before and afterInteriors

Before & After: A Kitchen for Two House Flippers Who Put Down Roots

by Erin Austen Abbott

Before and After with Debra Barrett on Design*Sponge

Debra and Dan Barrett love to flip houses. They’re passionate about getting into a new place and giving it new life and new direction. Debra, a real estate agent and a home stager, calls it an occupational hazard. They’ve made eight moves in the last ten years, and are always excited to see where they will end up next. When the couple moved into their current home in Fort Worth, TX, they decided to recycle the moving boxes and stay awhile. “Our M.O. has been to buy, renovate, then sell. We decided that this time we were going to stay for a while (our friends are taking bets), so we were looking for a home with plenty of space for us, Effie Mae (the dog), and visits from our grandboys. This one had the square footage, plenty of outdoor play space, and needed a ton of work. Perfect,” Debra shares.

Flooring was the first of many repairs that the Barretts made to the home. With broken parquet, aging carpets, and some dark grey tile, the home needed those repairs done before they could move into the rest of the space. “I fell in love with oil-finished, engineered wood by Bausen, but installation meant that we had to really think about how we would use the spaces and move all the walls to where they would be in our final plan. The wall between the tiny kitchen and what was then the family room had to make way for a new island. So down it came. WOW! What a difference,” Debra explains. Plumbing for the island came next, but with the new floors, a lot of jackhammering into the concrete had to be done, along with a lot of added expense. “Because of those unexpected costs, our plan was to leave the cabinets on the back wall and finish as budget allowed,” Debra says. “One day, while checking on progress, I realized that the floors would be new, everything in the family room would be new, the front part of kitchen would be new, and the back wall in the kitchen would look very bad in comparison.” After going back and forth with her contractor, Debra decided that bare is better. “I told the contractor, ‘just remove the cabinets, paint the back wall, and put in a free-standing range with a hood.’ As a temporary measure, I put in a steel, restaurant-kitchen work table next to the stove. Once we got one table in, we really liked it. So, we added another.” She added pull-out wire baskets to a vintage pine cabinet to use as a pantry. They used metal shelving from IKEA to hold dishes and plug-in sconces sourced from Etsy.

“Our kitchen is flexible — I can move the shelves and tables, add more shelves, put in a different pantry … I like options! Someday we may go the more traditional route and build in some cabinets, but for now we are loving our (mostly) unfitted kitchen,” Debra shares.

Next time you are looking for a new house or looking to remodel your current space, I hope this Before & After helps you to see those dated, 1980s kitchens in a totally new way. I personally live in a home built in 1890, with a small kitchen that has no drawers. I love the Barrett family’s idea to use a pine cabinet as a pantry and hope I can incorporate that idea into my own home soon. Enjoy! —Erin

Photography by Amber Shumake

Image above: “Full kitchen view including the vintage cabinet that became our pantry,” Debra shares.

Before & After with Debra Barrett on Design Sponge
A peek into the vintage pine cabinet that serves as the pantry for this updated kitchen.
Before & After with Debra Barrett on Design Sponge
Debra describes this as a 1980s dated kitchen taken to an open floor plan for an "unfit" kitchen look.
Before & After with Debra Barrett on Design Sponge
"A view of [our] Brizo faucet - I love it! It pulls out and becomes a sprayer (also a bit of the gallery wall from dining room)," Debra says.
Before & After with Debra Barrett on Design Sponge
A look at the "before" wall that came down to create a wonderful, open floor plan. "We want a home that is comfortable for friends, family, and pets. I love to throw parties and host game nights and I want everyone to feel welcome and relaxed. We want a put-your-feet-up-and-stay-awhile sort of house. I like a mix of old/new/high/low/traditional/funky. We are eclectic. We travel. We enjoy and respect many different cultures and want our home to reflect that," Debra shares.
Before & After with Debra Barrett on Design Sponge
A view from the kitchen into the dining room. The open floor plan allows for lots of entertaining and family game nights nearby.
Before & After with Debra Barrett on Design Sponge
Debra shares, "The back wall of [the] kitchen - my favorite workspace."
Before & After with Debra Barrett on Design Sponge
IKEA metal shelving created a wall of open storage that can be arranged and switched around as needed.
Before & After with Debra Barrett on Design Sponge
"I struggled with appliance buying, it's actually hard to find WHITE appliances! And the handles are important to me -- I'm very tactile and I want the things I touch to feel good in my hand. I'm in love with these handles and the pulls on my cabinets," Debra says.

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  • So much to love about this kitchen! That wall color, that pine armoire, the open storage! I really do like the idea of an unfitted kitchen, it comes off as casual and personal.

  • Love the kitchen. What color green is that back kitchen wall? It is wonderful

  • Amazing, beautiful and so cozy and airy at the same time. The wood armoire fita really well! Loved it, thank you for sharing!

  • This is design at its best. It is more creative and welcoming than most high end kitchens today that tend toward conformity. In contrast, this kitchen has fresh ideas that inspire!

  • I love this so much. Debra and Dan are great friends of mine and their home renovations are always a joy to experience. They have incredible taste and such an eye for design and functionality. She has decorated my current and last house and I couldn’t be happier with the way my home feels when I come home to it each time. And beautiful photos for the article by our other sweet, talented friend, Amber Shumake!

  • Debra and I are friends and staging co-workers. In person, this kitchen is elegantly simple and even more beautiful than the photos convey. Well done, my friend!

  • This is just so beautiful and comfortable looking. I would also love to know the color of that green paint!

  • Debra, I love love love this kitchen! Cozy, rustic, functional. Very cool. We’re renovating our kitchen this spring and I’m planning a similar stove wall. Weird question, what vent did you tuck under your hood? I’m going blind researching this and would love to hear your expertise. My plan is to DIY a similar hood. Thank you!!!