Kitchen renovation

A vintage-inspired kitchen renovation

It’s been so long since we’ve blogged but this kitchen was just too good to not share some of the details that brought it all together. And some projects are just smooth and mostly easy and make you remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. For us, it’s to create beautiful and inviting spaces that our clients are excited to come home to. From the first interaction with these clients we knew it would be one of those projects that was special and fun!

We met with the clients last Spring and fell in deep like with them almost immediately. From our conversation it was apparent that their home was one of those coveted gathering places you went to growing up. And their kitchen showed it, too. It was well-loved, well-used and with memories all around. A few being the details the clients wanted to keep – the butcher block counter top, the sweet custom-made wood cabinets and a wall of family photos from a hundred years plus. Denisa and I truly went heart-eyes with the thought of using these things in the redesign. Don’t get me wrong, we both love shiny sparkly new things but if there’s a vintage store in a twenty-mile radius we will know it’s hours of operation and will be first in line when the doors open. The thought of using these pieces automatically elevated anything we would do in terms of design - wins all around!

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First on our list was to lighten the space. This was not an open-concept kitchen (honestly a little refreshing.) That said, the space was on the dark side. Here’s a peek at their previous cabinetry.

We both loved the color but felt an off-white would brighten the space all around. For palette we looked around us. Their home which was mostly warm tones (reds, yellows, greens, and some blues) needed something complimentary. We chose blue for the island and brought in more warm tones with the yellow in the cement tile behind the range.

When we left our initial meeting, we both agreed that the space had this English cottage thing going on. With that in mind, we envisioned a farm sink with a bridge faucet. We love to play around with mixing metals when it makes sense. In this case, the effect of the polished nickel accents and brass hardware felt carefully curated rather than overly designed.


Circling back to the backsplash – not only did we choose to bring in color here with the cement tile but also our favorite Zellige from Clé Tile for some added texture. It’s classic and interesting and picks up light in all the right ways. PSA: Don’t be afraid of the variation of each tile - that’s where the beauty comes in. Truly.

Keeping with the English cottage theme, we chose a more rustic farm table from RH and chairs from Arhaus. You guys - they are so comfortable and there is actually a spring in the seat. Just think of how long you could sit there and play Settlers of Catan and drink wine. Just kidding - hour long strategy games should all be put in a pile and burned. Just kidding! (not really!) I digress.


Moving on to the built in cabinet on the side wall. A big request from our clients was the lack of thoughtful storage. That said, we needed this closet space but we also needed it to be more useful and more attractive. We wanted it to stay flush to the wall to keep with the flow of the room and also not compete with the other custom cabinets. If you can dream it, someone can build it! We had this pretty thing built flush to the wall to match the new cabinetry with pretty legs to boot.


Last but never least was the room styling. A thing that sometimes gets overlooked is what to do with your open shelving once your contractor and designer and everyone finishes the job. When you pay for beautiful shelving and then you don’t have anything on those shelves or those things are really sad things from your college apartment, the job isn’t really finished. But it’s one of our favorite parts of a job. We styled the shelves with a mix of new things and cool older things from our clients. We also reimagined their family photo wall (photos to come!)

The outcome, we think, is old meets new in the best possible way. We were able to maintain the charm of the space from the elements we were able to re-use but the updates create a light and inviting space that we hope will be loved for many, many more years to come!

Photos: Heidi Zeiger

Kitchen update on a budget

Mike convinced me to tour our current home by sheer trickery. After showing me the listing photos he knew I had no interest in it but somehow we ended up here one day anyway. I had dragged him to quite a few doozies so as we pulled into the driveway I decided to not be a total ass about it and keep an open mind. It was in a great location after all. Great neighborhood, great schools nearby and backed up to the Illinois Prairie Path (which at the time I didn't understand how cool that actually is...more on that another time). 

