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kitchen before and after

To say I was excited would be an understatement.

When we found the house we wanted to buy -- a quirky, light-filled beauty with a huge lot built in 1906, I immediately started dreaming about what she could become over the next twenty years.  I saw the gardening potential, the holiday meals, and the children who would grow to Everest-like heights and need every inch of the twelve-foot ceilings.

When we signed the adoption papers, I was giddy and teary. She was ours, forever and ever, amen.

The other night as I lay reading in bed, I remarked to my husband that if a 20 million dollar lottery ticket dropped in my lap tomorrow, I would not move out of this house. I would hire an architect to draw up plans for a wrap-around porch and an addition to the second story. I would hire a landscape designer to come at first thaw and take a backhoe to a huge chunk of our property. I would hire a team of contractors to get out here and put on the addition, upgrade the wiring, and put new siding on the house.

But I would not leave my baby, even though remodeling is probably more havoc-wreaking than moving to a newer place. This house is far from perfect, far, far from being done, but that is half the fun. 

To me, fixing up a house is just something you do. You keep some of the charm that money can't buy, like the weird fireplace in my unfinished basement (?!), the windows that are six feet tall and eight feet wide, and the knowing that your home has stood for more than a hundred years, rooted to this piece of earth near the biggest lake in the world.

I grew up in an old house, a house that was in a constant state of remodeling, so I'm used to it. When my dad ripped a hole in the wall to create an archway connecting the kitchen to the dining room, he found a couple of doors from the 1890s and some old clothes stuck inside.  That was fascinating to me. More than once I searched the closet under the stairs to make absolutely certain there was no secret passageway. (Did anyone else harbor the secret passageway fantasy? I still want a secret passageway.)

The person that we bought our house from did some work. They painted over everything, installed new cabinetry, cleared the overgrown shrubs from the yard, and put in a new furnace. Most things were not done the way I would want them (which is to say, done well), but then, little in the world is done the way I want it.

I'm working through my issues.

My kitchen used to look like this:

Things I liked:

1. The spaciousness.

2. The light.

3. The cleanliness.

Things I did not like:

1. Everything else.

While the cabinetry and appliances were new, they were builder's grade, and didn't really fit with the age and proportion of the space. The cabinets seemed too small in comparison to the height of the ceiling. The black countertops, white appliances, and tan ceramic tile did not create the charming, cohesive look I wanted. (Ceramic tiles in a cold climate are just a recipe for disaster. Not only are they chilly, they are extremely slippery when you come in with snow on your shoes.)

So, before we moved in, we did a little work on the joint. 

We were on a small budget. Much as I would have liked to spend $30,000 spiffing up the kitchen, the checkbook refused to cooperate.

But we were able to totally transform the look of the kitchen for less than $1,500.

Here's my kitchen today. I won't say she's finished, but she's headed in the right direction.

We painted the walls Benjamin Moore Grassy Meadows.

We installed beadboard and a chair rail around the entire room, and then painted both it and the top cupboards in Benjamin Moore's Ivory White.

Because it's cold and snowy here much of the year, I wanted the kitchen to have a warm feel, so I stayed away from a cool white.

The lower cabinets were painted Benjamin Moore's Gray Horse:

I opted for a semi-gloss finish throughout the kitchen, given that I have young children and a cat and a husband and a pet horse masquerading as a Chocolate Labrador, so the paint would not only need to be wipeable, but scrubbable.

We added satin nickel hardware to the cabinets, and put up crown moulding to give the upper cabinets a larger and more classic presence in the room. If I'd had a larger budget, I would have liked to have put small, glass-fronted cabinets on top of them, like these:

via Things That Inspire

Someday, someday.

We also bought a counter-height table that doubles as a breakfast bar/island and outfitted it with stools similar to these from Ballard Design:

I really, really hated the flooring. Someday we'll have hardwoods, but until then, we bought an indoor/outdoor rug that covers most of the tile and is easy to clean. (Also from Ballard.)

The Hoosier Cabinet was a lucky find at an antique store, and I adore everything about it. It fits like it was made for my kitchen, and I hope he'll be happy living here. My love for you, Mr. Hoosier, is steadfast. Unyielding. True blue.

