before and afterInteriors

Before and After: A Dated, Dark Kitchen Gets a DIY Remodel

by Sabrina Smelko

Having grown up watching her mother flip homes — and with a degree in fashion management herself — it came as no surprise to Sarah Alchmist when she discovered her own knack for interior design and house-flipping. “I knew deep down I needed to be a part of some sort of art program, and I loved everything fashion at the time,” she explains, “[it was] a stepping stone to the world of design and, once you have a few bits and pieces of knowledge in that industry, you simply brainstorm your ideas — which shortly gives you the ability to put ‘pretty’ together.”

Just one year ago, Sarah and her husband, Presley, bought this Ontario-based home in need of some TLC. The quiet, country environment with “lots and lots of land for the kids (Aiden and Kendyl) to adventure on,” was the main selling factor, and the main deterrent? The dark and dated kitchen, which had sent previous potential buyers running. Rather than run for the hills themselves, Sarah and Presley saw this as an opportunity and, after putting in an offer, they rolled up their sleeves and got to work.

Built by a German architect 40 years ago, the unique and structural home had great bones but needed a complete overhaul aesthetically, and the room in need of the most attention was the kitchen — which Sarah and Presley decided to completely demolish and relocate. After countless contractors let them down and fell through, Presley stepped up to the plate and completed all of the work himself. “Every night, [Presley would] come straight home from work and work [on the kitchen] late into the morning hours installing drywall, taping, installing the plumbing, applying heated floor plates and then our tiles on top,” Sarah shares. “He painted, installed all the cabinets and shelving, built a custom range hood and ran a gas line all on his own… I couldn’t have been more proud of him, nor did he know he was capable of doing such work!”

Despite the aches and pains that came as a result of the hard labor, the couple not only saved a ton of money by doing it themselves, but they’ve both caught the renovation / house-flipping bug: “We’re both confident in getting this kind of work done as a team and we’ve talked about future projects,” Sarah explains, “even though it was such a pain in the rear, it’s an experience we’ve learned to really love; and after seeing what it’s worth, we don’t mind doing it all over again!” Now, after working their magic in every room, they’re ready for the next house-flipping adventure, of which Sarah says, “Our next home will be filled with much more personality, warmth and character and I cannot wait to enjoy that!” –Sabrina

Photography by Sarah Alchmist

Before and After: A Dated, Dark Kitchen Gets a DIY Remodel
The space that the kitchen now calls home was originally a second living room with an eat-in dining space. The family's old kitchen was tucked behind the left wall in the corner of the room (not pictured), so the couple removed the walls and doorways and freed up this entire space to be one massive kitchen. In the remainder of the home, they simply refinished the hardwood floors, but in the kitchen, they were ripped out and heated tile floors were installed. The family also enlarged the window to let more natural light into the room. "Now we can sit in our kitchen and enjoy the sun setting right outside our window," Sarah explains.
Before and After: A Dated, Dark Kitchen Gets a DIY Remodel
Their custom-built black range hood anchors the space and adds some contrast to the otherwise white kitchen. "We kept this home as simple as possible so that when buyers visit, they will envision their own way of keeping it," Sarah says, "their own colors and textures to add and project. It's hard for people to have a vision when a space is too dark or too cluttered, so keeping it clear and simple helps minimize those feelings."
Before and After: A Dated, Dark Kitchen Gets a DIY Remodel
Sarah added some old charm to the kitchen by using lots of warm woods and metal accents which lend themselves to an eclectic, industrial style. "We often visit antique or consignment stores, which leaves the majority of our things bought secondhand, and if not, it's custom-made."
Before and After: A Dated, Dark Kitchen Gets a DIY Remodel
To save money, the cabinets, shelves, hardware, countertops, sink, faucet, and accessories were all purchased at IKEA. The walls are painted in Sherwin Williams "Alabaster," and the range hood over the Bertazzoni Master Series range was outfitted in black chalk paint.
Before and After: A Dated, Dark Kitchen Gets a DIY Remodel
Their farmhouse sink, butcher-block counters and picture windows nod to the past while modern elements add some balance.
Before and After: A Dated, Dark Kitchen Gets a DIY Remodel
"This photo shows a more clear visual of what was done in terms of wall demolishing and ridding that ugly old kitchen in the corner. You can see why people were automatically turned off from it!" Sarah says. After brainstorming to center the sink under the window, the rest of the layout fell into place.
Before and After: A Dated, Dark Kitchen Gets a DIY Remodel
The couple opted for a massive fridge/freezer combo flanked by floor-to-ceiling cabinets, saying, "It fills the space well and is a great selling point and wow-factor for buyers!"
Before and After: A Dated, Dark Kitchen Gets a DIY Remodel
The family's custom-built wood island sits majestically in the center of the room. "I like warm colored objects, old British- and French-inspired pieces displayed around the home," Sarah explains, "but I like simple clean lines. too: too much clutter makes me anxious and I feel more at ease with a softer tone in things."
Before and After: A Dated, Dark Kitchen Gets a DIY Remodel
With so much storage elsewhere, Sarah and Presley decided to use open shelves on this entire expanse of wall to break up the heavy cabinetry and appliances and keep things airy and casual.
Before and After: A Dated, Dark Kitchen Gets a DIY Remodel
Most of their glasses, jars and bowls were found at thrift stores, adding some visual interest to the otherwise clean, modern space.
Before and After: A Dated, Dark Kitchen Gets a DIY Remodel
What was once the entire kitchen is now a dining nook and closet, which is handy, as there are doors leading to their backyard to the left, and to the right is the entry to their garage. Once a pantry, through the corridor you'll now find the laundry room. The sliding doors were purchased at Lowes.
Before and After: A Dated, Dark Kitchen Gets a DIY Remodel
In the breakfast nook is a Schoolhouse Electric pendant light fixture. The table and chairs were thrifted.