After a walk around, it pained me to say that it did meet our needs. My main objection was the kitchen. We had just ripped out our kitchen in the city and the update was, in my opinion, pretty great. So, our standards were kind of high in this department. And the real bummer was that this kitchen was basically new. The cabinets were solid, granite countertops, stainless appliances, etc. And while there was nothing terrible about it, I knew I would want to put my stamp on it but the price tag of our last kitchen made us both cringe at the idea. So we actually did walk away from this place.  

The old, new kitchen

And then we changed our mind a week later and went back to the sellers with an offer. It really was a good house and the inventory was so low...and our condo was on the market so we had to make a decision fast. 

We couldn't afford to have the whole kitchen ripped out and luckily the appliances were still in great shape so here's the breakdown of how we made this kitchen more us on fairly tight far as kitchens are concerned, that is.

Cabinets: The day we closed on the house I had a guy come out and take all of the cabinet doors to be painted. I had researched some before and afters of successful cabinet painting and the price was definitely more appealing than buying way more appealing. I had no interest in trying to tackle this project myself and would highly discourage it unless you have tons of time, no toddlers at home, and you are really meticulous. I met none of those requirements, so I bit the bullet, hired a professional and chose a color. Here is the mood board I was working with...

1. Walnut butcherblock by Ikea 2. Carrara marble counters 3. Subway tile backsplash 4. Chandelier by Triple Seven Home 5Pendants by Triple Seven Home 6. Cabinet paint in Blue Note by Benjamin Moore  7. Cabinet knobs by Schoolhouse Electric 8. Drawer pull by Schoolhouse Electric 9. Oriental rug (I won't link to this because it's VERY pricy but ours is similar in style handed down from Mike's grandmother...heirloom pieces are very budget-friendly ;)) 10. Counter stools - Target

Countertops: We decided to have the granite counter removed for something a bit brighter. We chose marble because A. it's gorgeous and B. it's actually less pricey than many of the other stones. I will save another post to discuss this decision. For now, just know we chose it and it's ours until we stumble upon a big pile of money to replace it (ok, it's soft and scratches and chips ALL THE TIME and is a terrible match for my personality...I want to love it but it causes me so much angst that it's more of a love/hate thing.)

For the peninsula (which faces THE WRONG WAY...don't you wish you could find the previous owners of your home and either shake them or have a sit down and discuss why on earth they would have the island seating face the dining room??? I do and this is my blog, so...) we had an Ikea butcher block installed which saved us a ton over a solid walnut piece. It's essentially walnut-wrapped particleboard but honestly I cannot tell the difference. We left the positioning of the seating alone for now and figured we would tackle it later if we decide to stay and gut the entire joint...when we win the lottery.

Backsplash: We had subway tile in our previous place and loved it for a few reasons. It's a clean look, fairly classic in style and super duper affordable. Would I put it in my dream kitchen? Probably not, but for now it works well to brighten the space.

Lighting: I found our pendants and chandelier on Etsy (Triple Seven Home - very cool stuff). If you're a living female person you know that Etsy is a great place to find unique goods for sometimes far less than what you'd pay for them elsewhere. While likely not a cheap as you might find things at a big box store, you'll have something cool that your neighbor might not also have. Use specific search terms if you have an idea what you want and your hunt will be less overwhelming. Or hire me and I'll do it for you ;)

Hardware: New hardware can freshen up any kitchen and for not a lot of dough. I didn't go totally low end but not crazy high either. I love anything by Schoolhouse Electric, especially these brass beauties. Maybe I'll regret brass in a few years (I doubt it) but if I do, it's an easy swap for something else.

So, new-to-us cabinets, updated hardware, backsplash, lighting (probably my favorite part) and white paint on the walls and we now have something that resembles us for around $7000 with labor. And man, that still seems like a LOT, right? 

Yeah, it adds up quickly but still a fraction of a complete renovation. For most of us, the kitchen is the center of our home and the look of it goes a long way to show your style. This is why we started here in this house. Remember, where we came from (see below)...not bad at all but not us or who we want to be. And sometimes your home can make that for you. This year I am trying to be more light hearted and upbeat and to me our kitchen says that. Now, how can I help you to do that in your place?