before and after

Before & After: Lucy’s Kitchen

by Grace Bonney

Today’s second Before & After comes from Lucy Heenan Ewins who lives in a beautiful Victorian home built in 1910. Lucy wanted to improve the flow of her original kitchen, while adding more countertop space and brightening it up to make the rest of the home. She was up against peach cabinets, sponge-painted walls (my least favorite painting style ever), gray laminate countertop and outdated tiles that just didn’t work in the space. Determined to make over the space on their own, Lucy and her husband re-designed the space on their own and her husband did the majority of of the work while on paternity leave and caring for their newborn (they stayed with family during the dusty phase)! The project started on Memorial Day of last year and was finished by Labor Day, leaving a brand new space that had everything they were hoping for- including more counter space and room to dry dishes. I love the creative storage they built into the room (see images after the jump with their adorable daughter) but the entire space deserves a hearty high five. Well done, you two! xo, grace

More images and details about the project continue after the jump…

Demo involved taking down an old closet/pantry to the wood lathe in order to change the layout of the kitchen. We wanted to open up the space and make it lighter. We also removed an old transom that separated the kitchen from the bedrooms and essentially created an unnecessary 2×2 hallway. The biggest part of the demo involved removing the old tile floor which involved hitting it with hammers and shoveling it out the window into a bagster. We did this in the hopes that we would find salvageable wood below. After days of shoveling tile, we found original heart pine wood floors below (with a million nails in it). We hired a floor refinisher who did a great job of stealing wood from the areas where our cabinets would go and patching areas that were not salvageable. The results are a farmhouse-esque floor which adds warmth and continuity.

Because we were on a tight budget we decided to reuse our existing cabinets. We found a retailer who stocked our existing cabinets and bought two wall cabinets, a pantry, deep drawers for pots & pans and a pull-out trash/recycling. The cabinets we couldn’t reuse we repurposed to our laundry room (and cut the old laminate countertop as a top down there) and we are using the remaining cabinets to build a toy kitchen for our daughter. We desperately wanted a farmhouse sink, but didn’t have the budget for one and a new sink base. At the last moment, we found the Kohler short apron sink (on sale at Home Depot) and were able to use our old sink base. We also raised up our fridge cabinet so we didn’t have to buy a new one.

After putting up new wallboard and skimcoating and then installing the cabinets, my husband began building the boxes and trim above the cabinets. Our cabinets had a floating look and we wanted them to go to the ceiling but did not have a budget for new cabinets or custom work. My husband taught himself carpentry with assistance from a friend who is a contractor, and built the boxes above the cabinets and trimmed them out. This proved much harder than it looks because our ceiling is not level! So we had to improvise to deal with the slope. My husband trimmed out the island to finish it off and added corbels from Home Depot to support the soapstone countertop. We worked with a soapstone fabricator in NY to select the stone and install it.

My husband did a number of other projects, including: building floating shelves above the sink and trimming them so they worked with the rest of the cabinet moulding, building a small bookcase to hold cookbooks which also fit a step stool under it; installing sheet metal on the side of the fridge cabinet and trimming it out and painting it with chalkboard paint. He also built the toddler latch board which we installed between our windows. I made the faux roman shade with remnant fabric. We designed the lighting, but hired an electrician. There is rope lighting in the boxes on a dimmer, canned ceiling lights, and we purchased our light fixture at the Brimfield Antique Fair.

We had a number of setbacks, especially during the demo and design phases. Our kitchen isn’t large, it’s about 12×14 and has 3 doors and 2 windows. We made our island smaller at the last minute after realizing we wouldn’t be able to open the oven door without hitting our back on the island. We were worried that we couldn’t devote 48″ (we have about 40″) between the island and fridge (and that’s a walkway). However, it worked out well and we reused our existing low-profile IKEA stools. We just sprayed the silver legs oil rubbed bronze and beat up the birch seats so they look like old school seats. Installing tile on a wavy wall also proved challenging.

The materials Lucy and her husband used:
-Existing cabinets/trim and wainscoting painted in BM White Dove
-Walls painted BM Owl Gray
-Light fixture from the Brimfield Antique Fair
-Appliances are JennAir and Miele from Yale Appliance (we replaced them one at a time as each old appliance died).
-Sink is Kohler Short Apron Whitehaven from Home Depot
-Faucet is the Kohler Parq Deck Bridge Faucet (the cheapest bridge faucet I could find)
-Hardware is Restoration Hardware: aubrey knobs and pulls and gilmore cup pull all in oil rubbed bronze
-Plates and bowls in boxes are existing collection from travels
-Artwork was made with remaining burlap and an old frame
-Faux roman shades (they don’t go down) were made with $2.49 remnant fabric and tension rods
-White basic subway tile from Lowes

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  • Beautiful! And smart, too. I appreciate you sharing your purchase decisions and your ability to reuse materials. The floors are a wonderful feature.

  • We’re preparing (bracing) for our Victorian kitchen remodel too… your floors turned out beautifully! Ours are also the original random-width, but sadly not salvageable… you did a great job, working with what you had and updating to such a clean look. Congrats on being done!

  • Don’t you LOVE your soapstone? We are so happy that we chose it for our Victorian kitchen! Great job on this design!

  • Gotta love the Dad doing a major kitchen redo during a paternity leave, seems like an oxymoron. Beautiful though

  • I don’t know much about kitchen sink parts, but I can’t for the life of me see any of the old sink in the new sink, so bravo! I would never have guessed this was a budget makeover, it looks fantastic! My husband and I plan to renovate our kitchen someday soon and fancy ourselves pretty good DIYers, and I hope our makeover turns out half as nice as yours!

