before and afterDIY

Before & After: A “Cookie Cutter” Kitchen Becomes Anything But

by Maxwell Tielman

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After photos by Kimberly Neyer.

There are a number of reasons to buy a new home (many of which I’m discovering the hard way after a few months of renovating in a 200-year old house). These include things like, oh, I don’t know…functional plumbing. Or walls that don’t crumble at even the slightest glance. Or insulated walls—you can’t forget about proper insulation this time of year! Still, although new homes are pretty dern awesome for those seeking move-in-ready accommodations, they are often sorely lacking in the charm department. For all its amenities, the brand-new suburban home can be, as Alanna and Jeffrey Harbeck would find, a little bit bland.  When the couple moved into a 2005 home on the outskirts of Chicago, they knew that it was going to need a lot of work for it to reflect their personalities and design sensibilities. “The greatest challenge,” Alanna, a style scout and occasional writer for Style Story Blog says, “was to bring character to a ‘cookie cutter’ style home.” Well, Alanna and Jeffrey were certainly up for the challenge, especially as far as their kitchen is concerned! After three months of work, largely carried out by the couple and their friends, the once mundane space is practically unrecognizable—a bright, colorful and open space, perfect for cooking and entertaining! Check out all of the photos, sources and Alanna’s design notes after the jump! —Max

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  • It is a very beautiful kitchen, but it breaks my frugal heart to see a nearly new and perfectly functional kitchen ripped out. To each his own!

  • SO GOOD! I especially love the fixtures they chose. When shopping for new homes, I often see a lot of these cookie cutter houses, but feel like its counterintuitive to think about doing a huge renovation on something brand new. This project proves me wrong!

  • This is a remarkable renovation !! Love the white it brightens everything up! Darcy

  • This kitchen looks amazing! What a nice way to bring newness to an existing home…it’s so bright and clean! I really like the touches of gold and barn wood, not to mention the combination of modern and eclectic style.

  • Whoa. Way to take back the suburbs, baby. I love this! Especially the barn wood range hood!

  • Woah. Way to take back the suburbs, baby! You guys did a great job! I love the barn wood range hood.

  • This looks fantastic!!!! Amazing that you were able to do all the design work and a lot of the labor yourself. My very favorite thing is your mix of rustic with white. Very cozy! Honored to see one of my floral frames in the photos!!!

  • love it! i don’t blame you…. in my opinion the dark cabinets, dog barf granite is dated! did you paint the cabinets or?? you did not list source. thnx!

  • What a same and lovely kitchen. A nice blend of contemporary with rustic, and doesn’t look like a place where every single thing has to be put away. I have to redo a kitchen in my little weekend house and the window/sink area is just like the one in your pics. I think I’ll copy the way you handled that.

  • Very beautiful. Great job! Creative and inviting. Many people donate their old cabinets to those in need. There are many kitchen re-salvaging places around, and places like Habitat for Humanity who need these things. I am sure most people donate what they can. ;o)

  • @Amanda I appreciate your frugal heart and rest assured we were able to donate the appliances to a local charity and friends. We also reused all the cabinets and as much of the countertops as we could salvage in our garage and basement.

  • Love, Love LOVE it!! So Gorgeous. I love that you personalized everything you couldn’t find with spray paint! Beautifully done.

  • Lovely redo but I have my doubts about covering the hood in barn board. How will you clean grease and cooking stains off of it…eventually food will splatter up there?

  • The cabinets are from Home Depot and the designer we worked with at our local store, Maria D’Amore deserves a mention. She is an over-qualified, hard-working single mother from Italy who was the angel behind this project. She sat with us for 4hrs. straight one day, figuring out every inch of the cabinet layout with us!

  • What a scary sight to see, old dry wood over the stove top! That is where most fires are contained, in the metal hood. Did you check the fire codes?

    Otherwise, great beautiful job.

  • THAT. COPPER. TOLIX. CHAIR. IS. EVERYTHING. source please? is that painted as well? love it all!

  • I am also concerned about the wood over the stove. Plus how would you ever clean grease build up over the years off of it?

  • @Lex the copper chair is old anthropologie, not painted. @Eliza The hood is a fully functional up to code hood… that we added barnwood around… so that may have canceled the code, I’m not sure. While I do not believe it makes a fire more likely, it would definitely add a spark to the flame. Fire safety is important and we do have a fire extinguisher close by. I will ask my firefighter neighbors about it and see if it concerns them.

  • This! This is why I read designsponge; for ideas on how to transform the basic builder-grade McHouse (that I purchased because of its awesome school district and not because of the previous owner’s anemic idea of decor).

  • Ooh, you have my hedgehog measuring cups! Love them, but have to admit I’ve never actually used them as anything other than decoration. Love how you incorporated metal via spray painting.

  • LOVE your groovy kitchen!! Would you please share with me where you found the beautiful hanging light over the table?

  • What is the upkeep like on Carrera Marble? I love it, but am worried about staining and future upkeep. I think it’s worth the price if it holds up well! Beautiful kitchen, ism probably going to use the same cabinet pulls!

  • Completely inspiring. Care to share where you purchased both the hanging lights over the island and your stove?

  • @Keri and Laura the light above the table is the Urchin Chandelier from Stimulight on etsy and the black one above the computer is Barnlight Electric. @Laura I have NO regrets about the marble! If you’ve researched it you will see it does etch, scratch, and can stain. If that bothers you, don’t do it, but if you’re ok with that weathered natural look, you won’t find another material that gives you the beauty of marble. We’re not perfectionists here, as you see we’ve got 3 kids, no stains so far, just a few dull spots and 1 scratch. I’m glad I did the perimeter with something very practical and durable, a charcoal grey silestone. I feel like that was the perfect balance for us!

  • Depending on local codes, you can in many cases put a wooden cabinet above a stove provided the correct clearance from the range is provided. Heights are stricter with gas – but still achievable so the barn board vent cover may be fine. Where I live it’s 30″ min.
    All that aside – love the new look!

  • @Melissa, we bought our appliances at Abt. The range is a Blue Star and the refrigerator is GE Cafe Style. We are happy with both.

  • Never saw ultimate Kitchen design like this and I am really inspired by the display. The fitting looks really professional and kitchen looks fantastic now. I would share this to my circle for a stylish well made design of the kitchen!

  • I so agree with you about cookie cutter kitchens. We are trying to do the same to our kitchen right now…….. trying to make it unique, practical and unlike everything on the market right now. You guys have done a great job. Well done.

  • My “why not love where you live” heart is happy that you made your kitchen into something more suited to your style!