Our Kitchen: Before And After

I feel like I should probably knock on some wood or cross myself twice and throw a teaspoon of salt over my left shoulder before saying what I'm about to say next, but I think we're pretty much done with the kitchen renovation.

You remember the kitchen renovation, right? Long story short, Sean smashed a whole bunch of stuff up and I endured what I have since come to think of as My Bleak Period, during which we had, at one point, neither a floor nor a stove nor a sink. We did the whole renovation ourselves---with the exception of the counterop installation; turns out IKEA requires "experts" to do that, who knew!---and it probably took, start to finish, about three or four weeks.

But look, I watch enough HGTV to know what comes next. Before and after pictures, man! Let's get to the good stuff!

Here is what the kitchen looked like when we bought the house:

Hello, the 80s called, and they don't want any of this stuff back at all, thank you very much.

Just take a deep breath. There's potential. I see the potential.

Trust me, I swear.

Awkward story about that light: I went "it's horrible!" at the exact same time our realtor went "it's so cool!"

So let's recap: pink flowery wallpaper, wood paneling, dated tile, and grubby linoleum. What do you think? Can anything be done to save this kitchen?

I say we give it the old college try.


So what did we do? Well, we:

* Stripped away the wallpaper (actually, my parents did this, so we cannot take any credit at all. They did it as a surprise when we were at work and even though they knew we weren't fond of it and wanted to get rid of it, I still thought it might be a hilarious joke to be all "What? You did what? We really wanted to keep that! Thanks for ruining the entire central design theme of our kitchen!")

* Ripped off all the wood paneling.

* Painted the walls a pale grey.

* Painted the cabinets bright white and added new brushed nickel handles and hinges. We also decided not to replace the cabinet doors under the bar and instead kept the space open. Right now we're storing a Costco-trip's-worth of San Pellegrino in there, as well as some dishes that I like enough to look at all the time, but we're toying with the idea of trying to make it into a home-made wine rack. I estimate this will happen in 2015.

* Replaced the light fixtures and hung our pot rack.

* Ripped out the existing countertops with a sledgehammer---they were basically straight concrete and chicken wire, and I don't think my back will ever be the same again after carrying one of them downstairs and out into the garage---and had them replaced with Misty Carrera caesarstone, which we ordered (and had installed) through IKEA. This was the only part of the renovation we didn't do ourselves, as I mentioned, and it was wonderfully freeing not to be responsible for it. I count the day I came home from work and discovered we had kitchen surfaces again among the top ten happiest of my life.

In case you're wondering, now is a really good time to remember that you're supposed to be baking something for the office bake sale tomorrow.

* Ripped out the backsplash and replaced it with plain white subway tile from Home Depot. Twenty cents a tile, friends! You know I like a bargain. (What I don't like, however, is grouting. Grouting can go to hell. Even the word grout is gross. Grout. Stout. Snout. Look, it even rhymes with other gross words.)

* Ripped out the sink and replaced it with a big white farmhouse sink (also from IKEA.) Added a big curved faucet made of brushed nickel that pulls out and sprays things. I KNOW.

* Pulled up the linoleum and put down a sub-floor, then tiled over the sub-floor with a porcelain tile that is meant to look like canyon slate. I cannot tell you the conversations we had about this floor; it must be the most-discussed floor in the history of the world. We talked and talked and talked about this floor: which tile should we choose? Were we choosing the right tile? Should we go back to Lowe's for the sixty-eighth time and look at it again just to be sure? Should we also go to Home Depot and Florcraft and three other tiling stores and see what they have as well, you know, just in case? Should we go with a gray floor instead of a brown floor? Should I take this jagged piece of tile here and slit my wrists with it JUST SO WE CAN STOP TALKING ABOUT THIS GODDAMN TILE LOOK IT'S FINE IT'S FINE IT'S FINE IT'S PERFECTLY FINE LET'S JUST MAKE A DECISION ON THE TILE.


* Painted a chalk board wall so that we'd have a nice big place for all my many to-do lists.

* Nailed in nice new white baseboards to make the room feel finished.

* Hung a few pictures (a trio of black and whites Sean took---Rome for where we got engaged, Sydney for our honeymoon, and San Francisco for where we live now---plus the laughing 1940s schoolboys that you may remember from here.)

