before and afterInteriors

Before & After: A Kitchen Adds Function and Beauty

by Erin Austen Abbott

Nicole Cole for Design*Sponge

A few years ago, I found this amazing woodworker on Instagram and immediately fell in love with her work. I asked my husband for a piece she had created for my birthday that year, and have been following her ever since. We’ve developed a friendship since then (mainly me completely geeking out on her aesthetics), and I’ve gone on to write about her previous home here on Design*Sponge as well. I’m talking about Nicole Cole of Vestige Home. She and her husband Adam have since moved into a new home, which I had hoped to feature in a full-home tour, but as the site winds down you will just have to find her on Instagram to get a look at all the sweat she is putting into to transforming their new space. Today, though, we have the joy of sharing Nicole and Adam’s transformed kitchen with you in their 1900s stone home in Philadelphia, PA.

“When we moved into the home last fall I knew I needed to make some functional changes to the space so it would work better for our family,” Nicole begins. “And of course, being a designer, I am always imagining a room with a new look and feel. I decided that while we saved up enough money to do a more extensive renovation on the kitchen (likely several years off), that I could do a ‘kitchen refresh’ to add in some of the functionality and style that the space needed.” Having always admired moody, English kitchens with original details, Nicole knew that was the look she wanted to create in their new space. “There are large banks of windows in the space, and the room is flooded with light most of the day, so it felt like the perfect space to be able to try some dark colors. I have loved Farrow & Ball’s Dead Salmon paint color for years and have been on the lookout for the perfect space to be able to use it in. With the existing wainscoting in the space to create a two-tone look in the room, this felt like the perfect place to try out my favorite muddy pink,” Nicole shares. 

As she began work on the remodel — which Nicole did all herself (other than plumbing and electrical) — she had to consider the need for increased functionality in the space. That included adding a dishwasher and garbage disposal, installation of cabinets on either side of the stove, a narrow island for storage and workspace/prep by the stove, and adding a ventilation hood for task lighting over the stove and to ventilate while cooking. “As a designer I am constantly evaluating the functionality of spaces and this kitchen had many problems to be solved,” she says. “When we moved in there wasn’t a dishwasher and I was able to create an opening in an existing bank of cabinets to make room for one with minimal construction and rework of the existing cabinets. Using a panel-ready dishwasher whose style can be matched when we remodel the kitchen allows us to reuse the appliance and gives us a built-in look. When we added the dishwasher, we were able to see that there are original hardwood fir floors underneath and we ended up tearing up five layers of old flooring, plywood and hundreds of nails to get to them. It was worth it.”

We agree, Nicole! This refresh is as complete as a Before & After, in my opinion. Scroll below for the full transformation of the space. Erin 

Photography by Rebecca McAlpin/ @mcbecks_pix

Image above: The final outcome of the kitchen brings in a more muted palette that’s more inline with the 1900s stone home. “The statement lighting piece above the sink (I love how it blends in a modern aesthetic) is from one of my favorite lighting brands, Troy Lighting,” Nicole notes. 

Nicole Cole for Design*Sponge

The new space gives an ode to the cozy and moody design common in old English kitchens.

Nicole Cole for Design*Sponge

“The open shelving is a great opportunity to display handmade ceramics and other pieces we have collected over the years including Sarah Kersten, Silvia Song, Linda Fahey, MM Clay Ceramics, as well as a collection of my own handmade serving boards,” Nicole says.

Nicole Cole for Design*Sponge

“As a celebration of completing the kitchen project, I treated myself to oil bottles from some of my favorite ceramics artists, A Question of Eagles. I have been eyeing these bottles for years,” Nicole shares. The simple pegs once again bring in the look of a vintage British kitchen. The hood replaced open shelving.

Nicole Cole for Design*Sponge

Nicole was able to keep the subway tiles rather than replacing them in the kitchen makeover. You get a peek here of the wooden floors they found under five layers of old flooring.

Nicole Cole for Design*Sponge

From open shelving to one simple ledge, this look has allowed Nicole to add in the vent and gain a bit more hidden storage.

Nicole Cole for Design*Sponge

Here you get a longer look at the hidden floors. It’s hard to believe those beautiful floors were covered up, under five layers and hundreds of nails.

Nicole Cole for Design*Sponge

A couple of “before” shots of the kitchen. It was functional and nice before, but the “after” look elevates the space and makes it more inline with Nicole’s aesthetic.

Nicole Cole for Design*Sponge

Here you can see the floor before Nicole discovered that there were wooden floors under the laminate. The cabinets were painted black and the hardware was replaced with black hardware as well.

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  • I love that she reworked the cabinets she already had and kept the tile! It’s so much less wasteful AND it still looks completely different!

  • A job well done and you saved the old floors and made them beautiful. I agree with Amanda about saving and not wasting.

    Such a great work space!!!


  • You’re really amazing job! Just that little bit of color on the walls, some shiny tile, the removal of the heavy above-head cabinets, and the black, painted cabinetry took it to a whole new level. So chic!