I adore the kitchen now, but here's my list of things I hope to do soon.

1. New light fixtures, maybe something like this from Barn Light and Electric:

2. Window treatments. I haven't settled on what type.

3. Plants for the top of the Hoosier cabinet and a window box for the window over the sink.

4. An alternate arrangement for the trash and recycling. They kind of greet you at the back door now, and they're a big temptation for the horsedog.

5. Change some of the hardware on Mr. Hoosier.

Things that I'd like to do someday, perhaps after I win the lottery:

1. Swap out the appliances for stainless steel and install a gas line to the range. I love cooking with gas!

2. Install new flooring, preferrably hardwood.

3. Upgrade the wiring so that we can actually turn on the kitchen light from the back entry door. As it stands now, we have to walk through the dark kitchen to be able to flip on the light.

4. Create display shelving on the bare walls so I can enjoy my vintage tableware collection more.

5. Hire a robot to spotlessly clean the kitchen three times a day. She should be friendly and wear a white apron.

6. Put in sliding glass doors onto the brand new deck that we'll have built with our lottery winnings.

Kitchen before:

Kitchen after:

Perhaps I should actually start playing the lottery. It might be easier to win if I do.


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Reader Comments (22)

Stainless steel appliances are something i will NEVER do again! i loathe mine. they show every spot, spatter and finger & dog nose print. they are never NOT streaky once they arrive at your house. they are not magnetic, so no pictures on the fridge or potholders stuck to the oven. i do recommend switching to a gas stove though :)
i agree on ceramic tile floors: cold, slippery & the tiles will crack and grout fall out, especially when installed in old houses (my house will be 200 in 4 years). they are also really uncomfortable to stand on, so if you actually cook in your kitchen, you need to put soft pads everywhere anyway...
i'm going to "freshen up" my kitchen this summer. i can't afford to remodae, but paint can do amazing things. my kitchen is dark as a cave, so my colors will be light & bright ;)

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlee

I love cooking with gas! My mother had stainless steel appliances. She hated them. They showed every fingerprint and water spot. She was constantly wiping them, and only 2 adults and a collie lived in her home.

I really like the way your kitchen looks. So bright and roomy. Enjoy it!

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteryarnardent

I love it! Gorgeous colors, I have shades of green throughout my house as well, it is very relaxing to me.
I also enjoy the "secret passageway" great aunt and grandmother both had huge, rambling old houses with coal chutes and spring houses and back staircases in them, and i loved exploring and discovering in both of them!

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

Good to know about the stainless appliances! Fingerprints = bad.

January 31, 2011 | Registered CommenterYarnista

Such nice photos! I didn't know you had a secret passageway fantasy. Had I known that I would have shown you where it was! I kept it a secret because I thought it would scare you girls. It wasn't under the stairway. :)

And some of the "clothes" that Dad found in the wall? Hundred year old bloomers that were yay-wide, remember? And also a receipt for a ton of bricks purchased for a few dollars, written in a spidery hand that looked like the person writing also was present at the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

One last neat thing - those doors Dad found in the wall? Remember that he actually used them later in the house - one ended up being the door to the downstairs bathroom he built, with the old black shiny doorknob and all.

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterYarnista's Mama

Very interesting. I also had secret passageway desires as a kid. One presumes that your robot would be named Rosie.

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKurt

LOVE the new look, SO much nicer then before, so much warmer and inviting!

I always had the same fantasies, I would even dream of finding secret passageways. One time we were looking at an old house while viewing homes, and it HAD a 1/4 size door leading to a secret hideaway upstairs. I so badly wanted that house. LOL

We revamped the kitchen in our home very similarly, but alas, no room for my hoosier, sadly. It's in the workshop and every time I pass by it, I mourn. One day it will have a proper home again.

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPietra

Rosie the Robot would be the ideal. We do have a dog named Rosie, however, so that could complicate things...

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterYarnista

As a kid? I still dream of finding secret passageways! Of course in my eight year old house, that's not very likely.

And I agree with the ss appliances - they attract grease, especially greasy finger and nose prints!

Your kitchen is beautiful! I love it!

