint: Benjamin MooreAt least the crew didn’t have to worry about knocking down walls or moving plumbing and electrical lines, since the building’s basic layout would stay the same and much of the demo—such as opening up the third-floor ceiling and walls—had already been done. So they could get right to work restoring the triple-decker and overhauling its major systems, including replacing all the hot and cold water supply lines and drains. TOH master electrician Heath Eastman ended up rewiring the whole house; much of the electrical had been damaged by fire and water, and some remnants of old knob-and-tube were uncovered. Richard worked closely with HVAC contractor James Bouchard on a high-efficiency hydro-air system to deliver separate hot water, heat, and air-conditioning to each level of the house. Ronnette Taylor, a local plumber and fire protection specialist, installed a code-mandated sprinkler system. Insulation followed—mineral wool for the walls and spray foam in the roof.

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, 1st floor plans

First floor:
Willie’s apartment

Though their exterior features vary, triple-deckers almost always have the same floor plan: a center hallway with a foyer and living room out front, middle bedrooms, and the bathroom, kitchen, and dining room in the back, along with an additional bedroom, which historically would have been rented out. Willie’s ground-level apartment, which she shares with a grown nephew, retains this layout, along with original porches at the front and rear.

Floor plans: Ian Worpole

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, entry room, homeowner Carol and sister Willie Wideman
Mike CaseyLeft: Just inside the original oval-light front door is the door to Willie’s apartment; a bank of windows looks onto the front porch. Windows: Marvin; Door moldings: Anderson & McQuaid Co.; Interior staging: Instant Interiors LLCRight: Carol (right) and Willie Wideman take a seat in the apartment’s light-filled window bay.Normally these behind-the-wall upgrades happen first, then the kitchen, baths, and finish materials go in. But on this project the timeline was tight, since the insurer would only pay Carol’s and her family’s rent for a limited period, and the work had to be completed within two years of the fire. As a result, carpenters, painters, and tilers were jockeying for position alongside plumbers and electricians from the get-go. “I’ve never had to share a job site with so many other trades,” says TOH painter Mauro Henrique­—a situation made more difficult with Covid-19 safety protocols in place, which mandated social distancing.

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, 1st floor living room
Mike CaseyIn the living room, a trio of original windows showcase the distinctive casings.Still, the TOH team knew what a deserving homeowner they had in Carol, who has given much to her community over the years. “Everyone fell in love with Carol and Willie,” says TOH landscape contractor Jenn Nawada. “They’re two of the most authentic people you’ll ever meet. The budget might have been small, but when the homeowner is so kind and respectful of the process, that goes a long way.”

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, 1st floor kitchen and bathroom
Mike CaseyLeft: The kitchen cabinets and countertops, installed just two years before the fire, were able to be salvaged. Cabinet specialist: Samantha Elfland, Metropolitan Cabinets & Countertops; Countertops: Boston Granite Exchange; Appliance expert: Jay Ponte, Doyon’s Appliance; Appliances: GE; Sinks, faucets: KohlerRight: A large window with frosted glass allows filtered light into the rebuilt bath. Bathroom design: Amy Lynn Allard, Amy Lynn Interiors; Bath vanity, medicine cabinet: Kohler; Toilet and shower: Sterling Plumbing; Bath vent fan: PanasonicAs the job progressed, nearly every surface in the home ended up being touched. “Many of the plaster walls were falling apart,” says Mauro, “and that was before the electricians started punching holes to fish the new wiring.” He and his eight-person crew often worked from dawn to dusk—forgoing overtime—and spent weeks rehabbing the stacked front porches, a defining feature of the triple-decker’s facade. Each of the fluted columns and hand-turned balusters had to be scraped, puttied, and painted; the finish coats’ soft mid-blue hue was chosen to coordinate with the new silver-gray vinyl siding.

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, 1st floor dining room
Mike CaseyAs on the other floors, the dining room’s period details include a built-in hutch, a wraparound plate rail, and a centerpiece stained-glass window—all now restored and refreshed.