  • such a gigantic improvement. i love the dark soapstone against the white cabinets, such a beautiful contrast. and everything was updated with such care. love this.

  • Thank you everyone for your kind comments everyone! To answer a few questions, the sink is brand new Kate so you didn’t miss anything–we simply repurposed the sink base. Typically with a farmhouse sink you need a new base that is specific to the sink having a tall apron front. Here we located a short apron front sink and cut into our existing sink cabinet and added supports to hold the monster! Good luck with your renovation! Tagati, a toddler latch board is basically a piece of wood with everything toddlers love to play with (door handles, little windows that open and shut, eye hooks, buzzers)–it keeps her entertained while we cook. Also, I should have said that my husband did the reno during our daughter’s naps and on weekends (though they did make a lot of home depot trips during awake periods). We had to get creative and were lucky that our upstairs’ neighbors would let us put her down for naps in their apartment (where the monitor reached) so he could do some noisy construction and not wake her!

  • wow. i’m really impressed and inspired by this! my husband and i hope to renovate our own kitchen soon and it’s nice to read stories like this. the result is really lovely and feels very homey… like a place you would want to visit and hang out. i hope you enjoy it!

  • What a phenomenal job – kudos to your husband! He must be the most patient, even-tempered guy – so many roadblocks, design challenges overcome so beautifully.

  • That is a wonderful accomplishment! I would be thrilled to have a kitchen like yours. You two look to be pretty experienced rehabbers? Well done.

  • Tagati – If you’re on pinterest I recommend searching for what they call ‘busy boards’ for some great inspiration to make your own latch board. They look really fun for toddlers and keep their little hands busy.

  • The white units really help brighten the room up and the brick type wall tiles throw so much extra light in. Well done on a great job. The stool storage is a lovely touch. Is the stool homemade?

  • I’m absolutely speechless and thrilled with this faultless and quite wonderful achievement. Gotta say Keep that Husband of yours… :))))
    What an amazing job – I’m simply exhausted just reading all the work you accomplished and in such a fabulous intelligent way too. Also thanks for the explanation re ‘toddler latch board’ – I’m learning something every day.
    I too love those stone sinks – we call them Belfast sink (I think! Not being English but having lived in UK for a while) – I have one in the basement in my French home (which we hope to sell as we’re returning back to Switzerland!) – it came from the former stables (house built in 1920). They are fabulous (yes, horses too, and stables but I’m talking about the sink!).
    Be happy in your new beautiful and useful kitchen – and enjoy it – you’ve got a lovely, cheerful and happy looking daughter!

  • Gorgeous!! You guys did such an amazing job.

    I plan on attempting a similar renovation sometime in the future – older house, lots of DIY, trying to keep costs really low, etc – and I was wondering if you could share your budget. Just a ballpark figure would be amazing, so I can have a vague idea. If not, I understand.

    Beautiful kitchen again!!! Thanks for sharing :)

  • Fantastic! Congratulations on a beautiful job so well done! Your new kitchen is simply gorgeous. Thanks for the wonderful tour – and for including so many interesting behind the scenes details about the project. :)

  • I’m so impressed by this renovation! It’s inspirational to see how you maintained a budget and produced such a lovely space.

  • Gorgeous kitchen!!! But I think the house is actually Edwardian and not Victorian. The Edwardian era began in 1901 and ended in 1910.

  • I like the clean, new look of the “After”, but I would probably have reused the Before sink and faucet. The old sink goes better with the appliances in the new kitchen.

  • Beautiful makeover! I am considering purchasing the Whitehaven sink as well. Do you love it? I am considering it because I’d like to retrofit it to my existing cabinets. I’m torn because I love the look of a traditional deep farm sink. Does the short apron make a difference?

  • Your kitchen is amazing! I would like to add the upper “cabinets” without doors to my existing cabinets to give it a more complete look. Did your husband design and create them himself or use the cabinets and not add doors? I would love to know how he did it and what it cost. I’m talking to a contractor about doing this exact thing, and would like an idea of what price a DIYer can do the project for.

    Thank you and Great job!!

  • Sheila–still happy with the soapstone and would choose it again!

    Kay–I adore the sink! Any future home we have we will install this sink. The depth is perfect for washing dishes, there is a slight angle so food flows naturally to the drain, everything fits! I cannot say enough good things about it. So glad we ended up with the short sink.

    Mandy–they are not cabinets with doors taken off, just boxes built on top of the cabinets. We used pine, but the higher grade. The materials were not much but it was laborious!

    Catherine–one day we will get around to making a blog! Thanks for the vote of confidence!

  • My husband just walked into our kitchen to find me standing on our countertops measuring the distance from the top of the cabinet to the ceiling. Bravo! I’m completely inspired. Summer project! Thank you for sharing your beautiful home.

  • Hi, I love what you did with your kitchen! We are remodeling our kitchen and thinking of doing the upper boxes on top of the cabinets. May I ask what the height is on the upper box area in your kitchen? We only have an 8 ft ceiling and are trying to envision the boxes on top of cabinets but in our kitchen would only be 10 to 11 inches at most to display items. Thanks!

  • Your kitchen remodel is gorgeous! We are remodeling ours now and have also decided on the Whitehaven Short-Apron Farm Sink and have selected the Caviar color. What is the width of your sink, if you do not mind my asking?

  • Any chance you can share how you building the shelving on top of the cabinets? I love it!

    • We built boxes on top of the cabinets out of plywood. We then used trim moulding pieces between the cabinet and the box, and crown moulding above. We added finished sides to the sides that were visible and then painted it all to match the cabinets.