before and after

before and after: antique kitchen update

by Kate Pruitt

I’ve seen a lot of beautiful, modern kitchen projects lately, and I have to be honest — they’re making me quite envious. I understand how major an undertaking like this can be, even when the owner is also a talented architect, as is the case with this amazing kitchen from Suzanne and Greg Damant. Suzanne and Greg lived in this home for more than 10 years before finally undergoing these renovations, and it’s clear that every decision was made with care and consideration. I love seeing what the pros end up doing in their own homes, and I’ll definitely be keeping this one in my inspiration file. Amazing job, Suzanne and Greg! — Kate

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All images by Vince Klassen

Read the full post after the jump!

Time: Construction took 8 weeks start to finish, which I thought was very reasonable since we gutted the whole back third of our main floor. We had lived and raised our children in the house for 10 years already, so we knew what we wanted to accomplish well before we began.

Cost: The reno, which included new insulation, windows, interior finishes, millwork and cabinets, was about $60,000.

Basic Steps: Our main priority was to make a modern kitchen that didn’t clash with the existing 1910 home, so we were careful to identify a couple key features of the original house that we would keep to unify the new and the old. We refinished the old fir floor that was under the lino and made it continuous with the rest of the home’s wood flooring. We kept the picture rail above the cabinets and replicated the wood ceiling tiles that were in the dining area to tie the ceilings together. Those few things — the floor, the ceiling pattern and the old picture rail — provided the continuity of background, and then we juxtaposed the modern lines of the kitchen appliances and cabinets against that. We used a simple palette of colours and natural materials to harmonize the new and old. Light was also important, so we made sure to add windows and have lots of light from three directions, which gives a really even and natural quality of daylight. We also used the light fixtures to bridge the styles, mixing the traditional-looking incandescent glass globes with the contemporary bocci globes. For us, it is the conversation between the old and new elements of the house that make this space so special.

Advice for people thinking of doing the same: Be prepared for weirdness in the house. Our floor was not level by 1.5″, which wreaked havoc with a design that had no trim to hide uneven lines. Our contractor, Dave Rannala, actually jacked up one corner of the kitchen from the basement below in order to even things out. All the counters and shelves are totally level, but then there are all sorts of little things they did, like tapering the ceiling beams to hide the house irregularity. They did an amazing job. It is really important to have an experienced builder. Also, plan the layout beforehand and test lots of ideas. We did five different kitchen layouts before we settled on the final one. Doing that forced us to answer all the questions about the type and size of appliances and where the work stations would be. Those questions have to be answered at some point, but planning first meant that the actual reno was way less stressful. One final thing: Use simple, good quality materials that are timeless and bridge the modern and historic influences. — Suzanne

Design: Greg Damant, Architect (and house owner)
Construction: Rannala Construction

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  • I have to admit it is beautiful, but I actually think the ‘before’ kitchen would have been lovely with only a few touch-ups (such as the addition of an island).

  • Stunning! Simple clean lines and very modern! I love it.I wish it was my kitchen – I would spend all day in it!!

  • I was thinking, oh this is going to be another white white white kitchen, and it is. BUT I really love how they designed the space. Isolating areas for open cabinetry that allows for light while still having the storage necessary for a kitchen surrounding the fridge. Also, that stove is to die for the island looks like such a nice place to hang out.

  • Wonderful kitchen! Love the red kitchenaid. And the lamps! Where did you get those? I’m looking for something similar..

  • Wow! Love the window they put in over the sink, such a dramatic makeover! Hope they keot that retro light fixture thats in the before pics! If not I would have had it!x

  • This is really amazing! 60K for those finishes and you had a contractor! It’s beautiful and I love the idea that it’s in your 1920’s home (I want to see a full sneak peek D*S). Really liking how you continued the kick boards under the stove, really looks pretty. It’s funny we just installed white cabinets and installed wood kick’s and pulls. Really warms the kitchen up, great job!

  • I agree with elle. This is pretty, but they lost a lot of cupboard space. I think the original could have been updated without completely revamping the entire kitchen. An island is great for most, but I am in a wheelchair and prefer table height to counter height.

  • Love it! And I don’t think they lost a lot of storage space, since they added an island.

