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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  • Is that a textured wallpaper under the island? I love the hint of smokey grey-blue it washes over the whole room. A lovely splash of color. It mimics the colors reflected in the silver ceiling vent in a really clever way. Love it!

  • The before & afters of the kitchen and studio space especially really perked my interest today. Hoping to renovate a new house soon, this gave me some great ideas on how to open up a kitchen and living room space. Thank you!

  • This is incredible! I love the white cabinets with the glass doors on the top. Floor to ceiling cabinets, slate floors… This is a kitchen after my own heart!

  • That’s a dramatic and wonderful reno! Love how crisp and airy the room feels after when before it looked drab and claustrophobic. Great job.

  • My Philly kitchen is going to be white and grey with pops of aqua & orange. Hopefully in the not too distant future.

  • Very nice! My favorite thing is how you put the short little cabinets at the bottom near the counter instead of at the top where most people would….nice twist.

  • Is the low cost of this redo because Sub-Zero-Wolf donated their goods? If so, the figure is misleading. I do agree the resulting redo is beautiful.

  • The kitchen is gorgeous, and do you have a source for the bird legged planter? It’s so fun…

  • @Melissa Lu- The counter tops are granite and are called super white. Its the whitest granite out there. Its soo beautiful! I highly recommend it.

  • I have to say this. I am a self employed contractor, and i know for a fact i can and have achieved this same modern look and same modern materials for about 12k less!!! this is very elegant and I love the look but 20k you really threw your money away. My advice, go shopping for contractors we are out there and we want what is best for you.

  • Two designers and a great husband and some friends to pull this off. You two did a fantastic job. What’s next?

  • I love the floating shelves below the flatscreen. Great way to hide the ugly wires too. Beautiful, I love it!

    $20K doesn’t seem like too much. After all it does include the appliances, hood, labor and cabs. My brand new construction kitchen was about $16K but I don’t have a hood or an oven (I use a micro convection), my range also was one of the cheaper models. My BF (who is 20 yrs residential construction) did the countertops for me as well as getting a good deal on the granite. So I imagine, it could easily have been $20K of more.

  • Is your tile backsplash all one piece? or individual tiles with grout?

  • Great vision, really good design, no visible compromises, lovely warmth and clean lines and a major appreciation both in the value and esthetics. Well done indeed. NIcely photographed too.

  • @ Levi – Doubtful.

    This kitchen is absolutely fantastic. I love the bright, clean and airy feel. My dream kitchen would also be done in white and I hope it would look as gorgeous as this one. Claire – Are you for hire?!?

  • @ Alena – oblivious

    Alot of people think that if you call one person and that one person gives you a set price that is a good deal. Wrong it isn’t if you shop around for contrctors and be patient it will work for you trust me i know. For example if she got an estimate that said 25,000 or higher and told her contractor “well the last guy said he would do it for said amount” the next man would and did go as low as 20,000 but that is not low at all you don’t need tens of thousands of dollars for things of this nature. Like i said we are here to help and do what is best for you.
    Let me break it down, superwhite granite and backsplash – 4,000 all new cabinetry – 2,000 appliances – 2000 wall paper and paint 1,000 done!

    You should take my advice designer wedding planner average joe, shop around for contractors they can and will help you out!

  • @ Levi Montez,

    Let me go ahead and put all this estimate talk to bed. while i agree with you that contractors can provide a valuable service i have to disagree with your estimating. First off the work was done by myself (the husband) and a few helpers who have contracting backgrounds. the estimate given was almost all for materials. this renovation is misleading in that it was not just the kitchen being renovated but the entire living/dining area. I too work in the trade as a designer on the commercial end and known a thing or two about estimating. The one thing to keep in mind here is that you can certainly provide cabinets for 2,000 but the quality in construction and finishes are not the same. Also no mention of labor costs for infrastructure in your estimate which we both known is what can really drive up the cost. There is a big difference between contractor grade materials and designer grade materials. We chose the latter.

  • @ JM,

    The cabinets are Martha Stewarts line from the home Depot. Cabinets come in i believe three price points and several options in terms of storage, finishes, hardware, etc. i highly recommend them and they are made here in the US. I believe in California.

  • @ Meredith N,

    the tile back splash are individual tiles set in a mesh so you can install approximately 12 tiles at a time. Then follow up with grout.

  • @alex mercado im sorry to say but I absolutely agree with you there is a big difference but here in texas i can easily get high end cabinetry for two thousand dollars. Like i said before I know what i am doing and I know how to carry out a proper renovation with high end materials for a low cost. People just don’t understand that you don’t have to pay a huge ticket price for something you can get much lower. My estimate is very accurate i have done this type of reno and with new materials not refurbished and or reclaimed materials. Its not impossible you seem doubtful,, honestly i would be too you could have saved thousands. Regardless of the fact it may be misleading you could have saved quite a bit of money

  • Maybe next time paying an actual contractor will save you money and time.

  • Lovely space, love your colors… you should be proud. Price seems reasonable to me, and it strikes me as ridiculous that it should be up for debate.

    Your responses were very gracious, though – and your work looks impeccable. Kudos to you both, crazy huge improvement!

  • I asked this on your blog, but where is your faucet from? Do you happen to know the make and model?

  • 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!)?