before and afterkitchen

before and after: airy kitchen redo

by Kate Pruitt

This kitchen renovation from Lauren Zerbey of Chezerbey proves a very valuable design lesson in my mind: “All-white” does not always necessarily mean “all-light.” The decision to vault these ceilings and add a sky light must have been a huge commitment, even for a couple of architects, but it completely opened up and lightened this space. Bravo! Even with the rich, dark woods and charcoal cabinets, this space has ten times the amount of light and air than it had before, and that alone seems worth every penny. There are many things to love about this new kitchen — the teal sliding doors (RAD!); the clean, open shelving; the cork floor — but I’m going to go ahead and say that the inset dog bowl area clinches it for me. It’s clear that so much love and consideration went into every detail of this kitchen, and it clearly paid off. Well done, Lauren! — 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.)

This post is brought to you by Sub–Zero and Wolf. Get kitchen design ideas at http://subzero-wolf.com

Time: about 6 months

Cost: $18k

Basic Steps: Our old kitchen was inefficient, outdated and in poor condition. Since we’re both architects, we spent a lot of time brainstorming and sketching different layouts before landing on a solution that worked for us and our budget. After gutting the space, we reconfigured the layout to achieve better flow and connection to the backyard. Living in Seattle, natural daylight was also a high priority. To achieve this, we installed larger windows, a skylight, light-colored counter tops and painted the walls white. Dark cork floors and base cabinets balance out the white, while the fir shelves and lyptus butcher block add warmth to the space.

Our kitchen is still modest in size, so we also had to be creative about ways to boost its efficiency. Light colors and a vaulted ceiling make it feel more spacious, while small moves like recessing the microwave and dog bowls into the side of our island help to reduce visual clutter. To get a custom look without the hefty price tag, we combined DIY vertical grain Douglas fir shelving and end panels with IKEA cabinets. The backsplash at the range is a piece of back-painted glass, and the spice rack is a steel ledge shelf from West Elm.

Our advice: Be patient and expect that it will take longer and cost more than you originally anticipated. Try to live in your space for some time before making any big moves. We did this, and it really helped us determine the best solution for our house and budget constraints. Do your research and look for bargains, but don’t cheap out on things that get used daily (like the sink, faucet, countertops and flooring). Finally, if you plan on living in your house during the renovation (like we did), set aside a space for a make-shift kitchen (which for us included a microwave, fridge and small shelf and counter). A few weeks of take-out can be fun, but after that, you’ll want to be able to put together a quick and simple meal between work breaks! — Lauren

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  • Stunning renovation, and yet another example of why Thursdays are my favorite on design*sponge. :)

    Also, that last paragraph — “our advice” — is SO so great! Would love to see that incorporated to more DIYs and Before & Afters.

  • Wow, gorgeous makeover. I wouldn’t have known that these kitchens had been located in the same space. Are the cabinets from Ikea’s Abstrakt series?

  • Stunning and well done! It looks very functional as well as warm and welcoming. I love the metal beam details on the ceiling and the integrated dog bowls!

  • that is a jaw-dropping transformation! congrats on all your hard work… !! LOVE the skylight and the warm/grey/light colours in this kitchen, and the sliding door is so cool/functional/modern. where did you find the door and door hardware?

    also… that grey felty looking thing that houses the oranges on the counter? what is that, and where is it from? it’s so cute!

    thanks for sharing! ^__^

  • @Holly, the track hardware is Henderson by Pemko that we painted gray, the door pulls are from Linnea. We also have all of our resources (for the whole house) listed here: http://chezerbey.com/resources-2/

    @Katie – yup, the cabinets are IKEA Abstrakt!

    @Lyndsay and @Abby – the doors are paint grade doors that we painted with BM “thunderbird”. The felt bowl is from designer Josh Jakus (sold lots of places and online).

  • The transformation is amazing, but I confess I don’t find that a good thing. I’d kill for a sweet little 1940s kitchen.

  • Beautifully done. I love the mixture of textures and the placement of the dog bowl is brillant (healthier for the furball too, bowls should be elevated to prevent the dreaded bloat). I love the sliding doors.

  • it is beautiful, but i too am sad to see the vintage kitchen completely gone. there is no getting it back.