  • Beautiful job. I can totally relate to the experience of a kitchen gut/reno (ours took 3 months!) and I love their choices – extra windows, ledge behind the stove, rearrange the workspace, many light sources… it shows that they spent a lot of time figuring it all out and I hope they enjoy it for years to come. Bravo!

  • The After is nicer, but the Before had so much more character and personality. I think just a few improvements would have been necessary and they could have preserved the feel of the old kitchen. I also think it’s funny how biased the lighting is in these before/after photo shoots. = ]

  • oh drats, those ‘before’ floors were beautiful. I sure love the vintage feel, although the after is quite nice.

  • i like the before better, too. much more personality. loved the floor … and that pendant light <3

  • Lovely! But I wish they had kept the 5-paned glass door, it really would have complimented the old and new they were aiming for.

  • Unbelievably gorgeous. The addition of the windows makes a big difference as well as all the other more obvious changes.

    One thing I’ve never understood though: why does everyone have their kitchen counter stools/chairs facing in? I would rather look out onto the room or a window. Can I really be the only one?

  • Oh, and I meant to add: thanks for sharing the story behind the remodel. I know the background stuff doesn’t always get commented on, but I do find it very interesting to read.

  • I have to admit that I, too, felt a twinge when I saw the total decimation of the lovely old kitchen…it was awesome! I definitely would have tweaked the old kitchen and kept a number of the original features. That said, the new kitchen is very sleek and glam…different strokes for different folks, as they say.

  • honestly, with some minor touchups, i think the original kitchen would be a better long term investment. island addition, keep the floors, keep the cabs, swap the hardware. add finish carpentry, maybe some reclaimed trim. new appliances. $20k maximum.

    the current kitchen looks so 2010 in a 1910 house that in 2020 its going to be a liability. i walk into far to many beautiful old homes with terrible 90’s kitchens. slate floors, granite counters, maple cabinets. buyers hate that stuff.

    if the owner is planning on selling SELL NOW.

  • Absolutely gorgeous! We’re in the process of looking for new home and it can be so hard to see the potential in some of them. This kitchen is truly inspirational! Thanks for sharing.

  • Love so much about this, but I particularly love the fireplace. I’m curious to know what was there before? I can’t see it in any of the before photos.

  • ^marie..I too am curious about the fireplace. If it was not original ,was it quite simple to build it out? Is it gas? If it is gas, it does not need a flu, correct?

  • We’ve been trying to decide about redoing our whole kitchen or just revamping what we have in our 1895 Ontario cottage. I love the new kitchen here, but like others have commented, I think the old kitchen had some great elements and with a few changes it could have been even better than the new one and more fitting for an old house. I feel more confident now about deciding to keep our old cabinets and going with the revamp (new counters, backsplash, appliances) instead of a total reno. The new light fixtures would have looked great in the old kitchen!

  • Really beautiful. Bummed when I saw the price tag. I’d like to see a really beautiful and creative redesign for $20,000-$25,000.

  • This is beautiful, but $60,000 is a lot to work with. It’s half the price of a modest home in some low-cost cities, and more than most families make in a year.

    I too liked the floor tile before, but then when I saw it closer up in another photo, I changed my mind. It reminded me too much of something you’d see in a basement or school.

  • These people thought about their decision for 10 years, they chose to spend the money on this, and they are happy with the outcome. To Suzanne and Greg: thanks for sharing!

  • Wow, was that kitchen put into a historic house? If so, it is completely inappropriate from a historic preservation point of view. Take a look at Jane Powell’s book “Bungalow Kitchens” and see what would have been a better design choice for a historic home. The kitchen featured in this remodel would be more fitting in a contemporary home. There is severe “Cognitive Dissonance” with the chosen kitchen design in this example. It will become dated and have to be redone, where if it was more reflective of the period of the home it would be timeless.

  • This turned out very nice! A *little* more modern than my personal tastes, but I do enjoy the colors and overall look to the space.

    The only thing I would have done differently is a stackable microwave/wall oven where the desk in the wall is in the after (frig location from before). But, having the range/oven combo and the stackable duo is my dream. I love to cook!