* Replaced the fridge, dishwasher, and stove.

* Installed an over-the-range microwave.

And.....I think that's it. So you know, nothing much then.

I should clarify, by the way, that when I say "we" did the kitchen---particularly the items above that start with "ripped out" or "installed"---I really mean that Sean did the kitchen; I helped, of course, but he did the bulk of the work. I'm still kind of pinching myself that I married someone who knows how to do this stuff! That was a pretty lucky surprise.

Anyway, I'd say we're pretty much finished---I might hang a few more pictures and I'm debating whether to put a sort of natural seagrass or jute rug beneath the table at some point, but other than that, we're done---and we're both so thrilled with how it turned out. Budget-wise, we did it for far, far less than everyone told us it would cost to renovate a kitchen, and I think that had a lot to do with a) keeping and painting the original cabinets, rather than replacing them and b) doing so much of it ourselves. The countertops were our biggest splurge, and we bought the fridge with stockpiled wedding money---and a healthy dose of patience while waiting for it to go on sale---but everything else was done with a hammer in one hand and a calculator in the other to make sure we kept within our means.

Next project: the bathrooms!

But first just let me take a three hundred year nap.

The entire set of kitchen renovation photos is here, if you're interested: lots more befores, afters, and quite a few middles.


Nov 14, 2010

Holly, this is AMAZING.

Nov 15, 2010

WOW. You all did a great job!!!

Nov 15, 2010

Oh my goodness, amazing. I have serious kitchen envy!! What an incredible job. I don't know which part I love the best! The backsplash! No, the sink! No, the open cabinet! Good job. (And the marble-topped dresser is fantastic!)

Nov 15, 2010

This is amazing! I am so impressed and jealous and not at all surprised (you and your exceptional do-it-yourself capacities). Now all you have to do is invite The Internet over for dinner.

Nov 15, 2010

Mazel tov! It looks fabulous and grand. It must make you feel so, so happy.

Nov 15, 2010

You are my hero. This is just gorgeous! I am so in love with that chalkboard wall.

Nov 15, 2010

Gorgeous! I couldn't tell those were the same old cupboards. The two of you should quit your jobs and become interior designers or something!

Nov 15, 2010

That first "after" photo got a "wow" from me, so mission accomplished in the kitchen renovation. Well done, it looks so classy and so you.

Nov 15, 2010

wow. what type of paint did you use of the cupboards? i have been planning something along these lines for the boyfriend's kitchen, but the plasticote i used doesn't look as nice......

Nov 15, 2010

It's so amazing. My eyes literally bugged out at the first "after". I don't comment much, but this needed to be praised.

All Is Optional
Nov 15, 2010

Seriously gorgeous! What is the paint color?

Claire Bidwell Smith
Nov 15, 2010

Beautiful!! So impressive that you guys did this yourself.

Nov 15, 2010

It looks like something of HGTV! Well done!

Nov 15, 2010

It looks amazing! Well done.

Nov 15, 2010

Totally stunning. Love it!

Nov 15, 2010

This is AMAZING!!

Nov 15, 2010

Wow, it looks fantastic! We can't even manage to get new curtain rods hung. I'm very impressed!

Nov 15, 2010

It's so perfect! You never cease to amaze me!

Nov 15, 2010

Looks great! Hope you guys are very happy with the results. Cheers to your new kitchen!

Nov 15, 2010

Beyond impressive, you two! Love the after shots---it is stunning! Enjoy.

Nov 15, 2010

Holy craptacular! How much do I have to pay Sean to come to Texas and do mine?

Nov 15, 2010

Fabulous! I wish you many happy and warm moments in that wonderful space.

Nov 15, 2010

Lovely! Great job!

We recently did our kitchen/bathrooms with the help of a family friend and took a very similar approach with painting cabinets, ikea countertops, etc... and our kitchen floor may be a strong competitor for Most Discussed Floor 2010.

Again, great job!

Amy Louise
Nov 15, 2010

Holly Burns, you are my idol.

Nov 15, 2010

Hot DAMN. It looks fantastic! I am so impressed that you did this yourselves. I wouldn't even have known where to begin!

