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The 3 Best Ways To SAVE $$$ On Your Kitchen Reno (+ Our EHD Alumns’ First Reveal As a New Boutique Team)

Hi EHD Friends! I’m back… strike that, we’re back (The EHD-Alum Team: Julie, Grace, and I in cohorts with Emily Bowser & Sara T) with a new, budget-conscious reveal… our very first project together as a new team so, pop the champagne!! (And send us some).

After stepping boldly into freelance (as only the naive do) in January 2020 (let’s all laugh-cry at the timing of that), I took on this project alone. In the (forced) isolation of my home office and the multiple nights that were sleepless as I juggled the load/every ⅛” detail of that design solo, I found myself craving the collaboration that was abundant on the EHD team-of-friends (It’s not just an act. We can’t seem to quit each other). 

Then came a plot twist. Emily Henderson decided to move to Portland, meaning she no longer needed her dream-worthy Los Angeles-based design team. Dibs-dibs-dibs, mine-mine, stand-back, don’t-touch, I called it – No Take Backs! 

And that’s how the new Velinda Hellen Design team (and E-Design team!) was formed. 

Bringing more reason to celebrate, the absolute loveliest couple; Jeff (a composer) and Claire (Book Editor – LACMA) came to us for some creative solutions. In tow was their one-year-old. We couldn’t get the rights to her name/likeness as she’s a pretty big deal, so we’ll just call her ‘Trap Baby’ because she tricked even this ‘probably-no-kids-for-me’ design team into doubting their life decisions. But let’s not digress into future plans to steal a baby, the long and short of it; we couldn’t have asked for better clients for this first team collaboration!

Settling into their new role as homeowners, our artist clients needed help lifting their bungalow’s kitchen from a non-functional abyss that was, well, this….

Considering budget and, therefore, keeping the existing footprint for appliances and plumbing, we maximized functionality, space, and character through a simple design facelift. The goal was to create a kitchen that was warm, inviting, and undeniably ‘cool’… one that was true to the artists (and baby artist) that live here. Because this wasn’t quite doing it for them:

This was a bit more ‘them’:

Jeff, Claire, and Trap Baby wanted a user-friendly, easy to clean space that had scandi-minimal, mid-century, and coastal casual influences…. “Modern meets vintage”. Keen on cooking, they wanted space to store the many ‘unsightlies’ a cook uses but also hoped to display their collection of cookbooks. A coffee/beverage station was of key importance in this design too. In fact, it was through Jeff that I learned there’s a whole coffee scene for in-home coffee connoisseurs. I was personally converted from a Keurig-user to a fully-formed barista. But more on that later. 

Wine Cooler | Cabinet Doors

Considering our clients’ needs and attraction to ‘high-concept’ mid-century and a willingness to go bold, but a desire not to abandon simplicity, we got to brainstorming. The concept that evolved included blending clean woods, whites, and pops of color, revitalizing existing pieces, pulling in warmth, and a bit of ‘pizzazz’ through brass finishes. The concepts looked something like this:

Rendered Design Concept:

But the actual details and execution of the design broke down something like this:


Keeping What Worked (Or Worked Well Enough): 

Backsplash Tile | Countertops

This was the biggest dollar-saving factor as it lobbed off labor expense (the biggest fee of this and many renos). Since the placement/functionality of the sink, range, fridge, and pantry/island worked, we left that alone. In fact, we left the major appliances, though we replaced the sink / strainer and faucet (adding a water dispenser and garbage disposal) sourcing all of our Kohler, Blanco and Moen plumbing fixtures through Build Ferguson. It’s probably not a giant secret, but if you’re budget conscious and can avoid moving plumbing and gas lines, DO IT! 

Stools | Terra Cotta Bowl

We also left the existing flooring throughout the house. And it’s parquet! Now, less-fearless clients would have probably replaced those for a ‘light-to-medium-tone’ hardwood. But because we knew the parquet could actually shine within the design update and because we wanted to save our client thousands and thousands of dollars, we all easily agreed the floors would stay! And now we all love them.

Mixing High & Low Materials: 

A not-so-secret skill our team has not-so-secretly inherited from EHD is pulling in both ‘save’ and ‘splurge’ materials. A couple ‘saves’ on this project include the cabinet hardware (which we either didn’t need at all thanks to Reform’s cabinet face design (or we found the hardware on Etsy), the backsplash tile, a Wayfair find, was porcelain and sheeted vs handmade and harder-to-install. This meant saving a lot on install and cutting costs!

Pan | Glass Canisters

Embracing ‘Elevated’ IKEA 

If we’re gonna talk about saving on materials, we’ve gotta talk IKEA ‘hacks’. Instead of going with custom, the outdated/not-ideally functioning kitchen cabinets were replaced with IKEA, but the door & drawer faces were a bit more sublime. Reform offered faces for IKEA that were not only reasonably priced, but had a style that actually completed the vintage-inspired look (and cut down the need/expense for hardware thanks to integration and push-to-open features!). We were obsessed with how the flat panels of their Basis design were anything but boring due to wood detailing and two-tone pulls. The linoleum vibes (and color options) were perfect for this design. The colors we selected were Pistachio for the base and white for the upper cabinets. Reform established the look of this kitchen… hiding the budget boxes below beautifully.