  • @Erika, Ann, Pamela and Sherry,

    I love retro kitchens too, but unfortunately ours had fallen into such disrepair over the last several decades that it could not be fixed up (which is sometimes hard to tell from the photos). We couldn’t even salvage the old cabinets since they were built (poorly) into the wall framing. (We think our house was probably a fisherman’s cabin originally, as it had no charm or built-ins that you see with other homes of that era.) Additionally, the layout was so bad (5 doorways!) that it would have been a real inefficiency of space to keep it as-is. The kitchen remodel was part of a larger project that allowed us to carve out a second bedroom without adding on to the house, so an efficient layout was key!

  • Yay! Big fan of chezerbey here! They really put a lot of thought into so many great unique details in all their renovations, not just that amazing kitchen!

  • This looks like a lot of bang for the bucks to me….love the mix of warm woods and cork floors with sleek cabinetry and stainless steel. I love old things too, but got tired of sticking drawers and other inefficiencies…now I mix contemporary styling with my better, more functional antiques for a look I love. For example, I might have incorporated those old stained cabinet doors somewhere to “honor” the original kitchen and ease the transition….a pantry perhaps. Obviously this was well-thought out, though, and frugally yet stylishly executed – great job!

  • The after is amazing…but I MUCH prefer the sweet before. What a shame to destroy the past…it would have been so darling with just a little updating to make it more liveable. However, with that said, it is up to each homeowner to make their house their own…

  • It’s sad to see so many fabolous cute and charming old kitchens being rippe out and replaced with shiny and metallic modern interior. Nice work but I loved rhe original kitchen a lot more.

  • I love the idea of the “before” but as someone who lives with a vintage kitchen day in and day out, it is not all sunshine and geraniums. I for one can’t wait to pull out my original cabinets because they are INEFFICIENT, with a poor layout, limited functionality, funky smells, and lead paint. we’ll be reorganizing the layout to function better, but we’ll be going for a vintage look.

  • I am living with a vintage kitchen right now and I totally agree with Rebecca’s comment. Yes, it is charming to look at with the quaint old window and all; but hard to function in and very hard to keep clean.

    I don’t find Lauren’s kitchen hard edged at all; but fresh, contemporary and extremely well thought out. Well done!

  • Lauren and Kyle are champions of good design and capable DIY. While the style change might not be the choice everyone would make, form cannot reign above function without some costs. Historic preservation is a luxury, and if what is being preserved will never be a gem and will never be very useful, then it becomes an expensive, wasteful endeavor. Especially when the original structure is not so spectacular. Such efforts and funds would be better spent when there is more to be preserved and gained and where the result will actually be used with pleasure. In this case, at least pieces of the structure were maintained. In other times (pre-2008 America or outside of Houston now) this would be plowed over for a tacky new-build that resulted from a tenth of the design foresight that the Zerbeys put into their own home.

  • I love both the before and after. I can understand that if a kitchen has already fallen into disrepair and difficult to maintain than there is little choice but the replace the existing kitchen. I think they’ve done it justice.

  • Love it! My boss had that exact old kitchen and it was not functional at all. Hard to clean, inefficient, and falling apart. Not everything old stands the test of time, but it definitely was charming. The new one is so beautiful and smart. I’m in love with the vaulted ceiling. Our ceilings are dropped with a horrendous and huge florescent light. Your solution would be so fantastic. Also, we have a pantry that would love a sliding door like that. With 5 doors in a room, sliders would be a god-sent. You’ve given me so many great ideas. Thank you!

  • Thanks for all the thoughtful comments on our kitchen and home. Someone once told us that our old kitchen reminded them of the kitchen from the movie ‘Beetlejuice’. The only thing worth salvaging from the kitchen were the upper cabinets which I now use in my shop, and the glass doors from the other cabinets which were donated to a local building recylcer store called re-store. Maybe someone bought them to do a retro renovation to their own liking? And of course there was the stainless steel kitchen sink that we were going to recycle until someone stole it from our recycle pile in our driveway during the middle of the night;) I will say that of the 6 people who originally bid on this house we were the only buyers who didn’t want to tear it down and build a new mcmansion. We instead decided to save what we could of the existing home and its limited charm. Take a look at the exterior of the house and you’ll see how much effort we put into restoring its original craftsmen character! The kitchen remodel is just a small part of a much bigger picture. In general we are proponents of saving old charm if it makes sense; in this kitchen there was no charm to save. http://chezerbey.com/house-tour/exterior/

  • Love tht you opened up the ceiling. This is very inspirational all around. Kudos! I’ve been contemplating butcher block counters…wondering if they are high maintenance. I will be looking at your resources. Can’t please everyone, but I love it. Well done!

