before and after

before & after: high-end kitchen + dining room makeover

by Kate Pruitt

I’m pleased with the balance of aspirational and everyday design we choose to share on the site, and though the scope of renovations like that in this amazing kitchen/dining room makeover are out of reach for many of us, I appreciate seeing dreamy, high-end projects every once in a while. While I could never afford it, I like to take inspiration from everything that’s out there.

Interior designer Christine Tuttle did an amazing job renovating this home in Wellesley, Massachusetts, which was originally a poorly built spec house. This state-of-the-art kitchen looks worth every penny; my favorite elements in the design are the slab fireplace and the panoply of gorgeous windows, which make this space seem like heaven to spend time in both day and night. The rooms strike a great balance between being minimal and spacious, yet also warm and inviting, a difficult feat in such large spaces. Wonderful job, Christine! — 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 this gorgeous high-end kitchen makeover after the jump!

Time: 4 months

Cost: $400K

Basic Steps: The clients wanted clean, clutter free and contemporary but warm. I focused on beautiful (yet durable) surfaces and materials — wood, bronze, stone. Lots of light was important, as the old kitchen had tiny windows. This was a very high-end job; we took the walls down to the studs. Details include a Bulthaup kitchen, all new lighting, windows and doors, a quarter-sawn oak floor, an adjacent mudroom with radiant heat floors, Creston house integration system, Hans J. Wegner chairs, Jack Larsen silk Roman shades, a Chilewich mat under the table and a Holly Hunt light.

My advice is to not skimp on kitchens; it is such a big project, and no one wants to go through a kitchen remodel once you’ve done it, so do it right. I always say that getting the underpinnings right, like the mechanicals and electrical, are so important. While the fun stuff is picking a paint color, what really make a room livable are the things you don’t see — proper HVAC, layered lighting, and so on. — Christine

Suggested For You


  • That is one beautiful kitchen (after, of course). The before kitchen is pretty close to the kitchen of my nightmare. Love the remodeling.

  • Love this! I have thought about doing this in my kitchen…I am just not a granite and stainless steel girl, but I also worry that changing it would decrease the re-sale value.

  • so nice! Christine, can you tell me the stone you used on the fireplace and any other details? My fireplace looks almost identical to the ‘before’, and I love the ‘after’.

  • Wait! $400,000! $100,000 per month? With that kind of money why would the owners purchase “a poorly built spec house?” The space is lovely but the cost is freaking us out!!!

  • I always love the ‘before and after’ posts. I appreciate a clean contemporary design and love the floor to ceiling windows. Unfortunately, I was sad to see they tore out the millwork (window casements, baseboards) and replaced the hardwood floors (unless I’m being fooled by laminate). Seems like a waste of materials and money.

  • $400K for a kitchen remodel? WOW. That’s almost 4 times the cost of my entire house :( — great looking kitchen though. The top picture is so cliche. I think all that cherry, stainless, and granite that is so popular now will be looked back upon as the avocado, orange and harvest wheat of the 2000s.

  • I hope they donated the perfectly fine cabinetry and countertops to Habitat or something. It’s a lot of money to spend on something that seemed fine before…but if you’ve got the money…

  • The before kitchen was gorgeous. I wish mine looked like that. The after, not so much. Looks like a cheap kitchen out of an IKEA catalogue. What on earth did they spend 400K on? So not worth it.

  • I agree about the after looking like a cheap IKEA kitchen. The before kitchen was gorgeous and only needed some lighting changed and maybe a cabinet resurfacing or countertop changeout. 400K? Sickening. If you could afford a nicer house, buy a nicer house. Wasting so much money on one room of a house that they’ll probably want to remodel as soon as the modern look is “out” is disturbing when the previous one had nothing wrong with it. So much waste…

  • In agreement with Janine. Taking what was good about Before and adding in some more “now” pieces would have been my choice. The extreme example of what happened here is tearing down the old Penn Station to build Madison Square Garden. Shudder.

  • I’ve been an avid D*S reader for years and this is the first time I’ve been compelled to comment. I agree with Janine: the finished product, while clean and modern, seems void of character, straight from the pages of IKEA. For 400,000 buckeroos, the owners should have just sprung on a house they liked more in the first place! Yeesh.