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, 2nd floor plans

Second floor:
Carol’s apartment

Before the fire, Carol lived on the top floor with her sister Dorothy, who has since moved away. Post-reno, she decided to take over the middle apartment, in part because it means fewer stairs to climb. The only floor-plan change is the addition of a laundry room tucked into a hallway closet; a washer and dryer in the basement serve the other units. The spare bedroom at the back of the house will provide a guest room for the stream of friends and relatives who come calling.

Floor plans: Ian Worpole

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, 2nd floor living room
Mike CaseyCarol chose a neutral palette for her apartment, with creamy-white walls. The living room is filled with natural light from the bank of south-facing windows. Interior paint: Benjamin MooreThrough TOH’s partnership with YouthBuild Boston, a nonprofit that helps young people learn job skills in construction and other high-demand fields, a pair of local apprentices arrived to pitch in: Yeren “Jay” Rivera Cruz and Bobbi Jones. The two got a lesson in repairing hardwood floors alongside TOH general contractor Tom Silva, patching holes left behind from the old radiators. They also helped Tom and Charlie install new fire doors in the back on all three floors. “It was incredible to be part of an actual job site and see how everyone has to work together,” says Jay of the six-week experience. “I learned how to use a paint gun, patch holes in walls, run plumbing. Every day there was something new.”

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, 2nd floor bedroom
Mike CaseyThe window trim throughout much of the second-floor apartment, including in Carol’s bedroom, is stained a deep walnut, rather than painted.”Carol and Willie were so happy every time they saw that another room was done. It motivated everyone to keep going.” —Mauro Henrique, TOH painter

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, 2nd floor kitchen
Mike CaseyThe existing kitchen was destroyed in the fire, so it was rebuilt from scratch, with new honey-colored wood cabinets, granite countertops, wood floors, and stainless-steel appliances.With improvements to the front of the house nearly complete, Jenn brought in fence installer Dan McLaughlin to replace the old chain-link with simple black aluminum panels—an affordable, rust-free alternative to the wrought iron that might have originally graced the street. The new fence sets off simple foundation plantings, including lilacs and Japanese hollies.

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, 2nd floor kitchen
Mike CaseyThe light-filled kitchen features honey-toned cabinets and granite countertops, as well as all-new appliances, including a French-door refrigerator with an extra drawer in the middle.In the backyard, a Norway maple that had been severely damaged by the fire came down, creating a roughly 350-square-foot blank slate. Jenn decided the space was perfect for a patio, even though it wasn’t part of the project’s original scope. “We wanted to create an outdoor dining and entertaining area for Carol and her family,” she says. “Her backyard has views of downtown Boston in the distance, so we tried to capture the historic feeling of the city by using natural brick pavers, which have an old-world charm.”

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, 2nd floor dining room
Mike CaseyThe built-in hutch in Carol’s dining room still had its leaded-glass doors, though several panes had to be replaced by Cathryn Blackwell, an antique-glass expert.

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, 2nd floor dining room
Mike CaseyStained glass that was salvaged from the first-floor bay window had been sitting in storage for years. Antique-glass expert Cathryn Blackwell restored it and turned it into a piece of decorative artwork for Carol’s dining room.Since the budget and schedule were both depleted to zero at this point in the project, Jenn corralled donations, including a modular concrete-block retaining-wall system from Unilock and traditional clay-brick patio pavers from Pine Hall Brick. Getting everything installed required one last burst of communal can-do, with the TOH team pitching in to help lug and lay pavers, including Jenn, carpenter Nathan Gilbert, Mauro, Mark McCullough and his masonry crew, and landscaper Fred Pendleton, who put the finishing touches on the job. Of course, Carol and Willie were on hand at every step, assisting Jenn in choosing shrubs that promise three seasons of interest—spring-blooming fothergilla, hydrangeas that flower all summer, and viburnum, whose deep-green foliage turns cinnabar red in fall. The landscape plan leaves room for raised vegetable beds, which Carol and Willie will install and use to grow the collard greens and tomatoes they knew as kids growing up in Alabama farm country.

