‘House of the Year’ Kitchen makeover

I would cook so hard in this kitchen. My life would be like one of those lifestyle mafia members who is constantly Instagramming the most beautiful rainbow kale and turnips. If only I had this kitchen, I too could Instagram those slightly undesirable but beautiful root vegetables.

If you are just catching up, I’m documenting the makeover of a house I did with Country Living Magazine. It’s called their “House of the Year,” which makes it sound like it won some sort of award for being the best house of the year, but it’s actually a house that CL does every year. It showcases some design elements that they are excited about in country design. Regardless, it sounds very important and that’s really all that matters. Check out the whole concept and the bedroom makeover that I already posted about.

Originally the kitchen had walls and was separated from the rest of the house. One of the first things the crew did was take down the walls so it was an open concept, which isn’t as difficult as you think. Remember that walls are rarely structural. Usually columns are that are at the beginning and end of walls are often structural, but walls themselves are normally just studs, drywall, and paint, and can be kinda easily taken out. So that’s what we did.

kitchen before

And here you go:

teal cabinetry

photography by Alec Hemer, styling by CIndy Diprima

Oh she is a happy happy kitchen now, isn’t she? Again the walls were painted “Spring Mint” by Benjamin Moore, which is just so pretty and joyful without being annoying or “baby” at all.  A new favorite, for sure. Jami found this tile from StoneSource that I think is a pretty awesome modern take on faux bois. I wouldn’t like it if it were in brown (but when’s the last time I liked anything in brown except for my leather shoes?) because it would be trying to look like wood, but in this gray (and the other blues it comes in) it’s pretty great.

Semi-handmade, an AWESOME company, made the cabinet door and drawer fronts and used Ikea frames. They specialize in basically taking the structure of the Ikea cabinets and customizing the fronts so they look, well, dope. They are painted Benjamin Moore “Oasis Blue” (the same come in the bedroom).

That rope pendant situation (that you can kinda arrange however you want) came from Atelier 688, and I love how it screams nautical but it in a total badass way.

We decided not to do upper cabinets because we wanted to keep it feeling light and airy, and frankly she just didn’t need the storage. You know how I feel about open shelving (I want to lick it) so this makes me happy.


photography by Alec Hemer, styling by Cindy Diprima

We chose white Caesarstone for the tops, which is a pretty simple, modern choice. (I prefer the Caesarstone that has NO flecks in it, by the way.) The island is from Cost Plus (a sponsor) but the tone of the wood was wrong with the flooring so we whitewashed it, which basically consisted of watered down white paint thrown on with a rag, rubbed in, with multiple coats ’til we were happy. I was pretty sceptical about doing it at all, but once they finished doing it (I believe a design intern took that challenge on, on the back porch) I liked it much better. We accented with black to give it a bit of an edge and tie all the black notes throughout the space, like the sconces, draw pulls and faucet.

I love this kitchen. It’s now the third kitchen that I’ve done and I find them extremely satisfying to design. My kitchen sucks; we live in a rental and it drastically effects how much I want to cook (or so I claim). My goal is always to design a kitchen that I really want to be in and one that everyone wants to be around — and I totally want to be in this kitchen.

Resources: Kitchen island $349.99 from CostPlus but we white washed it; stove $1649, dishwasher $849, refrigerator $1799 all from Maytag.com; cabinets from IKEA.com but fronts by SemiHandmade; cabinet knobs and pulls, $8.45 – 11.45 Cliffsideind.com; Porcher sink, $804 wayfair.com; Faucet $677.25 Moen.com; 140ra Italiana tile, $15 per square foot; stonesource.com; sconces $199 schoolhouseelectric.com.


  1. mary vanzandt

    Love, love, love this kitchen……so nice to see something different! Your creativity is astounding, Emily!!!

  2. Dana O.

    I love this kitchen. Great for a the minimalist cook, and the colors just scream relaxation! (Colors are ironic in their ways, sometimes). I do have one question: where is the microwave?

    -Dana O.

    • Emily

      Ha. I think the idea is that it would go where the cookbooks are or maybe on the island on the bottom – but no, we didn’t get one for the shoot. Magazines/photographers/stylists aren’t the biggest fans of unnecessary appliances thats for sure. I’m sure she has one now, though. :)

  3. Bria

    Can you share where the bar stools are from?!

    • Emily

      OOh, i think they are vintage, but West Elm had a good version last year that we tried to get but were out of stock, not sure if they still carry them ….

