Home Care

Best Sealants for Roof Leaks of 2021


Sealants for Roof Leaks
Courtesy Liquid Rubber

Sealants cover roof leaks and protect the remaining area from water and sunlight damage. To learn more about preserving your roof, read our review on the best roof sealants.

Roof sealants not only cover roof leaks, but they also provide a protective layer to prevent water and sunlight penetration. These sealants come in many forms, including liquid in a paint can, liquid in a spray can, liquid in a caulk gun, and adhesive tape. They’re also made of a variety of materials, including rubber and polyurethane. To learn more about which type is best for your application, read our review on the best sealants for roof leaks.

Dicor Self-Leveling Lap Sealant

This product comes with four caulking tubes of sealant. The tubes have pointed applicators to make piping the sealant around the roof’s edges, air vents, vent pipes, leaks, and other areas easier. It also works on roof shingles made of a variety of materials, including vinyl, aluminum, and wood.

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Liquid Rubber Waterproof Sealant

This five-gallon bucket of liquid rubber has enough product to provide several layers of sealant to a large roof. Once it’s applied, it protects your roof from both water and sunlight. It also has a water-based formula that’s free of solvents, volatile organic compounds, and odors, making it safe for you and the environment.

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Flex Seal Liquid Rubber in a Can

This liquid rubber provides both water and UV protection and is non-toxic. Since it comes in a 32-ounce, or 0.25-gallon, bucket, it’s a good choice for smaller roofs or minor repairs. It also has a white color instead of a black one, making it better at repelling UV rays and keeping your home cool.

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Gorilla Waterproof Patch & Seal Tape

This sealant comes in the form of tape. Its adhesive backing sticks to leaks or vulnerable seams on your roof to protect them from water. This particular product comes with one roll of white tape, but it’s also available in a black color and packs of other amounts, allowing you to match the color of the tape to the color of your roof and complete larger projects.

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Flex Seal Spray Rubber Sealant Coating

This sealant is also liquid rubber, but instead of coming in a paint can, it comes in a spray can, making application faster and easier. It comes in a pack of two 14-ounce canisters and has a clear color, but it’s also available in other colors, such as off-white and white. Like sealant tape products, it’s best for minor roofing repairs, such as leaks and vulnerable edges, because of its small size.

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Types of Roof Sealants

Sealants are separated into five categories based on what they’re made of.


Acrylic sealants are designed to deflect UV rays, making them popular in the South and West where roof sun damage is common. They also have a moderate amount of moisture resistance, making them best for sloped roofs because flat roofs tend to create pools of water that acrylic isn’t strong enough to withstand.


This material is highly resistant to water but not as resistant to sunlight, making it best for areas that get a lot of rain and snow as opposed to sunshine.


Silicon-based sealants offer both water and sunlight protection, making them good for protecting your roof from any weather condition. The main downside to this type of sealant is that it’s expensive, preventing it from being financially feasible for homeowners on a budget to buy enough of it to cover their entire roof.


This type of sealant comes as a liquid form of rubber. It’s usually water-based to thin the rubber and make it easier to apply. It protects against both sun and rain.


While most other options are liquid, this type of sealant comes as strips of moisture-resistant material. It has an adhesive backing that you stick onto the roof to cover minor leaks or seal seams. It’s an affordable sealant option, but because of its small size, it’s not meant to cover an entire roof.

Buying Guide

Each roof sealant will vary in terms of water resistance, UV reflectivity, longevity, and application. Read our buyer’s guide below to learn more about these factors, as this will help inform your purchasing decision.

Water Resistance

Every sealant provides some level of water resistance, but rubber, silicone, and polyurethane have a waterproof quality, allowing your covered roof to withstand heavy rain and standing water. However, in order to create a completely waterproof barrier, your sealant will require several layers. Its directions will instruct you on how to do this.

UV Reflectivity

A sealant that can reflect sunlight helps to keep your house cool. This is especially useful in the summer months, as it can decrease air conditioning use and result in a lower electricity bill. Rubber, acrylic, and silicone sealants have the highest reflectivity levels. The color of the applied sealant will also play a role in its reflectivity, with lighter colors being better at reflecting than darker colors.


Each sealant has a varying lifespan, but most last 10–20 years. Tape sealants last this long with one layer of tape, but the remaining liquid types may require several coats, as a thicker coating lasts longer. Proper application is another factor that affects longevity. If you don’t follow the manufacturer’s instructions, you’ll decrease the sealant’s life. Most manufacturers warn against applying their sealant in cold weather, to a wet or dirty roof, or before a storm when it hasn’t had enough time to cure.


Different sealants have different application methods. The tape type of sealant has a self-explanatory application process, but the remaining types may come in a paint can, spray can, or caulk tube. The paint can method gives you a thick layer of sealant along with the quantity to apply it to a large surface area. Spray cans and caulk guns take less work, but they come in smaller quantities, making them best for small leaks.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the ISO certification on my roof sealant mean?

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) created standards for testing how well a sealant protects a surface from corrosive elements. The scale ranges from C1 to C5, with C1 offering minimal protection and C5 offering maximal protection. It’s up to you to determine how much protection you want your sealant to offer, but if you live in an area with harsh conditions, we recommend looking into a C5 sealant.

Can you remove roof sealant?

Yes. You can remove liquid sealant with a plastic putty knife. If you’re having trouble peeling your tape sealant off with your hands, you can also use a putty knife. However, be careful not to damage the shingles underneath.

How long does it take for a roof coating to dry?

It depends on the sealant’s formula and the weather at the time of application, but most liquid sealants will take between eight and 24 hours to dry.

What is the difference between solvent-based and water-based roof sealants?

Solvent-based sealants are highly resistant to the elements, but they’re more expensive and take more effort to apply because of their thick consistency and requirement of wearing a respirator. Water-based sealants are less resistant to the elements, degrading faster and requiring more frequent touch-ups. However, they’re more cost-effective and easier to apply.

To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews Team at [email protected]

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Home Care

The 4 Best Expandable Garden Hoses (2021 Review)

Expandable Garden Hose
Courtesy Amazon

Expandable garden hoses do all of the work of a traditional hose, but they shrink down into lightweight, portable tubes for easy storage. In this review, the This Old House Reviews Team researched the four best expandable garden hoses on Amazon to help you find the product that’s right for you and your home. The products included in this article are available at various home improvement stores, local home centers, and online retailers like Amazon.

Expandable garden hoses grow to their full length when they’re filled with water and shrink when they’re no longer in use, making them easy to store and maneuver around your yard. To help you find the right hose for your home, the This Old House Reviews Team researched the best expandable garden hoses on the market. In this review, we break down our top picks as well as give advice on how to choose the model that’s right for your needs.

Most Lightweight: TBI Pro Expandable Garden Hose

Weighing a quarter of a pound, this hose is lighter than other options on the market. However, its lightweight nature doesn’t impact its effectiveness or durability, as it has a 3750D fabric exterior and four-layer latex core.

Key Features

Available in 50- and 100-foot lengthsBrass connectorsBlack and orange color combinationFive-year warranty

What Customers Are Saying

The TBI Pro’s 4.6-star average rating comes from close to 2,000 customer reviews. Ninety-one percent of these customers gave the hose 4 or 5 stars. Only 6% rated it 1 or 2 stars.

Satisfied customers praised the durability of this hose, particularly in regards to the brass fittings, which prevented leaks at the connection points. However, some customers had problems with punctures developing in the tubing and found that the company was unresponsive to their complaints.

Best Nozzle Grip: Flexi Hose Lightweight Expandable Garden Hose Kit

The Flexi Hose Lightweight Expandable Garden Hose Kit comes with an eight-pattern spray nozzle. This nozzle has a textured rubber handle for better gripping. The hose can also withstand water pressures up to 12 bars and water temperatures between 41 and 113 degrees Fahrenheit.