Nov 15, 2010

WOWZA. Seriously. If I weren't knee deep in installing cork flooring, I would take a sledgehammer to our kitchen.

Locusts and Wild Honey
Nov 15, 2010

Seriously, it's so fabulous! I'm amazed by you guys.

Ellen Reed
Nov 15, 2010

I cannot tell you how impressed I am!
We renovated our kitchen a few years ago.
The contractor was great, the dust was not.
We ripped out everything.....not seeing any potential.
YOU have vision!

Nov 15, 2010

1. So pleased it was done for Saturday. Well timed, friends.

2. I think I prefer the hot pink Kitchen Aide over where the cutting board is.

3. Oh, were those new tiles? I just figured they were left over from the old kitchen. (HA! That's a joke.)

Nolita Morgan
Nov 15, 2010

Beautiful! Well done! I am almost motivated to do a renovation in my kitchen...almost... Wondering if you would share the paint you used for your chalkboard. Trying to muster up the courage to change an underused wall in my kitchen into a chalkboard and don't want to botch it up... Thanks for sharing!

Nov 15, 2010

Wow! We're about to embark on a big kitchen renovation ourselves. Though, we're hiring someone to do it because we cannot complete tasks at my house.

Nov 15, 2010

It looks AMAZING. Well done, guys.

A. Marigold
Nov 15, 2010

It looks GREAT!!

Nov 15, 2010

Truly unbelievable. You have such a natural talent for this! I love that you chose white on white - it keeps everything so clean, open, streamlined and modern. Then, the warmth of the slate-like floors too...Fantastico!

Nov 15, 2010

This comment is going to seem like I didn't focus on anything you said (but I did and it looks amazing), but I'm intrigued that you store you Kitchen Aid mixer on the counter but sideways....I recently moved mine from the cabinet to the counter but I hate how it sticks out so I may have to try this. And you cover the cord in the back with another item?

I swear I did not miss the point of this post. In fact, I'd love to hear more about cabinet painting except my husband thinks our cabinets suck and aren't worth keeping.

Nov 15, 2010

Oh. My.

My my my my my.

Or rather, I WISH it was "my" kitchen, because it is just stunning. I can't even believe it's the same room! Well done, you.

Nov 15, 2010

congrats Holly, it's beautiful. personally I'm a single-girl-in-NYC-with-no-renovation-plans-whatsoever but it's fun to live vicariously through your adventures in domesticity. (for what it's worth, I can be quite the domestic diva myself, but it's not really worth it in a NY rental apt you know??)

go sit down with a large glass of bubbly and enjoy that gorgeous new kitchen - you earned it!

Nov 15, 2010

First time I've seen it - absolutely fantastic!! Looking forward actually to being in it this coming weekend.

I'm sure I'm going to get lots of "why can't you be more like Sean?" comments....

Nov 15, 2010

Your kitchen is lovely. Well done, you two.

And! Finally a design item I feel qualified to comment on (well, you didn't actually ask for comments on this, but here goes anyway): if you really are thinking baby for anytime in the not-too-distant future, forget about a rug under the table. Tile is so much easier to clean. Besides, I like the way the tile plays off the wood on your side table.

Now: where can I order a Sean?

Nov 15, 2010

The kitchen looks fantastic! You and Sean must be exhausted.

Nov 15, 2010

AMAZING renovation! Very well done, you two!!!

...and am I the only person who noticed the "mostly" under the HB <3 (SS, I'm guessing?). Brilliant!

Nov 15, 2010


And the wine rack? Piece-o-cake! Get yourself the right length (measure, multiply then divide) white PVC pipe in the dimension that will hold a bottle (not sure of exact measurement -- maybe 4" diameter PVC pipe?) Slice it into bottle-length/cabinet-depth pieces, stack 'em up (they will most likely fall into an alternating pattern of say five or six on the bottom, four or five across in the "nooks" on top of that, five or six on top of those, etc, but if you want to get all fancy-pants and glue them together you could make all rows of the same number -- alternating would be much more cool though, I think) and presto, you're done! It would look great with your white motif, and will at least get the job done until you're ready to move ahead with whatever more elaborate inspiration you might have in mind that would take longer.