  • I love the before kitchen! Imagine it repainted with some teak handles…. Hope it didn’t go in the skip, that would be too much for me to bare, but I don’t know if there is an architectural salvage market in the US….

  • Oh gosh – I have to agree with those who like the ‘before’ better – so much character and now it is just white and modern -how do you cleanse and update from a practical point of view without loosing all that character and homeliness – hmm??

  • I’d happily take those old cupboards off you. They’re stunning and full of character. One mans junk is another mans treasure.

  • Eew, those old lino floors were awful! I’m glad they resurrected the original floors–so much better. I think my main problem with this is how anachronistic it is with the rest of the house. Like most of the commenters here, I would have kept the cabinets and refinished them (with new pulls, etc.), and added an island. But oh well. That’s the beauty of home ownership…you can do whatever the hell you want! Just create a space that YOU love. It’s the least sound investment anyway, moneywise, so just do what makes you happy.

  • I am perplexed by the comments about preferring the old kitchen. I do understand the impulse to work with what you have and update it. Respectfully, however, it’s hard for me to imagine looking at the Before & After pictures and not seeing a fantastic improvement. To me, this is not at all comparable to some slap-happy, builder-grade update from the ’90s. The old kitchen did have some redeeming features… and they lived with them for 10 years while dreaming up this. The way the owners/architects harmonized the new kitchen with the original architecture of the house AND added so much more interest and functionality is breathtaking. Not to mention the schedule and coping with structural issues– what an achievement!

  • I love this kitchen! I normally do not like white cabinetry, but I love how the wood base boards and the wood on the island really warm up the space. The layout is much improved! This is a very usable kitchen.
    I definitely don’t agree with the statement that this kitchen will be out of style in ten years. I just finished photographing a home that was built in the mid-eighties for a magazine. It’s original ultra contemporary kitchen looks as if it was designed today. It is still relevant and beautiful.

  • I liked the “before” kitchen better in some ways, but the “after” in others. Nice work over all but unfortunately it no longer has a homey feel to me.

  • another soul-less modern kitchen – the before could have been so much better with a few tweaks. I really wish people would stop tearing out charming old kitchens. Plus, where did all those cabinets and linoleum go? landfill? not very green . . .

  • I think the remodel is fantastic! For everyone who’s complaining about the cheap lino floors being removed…they aren’t original to the house, the hardwood floor they refinished that was under them was the original floor. Anyone complaining about the price they obviously didn’t use low end cabinetry, hardware or countertops. Yes you can get a similar feel with ocheaper cabinets etc but the craftsmanship isn’t the same with off the shelf items.

    Fantastic job. I hope my new kitchen turns out half as nice.

  • Lovely job! It seems that it was well thought out. I see why people like the before since it carries a sense of nostalgia, but it’s very different when you are a homeowner and are living with a kitchen that is not as functional. They lived with that old kitchen for 10 years so I’m sure they thought everything through. Great job!

  • The new kitchen looks really great and I’m sure it’s a joy to cook in; however it is true that the old one had a certain cozy charm that has been lost. But if the new one suits the owners’ tastes better and they have the money to spend, then bravo! They did a really great job.

    And no tears shed here over that dirty old lino! The orignal floors are gorgeous.

  • It’s a bit unfair to have your Before photos cluttered with stuff on the fridge and counters, but to have the After pics spotless.

    I love the natural light you’re getting with the renovation.

  • There’s no denying the re-do is gorgeous, but I think the original had so much more personality. I want to sit with a friend and talk over tea and biscuits. The second one..again, really gorgeous, but more pretentious.

  • I agree with Brooke, this is a gorgeous After and their attention to incorporating details that tie into the rest of the home were clearly well thought out and executed. I realize $60k seems high to many people for a project like this, but as an interior designer who does lots of kitchen remodels this seems like an appropriate price considering all the unseen structural & infrastructure changes they had to make in order for the finished project to look this great. Leveling 1.5″ isn’t easy people, and that attention to detail is why people often hire designers who do this day in & out because they are aware of issues like this that could arise & try to plan for them. Beautiful work. Kudos.
    And Brooke, Hafele has handles like that in multiple finishes & different widths. I’ve used them before and they are very nice.