Key Features

Available in 50-, 75-, and 100-foot lengthsBrass connectorsAvailable in black, black and blue, green, black and green, black and orange, and black and red color combinationsLifetime warranty

What Customers Are Saying

Over 20,000 Amazon customers have reviewed the Flexi Hose, awarding it an average rating of 4.4 stars. Approximately 84% gave it 4 or 5 stars, while 11% gave it 1 or 2 stars.

Customers who liked the Flexi Hose found it lived up to its promise of being easy to use and store, remaining kink-free even when coiled. Unfortunately, some customers said that the spray nozzle felt a little flimsy. They also had difficulty finding information on the lifetime replacement guarantee.

Best Spray Patterns: Gardguard Expandable Garden Hose

This garden hose comes with a nozzle that has nine spray patterns, allowing you to change how the water comes out of the hose every time you use it. The 3300D polyester fabric cover and triple-layer latex core also make for a lightweight and durable hose, while the included hanger and bag allow for easy storage.

Key Features

50-foot lengthAluminum connectorsAvailable in black and blue; blue and orange; blue, orange, and yellow; black and green; and black and gray color combinationsOne-year warranty

What Customers Are Saying

The Gardguard hose’s 4.4-star average rating comes from over 10,000 reviews. About 86% of customers gave it a rating of 4 or more stars, while 10% gave it 1 or 2 stars.

Customers liked the low weight of this expandable hose, especially when compared to a traditional rubber or vinyl hose of the same length. They also liked the affordable price relative to similar products. However, some reported that the low weight and price was achieved by using aluminum hose fittings instead of more durable brass connectors.

Most Customizable: Flexi Hose Lightweight Expandable Garden Hose

This expandable garden hose is available in four sizes and seven colors, allowing you to choose a model that fits your watering preferences. Like the other Flexi Hose model in this review, it can withstand water pressures up to 12 bars and temperatures up to 113 degrees Fahrenheit for long-lasting use.

Key Features

Available in 25-, 50-, 75-, and 100-foot lengthsBrass connectorsAvailable in black, green, black and red, black and blue, black and gray, black and green, and black and orange color combinationsLifetime warranty

What Customers Are Saying

The Flexi Hose without the nozzle received a slightly lower average rating of 4.3 stars out of 5 from around 7,000 customer reviews. About 82% gave it 4 or more stars, while 12% gave it 1 or 2 stars.

Most customers felt that this hose delivered on the company’s promises, with a few even saying that the most recent design was an improvement on earlier incarnations that had less sturdy tubes and connectors. However, some customers also reported low water pressures or leaks during use.

Buyer’s Guide

Before buying an expandable garden hose, it’s important to consider what features you require out of your model. In this buying guide, we will break down length, material, and other factors that will inform your purchasing decision.


Choose a hose that’s long enough to water your entire lawn and all of your plants. If you have a large yard, you may want a longer hose, but if you only need to water a few plants on your deck, a smaller hose will suffice. Common hose lengths are 25, 50, 75, and 100 feet. However, keep in mind that a hose may not expand to its advertised length if your water pressure is low. For example, a 75-foot hose may only expand to 65 feet when hooked up to your spigot.

Fitting Material

The connectors that attach your hose to the water supply and to the nozzle can be made of different materials.

Plastic: Plastic is affordable, but it isn’t as durable as the other materials.Brass: Brass won’t corrode or rust and is more durable than plastic.Aluminum: Aluminum tends to last longer than plastic but not as long as brass.

Core Material

The outer layer of your hose will likely be made of fabric. However, the hose’s core can be made of one of two materials.

Latex: Hoses with a latex core usually have two, three, or four layers. A core with more layers will give you more protection, but it also makes the hose less flexible.Thermoplastic copolyester: This material is heat-resistant and more durable than latex, but it’s also more expensive.


Some expandable hoses come with nozzles that allow you to change the spray pattern. Pay close attention to the product description of your hose to ensure you know whether a nozzle is included. Some features to look for in a nozzle include an ergonomic design, durability, and several spray patterns. Although it costs a little more to buy a hose and nozzle separately, it may be worth it to find the right model of each one.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some of the disadvantages of purchasing an expandable garden hose?

Here are some of the biggest drawbacks of choosing an expandable hose:

It doesn’t last as long as a regular garden hose.Its material is easier to puncture than the material of a regular garden hose.It’s difficult to repair holes because of its fabric covering.

How can I maintain my garden hose?

To maintain your hose, follow these tips:

Turn the water off when the hose isn’t in use.Store the hose out of direct sunlight.Keep the hose away from sharp objects.Drain the hose after using it.

Can I fix my expandable garden hose if it has a leak?

Most expandable hoses can’t be fixed once they start leaking because of the material they’re made of. If you notice that your hose has a leak, consider purchasing a new one.

To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews Team at [email protected]

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Home Improvement

Home Library Ideas for Any Home

A modern living room with a library full of books that are color coordinated in a rainbow spectrum.
Mark Lohman | Courtesy Kristy Kropat Design

Whether you’re a bookworm with a growing collection of works, or you’re just looking to add a smart focal piece to a room, here are some creative ways to create a library in your home.

Have you always dreamed of a library of your own, but don’t think you have the space for one? You can always get creative: A home library is more about organizing a beautiful display for your book collection and having a cozy spot to devour stories than about owning built-in bookshelves or dedicating an entire room to leather-bound volumes. You don’t need a large space, and you may not even need an actual bookcase.

Let’s take a look at some home library designs and ideas that’ll put you right in the mood to curl up with your favorite book.

Office Library

If you’ve got a spare wall in your home office, that’s a natural space to turn into a library. Being in a room intended for getting work done should inspire you to sit down and read as well. Fill up those shelves with books for work and for pleasure.

Faux Library

No built-ins? No matter. You can easily purchase multiple bookcases and line them up around a room to create the illusion of a wall with built-in shelving. Turn any spare room of your home into a library with this setup.

Corner Library

a midcentury modern style living room with a corner bookshelf.
Mark Lohman | Courtesy Kristy Kropat DesignLibraries don’t have to be expansive. A single armchair, lamp, and bookcase can transform any corner of the house into a comfortable reading spot and small home library. After all, it’s about having an inviting place to settle down with a riveting story.

ttic Library

Turn a narrow or slope-ceilinged attic into a cozy little library of your own. Adding some shelves and a comfy chair or window seat can transform your underused top floor into a welcoming living space.

Bedroom Library

A modern bedroom with a wall of bookshelves behind the bed.
Michael J. Lee | Courtesy Platemark DesignSerious readers will want to surround themselves with books all the time, even when they’re asleep. This charming setup ensures that a novel is always within arm’s reach, even when you’re feeling too lazy to get out of bed.

Hallway Library

Many homes have a long hallway or stair landing that’s basically dead space. Put it to work by turning the walls into shelves and lining them with your favorite stories. It’s a brilliant way to kill two birds with one stone.

Nook Library

A home library with a large window as the focal point.
Anthony TieuliIf you’ve got a bay window or space under the stairs (or even a large hall closet), you’ve got yourself a cute little nook library in the making. Just add some shelves, a bench, and a few comfortable throw pillows to make it official.

Sunroom Library

Who says libraries have to be dark and musty? A home’s sunroom lends itself nicely to being a library, as natural light is great for reading. Just make sure the sun isn’t shining directly upon your books, as that can cause the print on the covers to fade.

Kitchen Library

A modern kitchen with rustic wood accents. Books are stored in the kitchen island and on open shelving bringing a pop of color to the room.
Colin Poole/GAP PhotosShow off your extensive cookbook collection with a library situated right in your kitchen. (Even a regular kitchen cabinet with glass doors would work as a bookshelf!) Bright book jackets are a great way to add an unexpected pop of color to straightforward kitchen decor.

Floating Library

Tight on space? Create a floating library on wall shelves above your desk, sitting area, or any spot in the house, really. The best part is that your books can double as wall art—the kind that visitors will notice and want to discuss.

