before and afterInteriors

Before & After: A Kitchen Goes From Rarely Used To The Most Loved Room

by Erin Austen Abbott

When I found my home, it had so many cosmetic features that weren’t my style — like the two-tone yellow kitchen, the floor-to-15-foot ceiling mint walls with matching ornate curtains, a red wallpapered dining room, a wood paneled and kelly green bathroom, and more. But it had great bones, an original cast iron farm sink, a cast iron tub, 10-foot windows and amazing natural light. It was in a town I had not expected to live in, but it spoke to me and I knew that I wanted to live there. Now, 13 years later, my husband and I don’t know if we will ever want to move. This isn’t too different from Dana and David Morris and how they found their home in Houston, TX. When they started looking for a home, the couple had a list of wishes that they wanted to check off. They knew that wherever they bought their home, it would most likely be a fixer-upper — not only because of budget, but also because they love the work that comes with fixing up a home. While it’s not in the area in which they thought they would settle, they love where they live and they love their home. As they work room-to-room to create the home of their dreams, today we get a peek at the transformation of their kitchen.

From start to finish, the kitchen remodel took about six months. The kitchen was originally a small room, in the back of the house, with one small, swinging door. It didn’t allow for people to gather there. During a later remodel, previous owners connected the dining room to the kitchen, via two small arches. Dana and David took it a step further and put in a full doorway, opening up the room even more. “The twin arches made no sense with the rest of the house, and we hated that the kitchen was so blocked off. Since neither of us had ever taken out a wall, we called an engineer to draw us some plans and tell us how to do it. While he gave us good plans, he did not prepare us for the amount of dust we were about to encounter. Every day was like the scene in the Mummy where the huge dust cloud is chasing people. It was bad. We are still finding sheetrock dust in weird places,” Dana shares.

Once the dust settled, they moved onto the cabinets. By moving some of the upper cabinets to the bottom, it allowed for floating shelving around the sink. After many attempts to paint the builder-grade cabinets, they finally had to break down and start sanding them. “After what felt like an eternity of sanding cabinets, we put the doors back on, and added 1×12 boards and crown moldings across the top to make them go all the way to the ceiling. We also installed some smaller trim strips to add a little extra dimension to the uppers [and] used it along the bottom of the cabinets to make it look cohesive and built-in,” Dana says. White subway tile replaced vinyl floor tiles that had served as a backsplash previously.

The last thing was the floors. While the couple knew replacing them would be a lot of work, they didn’t quite know what they were in for. “We encountered seven layers of flooring that had to be busted, chiseled, scraped, peeled, cut, and burned off. At one point, we reached a layer that was all green speckled tile from the 70s. This is when, out of caution, we decided to Google ‘what does asbestos tile look like?’ Guess what? OURS LOOKED IDENTICAL. We stopped all work, and found a testing lab. $20, a couple of drinks, and a 24-hour wait later… the best news came: No asbestos detected. So much relief! We got back to work and finished ripping out the old layers… until we came to the termite corner.” It seemed like a new challenge was waiting at every turn. But by enlisting the help of family and friends, Dana and David were finally able to finish the flooring and stand back and marvel at what they had accomplished.

Before this project, and just two weeks after Dana and David moved in, they had a knock on their door — it was the son of the man who built the home. “We welcomed him in and he told us all the history on the house. He told us that the kitchen was very closed off, and he always remembered his mother cooking away in there. He said it only had the single doorway with a swinging door that stayed closed. We love to honor the old house’s original charm, but hearing that a huge part of it used to be closed-off and secluded made us happy to make the changes. Now it’s a bright, welcoming space where everyone can gather and help with the cooking.” —Erin

Photography by David Morris /@davidjmorri

Image above: This photo shows the kitchen head-on from the dining room.