  • I also prefer the before. Windows are akin to higher energy costs in my climate, but I loved seeing the larger windows in both the before and after. I hate seeing kitchens with no natural light, so this is definitely great in that regard.
    The changes made don’t seem extensive enough for the amount they spent. Range and (one of) the sink is in basically the same location.

    It’s not bad, but too industrial for my taste. It reminds me of the inside of a Chipotle.

  • What a dramatic change! Gorgeous, and nothing like anything IKEA has even done or could do (despite the ramblings above). The $400K budget is completely realistic considering the scope of the project. HVAC alone is going to eat up a big chunk of that, as would the new windows, flooring, lighting … and it looks like there was some structural changes as well. As a designer, THANK YOU for posting a realistic budget.

  • Well, they certainly took it from “ho-hum” to “oh my!”…..but who couldn’t for $400k? I am much more inspired by people who do a lot for little…anybody can spend money….

  • I love the functional elements, it looks like the back counter has appliance “garages” in the cabinets… I have a modern kitchen and lots of gadgets, I wish I had the storage to make mine as sparse as this one, this has inspired me to do a little cabinet clearing.

  • Wow, positively gorgeous. I know the price tag is steep, but as the blurb explains, it sounds like this was already a very high-end project, plus it was stripped down to the skeleton and rebuilt, so that makes sense.

    I too enjoy the everyday and DIY projects often featured on this site, but I have to admit, this showcases nicely what money can buy. I hope the rest of the house lives up!

  • I absolutely LOVE the after. I never could have imagined that the kitchen could be redone to look like that, and huge windows are wonderful. However, like a few other commenters, I’m a bit taken aback by the massive price tag. As someone with admittedly zero construction knowledge but a desire to one day remodel a kitchen, I’m really curious about the approximate price breakdown (how much for structural changes, windows, etc). Thanks!

  • Wow, beautiful! Not at all like an ikea kitchen! nothing’s wrong with Ikea but this isn’t even comparable. The new windows are incredible!

  • You have acheived better natural light and it look less cluttered. But it also looks like you lost all the practical storage. It looks like this is a kitchen where the people living here order dinner out alot!

  • I’m really curious how much this house originally cost. If it was over 2 million maybe 400k wouldn’t seem so wild.

  • I hope the new kitchen reflects the exterior. I love it, but it seems like a waste. The stuff that is new could be done cheaper and a bit better. I also hope the old kitchen was donated because someone would have been very happy with those counters and cabinets

  • Wow, way to lighten up baby! I love the combination of the blonde wood with the white cabs. The configuration is great, really opened up the space and it’s something different, you don’t see that sort of island arrangement every day. $400K is a lot but it seems much more was done than just the “kitchen” including the windows.

  • Although the new kitchen IS absolutely stunning and a beautiful blonde pool of light and gorgeousness, I really feel sick at the amount of money spent. Also I think that the ‘before’ kitchen is probably still far more exclusive than the 98% of all your readers could ever afford.
    BUT of course I understand that when you have a ‘show house’ you also need a show kitchen, even if it looks as if nobody would ever spend any time in this glorious place. Where do they keep their equipment?
    LOVE the light and light-weight equipment though and I KNOW from personal experience that a great kitchen does cost a bomb.

  • Beautiful and bright! Love it!

    Strange that people think this looks like Ikea. I think it looks like something out of Dwell magazine myself.

    People should understand that Wellesley, MA is a ‘real estate insanity’ zone. I’m sure this 400K kitchen is a vast improvement for this multi-million dollar home (though I can only assume that a home, of this size, in that town, was in this price range).

    And for the people who are asking why they didn’t just buy a house with a kitchen they liked: Just makes me think that they’ve never tried buying a house, that covered everything they loved/needed, in a reasonable commuting distance to the job that would pay for said house. And it’s not as if they were destroying a historic property!

  • $400,000 for an Ikea Kitchen.?!.? Yikes! I like the first kitchen but the bright light is nice.

  • absolutely wonderful!!!!!!!!!! j’adore!!!!!!!!! such a great sense of style and fantastic space. great colours, great shapes. great project!

  • Count me in with those who love the “after” and think that the before is a nightmare. I hate that faux Victorian look. If your house is new, why not make it look new? And to those saying “They should have just bought a house they liked!” Um, have you ever actually bought a house? It is extremely difficult to find a house in the area you like with exactly what you want in it. That’s what remodeling is for, and if you have 400,000 dollars to spend, go for it.