Suggested For You


  • I love the results, and agree that they did a great job renovating and choosing finishing but I feel weird about a flip being featured on Designsponge.

    • Janelle

      Can you tell me a bit more about what about flips in general feel like an odd fit here for you? I just want to understand that so I can see if there’s something for us to change or consider in future posts.


      • Hi Grace-

        I think there’s something about seeing a home that a person lives in, and has decorated to suit their life. I think DS has always felt like it takes a glimpse into the personal and intimate spaces, and seeing things like, “A Buyer…or the Buyer” seems out of step. Theres’s just such a difference between finishes a person chooses for themselves to finishes a designer chooses to motivate a sale.

        • Janelle

          I totally agree and I understand what you mean.

          That intimate “homey” sort of feel is why we like to focus the vast majority of our home/studio tours on spaces that don’t involve a professional designer or construction of any type.

          But I think for the sake of offering some more options (and showing a range of budgets/styles), we like to throw in something a little different every now and then. I think this is one of a handful of flips we’ve shared in the last 12 years, so we’re still focusing mainly on those real/relatable homes you prefer. I know it won’t speak to everyone reading, but we hope that the mix we provide will give everyone a little something that speaks to their individual style/budget/process.


  • It’s beautiful Sarah and Presley!
    A job well done! All your hard work paid off and now you have a warm and cozy space to relax or entertain in!! Bravo!!

  • Wow Sarah and Presley!
    What a stunning transformation, this accomplishment must feel so rewarding. Looks like all there is to do now is make memories!!

  • Wow! Amazing transformation! I especially love the layout. Any idea on the dimensions of this gorgeous space? Nice work!!!

  • Wow! This is amazing! Is there anyway for you to list the name of the cabinets fronts and countertops from ikea? Did you alter them in any way?

    • Thanks, Jessica.

      Nothing was altered just custom fitted to our dimensions of the space.

      Cabinet fronts are GRIMSLÖV

      Countertops are KARLBY

      both by IKEA :)

    • Thanks!

      We didn’t add any finishes or stains that was how it was bought and currently used.


  • What did you do at all the treat the countertops. I have the same cabinet and countertop combo and am thinking of staining and varnishing them for a better more user friendly finish. And these are gorgeous.


  • Hi! I love how your kitchen turned out! I have the same wood countertops from IKEA and mine are much lighter. what did you treat them with to make them look so rich and dark? I would love mine to have a darker look! Thanks, Sarah

  • These comments have me cracking up. I think you should have just listed everything in the pictures lol.
    Anyway, the kitchen is stunning and very much my aesthetic. I’m from the south in the states and love a country look, but I’m very modern, so to me this is the perfect mix.
    Will you be showing the rest of the house? It would be hard to move on from this, I love it, great job.

  • Great job Sarah! This picture is the most similar I have seen to the layout & style of our kitchen in our 1930s house in South Africa, and it makes me feel VERY inspired. If only we had IKEA here…
    Great work.

  • Would love to know if the paint is true white or white with a little brown or something in it?