  • This is a very well thought out kitchen design. I love the way it flows to the adjoining sitting area unifying the overall space and the decision to add more windows allowing more natural light, was a master stroke.

  • Beautiful….but I have to agree that it’s lost his homey feel. It’s a showcase display room for a modern model home. Sorry, because I do respect that they spent a long time planning it out and it is what they wanted, which is what really matters. As for d*s however, $60000 seems like it belongs more in a digest than here.

  • Lovely makeover!!! please please please tell me about the fireplace – does it have a flue? what make?

  • It’s really lovely. I have to say I’d prefer the old checked floor, but of course that’s just me :).

  • Wow! What a lot of fantastic comments. I have been fascinated reading through them! I thought I would try and get back to a few of you who had questions, and can comment on some of the issues you brought up.

    1. The Floor – Many of you commented on the charm of the original battleship linoleum floor, and I totally agree that it was charming. I did enjoy it for many years and it held up heroically through all the cheerios that were mashed into it and the toys hurled at it as our kids grew up. However, what that photo also doesn’t show is that at 50 years old, it was also very pitted and stained in ways that were no longer repairable. (The cupboards were the same with deep finger grooves around the handles that would no longer hold the paint). We thought we would peek underneath the checkerboard, and what we found was what you see now. Under all that lino was a raw fir floor that had never been finished. All we had to do was sand and stain it to match the floor through the rest of the house. We had also taken out a wall between the kitchen and the dining area so that solved the problem of how to make the floor cover one bigger continuous space.

    2. Lighting – The Schoolhouse light in the old kitchen was made by Waterglass (www.waterglassstudios.com). It was just moved into another part of the house. The lights over the Island are from West Elm and were very economical, but the ones over the sink area were a splurge. They are bocci pendants made by a Vancouver based company (www.bocci.com). They have a very unusual and beautiful luminosity, and while I have seen cheaper knock-offs, we wanted to support the local designer.

    3. Cabinet space; I can confirm that we have gained, rather than lost cabinet space due to improvements in the way modern cabinets are organized inside (handy pullouts, recycle bins, deep drawers instead of cupboards, etc…). Also, I have become a fervent convert to open shelving. Before we made that decision, I saw a Barefoot Contessa show in which Ina Garten talked about how easy it was to put away dishes (which you have to do all the time) when you don’t have to open and close a cupboard door. It turns out that this is true! The only trick, if this appeals to you, is to make sure your shelf is well anchored into the wall, as plate stacks get heavy fast. It also made the kitchen feel more airy and light, which this was one of our greatest challenges. In our part of the world we get months and months of dark wet days and the kitchen is north facing. The new windows and light cabinets have made this space a much more bright and pleasant space in which to live and work.

    4. Fireplace: We are close to the ocean and winter storms, so our old house is also often very cold. The gas fireplace has helped enormously with this, and we also tried to beef up the insulation on any walls that were exposed to improve energy efficiency. The fireplace venting challenged us however, as DRAE27 pointed out, because we wanted to put the fireplace directly under a window. We finally found a direct-vent model through Spark Fireplaces and it vents right out the wall. The cat likes to sit on the warm vent. The fireplace mantel itself is actually topped by a thin sheet of steel rubbed with beeswax, which was left over from a large building project that my husband was involved in.

    4. Other issues: The bar stools were ordered from Modernica. The Island faces the cooking trough so we can help kids doing homework at the island or chat to people while we cook. There is also a microwave under the counter of the island so kids can easily use it too. The overall cost of the reno could probably have been reduced by looking for off-the-shelf alternatives for the cabinets. The new cabinets were custom-made by our contractor. We are here for the long haul, so we wanted something really solid that would last as long as the old cabinets did. The cabinet handles were ordered from Richelieu, but you can also get similar ones from Ikea. Finally, I must admit that the “After” picture is pretty much the slickest the kitchen has ever looked before or since! Lee is totally right about the light manipulation. A professional photographer was hired for the contractor’s portfolio, and he cleared away most signs of life. Now, of course, it is full of the normal detritus of family activity; a chalkboard for notes to kids, cooking implements on the counter, grocery lists and scattered comic books. We did this reno instead of moving to a bigger house so our kids could stay in a great neighborhood with all their friends, and we will be here to enjoy it for awhile!