  • I do love the new kitchen. I’d die for that much light!

    Regarding the house price, that is surely a million dollar house at a bare minimum. (My guess would be closer to $1.5+ million.) The town is one of the most expensive communities in one of the more expensive real estate markets in the US. You can’t buy a 1,000 sf ranch for less than $500,000 in Wellesley MA, and the new builder-spec houses in my considerably less tony neighboring town go for nearly $1 million. In this area, a basic kitchen renovation with decent-quality (1/2″ composite box) cabinets and granite countertops is $30k+ for a 12 x 12 kitchen.

  • This is one heck of a transformation! While I agree, it looks straight out of the 2010 Ikea catalog when they had those beech cabinets, it’s obvious from the grain matching that the quality is far superior. However dramatic the change, it’s the windows, the dining chandelier and that warm-up-the-atmosphere basket filled with logs that impresses and intrigues me the most. The only thing I’m taking from here for my own kitchen remodel is the countertops, I like the juxtaposition of materials and the layering.

  • Yeah, I’m with Holly–in fact, I think $1.5 is probably quite low. We just did some accidental real estate window-shopping in Wellesley last weekend and poked into an open house at a $1.6 million house that had a kitchen very similar to the “before.” If the house is big, on the right lot near the right schools and walking distance to the train it could easily be well north of $2 million. That said, I’d just buy a lot or a really decrepit house and tear it down to start from scratch if what I had an endless budget, wanted was something that modern, and what was available was so faux-traditional! (I guess they basically DID start from scratch. I’d love to see some more before/afters from this project, especially of the exterior!)

  • does anyone else think the before kitchen looks exactly like the kitchen from the sopranos?
    like the counters from the after.

  • Loving all the debate. Although I appreciate the beauty of this kitchen, I have to say I’m mostly happy to see a post with this type of budget. Although DIY is fantastic and the option of home improvement stores are essential for most of us (and inspire the best design I have ever seen) I’m really glad to see a budget for a homeowner that hired out everything. Good work is expensive if you don’t have the know how, or artistic eye to do it yourself. Thanks Design*Sponge for the budget honesty, it’s good for the trades for clients to have realistic expectations! I’d like to see more high end remodels and see the kind of DIY reinvention it inspires for your readers!

  • What a difference that all that light makes! That’s a great transformation. However, I’m kind of confused by the functionality of this kitchen. Are there two island benches, stacked in front of each other, then a wall of cabinetry? That… must keep you fit?
    Hot damn, if I was finishing cooking a meal for eight and had to keep running around those benches to get from the pantry to the sink to the stove, I would very quickly go insane.

  • Also, I’m going to be terribly annoying and point out that it’s Hans Wegner, not Hans Wenger (Hans J. Wegner if you want to be truly anal about it).

  • I’ve never understood why people put a dining table and chairs smack-up against a fireplace. Not good for the table or the people immediately next to the heat; and the others at the table seem to miss out. Much prefer chairs/couches surrounding fireplaces for sharing the warmth… just my opinion.

  • maybe the kitchen looks like ikea but once you´re in it, it doesn´t feel like ikea. there is a huge difference in quality between a bulthaup-kitchen and any kitchen by ikea. i now have the bulthaup kitchen my parents bought almost fourty years ago, its still functional and working absolutely fine.

  • The before had so much potential…the after-I can’t even tell it’s a kitchen. What a waste!

  • if you’ve got that much money to spend changing something that extensively, i’d hope you’re donating some of it to people without a kitchen.

    it looks great. the location and lot must have been spot on to make that much change.

  • I prefer the before. It just needed more lighting and some other tweaks. The new windows look great but I’m not a fan of the rest.

  • To all of those weighing in: the “before” was extremely cheap, painted particle board, flooring, Home Depot cabinetry, etc. The project was in keeping with the renovation of the rest of the house, which took 2 years to complete all 8,000 sq. feet. It was custom designed and every last piece of furniture and decor — down to the flatware, was purpose bought for the house. They chose the house for the location, it was always the owner’s intention to create their dream home.

    • It’s an 8000 sq ft house in Wellesley MA…if people knew the area, they wouldn’t be shocked by this budget.

