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 16, 2010

It looks fantastic! Doesn't it the finished product make all the renovation inconvenience worth it? We did our kitchen two years ago, and at one point were making toast in the office, grabbing drinks from the fridge in the living room, and washing dishes in the bathtub. But in the end, it was totally worth it.

Congratulations on your beautiful new kitchen!

Kate Donato
Nov 16, 2010

Wow! It's such an amazing feeling putting your own sweat into a project. You did a fabulous job and should be really proud. I look forward to seeing more from you!

Nov 16, 2010

Wow great work! the tiles you selected are fantastic, the whole kitchen looks modern and inviting! We're in the process of re-doing ours (as well as our whole house now) congratulations on keeping your sanity!

Nov 16, 2010

Just found your blog and am loving your kitchen reno! Kudos to Sean (and you) for your hard work and the gorgeous final product!

Nov 16, 2010

sorry if this has been asked already... curious about the sideboard in the dining area. is that a found/thrifted piece? did you add the marble top? it is awesome!

and funny side note... i clicked on the post title first on AT thinking it was going to be a different Holly and Sean (of "Life in the Fun Lane" - also a white kitchen remodel) but then i saw your handwriting on the chalkboard wall and realized, "OH, it's *that* Holly and Sean!" like we go way back or something. you have impeccable penmanship, i guess.

Nov 16, 2010

Hard to believe that is even the same kitchen. Amazing job!

Sensibly Sassy
Nov 16, 2010

Wow, wonderful. Go have some champagne (or something stronger to numb the pain of all of that ripping out and installing) to a job well done!!

Holy crap...that doesn't even remotely look like the same kitchen. It's BEA-U-TI-FUL!!! I love it.

Sarah S
Nov 16, 2010

I'm not sure what's better...the kitchen or the recap! It's great. You shouldn't so proud!

Nov 16, 2010

Hello from Australia!

(Linking here from Apartment Therapy...)

Awesome kitchen reno! Loove that light above the dining table! In fact I love the whole reno! Congrats!


Nov 16, 2010

This is so inspiring! It looks tremendous! Snaps to you & the Mister - I love it!

Nov 17, 2010

Wow what a terrific job! I just came across your blog from Apartment Therapy and have to say - incredibly beautiful! I am in the middle of a kitchen renovation myself and this is truly inspiring :)

Dr. Maureen
Nov 17, 2010

That kitchen is GORGEOUS and I am unbelievably envious of your mere 4 week ordeal. We redid our bathroom in 2006, which included the sink part of the kitchen, and it took four months. And I was pregnant. And my husband had thought it would take "two weeks." IT DID NOT.

Then we redid our kitchen in 2008 and it also took at least three months, but this time it was because of an error in ordering supplies that is boring to explain but ends with me being unbelievably envious.

Also, your redone kitchen looks much nicer than mine, so there's that. But I GUESS I can be happy for you, underneath the green envy. Very nicely done.

Nov 17, 2010

Absolutely Beautiful!! This is one of the most inspiring renovations I have ever seen. Great job.

Nov 17, 2010

ARE YOU INSANE? that is f@#$ing amazing! wow wow wow!

how on earth did you two do this while working full-time? i just don't get it.

amaaaaaaazingly beautiful kitchen.

Nov 17, 2010

but the way, can i come over? great, thanks, be there in a few.

Nov 17, 2010

You have a great sense of humor, as well as a great kitchen.

Nov 17, 2010

Would you share your costs? I have a very similar scope for my kitchen and I am curious to see how much you spent while doing much of the work yourself.

Victoria Leigh
Nov 18, 2010

WOW!!! This is amazing. Is there *anything* you two can't do? I love it.

Nov 18, 2010

A lovely after! Adding it to my kitchen reno folder. Well done!

Nov 18, 2010

Excellent work!

Nov 19, 2010

I had been waiting for the write up. Gorgeous, Holly. Simply gorgeous.

Chef Barbie
Nov 19, 2010

wait... that's YOUR kitchen? i saw it on apartment therapy! it's wonderful!

Heather S.
Nov 20, 2010

I love this! I am toying with the idea of painting our dated oak cabinets white, but I have a 16-month old and a full-time job and I don't know where I'd find the time. How long did the cabinets take, and were they as hard to paint as I'm picturing? Lovely job!!!

Nov 26, 2010

crap. i could have saved at least $6000 in refacing my cabinets by simply painting them white. nice job. i love it!!!

Nov 28, 2010

Can I ask a question, Holly? Those dining chairs - I have been drooling over them for a long time but my husband has reservations...

1 - He's 6'4 and convinced that they wouldnt be comfortable for his larger frame. How does your husband find them (not that I know how tall he is)?

2 - He is also convinced that people wouldnt want to linger after dinner because they are 'hard plastic'. So much for wine, he says!

Given that we have only one dining area, what sayeth you?

Dec 04, 2010

Holly - not to weird you out or anything but it'd been, like, 4 days since i looked at this awesome remodel and so i just had to say - again - that this is SO kick ass. when i don't feel like raking the leaves or taking the trash out, i think: dude. they ripped the tile out. and then srsly, it's not that hard for me to just take the trash out already. WELL DONE!!!

Dec 26, 2010

inspiring! and that chalk board wall will be really handy for when you have little ones!

Mar 23, 2011

Love it - Love it all! I am really curious to know what the total cost was, since we are looking at a similar remodel. My email address is above. Thanks a ton!


This is AMAZING! You obviously have great skills and taste! I especially love how you opened up the cabinets on the little peninsula, very nice!

I would love to invite you come and write a special guest post about this project on my blog Remodelaholic. If you are interested, please let me know via email and I will get you all the details!


Oct 04, 2011

Looks incredible! You guys have done an amazing job :) You have an amazing sense of style x

Oct 19, 2011

Stumbled across your blog the other day and have spent the last several days reading it voraciously!! So inspired by this kitchen reno and impressed that it was mainly DIY.
May I ask where your kitchen table and chairs are from?

Nothing But Bonfires
Oct 19, 2011

Jessica -- the table is from CB2 and the chairs are from Overstock! Thanks for the kind words.

Oct 28, 2011

LOVE this! My husband and I are closing on our fist home in 3 weeks, and our kitchen is very similar to your before photos. And funny enough, we envision OUR after to look pretty much like yours. Thanks for sharing your resources!

kari machal
Nov 29, 2011

wow! i am so impressed... what year is your house? ours is 72 and we updated the backsplash/appliances/countertops but still have dark cabinets - definitely painting them now! great job!!

Mar 25, 2012

I like this so much!

Jun 27, 2012

LOVE your writing style! Thanks for the giggles today!

In Awe
Jul 12, 2012

You are SO AMAZING!!!!!! Wow! I really wish I had the vision that you and your husband do... It's so hard for me to even imagine turning what I have into something I'd love.

Jul 25, 2012

This is STUNNING! Very impressive and inspiring!
I appreciate the list of items you replaced or fixed up, wondering if you could give a price list to accompany (even if it's ballpark-ish).

Jul 25, 2012

Very belated question about your amazing amazing kitchen, but where did you find your kitchen table? I'm looking for a table just like it but am not sure how I feel about the designer price tag...

Sep 25, 2012

I just came across your blog and I LOVE YOUR KITCHEN!!! We just bought a house and we are about to tear into our kitchen. Question... where did you get the fabulous light fixture over your dining table?

Jan 08, 2013

Hey, great work. Just one curiosity: Did you put up the tiles AFTER the kitchen was fitted??

Mar 22, 2013

Very nicely done kitchen renovation! You've given me lots of ideas.


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