Library Ladder

A library in the hallway of a home, equipped with a ladder that allows you to get books from the upper shelves.
Anthony TieuliAdd a ladder to any floor-to-ceiling bookshelf and suddenly you have a bona fide home library. There’s something so fun and charming about this feature!

The possibilities for home libraries are endless. It’s all about getting creative with your space and personalizing it with your favorite books!

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Home Care

Cordless Compact Routers

Fall 2021 Tool Lab, compact routers, Chris Ermides using a router
Tim Soter

This Old House editor Chris Ermides, host of our Tool Lab video series, introduces the latest in routers and provides pointers on how to use them

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

Fall 2021 Tool Lab, compact router from Milwaukee Tool
Tim SoterStandard features:1. ON/OFF switch; 2. Speed-control dial; 3. ¼-inch collet; 4. Spindle lock; 5. Quick-release lever; 6. Gripping surface; 7. LED lights | Worthwhile upgrades: Micro-adjustment dial (A); Dust shroud (B); Soft-start motor; Instant-stop bit; Edge guide; Plunge base

Milwaukee Tool M18 FUEL Compact Router

COLLET: ¼ inch
VARIABLE SPEED: 10,000–31,000 rpm
BATTERY: 18 volt
WEIGHT: 2.95 pounds [without battery]
• Soft-start motor
• Instant-stop bit
• Edge guide
PRICE: $179 [battery extra]

Fall 2021 Tool Lab, compact routers, Chris Ermides using a router
Tim SoterWith the stock clamped securely in place, Chris steers his cordless router along the stock with one hand.As a rule, cords are a nuisance: They pose trip hazards, force you to hunt for a place to plug them in, and ruin your work if they snag on something. That’s why, among the several routers I own, my compact cordless ones get the most use.

It wasn’t always so. When cordless routers were first introduced in 2009, their performance was less than stellar. Motors bogged down in dense stock, and batteries lost steam in long runs; the tools simply couldn’t keep up with their corded cousins. But with more powerful batteries and brushless motors, performance is no longer an issue. Now, even without a cord, the latest generation of compact routers—a.k.a. trim or palm routers­—are up to any task their corded counterparts can handle, including hinge mortising, flush-trimming, and edge profiling.

Because of their small size, these tools are mostly used one-handed, so they’re easy to control, and they allow you to adjust your grip and body position to ensure the best line of sight to the bit. Which means cordless compact routers are not only more convenient than their plug-in predecessors, they’re actually safer to use.

Guide to 18-volt Cordless routers

Makita 18V LXT Compact Router XTR01Z

Fall 2021 Tool Lab, compact router from Makita
Tim SoterMost complete kit

THE DETAILS: The electronically controlled, brushless motor matches torque and rpm to the demands of the work; it maintains a constant speed for all routing tasks. Two-step on/off switches eliminate the chance of an accidental start. The height of the bit is adjusted with smooth rack-and-pinion gearing—scales etched into the aluminum motor housing show the depth setting. Two bright LEDs illuminate the bit and the base.

NO-LOAD SPEED: 10,000–30,000 rpm
WEIGHT: 4.6 pounds [with battery]
FEATURES: LED light, soft start
ACCESSORIES: Kit includes edge guide, plunge base, trimmer base, two batteries, and charger.

DEWALT DCW600B 20V MAX Compact Router

Fall 2021 Tool Lab, compact router from DeWalt
Tim SoterPowerful performer

THE DETAILS: While its bit speeds look low, this router’s motor packs plenty of torque; it can tackle most any job without bogging down. Its soft-start feature eliminates jumps when you turn the tool on, and it stops turning the instant power is shut off. You set bit depth by twisting the tool’s motor housing. A clear Lexan base, the largest in this group, provides reassuring stability and open sight lines. The big motor means the tool’s grip might be too large for some hands.

NO-LOAD SPEED: 16,000–25,500 rpm
WEIGHT: 2.6 pounds [without battery]
FEATURES: LED light, soft start
OPTIONAL ACCESSORIES: Plunge base, dust shroud
PRICE: $199 [battery extra]

Ryobi P601 18V ONE+ Palm Router

Fall 2021 Tool Lab, compact router from Ryobi
Tim SoterGreat value

THE DETAILS: This single-speed tool doesn’t have the sophisticated motor-control technology of the other routers, but the bit’s high rpm will get the job done. The housing is die-cast aluminum, and the base is clear Lexan, for good bit visibility. Users with big hands will find there’s limited space under the battery to grip the tool comfortably. on/off switches placed front and rear make it easy to use with either hand. This tool’s micro adjustment allows you to set bit depth in precise 1⁄128-inch increments.

NO-LOAD SPEED: 29,000 rpm
WEIGHT: 2.8 pounds [without battery]
ACCESSORIES: None offered
PRICE: $69 [battery extra]

Fall 2021 Tool Lab, compact router technique illustration
Ian Worpole

Technique basics

Turn it on and let the bit come up to speed. Place the router’s base on the workpiece, then slowly slide the bit into the edge of the stock. Because the bit spins clockwise, you move the router so the bit’s cutting edges spin into the stock: from left to right when the bit is on the right edge of the stock; from right to left when the bit is on the stock’s left edge.

1. Remove the battery.
2. Engage the spindle lock; using a wrench, turn the collet counterclockwise to loosen it.
3. Insert the bit until it bottoms out. Then pull it out slightly—1/8 inch, at least—so the collet can tighten fully.
4. Reengage the spindle lock. Tighten the collet clockwise by hand, then with a wrench.

Edge Shapers

All compact cordless routers use bits with 1/4-inch shanks. Look for ones with carbide edges, which stay sharp much longer than all-steel bits. Here are the four I use most often.

Fall 2021 Tool Lab, 4 compact router bits
Trims back overhanging edges of countertop laminates, edge-veneer tape, and applied, solid-
wood edges.

Removes sharp corners. A second pass on a board’s opposite face creates a bullnose profile. Lowering its depth makes a quarter-round bead.

Carves an L-shaped edge that increases the surface area of a glued joint. Commonly used in cabinetry projects.

Faster than a chisel, it cuts flat-bottomed mortises for door hinges. To guide the bearing, you need to make a template thick enough for the bearing to ride against it.

Fall 2021 Tool Lab, compact routers, Chris Ermides using a router
Tim Soter

Cordless router safety

Check that the bit is firmly secured in the collet. Verify that the motor body is locked into the base.Secure the workpiece with a clamp. Keep clothing and hands away from the spinning bit.Always wear eye and hearing protection. Wait until the bit stops completely before setting the router down.

Prevent router blemishes


Fall 2021 Tool Lab, compact router in use
Tim SoterFast-spinning router bits (and stiff bearings) create so much friction, they can leave burn marks in the wood. Here are some ways to prevent them:

Dial back the bit’s speed. Move the bit through the material more slowly.Use a climb cut (see below) to remove less material with each pass. Put a drop of oil on the bearing. If that doesn’t work, replace the bearing.TEAR-OUT

Fall 2021 Tool Lab, compact router in use
Tim SoterStandard routing technique can cause wood to splinter or tear out when the bit goes across the grain, as shown. To prevent this, make a “climb cut”: Push the router slowly in the “wrong” direction across the vulnerable edge to limit the bit’s cutting depth. When climb-cutting, be sure to hold the router with two hands because it will want to jump. After rounding the corner, finish the cut as you normally would.

Fall 2021 Tool Lab, compact router edge guide
Tim Soter

The edge guide

All routers need a way to keep the bit from wandering. Often it’s a bearing that rides on the edge of the work. But when routing dadoes, you need an edge guide, above, to keep the bit going straight. Just hold the guide firmly against the edge of the work as you push the router along. To avoid tear-out at the end of the cut, clamp a scrap piece across the bit’s exit point.

