before and afterDIY

Before & After: An Outdated Kitchen Gets A Much-Needed Makeover

by Maxwell Tielman

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Photography by Tami Seymour

I’m not sure what it is about the kitchen, but for some reason it is one of the first rooms in a house to feel outdated as time moves forward. Perhaps it’s the fact that kitchens are filled with appliances. Or perhaps it’s because the way that cultures eat and interact with food changes so rapidly. Whatever the cause, kitchens are, more often than not, the first rooms to need (and receive) large-scale overhauls during renovations. This was certainly the case for Tami Seymour and Tim Singer, a Philadelphia-based photographer/creative director couple who just moved into a century-old farmhouse with their children. “We are all about clean, functional, timeless design,” Tami says. The home’s kitchen, a poorly-lit, decidedly brown assemblage (likely last outfitted in the 1970s), was anything but. Luckily, Tami and her husband are self-proclaimed renovation addicts, so they relished the opportunity to give the kitchen a much-deserved head-to-toe makeover. The result is an opened-up, aired-out, and wonderfully functional kitchen that works for the entire family. Check out all of the photos, plus Tami and Tim’s design notes after the jump! —Max


“We bought and moved into our house a little over a year ago,” Tami says. “It’s a 100+ year old farm-looking house that’s pretty unique to our block. The kitchen remodel is our first big project on our house list.”

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“Before we began the remodel of the kitchen we looked at the the entire first floor. We wanted the space to have a light and simple feel with good flow and we wanted every room to be used. The kitchen was really outdated, no counter/storage space, extension cords running everywhere and it was closed off to the entire house with tiny doorways. The first order of business was to remove the wall between the kitchen and dining room to make those 2 rooms act together. As soon as we removed the wall, light poured into the kitchen. Opening up the space changed the feel of the entire first floor. We removed 3 layers of old flooring and unfortunately had to get a new hardwood floor. This was, physically, the hardest part of the project. We had to have all of the floors redone in the house so we ended up hiring a floor person who installed the kitchen floor. We also hired a drywaller and an electrician. We did the demo, installed all of tile backsplash and any small drywall repairs. We also installed all of the IKEA cabinets. Since we saved money on our cabinets we treated ourselves to a Viking stove which we found as a floor model on clearance and a really quiet Bosch dishwasher which had been discontinued, also on clearance. We have one wall as a dedicated chalkboard wall, which makes everyone kind of happy when they walk into the kitchen. Eventually we will paint all of the trim and get our windows open which are painted shut. We are also tossing around the idea of making our own concrete countertops and adding storage above the fridge.”

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Source List:

  • Cabinets: IKEA
  • Butcher block counter top: IKEA
  • Backsplash: timeless subway tile from a local tile shop
  • Light fixture: West Elm
  • Island: salvaged from old deli
  • Dishwasher: Bosch
  • Fridge: Bosch
  • Range: Viking
  • Sink: IKEA
  • Faucet: IKEA
  • Kitchen stools: Target
  • Orange dining chairs: Herman Miller – my friend found them dumpster diving
  • Red dining chairs: Herman Miller – someone gave them to us. They were sun-faded pink.
  • Dining table: IKEA
  • Hello letters: 3 Potato 4
  • Diner mugs and plates: salvaged from my parents’ old diner
  • Whitewash basin pitcher: vintage – my grandmother’s
  • KitchenAid mixer: vintage – my grandfather’s
  • Chalkboard paint: local hardware store
  • Small wooden cutting board: Peg and Awl
  • Peace print: Obey
  • Photo of match box police car: by photographer Don Hamerman for 20×200
  • Ceramic bowls: hand thrown by Tami
  • Small blue step stool: Seattle Fremont flea market
  • Small wooden box holding chalk: 3 Potato 4
  • Ceramic mini hand: Fishs Eddy
  • Wall clock: Kerf Design
  • Bowl on dining table: Nambé
  • Gurgling fish pitcher: Gift from my sister from local shop in Stone Harbor, NJ
  • Walking sticks collection: found while hiking in Fairmount Park, some decorated with paint or duck tape
  • Various bottles and glass: thrifted


Suggested For You


  • WOW! How do you like your countertops? We’re thinking of getting them, but worried about how they will stand up to kitchen/water abuse. Thanks.

