before & after: home renovation

As someone who lives in an apartment with a lack-of-light problem, I feel particularly appreciative of this modern and bright renovation by Canadian-based design consultant Kirsten Marshall. Kirsten achieved an incredible level of light in each room; blended black, white and color beautifully; and brought in some great unexpected details, like that amazing light bulb display in the kitchen. Great job, Kirsten! — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

Read more about Kirsten’s chic home renovation after the jump!

Time: 3 months

Cost: $150k for entire home

Basic Steps: We re-imagined the main floor space to suit the needs of the family. We wanted the kitchen open to the living space and took the traditional living room and made it a formal dining room. We added a third master bath en-suite on the 2nd floor and a main floor powder room (in a closet!) to increase the resale value of the house. As we were trying to do a lot on a limited budget, the client (my partner, Allison Granovsky) was happy with an Ikea kitchen. We liked the detail but painted it all white, keeping the architectural elements of the century home. This also allowed us to integrate a very contemporary kitchen into the house without it standing out. Adding the dark oiled floor makes the space look consistent, as we opened the wall between the kitchen and the living room.

My advice is to make your decisions and stick with them. Allison and I know what we like, so once we made the decisions, we didn’t double back and question ourselves. The result was that we tackled the project in a very short time period, which helped keep the budget down. Take chances! I suggested the black ceiling, which is quite risque, but Allison loved the idea, and it is a wonderful design element in the house. We also painted all of the interior doors black, which looks fantastic! Lastly, think outside of the box when it comes to storage and millwork. We moved a wall in the kitchen so we could incorporate a custom bookshelf around the existing Ikea pieces. This makes the kitchen look custom for a limited amount of money. — Kirsten

  1. Lizzy says:

    Love what you did…really an amazing transformation. It’s a great idea for someone who wants to “change their life”, in fact. That would be like moving into a whole new home/living situation. Perfect for someone newly divorced who stayed in the existing home.

    For the negative comments on painting woodwork …IMO: they bought the house, they can do whatever they want with it (hope that didnt come off snotty). Unless you bought it or it’s listed as historical, I don’t think that all design has to keep with the style of the home….life would be exceedingly boring if it did. The fact that they thought “outside-the-box” is very appealing and inspiring. They created their own style….. Cheers!

  2. Kim says:

    I cannot believe how judgmental people are about painting over the wood. The idea of preserving the wood is noble, but until you live in a space with the lack of light for awhile you can’t say what you’d do. After a year of living in our house, I’m quite surprised by the choices I’m making. The alternative is you find yourself not spending time in some of the most important rooms of the house because it doesn’t feel good.

    And speaking of realistic design, I’d love to see what people are doing to deal with media. Most pics never show it and yet it’s a huge part of our lives. In fact, it would make a great regular feature of DS.

    I love the choices you’ve made with your house. That kitchen light fixture is the bomb!

  3. Amazing, Bright, Happy! What a great transformation, I really like the tile showcasing the leaded glass window. I too am usually a fan of original woodwork etc, but sometimes you just have to change things to suit your needs and I have to agree that this clean white look is perfect for adding light. I love that it is modern but still has the character & architectural details. Life would be so boring if everyone had the same taste!

  4. ba says:

    the last picture of the living room is devestating. why not just paint the upper walls and ceiling bright white and add some more lights before ruining such a beautiful craftsman interior.

  5. Genevieve says:

    Good point about the media, Kim. I have a pathological loathing of visible power cords, something my husband appears to have no limits of tolerance for. Also, I naively let my husband have a free for all on his birthday a couple of years back. We now have a TV the size of a volkswagon in my living room. Every time I walk in there, the TV stares at me. It feels like a young bachelors crash pad, minus the pizza boxes. It would be wonderful to see some creative DIY ideas for managing that stuff.

  6. iriedesign says:

    Where’s the black ceiling?

  7. hena tayeb says:

    Wonderful. Simply proves the magic of paint and the beauty of white

  8. i agree with the previous posters about painting over the wood. i can feel an ache in my heart when i see that! there is such beauty and majesty in such a space. yes, it’s dark. but paining over it seems just wrong. oh my.

  9. Jackie says:

    Horrifying! Once original woodwork has been painted, it’s very difficult to strip and revive it–all those years of patina lost. Yes, you can do what you want with your own house. But don’t buy a house with all those terrific period details if you know you hate them. Leave the house for someone who appreciates it for what it is and will steward it well. If you must have that neighborhood, look for a house with very little period detail intact–a blank slate for your new design, and probably cheaper, too.

    If we preserved only the houses officially designated as “historic” there’d be almost nothing left to give those desirable “cool, funky, charming” neighborhoods their character.

  10. Kelly says:

    Why is every single Before and After just white walls? And everyone says “incredible!” White is what rel estate agents paint houses and apartments to make them look better, its a no-brainer….throwing in a turquoise chair in the mix isn’t exactly original. I loved seeing the older Before and Afters, with truly unique paint colors, rugs, furniture… I feel like the B & As of this year are all indistinguishable from each other….white, white, white.

  11. denice says:

    White done right. Awesome.

  12. kirstie says:

    I love this house and love the white painted wood. I would say to other commenters, you can’t actually see the state of the wood in the before photos – for all you know it is in horrible condition and covered with really nasty varnish.