Home Care

Renovating Design Trends in Los Angeles

From efficient ADUs to spa-like bathrooms, home interior design in Los Angeles points to simplicity, utility, and going traditional

Modern living room with black painted fireplace and pattern rug
Above) Sweeten renovators and actor Jaime Ray Newman and Guy Nattiv’s LA renovation

Changes and challenges: Home interior design in Los Angeles

Diversity is king when it comes to home interior design in Los Angeles. The city has a sense of history, with styles spanning Spanish Colonial to Mission Revival, Beaux-Arts to Art Deco, Hollywood Regency to streamline 1930s modern. The desire to preserve those design styles is strong, as is the need to make homes liveable for today. Nationwide, COVID-19 inspired a shift in homeowner priorities, what rooms and features are important. Fortunately, for LA contractors and designers, remodeling has not missed a beat.

“We didn’t really see much of a change,” said Sweeten general contractor Trevor, who is based in LA. “It’s just a redirect.”

The challenge is more about materials shortages, delays, and rising costs “The cost of lumber is affecting building,” said Trevor. Sheet plywood, for example, has jumped from $18 to around $50, he said. “People are asking for alternatives to lumber, like tin framing used in commercial.”

Here, we review the rising trends in home design and remodeling in Los Angeles (plus a few design favorites that are here to stay.)

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

renewed focus on outdoor living

“A lot more people are fixing their exterior,” said Trevor. “People want to spend money on outdoor hardscapes, swimming pools. In LA, that’s where you spend 60 percent of your time.”

LA-based designer Jeanne Chung agreed. “It’s all about indoor-outdoor living,” she said. NanaWalls, which fold in and extend the indoor space out to patios, are very popular. “They double the square footage of eating and entertaining areas,” said Jeanne.

The bonus of adding windows, especially large ones to foster the indoor/outdoor connection is gaining more natural light.

Homeowners are also investing in outdoor rooms. Pools, water features, outdoor kitchens, firepits, and extensive seating and dining areas are high on wish lists. Materials are more organic, “definitely going back to nature.” Trevor is using a lot of textured cement, stamped, and honed finishes. “A salt finish really is big. With mid-century, there’s a lot of tile work. We do ipe wood outdoors and a type of red hardwood that is slightly less hard than ipe, but about half the price.”

DUs and additions for more square footage

One rising trend for home interior design in Los Angeles is remodeling ADUs (accessory dwelling units). “It’s generating the biggest buzz,” said Trevor. These detached structures, often garages, are repurposed as guest houses, rentals, or home offices.

Many of her clients are adding to the existing footprint. “They’re knocking out walls to create a little extra space, as in bathrooms, for example.”

Modern living room with glass walls and modern gray fireplace
Above) Sweeten renovators Kirsty and David’s Mid-City/Miracle Mile home in LA

“You can build a second story,” said Sweeten contractor Trevor. “It’s contingent on the footprint of the existing structure. A lot are pushed outside of the setback, so they go high vertically. People are going for the max. It’s getting a lot of value on the price for square foot.”

Keeping kitchens fresh and updated

“It’s where you get the most bang for the buck,” said Trevor. The remodel here may happen more frequently than in other parts of the country. Apparently, design fatigue sets in earlier. He has returned to kitchens remodeled just two years before for a refresh. “It’s like changing wardrobes.”

LA kitchens tend to be large, mostly open plan, and gourmet with top-of-the-line professional appliances. But there’s not as much carving, ornate moldings, over-the-top use of stones. Instead, there’s more of a creative mix of materials. At the same time, the goal is more making it your own with custom looks—tile backsplashes, bold color ranges, and stove hoods.

Boho kitchen with verde stone blend backsplash
Above) A verde stone blend backsplash in a LA renovation by designer Jeanne Chung. Photos by Peter Chistiansen Valli.

Cabinets. Simple clean-lined styles are flat-panel and frameless. Hardware is modern, sculptural, or jewelry-like. Otherwise, there are hidden touch latches. Wood is finding competition in painted finishes, mostly in soothing livable shades.Color is taking a turn. Moody, dark colors—black, deep blues, and bottle greens—are ramping up, said Sweeten contractor Trevor. They pair well with burnished or brushed gold. “I do a lot of antiqued blue—like a muted denim—with brass pulls,” he said.Lighter woods seem to suit the lighter mood of interiors. That goes for cabinets as well as flooring. Wide plank wood floors are on trend—with an average of 7″—and in French oak whitewashed finishes, cappuccino, some with a hint of gray.Porcelain and quartz are gaining in popularity because of the similar looks to stone without the maintenance. Large slabs and large format tiles offer a seamless installation with no grout lines to break up the design. Matte finishes have overtaken shiny ones.“Here in LA, my clients don’t want polished,” said Jeanne. “I am using concrete-looking porcelain slabs and cement tiles.” Jeanne seals her concrete to guard against staining because it’s pretty porous.

Island culture. Some islands are getting bigger, some are multi-level for different functions. Waterfall sides on islands are popular.Appliances. Pro-style ranges favor stylish brands like Wolf, Monogram, LaCornue, and Lacanche. The desire to cook healthy promotes features like special burners for woks, steam cooking. Some ranges even have an integrated sous vide. The slow cooking in a vacuum-sealed bag retains more nutrients, uses less oil, fat, and salt.Gold touch. LA homeowners are opting more for burnished and brushed gold finishes in cabinet hardware, faucets, and lighting. Some appliance manufacturers now include brass pulls as options. But mixing gold, especially with black matte, is very chic. Mixing metals adds interest to the design, especially in kitchens, where there is a lot of cabinetry.

The spa bath is redefined

Freestanding tubs provide a visual tour de force. Most often they are made of stone, porcelain, quartz, or resin, so the shape lends a sculptural note. Large curbless walk-in showers are distinguished with surface materials. Linear drains are trending because they are more aesthetically pleasing. Rain showers are favored, but you won’t find multiple showerheads due to water restrictions. Floors often are radiant heated.

Bathroom with modern bronze hanging vanity mirror
Above) Variations of brass finishes in this LA renovation by designer Jeanne Chung. Photos by Peter Christiansen Valli.

The divide—choosing between tub and shower—is more about personal preferences. Many see the sculptural artistry of the tub as adding to the return-on-investment. Radiant heated is also a value-added. An alternative to slab stone walls is large format porcelain tile. These tiles, with a range in looks that mimic various stones, come in similar slab formats.

More than ever, the bath is considered an oasis. The overall style may be elegant, but again, the overall look is simplified, with cleaner, more modern lines.

Ensuite bedrooms are preferred to mega-size closets

Jeanne said her clients would rather have larger bedrooms with sitting areas than supersized closets. Still, walk-in closets are on remodeling wish lists.

Storage is key

Unseen compartments in drawers or cubbies in cabinetry and built-in benches corral stuff to keep spaces visually clean.

Modern kitchen with exposed beams and stacked washer dryer
Above) Sweeten renovators Amy and Kevin’s Westchester home in LA

Mudrooms are still going strong

Although some trend forecasters suggest the demise of these transitional spaces for hanging coats and dropping gear, Jeanne said not so in LA. “Especially with the pandemic,” she said, “There’s a desire for bigger mudrooms. It’s a like a decontamination area—coming into the home, taking off all your grimy stuff.” Typical layouts include hanging storage behind doors, cubbies, benches for putting on shoes or boots. Some incorporate pet stations.

There’s an uptick in requests for libraries

“It’s a very popular room right now,” said Sweeten contractor Trevor. “It’s only going to get more popular. I’ve had three customers recently tell me they want libraries—real traditional, with everything built in.”

Home offices are making a comeback

The Zoom fatigue is real, but so is the realization that the backdrop for those visual calls needs to step up. Jeanne recently had a request from a wife to make her husband’s office more fashionable—because of his frequent video calls.