  • Stunning makeover! Good call using Ikea drawers instead of all cupboards. Makes them very easy to use. How do you find the grout/bottom of the tile against the countertop holding up? Did you give it some kind of extra sealant?

    Elizabeth — I’ve had those Ikea countertops for four years and for the first two I had to re-oil them 2-3 times a year, but now it’s only once a year. If you look after them, they will pay you back with years of life.

  • oh my gosh! what an improvement! it’s incredible that under all that busy patterns and dark and dreary colors, there was all this light and potential!

  • What a beautiful makeover! This coming spring we will be completely remodeling our 1940’s 1000 sq.ft home. From 40’s to contemporary can be done!

  • We have the same orange-red Target stools. I feel like my tastes have been validated. ;P

  • Looks great! That kitchen needed a serious gut and you did a beautiful job! What a difference removing a wall makes!

  • Thank you for featuring us today Design Sponge! We are so excited! And thank you everyone for the wonderful comments. It’s so fun to be able to share our project with everyone.
    Elizabeth – we love the ikea butcher block counters. We are kicking around the idea of building concrete counter tops but will repurpose the ikea counters in our garage.
    Lulu – We didn’t want any upper cabinets and the ikea drawers are great! As for where the tile meets the counter we used a kitchen and bath caulk.
    Gisele and Yelle – Thank you! Mari- good luck!
    Alexis – :) love these stools! We searched high and low for stools mostly vintage. These happened to be exactly what we were looking for – they add a nice pop of color to the kitchen!

  • Wow – what a fabulous change – so light now – amazing
    (thought that brown flower wallpaper was quite something!)

  • I love what you have done. The wallpaper is similar to the wallpaper my sister picked out for our bedroom when we were younger (in the 70’s). What was funny is after they put it up they realized it was upside down. Now my sister would cringe since she is an interior designer and does remodels all the time. Thanks for the funny memory!

  • I love, love, love it ALL! What was your source for the chandelier in the dining room? Thanks so much for sharing your home with us!

  • It looks really lovely; more inviting and airy. It is true when a home is done right one needs never leave it. At best, something to always look forward to coming /returning home. One’s haven.

  • Thanks again everyone for all of the lovely comments. Katharine I love the your wallpaper story – perfect that it was upside down. We were able to keep a small portion that I will frame or do something with. Kay – the previous owners had an amazing collection of mid-century furniture. Luck for us they left behind the chandelier!

  • The kitchen is beautiful; however, one note of caution. For anyone who is removing old linoleum from the 50’s through the early 80’s , it most likely contains asbestos and should be tested before doing so. I recently wanted to remove the older layers of linoleum in my kitchen but couldn’t do so because it tested positive for asbestos. I had to leave it encapsulated below the thin wood sub floor the previous owners put down and only removed the uppermost asbestos free linoleum layer. Wanted to level out the floors with the adjoining rooms but was unable to do for. Had to use transitions to compensate for the unevenness instead.

  • Thank you for this post! I am house shopping and it seems the only available houses in my range are from the ’70s. I was almost depressed until I saw your post and what I can fix on a limited budget. Also, thank you, Joselyn, I will make sure a home inspection includes that test!

  • Beautifully done! We just had our layers of asbestos linoleum removed by a professional company and it cost less than we expected. If you are planning on removing linoleum or any tile from an old house, please have it tested first!

    Would love a source for the pendant light in the dining room (white globes).

  • I love the globes light in your dining room. Do you know the West Elm model number? I couldn’t find it on the site. Thanks and great job.

  • Hi. This was my mom’s house 1950s-1960s??? From what she told me, it was a beautiful home back in it’s day. My parents had their wedding reception in the backyard. They had a maid and butler. My grandfather would put up a huge Christmas display in the front porch that was filled with windows, so you could see it from the street. I used to love hearing her stories of living here. She was so distraught about how run down and overgrown the property was when she would drive by in later years. She passed away in 2014. She would be thrilled to know her childhood home is receiving so much love. If you are in touch with the present owners, please thank them for my mom.