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterangela

Your kitchen is gorgeous! Definitely an improvement from the original. I knew before I even saw it, that it would be green. You did an amazing job!

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBridget

Just a lurker here but I wanted to say I LOVE LOVE LOVE your kitchen! It looks sooo homey there. And I love that you chose a warmer white as I agree in MN we need the warm white against the cool (literally) white snow. Hope you're staying warm there!

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKristi

Don't feel so inclined to get the stainless steel appliances anytime soon. Wait until the kids are in college. Maybe by then they won't be popular. I don't have three greasy-fingered chicken nugget-eating children, but I have a 37 year old husband who manages to get the fridge quite filthy and I am not really sure how. It will drive you bonkers.

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteph

Oh, I just read everyone else's posts - my fridge IS magnetic though so I can junk it up with all sorts of stuff. Maybe if I cover the front with clutter it won't be possible to make a smudge. :)

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteph

Totally agree with comments about stainless steel appliances. And there are only two adults living in our house - well, also two cats but they are tidier than the people!

I love your colors - your kitchen looks like my yarn stash - all shades of blue and green.

February 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGenia

I love reading this blog, seeing all the yarn and humor there is! And today was super special seeing your home again! I love going to display homes, home tours, etc and seeing the real life spaces of real people. It is beautiful and your colors (of course) are great. What a wonderful designer of more than yarn!

My cabinets are almost the same as yours! They are what worry me--the coffee stains like bird droppings seem to fly sideways--I LOVE my stainless appliances (spots and all) because they are one of my fantasies--having a Viking stove just like Emeril or somebody on food channels and cooking like a pro (sometimes). So all the money I saved for years delivering babies and teaching nurses, to go to Ireland ended up in my kitchen appiances and granite counter when we built a new house. I wanted an old victorian but my husband and I are clueless with construction so we got the kids done with college and built a very nice new one. Feel free to visit Illinois and I will show you all. No secret passage, but there is a secret craft spot and a window seat and fireplace in my kitchen....all part of that fantasy thing. As for the secret passage deal, I am much older than you but I read Nancy Drew! And gothic romances back then!

February 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl

I feel so cheated!
I remember a hot day in sixth day waiting for school to get OUT, listening to a fly drone along with the teacher, and wondering about the future. I would be, gasp, 48 years old at the millennium. Would I even be alive? Would I be a grandmother? Glad I didn't know I'd be "fluffy". The one thing I was sure of that I wanted my own Rosie, the house robot, from the Jetson's. Flying cars seemed like a traffic problem on a scale I couldn't bear to contemplate but a house robot. You betcha. Sign me up. Now.

February 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCathy

Oh, this makes me so happy! Partly because I grew up in a similar farmhouse in central MN (why'd you have to move there right after I moved to Oregon?) and partly because it's so beautiful and partly because it gives me inspiration that the kitchen my partner & I are building in a retail space can maybe look like I imagine (i.e., like yours) and still be within budget. I think of you often and remember your adventures getting set up Duluth as we work with the space where we are putting in our new jam shop. It was previously a tattoo parlor and is in a historic building in a cute small town. So far the dirty blue carpet has been pulled up to reveal gorgeous aged concrete floors, and the nasty drop ceiling & fluorescent lights have been removed to expose a really great fir beam along one edge of the ceiling. We are planning to use reclaimed wood and vintage fruit labels to snazz up the place, on a budget of about four dollars and whatever change we dig out of the sofa cushions. Thanks for so much inspiration!

February 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy W

DID I MENTION I absolutely ADORE this??? ;) AWESOME job!!!

March 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterashley @ pure + lovely

This is gorgeous. Crazy thing is that we are in the middle of our kitchen remodel and the cabinet molding is almost identical to what we are doing! So neat to see it done in another photo. You all done an amazing job!

March 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Gorgeous re-do! We are in the middle of a much milder re-do of our entire upper floor, and it really is hard to wait on the things you want to complete the space, isn't it? We are going to end up having to buy a fridge, and I've been debating over stainless or not, too, but after reading all the comments on here, I think I might go with white (even though our cabinets are cream).

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMinnesotamom

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