  13. jeannie lovesey says:

    i want to see more of the light piece from the kitchen! what is it??

  14. Maya says:

    Oooh, love how they worked the windows into the bathroom!

  15. Kirsty says:

    Well done! I believe that more light always equals more happiness in a home. Would you mind telling me where the simple round wooden table is from? Thank you.

  16. The light was designed by and is made from recycled light bulbs.

  17. candace. says:

    congratulations on a wonderful and very personal renovation. i honestly don’t understand those out there who are horrified that you painted over the wood paneling and trim. if you own it, do what you will with it. for those that hate the idea, simply don’t do it in your home. wood isn’t sacred and all of this ‘reverence’ seems false or just misplaced.

  18. barbara says:

    Did we ever find out where the Lightbulb Cluster fixture came from? I like it, it’s different.

  19. Kasia says:

    I always find the divide over painting woodwork interesting. Wood is a wonderful and useful product supplied by mother nature. Wood can look absolutely beautiful on it’s own, but sometimes, it really works better by just serving as a structural element, and looks beautiful painted. People who think their way is the only way need to get over themselves.

  20. kirsten says:

    Thanks for all the great comments!!

    @AGBA, @Irie, @Joseph
    The black ceiling can be seen on our website

    The chairs are vintage Saarinen, found on Craigslist but you can buy them at
    Design Within Reach

  21. eva says:

    wow, the place got so much lighter. hard to believe people actually lived there before the walls were white.

  22. What a beautiful remodel! The new space is so light and bright. The living room is amazing. P.S, the idea that you could find a fixer upper with such great period details for $149k is mind boggling. I need to move there! What a great find.

  23. blooie says:

    What a great job – love it

  24. Hazel Stone says:

    Apparently painting fantastic woodwork white is called great design now. Love the bathroom and attic though.

  25. Kristin shanley says:

    It’s amazing what a bit of white paint can do to freshen up a room. Bright and beautiful!

  26. lucy says:

    dudes, white painted wood is still wood! And it’s a beautiful thing. Plus, do you really want to feel like you’re living in a dark, gloomy monastery/english pub, all the time? I would’ve painted it white too :) LOVE IT !

  27. Debbie Rainer says:

    Love it, but what happens whenyou want read a book half way down the pile?!

  28. Tami M. says:

    Love the painted wood, but I understand the other point of view also. However you can see the beautiful details of the wood much better when it’s painted. Non-painted, all the different textures of the carvings just blur together.

  29. Liz says:

    What is that crazy and amazing light in the kitchen?

  30. I think this is gorgeous and although I love Craftsman style and wood details, I would offer that the contribution they have made to this house in terms of design and liveability equals that of the original builders! It is one thing if people paint over gorgeous wood trim for the sake of horrible or even mediocre decor – THEN I agree it is a crime – but what they have done with this house is a design statement in its own right.

  31. Karen says:

    I live in a house by the sea in north east England built in 1901, we have really dim light through the winter months. The hallway bannisters and all door frames and deep skirting boards were really dark wood when we moved in and the estate agent said not to lighten them as it would detract from the house value. However, it wasn’t really ‘wood’ we were looking at, it was layers of stain (the wood is old pine). Our neighbours all have wall to wall ‘panelling’ and it’s really a cheapo turn of the century chipboard that has oft stained veneer so that it that has been treated to LOOK LIKE WOOD as I am probably sure this featured interior was. If you want to live in a home you need to feel comfortable and contemporary not to feel obliged to relive the days of yesteryear in dark and dour interiors from the times of austerity when they didn’t have the decor choices(and cleaning materials) that we have at our disposal. (Plus an elderly relative tells me it was partly because of woodsmoke – every room had an open fire). Reader, we painted the wood – it makes the house feel happy and flooded with light and warm accent colours can sing. What goes around, comes around. When our kids grow up edwardian and victorian mahogony stains are all the rage they can have loads of fun stripping off the paint, lathering on the stain and finding the grain! I love Kirsten’s interiors!
    PS we recently sold a very heavy victorian expanding dining table and 6 chairs (inc 2 carvers) which we’ve had for 0ver 20 years. “Brown” furniture is currently sooo unfashionable you can hardly give it away, no-one wants it, they only want blonde woods. The set only fetched £55 at the auction rooms. I have heard on the grapevine that dealers make up containerloads and ship it all overseas, seeing all the before and afters on d*s I feel happy and hopeful that maybe our wonky old chairs and table have found a new home where they are having time and love lavished on them and maybe they’ll have a new lease of life…..

  32. Karen says:

    PS. The Sapien bookcase is genius!

  33. Jenna says:

    BLACK interior doors? YES I am so copying that! :) This is a beautiful redo.

  34. I think the work will meet the high level standard at the affordable price.Also finishing and look is perfect one.

  35. AnaLucia says:

    I love the living room and the way you arranged the furniture. I have a similiar layout and I am not sure where to put the sectional chaise. I didn’t want to put it against the wall but in your living room looks great. Is the sectional all against the wall? Thanks!!

  36. Yes, the sectional is against the wall. This space is quite narrow and the sectional long and lean so it really works.


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