  4. Kim

    Love love love! But….where is the pantry?! I love the no-top cabinets look but always wonder where people keep all their ugly dishes and food. :)

    • Emily

      Since it was more of a weekend home of a woman without kids, there wasn’t a lot of storage needs. Definitely less family friendly, though. There was a pretty big mud room in the back that could house dry storage, but no trad pantry here. :)

  5. Serenity Kimball

    REALLY like the rope pendant lights!

  6. Bee

    Maybe I am not reading carefully enough, but I don’t see any description or source for that interesting rope light fixture over the breakfast bar/island. Could you add that? I think it’s really cool and hope you made it yourself!

    • Emily

      YOU ARE RIGHT. Somehow i forgot it. Updating now. Thanks!

  7. Mizz Mitten

    I can understand wanting to skip the upper cabinets to keep it light and open, but there is like, NOWHERE to put dishes or food! One shelf??? I don’t see that as being functional at all. The space is of course cute and bright and cheery, however, I just wish it was a more realistic kitchen for every day use. Even the lower cabinets are pretty limited, so I don’t know how you could store all your pots and pans, small appliances, etc. Maybe your client eats a lot of take-out? ;o)

    • Emily

      Yep. Def not family friendly, but perfect for her needs – which were minimal.

  8. The paint colors, especially the teal on the cabinets, and the ingenious rope light are my absolute faves! I just want to transport myself into this kitchen and cook up some crabs and corn. And drink margaritas. Nom!

  9. Brian Patrick Flynn

    WHOA! Seriously, everything you do is freaking flawless and like candy. This kitchen is now one my top three Emily projects. I love it! Kudos, ladyfriend.

  10. Oh so interesting to see the wood-look tile here! It looks like wood from the photos, but I’ll take your word on it that it’s gray =). I can’t decide how I feel about wood-look tile in my space, but I def like it here!

  11. Rose

    If my kitchen was as beautiful as this, I’d wake up each morning and swing from that rope light in excitement! INCREDIBLE!!

  12. Woah, rope pendant. That is badass. Seems like nixing the upper cabinet is the new thing in kitchens? Reminds us of the kitchens we’ve seen in the rest of the world. They seem to make do without upper cabinets jutting into the airspace.

  13. Kim

    It looks amazing, I really love the color of the cabinets!

  14. karen

    Beautiful! The cabinet color is lovely and the rope is really cool. I would die without more kitchen storage though. I think the island/table could have been a great way to gain storage in a tiny kitchen. Picture perfect, just maybe not cook-friendly.

  15. Just love your color choices here. Modern and beachy bliss :)


  16. Cerise

    “Lifestyle mafia”–ha ha, so awesome. Also awesome: that rope light. Very nice!

  17. Becky

    Wow Emily! This kitchen is phenomenal! I LOVE the cabinets. Great job!

  18. Pallavi

    Love this kitchen especially the teal on the cabinets, and the rope light are my absolute faves! One question: why I cant see same island on wolrd markes’ts website.

  19. Such a great space and seems perfect for a second home! I have to ask, is it kind of weird for you to design a space but have someone else style it? I just noticed in the credits that someone else did the styling for this shoot and since you can style the heck out of anything, I would think that would be a little strange. :) We actually took down the wall between or kitchen and living room and it made such a difference (and you’re so right about it not being as hard as people think). Funny too, because our kitchen is a very similar color. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Heidi

    So beautiful. I love playing the “where’s the x” game. On that note, where’s the stove vent? Can’t wait to see more, especially that mysterious clear floating orb. :)

  21. hillary

    First off, it’s really great…I love seeing you design something that is outside your wheelhouse style. Just proves that a good designer can do any style. It makes me think country can be fresh and modern and something I might even like.

    And secondly, a good kitchen definitely inspires good cooking. Not that a good cook can’t cook anywhere, but a good layout and functional storage and workspace make such a difference!

  22. Barb

    What is the backsplash ? Is it tile? Didn’t catch the source on it – Thx! I love the color choices here, but I echo the sentiments above that it’s not a very practical kitchen for more than one person living in the house! Great job!

  23. Emily,
    I knew you would win design star. This kitchen shows why. I,too, am now living in a rental so I definitely understand your frustration with your kitchen. Mine is very narrow with cabinets and appliances on one side. I used large wire baskets on top of the cabinets to store things I didn’t use often. The real hero was the first piece of furniture I ever bought – a 1910 oak drop leaf secretary that holds glasses, cups, bowls, breakfast stuff and containers,etc.

  24. Julia @cuckoo4design

    It doesn’t just sound important…it is important because you rule! I could look at your spaces for hours. This is just such an amazing kitchen and I would totally cook “hard” in it myself ;)

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