before and afterkitchen

before and after: modern kitchen redo

by Amy Azzarito

Like most people who live with a rental kitchen, I dream of what I would actually do if I could replace cabinets and move things around. (My dreams are filled with black painted cabinets and sailboat hardwareà la Nate Berkus’ old kitchen.) In her Philadelphia kitchen, wedding and interior designer Claire King wanted to bring a light, modern feel to her 50-year-old home. She also wanted to create an open flow between the dining room and kitchen. I love the bright and airy result. One of my favorite features is the bookcase at the end of the island. I love a spot for cookbooks in the kitchen, and I might just put that idea into my dream kitchen file. — Amy Azzarito

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

Image above: Katie Stoops Photography

Time: about 9 months

Cost: $20K

Basic Steps: The basic steps started with a design schematic and intent. The goal was to open up the space and to allow interaction between guests in the living/dining area and the kitchen. We had a color palette in mind and wanted the kitchen to look modern but also appear as if it fit within the context of the house itself. Not too modern, not too country or stuffy looking. Eliminating the overhead cabinets meant that we had to have a kitchen with a lot of storage elsewhere, so we designed a pantry where the pass-through used to be, and our cabinets are chock-full of storage options to include pull-out drawers in the toe kick base!

We then had to determine if we wanted to leave the layout of the sink and oven in place or to totally reorganize the kitchen layout. Budget and infrastructure constraints dictated that we leave everything in place. Next, we had to determine if we could open the wall up without undermining the structural integrity of the house. Once we determined that the wall was non-load bearing, we proceeded with the demolition.

Renovation projects on homes over 50 years old (like ours) usually have a host of issues buried in the walls. There is usually a second layer of planning required post-demolition to organize all of your rough-ins and new framing. We started organizing the existing electrical by removing old outlets, non-grounded wiring, and buried J-Boxes and then laying out switches, outlets, etc. Next, we extended the knee wall below the countertop to align with the edge of the new base cabinet bookcase, started the framing for the pocket door and pantry and started the drywall install. The next step was cabinets, countertop, appliances and vent hood. We added recessed heavy-duty brackets to the underside of the countertop to maintain the cantilever while adding some stability to the stone. Backsplash tile, recessed overhead lighting, door and window trimming, wall covering and finally paint. As usual, there are a few loose ends and some additional touch-up painting that is required, but we wouldn’t change a thing.

Our advice: Overall, I would say coordination is the key here. There is a lot of planning involved when trying to completely renovate a kitchen while still maintaining some functionality. Always plan for the worst and build in some contingency funds for the inevitable surprises that live behind those walls! The craziest thing that happened during the reno was when the granite countertops were being rolled up our driveway to be installed, and they suddenly cracked in half. Our stomachs dropped, and even the installers were shocked. (Ohh, and the best tool on the job was the Dyson vacuum!)

Image above: Katie Stoops Photography

Image above: Katie Stoops Photography

Image above: Katie Stoops Photography

Image above: Katie Stoops Photography

Image above: Katie Stoops Photography

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  • I love the kitchen! Great Job, as a designer, I love seeing when home owners think outside the box, and I must say you guys definitely achieved that! Is that wallpaper under the bar area? I LOVE the look!

  • Thanks so much @Tonisha! Yes, it is a commercial wall covering from Wolf Gordon under the bar. It is like a grass cloth but made for commercial use so it is not so delicate.

  • Hi there – I have a technical question – we are amidst a kitchen renovation and have our island hood but havent hung it yet. I think the recommended mounting height is 30″ above the cooktop. How high did you mount yours? It looks pretty high. We have at least 800-900 CFMs so pretty high from what I saw out there in regards to fan power (granted I was looking for island hoods without spending over a grand!).


  • @ Alison
    The 30″ height from the cook top is actually the minimum from the cook top surface that is recommended. I would recommend anywhere from 34″ to 36″. Claire and I are by no means tall people. I stand at 5′-6″ as does Claire and we both felt that the 30″ from the cook top was way too low. If you have any friends or are yourself taller than we are i would suggest getting the hood up higher. I think our hood is just a hair under 36″ above the cook top and it works great. The most important part is the ability of the hood to remove smoke efficiently and effectively. Look at your hood specifications they may show the maximum height from the cook top surface i would use that as a point of reference. Hope this helps! (the Hubby)

  • Wow, great job! I love the mix of modern white subway tiles & appliances with the contemporary, more homely cabinets. Perfect balance of modern and comfort for a kitchen.

    Sorry, I can’t really tell from the photos but are these blue tiles underneath the countertop? If so, where are they from (looks fantastic!)?

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