  • This reno is quite amazing. It takes alot of creativity and technical troubleshooting to redesign a space, and if it works for the homeowners, then I think they did a fantastic job.
    Some of the bonuses that I can see is adding more windows for natural light. And definitely the discovery of the beautiful wood floor. One thing I would point out, which I learned in last couple of years, is that old cupboards, pre 1970 often were painted with leadbased paint, and over time paint that flakes off from these are actually a bit of health hazard. While the original cupboards offer a unique charm in design, it probably was better all around to replace them entirely than to try and maybe save them by stripping the wood and repainting. Something for people to think about too if you are planning to reno and install old-school or vintage cupboards. Its worth finding out about the base paint and such. Cheers!

  • Design is a funny thing. I absolutely love the new flooring. There are people who would’ve chosen to keep that vintage floor, though. I dare say that somewhere there is a design savvy person who painted a floor in a pattern and hues akin to that old kitchen floor.

  • I’m in awe. May I ask a few question on the flooring? Did you have much trouble with removing the old linoleum and whatever was used to adhere it to the fir?

    The fireplace by the kitchen looks like a dream.

  • The reno is gorgeous and would look lovely in any modern home. However, neither it nor the “original” (more accurately “the before”) kitchen are in keeping with a 1910 home. With more “traditional” white doors, drawer fronts and moulding, the kitchen would never need an another update; it would be timeless. But as long as the owners are happy in their new kitchen, then I’m happy too!

  • Just another quick note to Christine about her flooring question – we were really lucky about the condition of the original fir floor under the 1950’s lino. In many situations people find that the original wood is worn out or damaged, or that the lino was heavily glued to the wood. This can also be a big problem if the glue used contains asbestos, as many products did during that era. In our case, the lino was glued to plywood which was only lightly nailed down and the fir itself had never been finished so the wood was nice and thick. I think there must have been another flooring down prior to the lino because the house is over 100 years old. I don’t think they had that lino in 1910. Now we can still see some of the nail marks in the wood, of course, and fir bruises and marks quite easily but I have no problem with that. I like it to look lived in, and I also like that it was the original flooring of the house. We stained it with a walnut-toned stain (to moderate the red tones of the fir) and used a low VOC finish. It cleans easily with warm water and vinegar.

  • Hmmm … not sure this kitchen will age as beautifully as it’s predecessor. I can see what the owners aimed for but to me it’s complete incongruous with a 1910 house, even the floor lookd faux instead of fir in these pictures. No surprise then that none of their original furniture seemed to fit with it. Still, i do on the other hand totally understand the need for a kitchen suitable for the grown up version of family life … each their own!

  • It is a good example for combining traditional and contemporary look in harmony, the new look brings a fresh ambiance but there is no
    contrast with the entire soul of the old house. Nice transformation and nice aplication for the open plan kitchen.

  • Nice reno. the light is amazing. I like the look and idea of white kitchens but I don’t know if I could live it everyday. I am doing some tweaking to my kitchen so I love looking at before and after pics.

  • Loved the old kitchen, hate the new one except for the fir floors. I wish people wanting modern would just buy a modern/new house (or redo an ugly builder house from the 80s) and sell the cool old ones to people who appreciate them. I can’t find an old house to buy that has charm anymore, everyone has “updated” them into a modern IKEA apartment look and taken out all the charm.

  • Oh, I loved the old kitchen as soon as I saw it and just got a sinking feeling when it was marked “before”.

    Very lucky to find nice timber floors under the lino, though.

  • Love this kitchen, we are in the process of remodeling our old bungalow home (1930’s) This is a great inspiration :-) !

  • i do love the before and after for different reasons. it really just comes down to what kind of house you have, how long you plan to be there to enjoy it and of course, how much you have to spend. if you only have a few thousand dollars, of course you just do a few updates but if you have a lot of money and you’re going to be there for a while and you’ve functioned in a “vintage” kitchen for 10 years, go right ahead and do whatever you want. it’s your house! do what makes you happy!!!

  • With regards to the floor, plywood has been around since 1850 (at least modern plywood has, the Mesopotamians were making it 3500 years ago) and Linoleum has been around since 1860 so it could well have been the original floor in your house.