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, 2nd floor bathroom and laundry room
Mike CaseyLeft: Carol chose large-format subway tiles in a stacked pattern and a mosaic tile accent for her bathroom. Tile installer: Mark Ferrante, Ferrante TileRight: A hallway closet was converted into a laundry room. It’s located next to Carol’s bathroom, so it was easy for the plumbers to tie into the existing water and sewer lines. Laundry baskets: Steele CanvasFrom an area scorched by fire, a new place to grow food and gather with family and friends has emerged. The satisfaction of making that transformation a reality is the reason Charlie was happy to take on the project, and why he went the extra mile to get it done, asking his community of longtime subs and suppliers to chip in extra time and materials.

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, 2nd floor hallway and pantry door
Mike CaseyLeft: The center hallway leading to the kitchen at the back of the house shows off the refurbished pine floors, as well as the dark-stained moldings and trim that run throughout much of the apartment. | Right: A door casing with fluted sides frames the entry into the pantry, which has additional granite-topped cabinetry.

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, 3rd floor plans

Third floor:

The top floor, which served as Carol’s apartment before the fire, will become a rental unit, which will most likely be occupied by a family member or close friend. Swapping solid doors for French doors in the living room created a more open floor plan and allows natural light to filter into the adjacent bedroom, which might also serve as a home office. The rear porch offers the best views of downtown Boston, about 10 miles to the north.

Floor plans: Ian Worpole

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, 3rd floor living room
Mike CaseyThe top-floor living room shows off the original pine floors, which now gleam after being patched and refinished. The fireplace mantel is also original to the house, the firebox long since boarded up. Interior staging: Instant Interiors LLC; Electrical products: Schneider Electric; HVAC: The Unico System; Tankless water heaters: Rinnai; Insulation: Rockwool“When we first met Carol, she was behind the eight ball like nothing I’d ever seen before,” he says. “The only thing that mattered was getting her and her family back into their home.” With the house repaired and refurbished for another century of family living, that goal is met, and more. “I’ve gained a friend for life,” Charlie says. “We already have an invitation for a home-cooked meal.”

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, 3rd floor living room
Mike CaseyIn the living room, abundant natural light streams in from the bank of windows. Comfortable, neutral furnishings will suit whoever occupies the space.

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, 3rd floor kitchen
Mike CaseyThe kitchen is designed to be space-efficient, with the location of the stove, sink, and refrigerator creating smooth traffic flow around cooking, cleaning, and food storage.

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, 3rd floor kitchen, back door view, dining room
Mike CaseyLeft: The cabinet hardware’s nickel finish coordinates with the stainless-steel range and microwave. | Center: The view from the back door frames the kitchen’s white Shaker-style cabinetry and wood-look vinyl plank floor. | Right: A restored built-in hutch, painted a crisp white to match the trimwork and six-panel door, serves up storage and display space in the dining room.

Fall 2021, Dorchester reveal, 3rd floor flooring and bathroom
Mike CaseyLeft: The house’s original pine floors required significant patching and refinishing. When boards were too badly damaged, the crew replaced them with ones salvaged from a closet or another out-of-sight location. Floor refinisher: Josias Lainez, Quality Floor Services Corp.; Floor installer: Shawn McCarron, B&D House of Carpets & Flooring; Hardwood floors: Hunt HardwoodRight: The bathroom has a clean, classic look. Choosing an acrylic tub surround, simple subway tiles, and a basic vanity helped keep costs down. Light fixtures: House of Antique Hardware

Home Remodeling

7 Takes On a Dreamy White Subway Tile Bathroom

In the bathroom, white subway tile is the perfect backdrop for classic or contemporary looks

Image of a bathroom with white subway tile

It’s no wonder why more and more homeowners are using white subway tiles in the bathroom. Its texture ranges from minimalist to custom handmade, while its bright appearance can contrast nicely with many color palettes. They are simple yet versatile pieces that give these 7 Sweeten bathroom renovations a polished and modern look, unique to each homeowner.

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

Opening up a bathroom with a timeless finish

Image of a white bathroom with subway tile and walk-in shower

Sweeten homeowner Mickey wanted to renovate his bathroom for a timeless look that would appeal to the apartment’s prewar roots. He was going for a sleek, bright, and cohesive look.  

He chose clear shower doors to give a full view of the shower and make the whole room feel larger. White subway tiles go from floor-to-ceiling in the shower for simpler cleaning.