Ongoing remodeling trends consistent in LA

Going green and sustainability is much more in demand with a more conscious effort to utilize eco-friendly materials as well as those that save energy.Smart home. Automation adjusts to temperature, controls lighting, and security. Smart devices even monitor cooking.A few things to consider when remodeling in LA: seismic codes that require tall stem walls, slab on grade with thick foundations in order to guard against earthquake damage. Also, water restriction dictates the kinds of showers allowed.

Classic and traditional design emerges

When it comes to home interior design in Los Angeles, Trevor also said that there appears to be a return to more traditional design.

“Mid-century modern has always been huge like ranch home designs,” he said. “But traditional design is coming back—I would call it a mix between mid-century, Dutch, and American traditional. Recently I’ve been seeing yellow and some of the 70s colors coming back.”Statement decorating is hot. It’s part of the remodel plan. It could be a feature wall, a painted mural, or wallcovering. It could be a pop of color in a professional range or a graphic patterned tile on a backsplash. Outdoors, it might be a pergola, water, or fire feature.There’s an appreciation for artisanal looks. Handmade tiles, handcrafted hardware lend personality to interiors. Some renovation inspiration comes from restaurant and hotel design.“Simplicity—we’re definitely going in that direction,” said Sweeten contractor Trevor. “Not so much baroque-style with lots of moldings. People are going functional. They want hip and stylish.” There’s a minimalist sensibility, but not in the spare extreme.California style—with a modern or rustic refined look—still is strong, with lighter bleached look woods and ceiling beams.

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 Renovating Design Trends in Los Angeles appeared first on Sweeten.

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Home Improvement

How to Build a Console Cabinet

Fall 2021, Easy DIY, console cabinet, finished
Jenn Largesse

Using pocket-hole joinery and plywood from the home center, This Old House DIY expert Jenn Largesse shares the steps she used to turn a complex build into an easy assembly

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

Why do we build? For me, the motivation is often practical: I see a piece of furniture that I love, but can’t abide the hefty price.

Take this console cabinet, for example. I spotted a similar one online for $325. I loved its striking black color and cane door and drawer- front details. So I snapped a photo and did some research. My penny-pinching instincts again proved correct: I found that I could build it for about half the cost of the original.

That was motivation enough for me to sketch out a plan and head to the home center to pick up some materials. Back in my workshop, I cranked up the music and was ready to make some sawdust. By the end of the following day, I had my own handsome cabinet with plenty of storage space for family-night puzzles and board games—proving that, with the right tools and a little bit of effort, you can create a functional, quality piece of furniture that doesn’t drain your bank account.

Fall 2021, Easy DIY, console cabinet, illustration
Peter Sucheski

Working with cane

Made from the inner bark of the rattan palm, cane first gained popularity in the 1600s as a lightweight alternative to solid wood. For the frames of the door and drawer fronts, I chose a woven, open-mesh cane with holes spaced ½ inch on center. The sheets sold in most crafts stores are too small to cover my cabinet’s door and drawers, so I ordered a roll online, making sure it could cover the full width of each opening, and overhang all sides by at least an inch.


Soak the cane panels in lukewarm water for 30 minutes before stapling them in place. As the fibers dry, they shrink to a tight fit.

Step 1 – Prep the parts

Fall 2021, Easy DIY, console cabinet, step 1
Jenn LargesseUsing the cut list, have the home center break down a 4-by-8-foot sheet of plywood. At home, cut the plywood and 1x2s to length on a miter saw. Use a circular saw to rip the top and supports to width and to taper the bottom 3 inches of each leg. Then use a pocket-hole jig (above) to drill through-edge holes where needed.

Step 2 – Assemble the sides

Fall 2021, Easy DIY, console cabinet, step 2
Jenn LargesseGlue and clamp 1×2 Legs to the plywood sides, then secure them with pocket-hole screws, as shown. Run glue along the back of the 1×2 trim. Turn the sides over and glue the trim between the legs, flush with the sides, top and bottom. Flip the sides over and shoot nails through the plywood and into the trim to secure it in place.

Step 3 – Attach the base

Fall 2021, Easy DIY, console cabinet, step 3
Jenn LargesseGlue the 1×2 trim to the front edge of the base so the trim’s top edge is flush with the base. Drive pocket-hole screws through the base to secure the trim. Now mark a line on the inside of the sidewalls 1½ inches from their bottom edges. Attach the base assembly to the sidewalls below these lines using glue and pocket-hole screws, as shown.

Step 4 – Install drawer supports

Fall 2021, Easy DIY, console cabinet, step 4
Jenn LargesseFit them between the sides, flush with their front and back edges; set the top pair flush with the sides’ top edges. Glue and pocket-screw each joint. Mark a centerline, front to back, across the supports. Set an upright divider on the line’s left side; drive wood screws into it through the supports and base. Fasten the middle supports, as shown.

Step 5 – Attach the top

Fall 2021, Easy DIY, console cabinet, step 5
Jenn LargesseWith the top upside down on the work surface, position the base assembly on it, flush with its back edge and centered along its width. Drill 1-inch-deep pilot holes through the supports and into the top (for a depth guide, wrap tape around the drill bit). Drive wood screws through the holes in the supports and into the top’s underside.

Step 6 – Assemble the door and drawer-front frames

Fall 2021, Easy DIY, console cabinet, step 6
Jenn LargesseDrill two pocket holes at the end of each 1×2 rail. Apply glue to the ends of the door rails, position them between the stiles, then clamp each joint to hold the faces flush while driving a pocket-hole screw into each hole, as shown. Do the same for both drawer-front frames.

Step 7 – Build the drawers

Fall 2021, Easy DIY, console cabinet, step 7
Jenn LargesseUse a circular saw to cut the drawer pieces. Drill pocket holes through the front and side edges of the base, the bottom and side edges of the back, and the front edge of the drawer’s sides. Glue and pocket-hole screw the back and base between the sides, as shown.

Step 8 – Paint the cabinet

Fall 2021, Easy DIY, console cabinet, step 8
Jenn LargesseHide the exposed plywood edges with iron-on, edge-veneer tape, then trim it flush with a utility knife. Sand the wood surfaces with an orbital sander; wipe away the sawdust with a tack cloth. Using a foam roller and paintbrush, apply two coats of paint to every surface you can reach, including the drawer fronts, door frame, and back panel.

Step 9 – Attach the cane panels

Fall 2021, Easy DIY, console cabinet, step 9
Jenn LargesseSoak the cane for 30 minutes in warm water, then cut it to size with scissors so it’s about an inch longer than the door opening’s height and width. Do the same for the drawer panels; leave each one 18 inches wide. Center the cane; secure its edges to the back of each frame with staples. Trim the excess with a utility knife and let it dry.

Step 10 – Install the doors

Fall 2021, Easy DIY, console cabinet, step 10
Jenn LargessePlace no-mortise hinge leaves on the edge of the door frame. Drill pilot holes through the hinge holes into the door edge, followed by screws. On the door’s right front edge, center and install a pull. Fit the door inside the opening; level it using a shim, as shown. Drive screws through the remaining hinge-leaf holes and into the front legs.

Step 11 – Install the drawers

Fall 2021, Easy DIY, console cabinet, step 11
Jenn LargesseScrew a pull to each drawer front’s top edge. Separate the slides; screw their inner halves, centered vertically and flush with the front, to the sides of both drawers. Rejoin the slides. Set the drawers in their openings on ¾-inch blocks. Pull them open slightly to reveal the slide holes; screw them to the sides. Fasten the drawer fronts to their boxes.

Step 12 – Attach the back panel

Fall 2021, Easy DIY, console cabinet, step 12
Jenn LargessePosition the panel against the back edge of the top support and the back edge of the base. Slide it down and mark the location of the center wall, and to the side to mark the location of the horizontal support. Move the panel back into position and nail it to the supports, the center wall, and the base using a brad nailer and ¾-inch nails.