      This is gorgeous! The windows!!!

  • There is nothing I hate more then a poorly built spec home with an awful kitchen. I get tired of seeing granite held up my sawdust. The new kitchen is amazing. The light is great and construction is very expensive, especially the stuff you never see. Beautiful job and I bet it looks very lived in when the photographer isn’t around.

  • It’s totally beautiful! Once again, Christine’s ability to create sweetness and serenity in this world has blossomed. Your clients must be in heaven!

  • This kitchen is gorgeous! I have to say, the negativity/rudeness of a lot of these comments really irked me. I’m editing myself down here, but: Ikea is not the be-all-end-all of modern design. Neither is modern design just a passing fad. If you are offended to find a post on DesignSponge about people spending a lot of money, skip to the next post.

  • A “realistic budget?” LMAO There are so many things wrong with that description, I can’t even list them all here. There’s nothing all that interesting to me about this because the room is so completely devoid of personality, and that’s coming from someone who absolutely LOVES modern design. One can tell when owners touch not a single thing in a remodel with their own hands, and that’s what this screams to me. It’s completely generic and could be anyone’s (provided you have a ludicrous amount of money to waste). Honestly, it’s all beautiful, but it just looks like it was all done solely to impress their family, friends and neighbors, and I wonder if they’ll even USE it. I am impressed by the design of this space, but not by the insane money spent. It’s MUCH more impressive when people make something great out of their space on a very low budget, with their own hands. This is the definition of ostentatious.

  • One of my favorite shows on HGTV was this: a person would have a photo of some beautiful high end space and would re-create it using their own (usually minuscule) budget. I can’t remember the name of it. In my mind this is what drives DS, getting what we want on our budget and having fun doing it. So, why can’t we see some high end spaces here? (Actually, I don’t even know what a Bulthaup kitchen is so I don’t feel qualified to comment too much.) The problem I see with the first kitchen is it’s so dark. I love all the new windows. I do agree with the comment about having the table next to the fireplace, I have that now, not good, not comfortable at all.

  • It is beautiful, but not $400k beautiful. Maybe $50k beautiful. I hope they donated the old cabinets (Yes, I’m being judgmental–sorry.)

  • This is a great looking kitchen! Given I’m in the middle of my own kitchen remodel, I was wondering what tools the rest of the commenters here have used to plan out their remodeling efforts. In the past, I’ve simply used some of the CAD and Flash tools readily available online. Any other thoughts?

  • The remodel project is beautiful. The key design intent to lighten and open the space was accomplished by the designer with utmost finesse. To add windows and re-orient the space might seem simple to some, but when experts make something look easy, it is because they have excelled at their craft. Sure, a kitchen of this caliber costs money. Sure, many of us don’t have that kind of money. But, let’s appreciate the design time and foresight that it took to re-conceive the space. This is “design” sponge, not “eco-design” sponge. The homeowners might be in the ozone restoration business and may have theoretically earned enough carbon offsets to do a hundred renovations more just like this one and still be ahead…you never know…it’s too easy to judge upscale renovations like this on their possible “waste”. I love the project!

  • Wow, this is a pretty big debate. While I understand the pains of having a cheaply made kitchen with cheap materials, I personally like the design asthetic of the first kitchen- I prefer more of a traditional take over modern and warm woods over birch in a kitchen. I do love how much light the after kitchen has, but in my opinion it’s much less ‘warm’ and and more industrial… I didn’t realize it was a kitchen still at first. That being said, what works for me may not be someone else’s taste and it’s not my opinion that matters. I’m glad the design and style work for the owners and I hope it accomplished exactly what they wanted.

  • Cool final product, esp the windows, but please tell me that the perfectly good high end kitchen went to Habitat for Humanity or something? Please.

  • Loved the before kitchen, would love to have it. The after kitchen looks terrible. What a waste of money when so many people could use that money for something more important then a ugly kitchen.

  • Is this a joke? Do you mean $40,000 not $400,000? For that price, it should be all gold.

  • Like Fiona I’m confused about the many islands in the final design. One seems to have the sink, the other the stovetop? With the fridge way back on the far wall?

    I would need to buy rollerskates and perfect my figure-8s just to make a stir-fry.

  • I just found this on a round up and had to click through. What a sleek, warm, functional space!