Sorry - I got excited and shouty there! But it is unbelievably beautiful. The farmhouse sink makes my heart sing. Tralalalala!!!

Excellent job!

I am so inspired! You make me want to completely transform my kitchen. It's not nearly as bad as your was to start, but seeing the finished transformation makes me want to take a sledgehammer to the whole thing.


Can I come over for dinner?

Nov 15, 2010

Oh Holly, it's so beautiful. Do you just sit at the table and stare at the kitchen 24/7 now that it's finished? That's what I would do.

Nov 15, 2010

*repeats all positive sentiments shared above*

BRAVO! It's so pretty!

Nov 15, 2010

Holy wow, but that is beautiful. I'm trying to be happy for you, so give me a moment to get past my SEETHING JEALOUSY.

Funnelcloud Rachel
Nov 15, 2010

Oh my gosh - love love love it! Nice work!

P.S. Grout also rhymes with lout and gout - also gross!

Nov 15, 2010

Phenomenal! Perfectly gorgeous and incredibly impressive. Enjoy!

Nov 15, 2010

Wow! This is incredibly beautiful!
Congratulations on finishing it!

Operation Pink Herring
Nov 15, 2010

Um, WOW. I'm impressed, jealous, and inspired all at the same time.

L A Cochran
Nov 15, 2010

That's gorgeous and most impressive!

Sadly, our kitchen isn't even up to the (very dated) 80s. Sigh... one day...

Nov 15, 2010

Woohoo! Love it!

Nov 15, 2010

I AM SO HAPPY! :D congrats!!!! can't believe it's finally over! lovely work!

Nov 15, 2010

So purty! (It also makes my back hurt to look at the photos. Weird commiserative thing, I guess.)

Nov 15, 2010

In-freaking-credible. I love that kitchen. I love white kitchens with little punches of bright colors.

Nov 15, 2010

it's beautiful - i love that you kept the cabinets and just painted them. a realistic renovation that is achievable for many! can't wait to see the rest of your home!

Nov 15, 2010

Oh. My. Word. Brilliant. Well done!

Nov 15, 2010

This post has been immensely helpful AND inspiring- my husband and I completely redid our kitchen in our house, all ourselves... and then we went and sold the house. Our new (to us) house has a kitchen that was last remodeled about 11 years ago that definitely needs a little bit of "freshening up". We have always talked about painting our cabinets white (they are custom cabinets and they're beautiful so ripping them out isn't an option, but the orange-ish finish isn't really our style) and replacing the counter top with something like marble. Basically, almost everything you've done with your remodel. All of these things could be done relatively easily since we're handy at DIY, but the one thing that's been stopping us is our floor. Our floor is almost identical to the one you installed, and for some reason I never thought it could work within my vision and assumed it would have to be ripped out and re-done, which is sort of a huge deal. Clearly, I was on crack, because now seeing your photos I'm completely convinced it COULD work and look freakin' awesome. Aaaaack! I'm so excited! Sorry for the rambling and kudos on a job well done!

Nov 15, 2010

You are a miracle worker. I love the colour spashes that the mixer and the fruit provide, too. :) A rug with a bit of colour would be perfect!

Nov 15, 2010

Soooo beautiful, and so inspiring! I love it! :)

Nov 15, 2010

Another request to know the paint color please! Love that pale grey and would never know how to find something similar that doesn't look too blue or purple as greys can sometimes do!
Beautiful job!

Helen Jane
Nov 15, 2010

Holy moly lady, it looks amazing.
Now make me some profiteroles!

Michael Travis
Nov 15, 2010

I think I like the chalkboard wall the best. But, as stated by everyone else so far, you guys did an awesome job. I'm guessing the tile work was the most tedious? I haven't met you yet, but having worked with Sean before, I wouldn't have doubted his ability for a second.

Nov 15, 2010

wow! you've done an amazing job! that looks wonderful.

Nov 15, 2010

Way to give the rest of us an inferiority complex. Np, seriously, impressive job!

Nov 15, 2010

It's GLORIOUS. Glorious PERFECTION. And it makes a mean quiche too!

