before and after: antique kitchen update

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

  1. Paulina J! says:

    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!

  2. Michelle says:

    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.

  3. Lea says:

    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.

  4. This might just be the best before and after I’ve ever seen. WOW.

  5. Melissa Laurel says:

    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.

  6. lisa says:

    where did you purchase the large and pendant globe lights?

  7. 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.

  8. Jane Skirrow says:

    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.

  9. Cara says:

    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.

  10. Kate says:

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

  11. lenje says:

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

  12. Suzanne says:

    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 ( 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 ( 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!

  13. Elizabeth says:

    I too prefer the original…that light fixture and the flooring were awesome.

  14. Pip says:

    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!

  15. Eileen 2 says:

    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.

  16. Christine says:

    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.

  17. 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!

  18. Suzanne says:

    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.

  19. Anna says:

    I can totally imagine my house with this kitchen!

  20. Oana Retegan says:

    Just want to say stunning kitchen, clean lines, just perfect

  21. pauline says:

    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!

  22. The after is gorgeous, but I have to say I kind of have a soft spot for that before kitchen – so retro and charming.

  23. Dekor Guru says:

    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.

  24. Danielle says:

    Beautiful. My Mom and I loove to look at your Before-and-After features. This one is fantastic!

  25. Caronne says:

    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.

  26. craig says:

    Maybe I’m crazy, but I always loved the retro look over modern.

  27. Negina says:

    Incredibly boring make over..cookie cutter design.

  28. Robyn says:

    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.

  29. Jenny Goodwin says:

    what are the countertops?

  30. AnotherStephanie says:

    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.

  31. Chloe says:

    Please tell me what the countertop is composed of. Is it cement??

  32. Siouxzy says:

    I think it is perfect. What are the countertops made of?

  33. Cormat says:

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

  34. lesismore says:

    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!!!

  35. Tony says:

    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.

  36. this is my favorite kitchen I have ever seen. It’s so understated, yet dramatic. I’m in love…

  37. jackie b. says:

    does anyone know who makes the counter stools? love the re-do!


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