Marble-honed subway tile

Image of a bathroom with white subway tile and gold accents

Sweeten homeowner Allyson always intended to renovate her 1920s East Flatbush Brooklyn home to be more true to her creative and vibrant personality. She posted her renovation on Sweeten, which included her full bathroom. She worked with her Sweeten contractor to select pieces that would match the vintage, mid-century modern, Afrocentrist, brass, and natural wood style that she envisioned. With so many different pieces and styles being added, she looked for simple tiling as a backdrop. Her solution: off-white marble-honed subway tiles.

White subway tiles deliver a handmade look

Image of a white bathroom with subway tile and walk-in shower

Nazli and Larry undertook a gut renovation on their Brooklyn brownstone in the Bedford Historic District. They wanted to transform the space into a home that matched the needs and personality of their family. 

Since Nazli’s mom was a regular visitor, they renovated the guest bathroom to be warm and welcoming. One of Nazli’s favorite things about the guest bath is the white subway tiles that were added to the shower walls: “I love these subway tiles. They are just varied enough to give them a real handmade look rather than the flat subway tiles we usually see.” Nazli says her only regret is not using them in more spots throughout the house.

Herringbone subway tiles moving upwards

Image of a bathroom with white subway tile in a herringbone pattern

Janna and her family gutted their “disgusting,” crowded, and crumbling bathroom in Morningside Heights, Manhattan. One of the main reasons for the renovation was that a seven-foot tub consumed most of the space, leaving little storage area and a messy bathroom. On top of that, the appliances were all old and in need of an upgrade. 

Even though Janna needed to update the bathroom, she still had an appreciation for the pre-war building and wanted to maintain that feel. Janna carefully selected the materials to achieve a refreshed and spacious bathroom, without compromising the pre-war aesthetic. When it came to deciding how to tile the walls, Janna’s first choice cost $12,000, something that was not in her budget. So instead, she utilized her creativity and chose classic white subway tile for the bathroom that had a twist. Instead of the typical horizontal layout, Janna had her subway tiles in a jaunty herringbone vertical design. This unique choice added an interesting element to the bathroom, supporting the industrial look that Janna hoped for. 

Freshening up a bathroom

Image of a Clinton Hill bathroom with white subway tile and bathtub

With kids now in the picture, Courtney and Jim needed to renovate their 800-square-foot Clinton Hill apartment to have more functional storage and be more aesthetically pleasing. To update the bathroom, they installed white subway tile in splash zones for easier cleaning. The rest of the walls were left painted so they could have hanging shelves. The contrasting designs add visual variety to the mostly black and white space.

Bevel white subway tiles

Image of a renovated bathroom with white subway tile and bathtub

A bathroom leak forced Sweeten homeowners Katie and Lance to renovate. They took this opportunity to redo the design of their bathroom to better match their refined and elegant aesthetic, while still maintaining a budget. To do so, they chose bevel white subway tiles for their walls and the tub exterior. The white theme gave their bathroom the sleek, polished look they hoped to achieve. The choice of bevel subway tiles also adds an interesting texture on top of the sophisticated finish.

White subway tiles straddle a vintage and modern look

Image of a renovated bathroom with white subway tile and clawfoot tub

An upstairs leak ruined the ceiling of this 1940’s era co-op apartment bathroom, forcing architect Brian Kaplan to renovate. Looking at the damage, Brian knew this renovation would not be an overnighter. So, he turned to Sweeten for help to get it done.

As a frequent business traveler, Brian wanted to base the renovation of his bathroom on all of the luxurious spaces he had seen while traveling. He hand-selected every material that went into the renovation. The result: a bathroom mixed with vintage charm and modern luxury. To achieve a simple yet sophisticated look, Brian chose classic white subway tiles for all four walls from floor to ceiling. The tiling complements the blue accent pieces that Brian chose for the flooring and tub.

Looking to add white subway tiles to your bathroom? A Sweeten contractor can make it happen.

Get Matched With Contractors

See how 7 Sweeten homeowners converted their bathtubs into showers to gain useful square footage.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten

The post 7 Takes On a Dreamy White Subway Tile Bathroom appeared first on Sweeten.

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