Nov 15, 2010

It looks great! You guys did an amazing job!!

Nov 15, 2010

HEY! Sorry for being a such a creeper, and I totally sold myself out, but I am in shock about these kitchen photos. AMAZING!! Looks like something straight out of a catalogue...congrats!

BTW your blog rocks, but I think your massive following already proves it!

Nothing But Bonfires
Nov 15, 2010

Thank you so much, everyone! I'm so thrilled you like it. Makes all the hard work worth it!

To answer those of you who asked about the paint color, it's Filtered Shade by Valspar. Funny thing is we'd always thought we were going to paint the walls turquoise, but after bringing home and trying three thousand of those little paint samples, we couldn't find a turquoise we liked. One day we went to Lowe's, consulted the paint chip wall, picked a gray that looked nice and bought a gallon of that. Luckily for us, it was the perfect shade, which never usually happens with grays. Boom, done. Then I painted my desk with all the leftover turquoise paint samples, but that's a story for another day.

Nov 16, 2010

My favourite part has to be the wall tiles. They look like little white bricks. Very cool.

Nov 16, 2010

Wow, that is incredible! I LOVE the subway tiles and now really want some. Though do not want to do any grouting... ;) And seriously, I can't believe you completed all of that in 3-4 weeks!

I also have to say, be glad you weren't allowed to install counters yourselves. In Germany, apparently, people just install them themselves all the time. The cutting out of the hole for the sink portion in our kitchen was the most terrifying 30 minutes of my life. I do not recommend it.

Nov 16, 2010


amber, theAmberShow
Nov 16, 2010


Nov 16, 2010

Love your new kitchen! So fresh and clutter free! I think you could be an online designer for all of us with no talent for design! The soft gray is beautiful!

Camels And Chocolate
Nov 16, 2010

Wow! The outcome is amazing. I guess now we can forgive you for being so MIA the past four months, eh, seeing this productivity and all? =) You got an "ooooh" out of Scott, a certified contractor, and he doesn't "ooooh" often!

Amy --- Just A Titch
Nov 16, 2010

Holly, it looks incredible. Kudos to you and Sean---very impressive!

Nov 16, 2010

And here I thought graphic designers weren't handy around the house at all. Sounds like my husband needs to come up with a new excuse.

I love it. Big pink puffy heart love it. So far all I've done in my kitchen is paint the small section of wall and door trim. My cabinets still sit there waiting to be painted white. So I guess in 2015 when you're bragging about your new wine rack, I'll be finally ready to reveal my kitchen. And I'll need some of that wine.

Nov 16, 2010

So- when are you guys available to do my bathroom? Hey - all the NY pizza you can eat! Deal?

Nov 16, 2010

It looks amazing! Even better than I imagined. Could you come over and do my kitchen next? Barring that, would you at least look at some photos and tell me what to do because I. cannot. decide.

Nov 16, 2010

i love absolutely everything! lukewarm on the floors, but everything else's wonderfulness makes me not even notice! great job! :)

Nov 16, 2010

Absolutely gorgeous. If I ever buy something, can you lend Sean out? Haha.

Nov 16, 2010

It's so beautiful! Congratulations! I love that this was a family project. Your parents are awesome :)

(PS: I love your floors, they look suspiciously like the kind we have at home.)

Nov 16, 2010

I can't believe you accomplished all that work in one month. It's an absolutely amazing transformation!

Nov 16, 2010

Love it! Inspirational!

Nov 16, 2010

That is amazing. Great work! I am particularly fond of your sink.

That old light fixture was hideous. Good call. ;-)

Nov 16, 2010

It really looks beautiful! Can I come over and drink my coffee there?

Nov 16, 2010


Sarah, The Ohana Mama
Nov 16, 2010

My exact words when I saw the after...

We've been remodeling for 3 years...kill me now. Oh how I wish we had an Ikea. I am certain it would help push us along :)

Fantastic job!

Fairly Odd Mother
Nov 16, 2010

LOVE it! We're on week #3 (but who's counting?) (me), and have been living without a stove or a kitchen sink for waaaaay too long. I hear you on the 80's wallpaper---painful!

I only hope my kitchen comes out as nicely as yours did!

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