  • It was beautiful before. Warm, homey. It looks like a museum now where you can’t touch anything. Of course every homeowner can do as they please, it’s their HOME, but seriously, not an inch of charm left. It will always be depressing when living history is defaced in the name of progress. Not everything have to be super-duper efficient.

  • looks great, and if you can’t reuse the old materials just go for it. It looks like it’s much more functional now anyway. Great job! Also, great colors :)

  • Kyle & Lauren, thank you for taking the time to share and for being brave enough. I am appalled at the rudeness of some comments. It is sad that others feel the need to air these thoughts publically. Feedback is welcome, rudeness is not.

  • Am I missing something here?? The before pictures show a red cinder block wall outside the kitchen window and the after pictures have a landscaped yard with a neighbor’s house as the view. What happened to the block wall?

  • @ Colleen, the first “before” and “after” photo aren’t from the same viewpoint. (The first “after” and second “before” is the correct comparison.) The red is actually the wall of our neighbor’s house, but that window was removed and walled over and the larger window in the “after” photo looks out into our backyard.

    @Sam – thanks!

    @Sonja – we love our butcherblock and there’s really not much maintenance.

  • Yes, some people are remarkably rude. Must be how they keep themselves entertained. Pretty pitiful.

    Understandably, functionality is high on your list, as it should be – one thing I would highly recommend is that you cover the ENTIRE wall behind your stove with some sort of backsplash, whether it be stainless steel, tile, etc. I tiled the entire wall behind mine with a gorgeous chocolate brown iridescent mosaic tile. I sealed the grout right after I installed the tile, so it wouldn’t stain, and it was a wonderful choice to protect that wall from cooking splatters and such (functional), while looking beautiful:


    On a side note, I love your use of warm wood, and the tone of that butcher block countertop is to die for. I personally have no qualms with improving an outdated, virtually useless kitchen. I’m sure there’s plenty more charm to be had in the rest of your house. I’m astounded by your work on the exterior! WOW!

  • I think this comment section is fascinating. I was going to write, “Do you still have the old cabinets? Because I would give my eye teeth for them!” But reading the comments and the owners’ responses, I see my question answered.

    With that out of the way, I think the “rudeness” comment is particularly interesting. None of the commenters said “you’re a poopy-pants,” though several said that they preferred the before. That may be hurtful if the homeowners are reading, as they usually are on this site, and that’s too bad. But what about the fact that the majority of commenters here will reflexively and apparently uncritically praise any contemporary design to the skies? There’s not a lot of people speaking up for preserving historic design elements (unless in a gimmicky way, like turning antique doors into headboards, which is a trend. Preserving antique doors for use as doors, by contrast, is actual preservation). So while some may see it as “rude,” I think it’s a good thing that there are commenters willing to say, “Innovative is not good per se.” As someone else pointed out, once you get rid of those original elements (and I understand that they were constructed incorrectly – that’s too bad), YOU CAN’T HAVE THEM BACK. I live in an 1898 house with a horrible 1970s kitchen that I will have to gut – the cabinets are ugly, made of fake wood, and nonfunctional in their size and positioning. And let’s not start on the countertops and wallboard. In short, 40 years ago, somebody “improved” the original elements – I’ll never know what those were, but I bet the cabinets were solid wood, at minimum! There will always be more contemporary design where that came from, but once history is gone, it’s gone. (I realize some people think that’s a good thing and are seeking to eradicate it all, which I think is shameful.)

    So the summation of my over-long comment: what’s an appropriate way for commenters to say, “Contemporary design is not by definition better than what it replaced, and I would prefer to see original things preserved,” so as to create an actual dialogue about design rather than a sound chamber, without being “rude”? Or is it just gauche not to be a fan of contemporary everything (in which case, vive la gauche!)?

