before and afterInteriors

Before & After: An 80s Kitchen Gets a Modern Scandinavian Facelift

by Rebekah Carey

We imagine that few people would find themselves being precious about original details when it comes to a mid-80s kitchen design, as the time period is often considered one of the less enduring styles. But when Suraya and Jason Barbee moved into their 1986 home, they chose not to immediately renovate their kitchen. They lived in their house for three years before taking on the task of remodeling the kitchen and dining area, ensuring they would know exactly how they wanted to best use the spaces. “Scandinavian, modern, simple” were the three words that inspired Suraya when she began dreaming up what their kitchen could become.

Suraya grew up in Portland, OR and she and Jason were high school sweethearts. They now have two sons, ages four and six, and a rescue dog named Reagan. Suraya works at her alma mater as a non-practicing attorney in Law Alumni Relations, and Jason owns a local brewery — Level Beer. With a background in law, it wasn’t immediately obvious that interior design and photography would be some of Suraya’s interests, but through this process she’s discovered both passion and talent. When it came to designing the kitchen and dining room remodel, Suraya was mindful that these spaces would be heavily frequented by their kids and pup and made sure to select materials that would stand up to constant use. The family hired contractors Owen and Leon of His Builders to help execute their vision and needs and also create a floor plan that made more sense. Suraya initially joked that having a 1986 house meant that it had no interesting history, but we love how that’s already starting to change with the memories and thoughtful details this family has added to the kitchen and dining room of the home. Rebekah

Photography by Suraya Barbee

Image above: “We loved and lived in our house for over three years before we renovated, but I always saw a problem with how the house was set up. The dining area was absurdly large and the kitchen was small. Though the original floor plan was fairly open, I always found myself squeezing through people in the kitchen especially when we had guests,” Suraya shares. 

Portland Oregon Kitchen Before & After On Design*Sponge

“Total renovated space — we flipped the kitchen and dining spaces to make for a better flow,” Suraya explains. “We used His Builders as our contractor and they came up with the amazing floor plan. Owen and Leon saw exactly where everything needed to go to create a great flow. They custom-made the cabinets based on my design and stain.”

A 80s Portland Kitchen Gets A Makeover On Design*Sponge

The newly remodeled kitchen is a happy place for not only the family, but their four-legged family member as well, “Our rescue pup Reagan loves the kitchen, too!”

Open Shelving Replaces Upper Cabinets On Design*Sponge

Suraya shares one of her most anticipated design details: “I love the vent hood that reaches all the way to the vaulted ceiling. That was the element I was most excited about and I still am today!”

Upper Cabinets Were Skipped In Favor Of Open Shelving In This Portland, Oregon Tour On Design*Sponge

Mindful design included foregoing cabinets above the counters. “With such high ceilings in the space, I didn’t want upper cabinets to take away from the open feel, so we opted for open shelving.”

The Open Shelving Provides Ample Light For Kitchen Plants Tour On Design*Sponge

“My plants love the light from the window,” Suraya shares.

A Magnetic Knife Strip Is Accessible And Harder For Kids To Reach Tour On Design*Sponge

“We also have two energetic boys so my choices had to be durable and easy to clean, which led me to the flat-front cabinets and quartz countertops,” Suraya explains. “The knife magnet keeps sharp things out of little hands.”

Kid Friendly Materials Were Key In This Kitchen Remodel On Design*Sponge

Natural light now floods into the kitchen through the newly placed windows.

A Portland Before & After Kitchen Remodel Tour On Design*Sponge

“Moving the kitchen to a totally different location in the house did pose some problems — making sure gas and water were accessible,” Suraya admits. “It also did require us to move windows and doors in two locations, but it was absolutely worth it! We also took down a small wall between the original kitchen and living room and a support beam was installed, but I actually love the beam.”

Kitchen Stools Slide Under The Island Counter In This Kitchen Before And After On Design*Sponge

Seating in the kitchen is ideal for the little ones in the household. “The kids sit at these stools in the island for breakfast and to watch me cook and not help with the cooking!”

Flat Face Cupboards Surround The Inset Fridge Before And After On Design*Sponge

“The only things my husband wanted were natural wood cabinets and a farmhouse sink, so I had to incorporate those elements into my modern/Scandinavian design,” Suraya tells us. “After discovering notch pull cabinets on Pinterest, the rest of the design fell into place — countertops, backsplash, flooring and lighting.”

An Understated Kitchen Island In A Portland Kitchen Before & After On Design*Sponge

“The flat-front cabinets are a dream to clean and I love how the different countertop on the island makes it feel like a special piece of furniture,” Suraya says.

A Kitchen Remodel That Switched The Kitchen And Dining Room Positions To A Better Layout Tour On Design*Sponge

Suraya cleverly opted for a table typically used outside because it would be formidable against two children. “This is where we have all of our meals, the kids color, and game nights. The table is an outdoor table so it can take a lot of abuse! [The] shelves behind [the] dining table were DIY but with IKEA brackets.”

Shelving Behind The Dining Table Adds Extra Storage Tour On Design*Sponge

Sometimes remodels can stretch creative muscles that we didn’t even know we had. “I never knew that I loved interior design until I had this opportunity. I am thankful every day that financially we were able to do this renovation because it sparked a lifelong love of design and photography.”


Dining Light- IKEA
Island Lights- West Elm
Sink Light- Barnlight Electric
Cabinets- Custom, His Builders
Countertops- Caesarstone in Frosty Carrina and Raw Concrete
Appliances- GE Cafe series
Plates and Mugs- Crate & Barrel
Faucet- Hansgrohe
Sink- Pegasus
Stools- Wayfair, painted
Kitchen Rug- IKEA
Dining Rug- Pure Rugs
Dining Table- Overstock
Plants and Pots- Gurton’s Plant shop
Paint- Sherwin Williams, West Highland White
Flooring- Build Direct

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  • This kitchen is gorgeous! So bright and the natural wood tone is fit for Goldilocks… not too dark, not too light – just right! And who wouldn’t want that ceiling height?! Dang!

  • With the way the ceiling slopes lower in the now-dining space, you’d think it was supposed to be there all along! It’s the perfect height for a light fixture. I love how they completely flipped the kitchen and dining to make the home more functional.

  • To me, your kitchen is absolutely perfect! You did a great job. I especially was struck by the vent hood. What is it made of and did you have it made for the kitchen? I love how attractive, comfortable and not-over-the-top the kitchen looks.

  • Lol’d at the dog’s face (the combo of smiling human + uncomfortable-looking dog). Obvs he’s fine, just that typical boxer expression :)

    Wonderful kitchen reno, looks so cohesive, bright, and open now! The dining table and benches are GORGEOUS, looks like a fun place to hang out.