¾” by 4’ by 8’ plywood panelFive 1×2 boards, 8’ long1/8” by 4’ by 8’ hardboard panelThree edge-style cabinet pullsTwo 3-inch no-mortise hingesFour 12-inch drawer slides1¼-inch wood screws1¼-inch pocket-hole screws¾-inch brad nails25 feet edge-veneer tape½-inch open-mesh cane, 18”-wide roll by 4’3⁄8-inch staplesWood glueTack clothMatte black paint-and-primer

Cut list

3/4-inch plywood top: one @ 45 inches W x 14 1/2 inches D 3/4-inch plywood side panel: two @ 12 inches D x 26 3/4 inches H3/4-inch plywood base: one @ 12 inches D x 39 inches W3/4-inch plywood center wall: one @ 12 inches D x 24 1/2 inches H3/4-inch plywood drawer supports: two @ 3 3/4 inches D x 19 1/2 inches W3/4-inch plywood top supports: two @ 4 inches D x 39 inches W

3/4-inch plywood drawer sides: four @ 12 inches D x 10 inches H3/4-inch plywood drawer base: two @ 12 inches D x 17 inches W3/4-inch plywood drawer back: two @ 9 ¼ inches H x 17 inches W

1×2 legs: four @ 29 3/4 inches1x2 sidewall trim: four @ 12 inches1x2 front trim: one @ 39 inches

1×2 door frame rails: two @ 16 1/4 inches1x2 door frame stiles: two @ 25 inches1x2 drawer frame rails: four @ 16 1/4 inches1x2 drawer frame stiles: four @ 12 1/2 inches

1/8-inch hardboard panel: one @ 26 inches H x 39 inches W


Home Improvement

Concord Country Cape: New Meets Old

Fall 2021, TOH TV project, Concord Country Cape, architectural rendering
Michael Svirsky

A bold modern addition shakes up a traditional Cape in a historic Massachusetts town

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

Shown: Architect Andrew Sidford’s design for the renovated house marries the 1880s Cape with a modern extension that features high ceilings and walls of windows. New spaces will deliver more light, air, and access to the natural attractions in the back of the property.

Every time Megan and I come here, we’re reminded that this is definitely where we want to raise our family,” says Lincoln Pasquina of the 1880s Cape Cod–style house in Concord, MA. One reason is the land: three sloping acres with a meadow and woods, bordering a horse farm with a pond. Another is the house itself, an antique Cape that reminds Lincoln of his childhood on Boston’s North Shore, and marks a return for his wife, Megan, to the town where she grew up.

Fall 2021, TOH TV project, Concord Country Cape, before
Meg ReinhardtShown: Sited on three acres of meadow and woodland, the Cape has stood the test of time. But the dated interior is cramped for a growing family.

But the house comes with some drawbacks, too, notably a dark, low-ceilinged first floor, an awkwardly chopped-up second floor, and a nondescript 1960s garage addition. With a 2-year-old son at home and plans to grow their family, Megan and Lincoln are looking to add more space—in part because they are committed to a work-from-home lifestyle. To expand the existing house while honoring its history, they enlisted local architect Andrew Sidford to draft plans for a renovation, which will be documented as part of TOH ’s 43rd television season.

Fall 2021, TOH TV project, Concord Country Cape, Tom Silva and Richard Trethewey during the inspection phase
Meg ReinhardtShown left:TOH general contractor Tom Silva and Lincoln Pasquina look over the existing double-hung windows, with their sash cords and counterweights, in the 1880s house.

Shown right: Richard Trethewey traces the pathways of heating pipes as he analyzes the zoning in the old portion of the house.

Sidford’s design includes a dramatic departure from the Cape’s traditional architecture: a modern addition, with high shed roofs and lots of glass, that offers needed extra room and broad views of the private back part of the property. “I’ve always loved modern additions on historical houses­—the juxtaposition, if done right, can be so beautiful,” Megan says. “Also, while we love the coziness of the existing house, it’s very important to us to have some living space with tall ceilings and lots of light and air.”

Fall 2021, TOH TV project, Concord Country Cape, Lincoln and Megan Pasquina with their son
Meg ReinhardtShown: Lincoln and Megan Pasquina with their son in the Cape’s current kitchen.

Megan and Lincoln sought out Sidford after seeing some projects of his that infused modern architecture and design into old houses. For the Pasquinas’ project, “we pushed the idea of a modern addition with floor-to-ceiling glass, cathedral ceilings, and shed rooflines,” Sidford says. “They gravitated toward the more modern roof forms.”

For TOH host Kevin O’Connor, the transition from traditional to modern makes the project especially interesting. “It’s a classic house, but the stuff the previous owners did is pretty expected,” he says. When the Pasquinas began looking to add on in 2021, he agreed that it was “perfectly fine to think about doing it in a modern way.”

Lincoln is excited about the expansive views the new addition will afford. “I think that would be awkward to try to replicate in a Cape,” he says. “The screened porch is cantilevered out into the yard­—that look of floating space wouldn’t feel consistent with a pure Cape, so the transition to modern there makes it feel more cohesive.”

Fall 2021, TOH TV project, Concord Country Cape, architectural rendering
Michael SvirskyShown: The modernized house will present a whole new appearance from the back, with shed roofs topping a family room and a screened porch overlooking the property.

Fall 2021, TOH TV project, Concord Country Cape, back yard view of deck
Meg ReinhardtShown: Save for a deck, the existing house offers scant views of the backyard.

Besides the modern addition, the plan is to save and reconfigure the original 19th-century portion of the house, tear off the single-story 1960s garage extension that holds a sunroom and dining room, and create an owners’ suite over a new two-car garage, on roughly the same footprint. Megan and Lincoln will each get a home office: hers off the back of the garage, his carved out of the existing downstairs. Upstairs under the Cape roof, three bedrooms and a small bath will be reconfigured into two slightly larger bedrooms and two baths. The existing living room will become the kitchen, reoriented toward the new addition and the backyard, taking advantage of the morning sunlight. The modern living room addition with screened porch will be separated from the main body of the house, allowing it to have sunlight all day and 180-degree views of the expansive yard and pond.

“As architects, our intention is always to see if we can add a new chapter, without obscuring the original house.” —Andrew Sidford, ArchitectThe project will present some new wrinkles for TOH home builder Charlie Silva’s crew. Grafting the modern shed-roofed addition onto the traditional Cape calls for new carrying beams to support the roof where it intersects the old house. Where the addition cantilevers over the yard, another shed roof pitches in the opposite direction. But Charlie is taking the complex roof work in stride: “It comes down to the engineer giving us the plan for where we have to put structural beams to carry the roof loads. But it’s not your typical gable roof system, for sure.”

Fall 2021, TOH TV project, Concord Country Cape, architectural rendering
Michael SvirskyShown: The existing garage will be replaced with an owners’ suite atop a new two-car garage, joined to the old house by a hallway connector.

Fall 2021, TOH TV project, Concord Country Cape, view of garage addition
Meg ReinhardtShown: A 1960s-era garage addition will be coming off.

At 1,515 square feet, an extensive finished basement under the addition will include space for a home gym and a family room. To connect this new space with the finished basement under the original Cape (and its full bath) will require breaking through the existing concrete wall. “The new basement floor will be lower than the existing basement’s, so that we can have higher ceiling height,” says Charlie. He plans to use a wet saw to cut a new opening, dropping the chunk of concrete into the new excavation and hauling it out with a chain and the excavator. Then the crew will reinforce the existing footings. “There’s a very good chance I’ll cut another opening in the wall for ductwork, wiring, and pipes to pass through,” Charlie adds. “That will save money for running mechanicals, instead of having two basements isolated from each other.” Another challenge will be building a back deck over some of that basement living space. There, the team will have to lay sleepers over a low-slope membrane roof.

Insulation and windows will be upgraded in the old portion of the house, to match the new construction spaces. The existing 1980s boiler is big enough to handle the new loads of the additions, says TOH plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, but probably will be replaced: “The boiler is thirty-five years old, so chances are that if you tried to reuse it, it would leak right after you left the job.”