  • @ The Misfit, I totally hear you and even though we did end up going modern it was only after careful consideration and we’re certainly not remodeling for remodeling’s sake. =) (And truthfully, I’m not offended or upset by the “rude” comments because I know what we did was the right solution for our house and will hopefully ensure that the house will be around for another 100 years instead of getting replaced by a McMansion) What you also don’t see in the before photos are the 1960’s cabinets on the other side of the room that were added when the old wood stove was removed and the basement stair was added. We ended up repurposing those in our workshop because they were in perfectly good condition. I think there’s also the misconception out there that everything about older homes is worth preserving. Yes, the wood was usually better and some homes had amazing details (not ours sadly, if it did we would have kept them) but then they also used lead, asbestos and didn’t insulate the walls….so a surgical approach to remodeling can be really important to getting the best of both. (Stylistically, this is also a challenge, but one that I think can yield very interesting results. After all, the overall shape and size of our house is exactly the same as it was in 1910.) But yes, there definitely should be a dialogue about how you treat older homes and spaces. It’s a complex subject that is very project-specific, but one that I think is worth discussing.

  • I’m sorry but there is ABSOLUTELY no way that redo cost $18k even IF you did all the work yourself. This gives people the wrong impression that they can somehow get a remodel like this. There is $5k in just the appliances alone.

    • joe

      i don’t have any reason to believe that these homeowners are lying. admitting $18k in renos to this particular audience is almost akin to admitting $100k (anything over $1k seems to set people off over here), so i don’t see why they’d lie about that. i don’t assume people who share their home with us are trying to trick anyone :(

      the prices people give us are what they spent- not necessarily the cost everyone would have to spend to get the exact same thing. sometimes people have friends who can give them discounts or they are able to get a deal on appliances, etc. so while that price may seem too low to you, i don’t think it’s intended to deceive anyone.


  • Joe,

    You’re close on the appliance costs. The fridge was $900 but we already had that from years ago, and the dishwasher was also from our previous kitchen as well, range-oven was a marked down floor model (about half price) because it had a dent in the side. We use our “double architect” trade discount to buy the vent hood. I think total for appliances including fridge and dishwasher was right around $4k. All the lighting, counters, skylights, plumbing fixtures etc… Were all purchased with our trade discount as well. We scoured craigslist for framing materials other odds and ends. I’d say we saved an average of 20% on most everything, so maybe someone else buying new would have been a few thousand more in materials? In general if one is to hire out a remodel entirely, about 50% of the cost is in materials, and the other 50% is in labor and contractor markup. So maybe a kitchen like this would be around $40k if you hired it all out? Not to mention we did all the design work. We keep a detailed account of all of our remodel expenses and the $18k is what we paid out of pocket. I think you’re point is valid though, Hope this helps.

  • Now I am sorry…my thought on the dialogue was directed (in my mind) at other commenters, on the tenor of appropriate dialogue and whether there forbidden opinions. Not at the homeowners! It’s your house; it’s not your responsibility what people say and don’t say (or think that others should or shouldn’t say) about it. Clearly as a pair of architects you are far more qualified than this total amateur to say what was salvageable. And while I don’t share your exact taste, you had the vision and skill to know what you wanted and needed and realize that fully. So, kudos to you (and especially for being so gracious and showing up here to respond!), and I hope you enjoy your new kitchen immensely!

  • Misfit, thanks very much. We found both of your comments very thoughtful and really the proper tone for worthwhile discourse in the blogoshphere. Personally I’m not on the blogs that much, it’s mainly Lauren, but this whole thread has had us both thinking about what are appropriate ways for people to genuinely benefit from each others comments while still expressing ones convictions about design. I think Lauren (and maybe myself) are going to write about that topic soon after we give it some more thought. In general my sole guiding rule is when I comment or respond on a blog to write as if I’m sitting in a room with that person face to face. Although our house is very modern, my favorite elements are the 102 year old ceiling joists that we exposed and preserved in the living room.

  • This kitchen is beautiful. I also can not believe it is the same area. What a transition! As I read through all the above comments I am amazed at the uproar your remodel caused. If you the homeowners are happy then so be it. You should be very proud.