Dana and David Morris for Design*Sponge
"Max patiently waits to see if any food scraps will come his way," Dana shares.
Dana and David Morris for Design*Sponge
A view of the arches before they opened up the entrance to the dining room.
Dana and David Morris for Design*Sponge
"This view, from the kitchen to the dining room, especially highlights the cased opening that David created on his own. He tore out the double arched openings, and created one large cased opening here. He did everything from installing a new support beam, trimming out the opening, and cutting, replacing, and texturing the new drywall. David even made our dining room table out of old shiplap pieces. The dining chairs are collected from all over the place. The art is a Howard Hodgkin piece from my grandfather. The rope chandelier is a Craigslist find. And the UTO RE sign is a dumpster find that I picked up behind an auto repair shop," Dana says.
Dana and David Morris for Design*Sponge
Before, the refrigerator was standing alone. David created a built-in casing for the refrigerator, complete with molding that extends to the ceiling for a custom feel.
Dana and David Morris for Design*Sponge
"This is a simple view of our pantry door. Dana painted it the same color as the kitchen cabinets, and kept the original glass doorknob on it," David notes.
Dana and David Morris for Design*Sponge
A before and after of the area with the back door. To save costs until they're able to replace the door, Dana opted to paint it as a temporary solution.
Dana and David Morris for Design*Sponge
"The back door has just seen better days. As soon as the tooth fairy leaves $850 under our pillow, we're going to get a really great back door. It'll be one with a pretty window and a built-in pet door for the animals," Dana shares.
Dana and David Morris for Design*Sponge
David and Dana now enjoy cooking together in their kitchen. Before, it was one of their least favorite rooms in the home. Now, it is one of the most used rooms.
Dana and David Morris for Design*Sponge
Dana and David Morris sit proudly in their renovated kitchen.


Wall color: Dolphin Fin by Behr
Cabinets: Ultra White Cabinet & Trim by Valspar
Matte Black Hex Tiles: Wayfair
Oversized Subway Tile: Daltile Artigiano 2 15/16 x 11 3/4. Itilian Alps color
Antique Butcher Block Table: Lewis and Maese Auctions
Antique Floor Runner Rug: Lewis and Maese Auctions
Iron Shelf Brackets: Etsy
Dishes and Accessories: Thrift Stores, Wedding Gifts, Heirlooms
Wood and Metal Stools: World Market
UTO RE Sign: Neighborhood Dumpster (behind an Auto Repair Shop)
Light fixture: Amazon – Kichler Barrington 14in
Sink Light Fixture: Lowes

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  • I love how the black floor grounds this open, airy kitchen. And hexagons are a personal favorite. What a smart, cheery update!

  • Wow! This looks great. I like how they salvaged the existing cabinetry and counters.

    I have a similar project where I want to demo out old tiles (backsplash and floors) and replace with something similar to those gorgeous black tiles.

    I can’t tell if they did this work themselves (I’d like to pay someone to do the retiling) does anyone have an approximate idea of how much labor costs are per sf for demoing/retiling?

    • Hi Kelly,
      Yes, we did ALL.THE.WORK. ourselves. Retiling the floors and backsplash was not an easy or quick task. I’m unsure how much labor costs are for demoing/retiling, but if you send me a DM, I can tell you what we spent to do it ourselves :)
      Thanks for the love!

  • What an amazing transformation!!! I love all of the extra details that make the kitchen look so lux!

  • No wonder it took a good six months do it right. The time took is actually worth the look. I love the after pictures of the kitchen, its lovely. Hope my future home looks as pretty and open as this:) Goos work!

  • Wow that’s an amazing transformation! A 6 months well spent in my eyes and time dedicated to the most important room in the house!

  • Amazing! Adding the cabinet around the fridge was such a huge change. That with building up the cabinet on the opposite side of the wall make the space look two feet taller! The floors are phenomenal! There is a lot going on in the space, but because the individual elements are all fairly simple and non-fussy, it all comes together beautifully. The result is interesting but subtle, with wonderful contrast and texture. Really well done!