An Architect Delivers on Her Duplex Renovation—in Her Third Trimester

Planning ahead pushed these bedrooms and master bath renovations to the finish line.

Coming from a one-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side, architect Tina and her husband, Fletcher were eager to upsize to a two-bedroom and create a home for their expanding family. They had been looking at listings up and down Manhattan and in a couple of Brooklyn neighborhoods before they found out they were expecting a baby. Four months into the pregnancy (and into intensifying nesting instincts), they went into contract on a duplex in a historic Brooklyn townhouse.

With their bedrooms and master bath located on the garden level (the kitchen and living room are located on the entry parlor level), the couple needed to transform a space with lower ceilings and semi-subterranean location into a cozy and very chic space. They came to Sweeten, a free service matching homeowners to vetted general contractors to find a professional team who could complete the project by their pending due date.


The nursery before

Here are some tips on how they planned their renovation while elevating the feel of their baby’s nursery, as well as the entire floor.

·       REFINISH WOOD FLOORS: The couple decided to refinish the dark wood floors to a lighter hue. The new floors immediately brightened the lower level of the duplex, which was key in disguising its semi-subterranean status. Be sure to test the stain to see how the floor will take to the new finish. Fletcher made the ultimate selection of Bona Grey which worked well on white oak, maple, and red oak floors found throughout the duplex.

·       LIMIT THE CONSTRUCTION TIMELINE: Eliminate any options that would require significant structural, electrical, or plumbing work. This would not only cut down on a construction timeline, it would cut away the lengthy review process of obtaining permits from the Department of Buildings and the Landmark Preservation Commission.

·       BRIGHTEN WITH WHITE: In addition to a lighter floor stain, Tina and Fletcher painted the bedroom walls with light colors—a cool gray in the baby’s nursery and a calming off-white in the master bedroom. White bedroom furniture, accents, and linens maintained the light palette.

·       APPLY TRIM FOR PERSONALITY: To give the impression of larger windows, they added floor-to-ceiling sheer curtains. The lower level had no base molding or traditional casing around the windows, and the interior doors styles were flat with concealed hinges, creating a sterile look. To introduce more character, they added base trim throughout the bedrooms and shaker-style panel doors. The contractor helped them realize how cost-effective this strategy was. It was a low-cost improvement that made a huge impact.


By having the design decisions completed before work began, they eliminated on-the-go decision-making and were able to work with the team and budget effectively. Having a contractor with a calm disposition, who was extremely sensitive to their schedule and accommodating to hiccups in the process was helpful.

Although the work moved quickly, it wasn’t completed on schedule due to minor delays. Working with a tight timeline, there was little room for contingency. Their scheduled move-in landed just a week before their baby’s due date. As luck would have it, Tina went into labor early, on moving day!  



Two weeks after their move and into parenthood, the renovation was 95% complete. They unpacked boxes while the baby slept. Talk about exhausting! Looking back, transitioning was certainly hectic, but they couldn’t be happier with their new home. Here’s Part 1 of Tina and Fletcher’s kitchen renovation.

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