Before & After: A Bright Kitchen Makeover Honoring Vintage Wares

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In keeping with the original Cape Cod style of her 1,400-square-foot Portland, OR bungalow, Anna Harris set out to complete a hands-on, $700 kitchen makeover. As the digital shopkeeper behind Experimental Vintage where she sells vintage furniture, housewares, textiles, and art, Anna wanted her small galley kitchen to remain functional for cooking as well as a place to showcase the special antiques she hunts and gathers. “I love the idea of bringing home something used instead of new for environmental reasons,” she shares, “But also because I like to think that each item has a story to tell. What home has it been in before? Who has loved it? Where has it traveled from to end up in my hands and home?” Fittingly, all of the beautiful items in her personal collection are sourced from flea markets, thrift stores, estate and yard sales, and local free piles.

When Anna purchased her place two years ago, a dark wall color and bulky upper cabinets made the small kitchen feel more like a cave. She threw herself a birthday paint party where her closest friends made way for open shelving and painted the walls Alabaster White by Miller Paint. Anna also covered the existing vinyl floor with two coats of Annie Sloan Pure White Chalkpaint, and later spent 10 hours applying the intricate floor design with an Etsy stencil (then sealed with Annie Sloan Lacquer). Local reclaimed wood yard Salvage Works had just the perfect 1920s farmhouse Douglas Fir to turn into shelving. Peter the carpenter cut, sanded, and installed the pieces in less than one day with Home Depot brackets costing less than two dollars apiece. Installing Anna’s grandfather’s 1950s Frigidaire refrigerator was the finishing touch. “The fridge is a very special piece to me, as I remember grabbing Henry Weinhard root beer from it at Grandma and Grandpa’s lake house during the long, hot summers of my childhood,” she adds.

After a small outlaying of cash and a lot of elbow grease, Anna has an airy dream kitchen that functions for a modern cook while adapting to her vintage style. The new open shelving allows the sun to shine brightly and adds color to the room with its contents — but its added bonus is to ensure each exposed item is used and enjoyed frequently. —Annie

Photography by Anna Harris

  1. Jessica says:

    This is an amazing transformation–love all the light and the collection of pottery. And that cactus tin is to die for. How does the chalk paint hold up as a finish? I always thought of it as somewhat dull and haven’t heard of it being used on a floor before.

    cactiandmountains.com

  2. Giulia says:

    This is a lovely make-over. So much brighter and a great way to showcase all the treasures Anna has. Well done! I have a question regarding the vintage fridge – are you concerned about the high electricity usage compared to a new fridge? We have all kinda of campaigns here to get people to upgrade their fridges and not to hold on to their ‘second’ old fridge in the garage or basement due to the high draw of power.

    1. Jen O says:

      A fridge this old will run cheaply because it does not switch on and off all day trying to maintain the automatic defrosting setting or keep freezer frost free. Its simple process of just maintaining temp. can be cheaper than the multi-tasking versions we see now. I love mine (pink interior!) and was surprised how quiet it is and how seldom it kicks on, yet everything stays cold.

  3. Carly Beard says:

    Yay Anna! I was just about to send this to you thinking this was very similar to yours. I’m lucky I read the details!

  4. Emily says:

    I am floored (pun intended) that Anna painted the linoleum! What an amazing outcome!

  5. whitney says:

    The floor looks amazing. How is it holding up?

  6. Vanessa says:

    Very well done, I do think the fridge pulls it all together. I am waiting for a “refrigerator revolution” one of these days, hoping for some of these cuties to be put on the market in a newer form. I like Smeg and Elmira but that one is sweet. I also think my dishes would look great in her kitchen! I have a lot of 50’s and 60’s pieces.

  7. Oh it is absolutely amazing! Love the shelves everywhere, it makes such a difference doesn’t it? I am in love with the floor tiles too and the uniqueness of the furniture :) Well done!

  8. So bright & happy! What a lovely spot! I adore the tile, the wood cabinets with the white and all the plants around. Great job!!

  9. Chris says:

    What an Amazing transformation!!!! Well done!

  10. danielle says:

    where’s the stove and oven?????? also, how much did those shelves run? I’m interested in open shelving in my place which has a similar floor plan but I don’t know if I can afford it.

  11. The floor is stunning!

  12. Rachel says:

    What a smart solution, to paint the floor! Much cheaper than removing it or replacing it, I’m sure, and less waste.

    It’s great how that vintage refrigerator fits that spot so much better than the old one. I wish they still made fridges like that (the reproductions aren’t quite right).

    Last year we also gave our kitchen a makeover with open shelving from Salvage Works, too! That place is great.

  13. M says:

    I’ve got to move myself to a home where your glassware can sit on open shelves and never gather dust.

    1. Esme mulligan says:

      Just use your glassware at least once a week and it won’t gather dust. Easy peasy.

  14. Callie says:

    I love the kitchen accessories, especially the knife block. I would love to know where to find one like it!

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