The existing hydronic heat is a mix of fin-tube and cast-iron baseboards. The latter will be reinstalled in the old portion of the house; the new living room, which is lined with windows and has scant wall space for radiators, may get in-floor radiant heat. The Cape will be air-conditioned for the first time; finding room for the ductwork, as in any old house, will be a puzzle, says Richard.

“We’re eager to get our hands dirty. We’ll do pretty much anything on the project the crew will let us do.” —Megan Pasquina, homeownerWalls are coming down in the existing house as space is redistributed. But demoed materials won’t go to waste: Kitchen cabinets, countertops, and appliances, as well as sliding doors and wood flooring, will be salvaged and donated to greenGoat, a nonprofit that works with contractors and homeowners to put gently used building materials to work in other projects, and donates large appliances to families in need.

The land that the Pasquinas cherish will be getting plenty of TLC, too. Vegetable and herb gardens will be created outside the front door, native plantings added, and a fire pit built.

For their parts, Megan and Lincoln are itching to pitch in once work begins. “I love this stuff,” says Megan, who’s eager to try her hand at using a nail gun. “And Lincoln has always been handy. I think it will be really fun for us to be involved.”

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Home Improvement

Remodeling with the Family in Mind

Whether done in houses or co-ops, kitchen renovations for families make life easier

Image of a renovated kitchen with white kitchen cabinets and dining area

“After” photos by Kate Glicksberg for Sweeten

When you have young children, you realize quickly what does and doesn’t work about the space you’re in. Common issues are a lack of storage or insufficient dining space. Perhaps you need a better flow between rooms. Or, it might be all of the above.

Here, three Sweeten renovations show how parents transformed kitchens and bathrooms into spaces that work for their families—adding functionality and, of course, beautiful form to their homes.

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

Borrowed Space Makes the Difference for a Brooklyn Kitchen

Image of a Sweeten renovator, a mother, with her daughter sitting on her lap

“After” photos by Kate Glicksberg for Sweeten

n inhospitable kitchen

Betsy, a teacher, and Zach, an executive at a retail company, live in a two-bedroom, two-bath duplex garden apartment in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The couple now has Amina, age 2, and two dogs, Tristen and Archie. Their duplex in a 19th-century brownstone was in decent shape but didn’t quite match their design aesthetic.

They held off on renovating for a few years, but once Amina was born, they decided to take the plunge and finally renovate to have their home suit their ever-changing needs. They wanted to make the most of their 1,200-square-foot main floor. “We bought knowing we would ultimately like to renovate, but the apartment was pretty updated; it just wasn’t our aesthetic,” said Betsy. “We had been living in the space for nearly three years, and the kitchen was especially difficult.” The refrigerator was apartment-sized and the peninsula-shaped design meant that only one person could be in the space at a time.

So Betsy and Zach posted their project on Sweeten to find a general contractor who could help with all of their design challenges and in addition fix the poor lighting in the main living area.

Mixing old with modern elements

To make more room and utilize the space more efficiently, their Sweeten contractor reduced the size of the hall bathroom to add a bit more space to the tiny kitchen. The floors were converted from a dated yellow to a beautiful hardwood. They added a mix of traditional elements (classic hardwood floors) with a modern aesthetic (flat-panel cabinets). Multiple sources of lighting like a chandelier were installed over the main table as well as high hats to keep the open space bright and airy.

Image of a renovated kitchen with white kitchen cabinets and dining area

Image of a kitchen with glossy white kitchen cabinets, wooden floor and black range

Image of an open kitchen cabinet with wooden pull-out drawers

“Our Sweeten contractor was great in every small decision, from the pull-out storage options for utensils to hiding the unsightly microwave in a garage cabinet to making the fridge seamlessly blend into the cabinetry—a big feat considering we now have a 36” french door refrigerator,” said Betsy.

When asked about her advice for renovators, Betsy had this to say: “Be smart about your budget. We went with a quote that was comfortably below our bottom line, and this gave us the flexibility to spend more in certain areas and save in others without constantly being stressed about going over.”

Renovation Materials

KITCHEN RESOURCES: Cabinetry: Custom by contractor. Cabinet hardware: Restoration Hardware. Sink and faucet: Kraus. Refrigerator, dishwasher, and stove: Bosch36” Biofresh french door, 900 series: Liebherr. Majestic range and hood: IlveLED lighting and overhead lighting: Custom by contractor.Lighting (in dining room): Wayfair. Paint: Benjamin Moore.

BATHROOM RESOURCES: Floor and wall tile: Daltile. Shower fixtures and hardware: Brizo. Glass shower doors: custom. Sink and vanity: Houzz. Mirror: Kohler. Wall-mounted toilet with Gerberit tank system: TotoLighting: Wayfair

LIVING ROOM RESOURCES: Paint in Chantilly LaceBenjamin Moore

New Jersey Kitchen Enters the 21st century

Image of a father feeding a baby in a high chair by a white kitchen sink

“After” photos by Curious Lens for Sweeten

Seeking space to grow

When Paul, a collegiate swim coach, and Margaret, a pediatric nurse practitioner, bought their 1,700-square-foot, two-bedroom condo, they knew they wanted to renovate it right away. “We had been living in the Heights neighborhood of Jersey City, but wanted more space for a growing family,” said Paul. “North Bergen’s mix of affordability, family-friendly amenities, and proximity to work appealed to us.” However, to make the house family-friendly, they turned to Sweeten.

Paul and Margaret posted their project on Sweeten and hired a general contractor to renovate their kitchen. “Sweeten was helpful in showing us qualified contractors in our area,” said Paul. “Being New Jersey residents, we valued Sweeten’s referral model.”

They wanted a contractor who could take their kitchen into the 21st century, updating their old laminate-and-tile kitchen into a more modern space. They wished for additional counter space as well as storage—common must-haves for a young family.

new layout brings high impact results

Image of a renovated white kitchen with gray countertops and silver fridge

Image of a kitchen peninsula with black bar stools facing into the kitchen area

Image of a small kitchen area with white cabinets and white subway tile walls

The couple worked with the firm to give their space a clean, contemporary feel without having to do a major overhaul. They didn’t remove or move any walls but they were able to reconfigure the existing layout to work better for their family. They extended the countertop and added cabinetry for additional storage. Plus, they included a nod to New York by way of a simple subway tile backsplash.

“Our contractor was helpful in keeping the project moving despite material delays and the start of the pandemic,” said Paul. These first-time renovators could not be happier with their now user-friendly new kitchen.

Renovation Materials

KITCHEN RESOURCES: Cabinets: Fabuwood. Quartz countertops and subway tile backsplash: MSI. Sink and faucet: Kraus. Fridge, dishwasher, and stove: Whirlpool.

Family-friendly Flow in a New Jersey Colonial

“After” photos by Virtual360 for Sweeten

Reduce clutter, expand livable space

A 1925 side-hall colonial was in need of a remodel for homeowners Jennifer and Sauyee. They made plans to live in the 1,740-square-foot home in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, for a few years before embarking on a renovation. With two small children, they wanted to make sure when they did decide to renovate that they could pinpoint exactly what was needed to make their busy lives more convenient and comfortable.

The layout lacked usable counter space and had way too many countertop appliances to be functional. Plus, the flow from the kitchen to the rest of the house needed to be reconsidered to make it more family-friendly. They also desperately wanted more usable space and a lighter, brighter vibe.

They posted their project on Sweeten to find a reliable general contractor in their area. Jennifer and Sauyee were matched with a Sweeten contractor and the work began.

Remodeling for family home cooking

The finished product is a more modern, usable space—one that reflects the couple’s personality and everyday needs. The pantry unit is perfect for the kids’ snacks as well as additional storage for their kitchen essentials. And even though it is not as obvious as some of the other aesthetic details, the homeowners are equally appreciative of the properly vented range hood. As a family of four, cooking is very important and any cook knows a bad vent hood can be a real nuisance. So, it was an upgrade they really wanted. They chose gray Shaker cabinets, light quartz countertops, and redid the hardwood floors throughout to make a cohesive design statement.