  • sorry, just not working for me….souless and achingly dull. Bring back the wee old fashioned kitchen.

  • What would be interesting to hear is what kitchens the “lovers of the antique kitchens” have themselves at home AND how much they use it or live on eating-out. I think some commentators have already “widened” the perspective here. We bought and live in a 1873-house, that no one else wanted and was doomed for destruction, and share exactly the same goal and “mission” of Lauren & Kyle, which we call “Bringing our house into the 21st century”. For us this includes the following tasks: 1. Bringing the space as close as possible to 21st century-demands – in our case that includes getting the bathroom (or two) integrated and no longer attached to the house. 2. Bringing energy-efficiency to 21st century – and I will pour my money rather into energy efficiency (geothermal heat pump) than high-tech-gimmicks. 3. Functionality in using of the space and appliances – and this evolves a lot around kitchen and bathroom planning. Otherwise, one will quickly end up living in a museum that not many other people will like to share and aka the doom of destruction returning …. Chezerby makes my days many days. Thanks for sharing.

  • I came over from Chezerby after reading the interesting post about why you chose to renovate that you wrote in response to the comments on this post. I was curious about what prompted it. I will say that although you mentioned that you “reconfigured the layout”, the way that the photos are arranged does not make it clear that the kitchen is in a totally different area of the house. I think that including the floor plans would make it much clearer to most commenters that salvaging the original kitchen was not possible. When they see the sink under the window, with doors to the left, they aren’t understanding that it is in a totally different area of the house. Only a one person noticed the difference in the view. I also think that a lot of people don’t understand that in the 1910’s cabinets were not built as boxes attached to the wall as they are today, and once you take them down, they fall apart and can’t be moved. Not everyone sees the beauty and elegance in clean lines and well thought-out details, but I think more people would understand if they realized it really *wasn’t* the same space.

    Also, in response to Drea: when you live in 750 sf, yes, everything *does* have to be efficient. When you have very little room, you can’t afford to waste it.

  • Sorry, I can’t remember where I saw the 750sf measurement, but I now see that tis’ 800 sf. My point still applies, though: giving up efficiency for style is only something you can really choose to do in a large house. A kitchen in particular needs to function well.

  • I too came over after the dialogue on the blog (some of which I think has been covered in previous blog posts). Like many things, context is key. When the kitchen is viewed by itself, the context of the whole house is lost. When viewed within the context, and with the history of the remodel and step-by-step decisions that were made, I believe it comes into better focus. Thanks for sharing your take on your home.

  • Kudos to the Zerby’s their planning and execution. Achieving your own vision is always, well, an achievement. And good for you for sticking you neck out there, by blogging publicly, and opening the door for any sort of feedback. I like what you, Kyle, said: comment as though you’re sitting in the same room.

  • count me as another fan of the blog who adores what they have done to take a poorly contructed, not-even-original, impossible to use kitchen and turn it into something airy and bright (nearly impossible in Seattle!)

    For those commenters who disagree, you are welcome to your opinions, but I concur that they were expressed in some cases rudely. “soulless”? they either reused, repurposed or recycled everything they took out so vintage-lovers might be able to find those coveted aluminum drawer pulls. if anything, you should thank them for making your vintage retro kitchen more of a possibility!

  • I LOVE the after. The before is hideous and I can relate- we have VERY similar linoleum in our bathroom that is just awful. I have lived with ancient cabinets that SUCK and are a pain to look at and use. The awesome thing about the after is that it is modern and updated, yet not cookie-cutter looking. I love the blue sliding doors, the dark floors, the mix of open shelving and cabinets.. The vaulted ceilings are a dream and make the space seem so much bigger. KUDOS to the homeowners for making a BLAH kitchen and dining room into something liveable and charming!! :)

  • WOW, it’s amazing what $60,000 will do for a kitchen…now show me a $6,000 renovations and then I’ll be amazed.

  • I’m a little late coming to the party, but your choices for your home are so gorgeous and I’m of the belief that you must modernize in order to live comfortably and the kitchen was
    not functional for you and you did something about it and made it gorgeous. Love the new modern change.