In addition, they decided to also remodel the bathroom since the kitchen was getting a facelift. They went with a gray color palette: light, marble-style tile for the floor and shower wall, with an accent dark, geometric shower floor. But their favorite part? The heated floors—appreciated by the kids and adults alike.

Renovation Materials

KITCHEN RESOURCES: Melvern Heron Grey kitchen cabinets: Hampton Bay  Glacier Bay 27-inch, single bowl kitchen sink/faucet: The Home DepotFridge/dishwasher/stove: LG. Lighting: Halo/Cooper. Paint: Valspar.

BATHROOM RESOURCES: Arabescato gold matte floor and wall tile: True Porcelain Company. Carbon Matter shower floor tile: Satori. Shower fixtures: KohlerSink, vanity, and toilet: Kohler. Halo lighting: Cooper. Vanity mirror and medicine cabinet: Hampton Bay. Fan: Panasonic.

ADUs or accessory dwelling units can transform into home offices, living space for family or as a rental, or a retreat.

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

Want more renovation stories? Check out these entire home remodels.

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 Remodeling with the Family in Mind appeared first on Sweeten.

Home Improvement

Best Gifts for Cat Lovers

Cat in window
Steven Randazzo

Shopping for a cat lover? For the finest feline finds, look no further than this guide to the best gifts for cats and cat lovers.

If you’re in need of a unique gift for the cat lover in your life, we’ve rounded up 11 ideas that will make any cat (and human) happy.

Homes For Cats

Looking for a cozy home for your feline? Look no further than these options.

Double Decker

This weatherproof cedar cat house offers several entry points, which makes cleaning a breeze. It also offers an escape door and multiple “balconies” for your kitty to reach new heights and perch…or purrch.

About $130; Amazon

LURVIG Cat House

This cozy modern cat house can double as your nightstand. It features a scratching surface on the front, and rubber-coated feet that prevent floor damage and structural movement as your cat uses it. The unit can stand on legs, or be wall-mounted or incorporated into the IKEA KALLAX shelving system.

About $51; IKEA


This rustic classic makes a purrfect second home for your cat, especially if he or she’s the outdoorsy type. Cleverly designed with an escape door in the back so there’s no getting trapped by a would-be predator.

About $75; Amazon

Cute & Compact

This quaint cat cottage is weatherproof and easy to assemble—and it’s elevated on sturdy legs that keep kitty’s floor off the damp ground. Just raise the roof to clean the house and add a cushion or blanket inside for extra comfort.

About $75; Amazon

Cat Curb Appeal

This purr-ty outdoor cat condo stands on legs to keep rain from getting in. It features a back flap for quick escapes and a removable floor for easy cleaning. Comes with a stair and flower box…and a flat roof for sunny-day lounging.

About $140; Amazon

Cozy Beds

Fruit Tart Cat Bed

This bed is composed of a tart shell and five small fruit cushions. Add one sweet pet and the end result is the most adorable thing on the planet. Just click the link below to see what we mean.

About $22; Meowingtons

Wooden Cat Swing

This birch cat hammock’s handcrafted with care and is as good-looking as it is functional. This comfy cradle will provide endless hours of R&R for your feline friend—and won’t be an eyesore in your space. The bed can be attached to the swing frame or stand alone. Comes preassembled.

About $358 before shipping; Amazon Handmade

Fold-Out Pet Bed

This sleek design opens to accommodate growing pets or a sleepover with little furry friends! It’s ideal for stretching and snoozing, and frankly, there are few things cuter than pet-sized people furniture.

About $40; IKEA

Sweet Shelves

Cat Mod Garden Center

This customizable full wall installation offers a little bit of everything, including cutouts in wood shelves for planters to fill with cat-friendly greenery! The well-designed system provides endless adventure and satisfies your cat’s instinct to climb. Elevated safe spaces allow for worry-free cat lounging, dining, and me(ow) time.

About $505 at Amazon

Necessary Accessories

Non-tip Pet Bowls

Help pet parents keep the feeding area clean with this clever bowl by Platinum Pets. The powder-coated Better Bowl is made of non-toxic rust, scratch, and fade resistant stainless steel and has a silicone base ring that prevents skidding, tipping, and spills. Dishwasher safe and comes in a rainbow of colors.

About $15; Amazon

Hot Pursuit Automatic Laser Toy

This laser spins 360 degrees, changing directions unpredictably to keep cats entertained and on their paws. Four different speed settings allow for hours of entertainment! Ideal for keeping your cat busy and safe from being underfoot.

About $25; Meowingtons

Home Care

10 Gifts for Pet Lovers

We all know someone who loves pets as much as family. Show them you care with these gifts for the pet lover on your list.

1. Surefeed Microchip Pet Feeder Connect

Know someone with multiple pets in their household? Stop pets from eating each other’s food with this sealed bowl that food fresher and free of flies. As a pet approaches the feeder, it recognizes their microchip or RFID collar tag, only opening for them. It’s also recommended for pets on weight management diets.
$170 | Available on Amazon

2. SUREswivel 360-degree Swiveling Pet Tie-Out

Not everyone has a fenced-in yard for their dog, but now every dog can roam their yard safely and securely. This 360-degree swiveling tie-out ensures that the tether will not wrap up on the base or twist up and break.
$49.99 | Available on Amazon

3. Cube Key Finder Smart Tracker Bluetooth Tracker for Dogs

Know a pet owner who could use some peace of mind when it comes to their pet? Attach CUBE to anything and use CUBE Tracker App to find it fast—whether its Fido who got loose from the yard or your luggage on a trip.
$24.95 | Available on Amazon

4. K & H-Thermo Snuggly Sleeper Dog Bed

Keep pets warm this winter with an electric-heated dog bed. It is thermostatically controlled to automatically respond to temperature changes, and warms to a pet’s normal body temperature only when the pet is in the bed.
$64 | Available on Amazon

5. ECOVACS DEEBOT N79 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner

We love our pets, but not their messes. Gift the pet lover in your life with the gift of a clean, pet-filled home. This app-controlled robotic vacuum cleaner has a strong suction to pick up pet hair on both hard flooring and carpet.
$169.99 | Available on Amazon

6. Furbo Dog Camera

Keep an eye on your pet and let them know you’re still there with the Furbo Dog Camera and Treat Dispenser. The 1080p Full HD camera allows for livestream video to monitor your pet on your phone with a 160-degree wide-angle view, day and night. Use the 2-way audio and barking alert to detect when your dog is barking. It also sends push notifications to your smartphone when it detects barking, so you can speak to your pet and reassure them. The best part is, you can toss a treat to your pet and even play a game of catch—all via the Furbo iOS/Android.
App. $133.99 | Available on Amazon

7. Pet Qwerks Blinky Babble Ball

Spark a pet’s interest with this motion-activated ball that flashes lights and makes 18 different sounds. This is also great for pets with special needs, including those who are blind or have poor eyesight, or separation anxiety.
$11.66 | Available on Amazon

8. Le Dogue Silicone Dog Paw and Bone Molds

Create your own homemade dog treats with these safe food molds, complete with a recipe book. Bone-appetit!
$14.99 | Available on Amazon

9. K9 Sport Sack

Is there someone on your list who is always on the go with their furry companion? The K9 Sport Sack makes it easy to bring a dog along for the ride. Available in three sizes to fit a yorkie, or larger sizes for a chubby frenchie or corgi.
$69.95 | Available on Amazon

10. PetSafe New Wall Entry Dog and Cat Door

We all know pets can never decide if they want to be indoors or outdoors. Give them the option to choose with the PetSafe New Wall Entry Door. The door installs into wood, stucco, brick and most types of siding. You can install it yourself, too.
$114.95 | Available on Amazon