Storage!: Open & Closed

Layers of closed storage extending to the ceiling maximized the vertical space of this small-ish kitchen and allowed for more-limited, open storage below. All of these boxes were IKEA/Reform except for the open cookbook shelving, which we had our carpenter custom make from Reform paneling to match the rest.

Pendant Light

Zones!: Beverage Stations (Prep, Cook, Clean Zones)

Especially in a small space, you gotta ‘zone out’ a design by purpose. It may seem obvious, but thinking through (and maybe even circling out the areas on a floor plan drawing) what you intend to do within each stretch of space is vital for determining what types of drawers, doors, and cabinets you need. 

The ‘cook, clean, and prep’ zones were pretty established already given we kept the range, sink, fridge, and peninsula placement. The zone we were able to focus on, then, was the beverage zone! The Whirlpool wine cooler and Whole Latte Love’s coffee solutions were the all-star players in these particular ‘in-zones’. This wine fridge holds a TON and the wood feature was an accidental (er… I mean… design-team-genius) detail that worked perfectly in the space. 

Espresso Machine | Coffee Grinder

The wood detailing of the Pathfinder Heat Exchanger Espresso Machine was anything but accidental. How do you convert a Keurig-using designer into an avid barista? Let them CUSTOM DESIGN A COFFEE MAKER! This espresso machine shatters the average ‘stainless box look’ by letting you pick from a variety of shell and insert material design options and the grinder is by far the sexiest I’ve seen out there (and I’ve searched)! Jeff already loved this machine for all the ‘coffee-expert’ reasons, something about being quiet and then doing-something-something for yummy-something. I loved this machine… because it’s SO PRETTY! I got one.

Lighting & Layout Tweaks: 

One detail that made the original design all-the-more… ummm Exceptional?… Was having only one light in the entire room! And a horribly-placed one at that. Since the dark space was also small, the ‘eat-in’ feature made no sense. So, we re-did the lighting plan, pulled in more natural light by swapping for a full-lite door and made minimal adjustments to the existing layout to ‘kill’ the banquette in order to maximize storage and worktop space. Speaking of worktops, the countertops used are super user-friendly and easy to clean. They’re engineered quartz in Pure White from Caesarstone, which has become a VHD go-to!

Kohler Plumbing Fixtures via Build Ferguson

Glass Cruet | Copenhagen Salt & Pepper Mills


Inspired by ‘coastal meets mid-century-clean’ vibes, texture through material (terrazzo and tambour) and a bold ‘pistachio’ cabinet color elevated even the subtler design changes. Our personal favorite elements:

Terrazzo Tile

Terrazzo Floor Tiles:

Both classic and on-trend, the terrazzo floors were the star of the space. We were SO thrilled our clients wanted to do something special as we had been stalking Concrete Collaborative on Instagram for months! They offer both poured and tile terrazzo and aggregates can be custom selected for their poured options (the tile we used: Venice (Alabaster MCC Medium Colorful). Love, love this look. Love the clean-ability and the forgiving nature these tile provide (dirt, dust and other imperfections are less obvious against texture). Love the limited grout lines of the large-scale tile option. Overall, just love!

Wooden Texture: 

Some of this came by luck (the original flooring) and some came through sourcing. The half-round/dowel look is simple ‘cladding’ (covering a surface). We used a sheeted ‘tambour’ to achieve this look. Our wood species: Alder!

Flush Mount Lights | Drawer Pulls


Keeping the small space ‘light’ by staying mostly white, wood, and clean/organic on the top half of the room, we anchored the space color pops subtly inspired by the 60s. The pistachio dominates delightfully, but the specks of pinks and yellows in the terrazzo complements (and sets the tone for the living spaces we’re designing for them next!). 


We cheated… and more than once!

The design would be flat without the details, but because we’re still designing their dining room, we ‘pretended’ it was ready by borrowing the dining room setup from a previous design. You sleuths may have already recognized Sara Tramp’s amazing vintage pieces from this project. The gorgeous leather stools in the room are Esse from Article and that amazing portrait is Ethan Caflisch / Tappan Collective.

Art by Ethan Caflisch via Tappan Collective

Cheating again, our clients had excellent taste and pieces to display. And then the ultimate cheat, bringing in Bowser who brought us alllll the beautiful stuff! Design is in the details so finishing a space with a final round of styling shouldn’t be overlooked!

Being a reunited team with stellar, creative clients may be a dream, but I’d be amiss not to share a couple hard-earned lessons/insights as a new design firm. 1. Covid is NO joke. Don’t expect to plan construction based on estimated delivery dates. Those seem to come with a bit of a *wink* these days. 2. Finding the right contractors, even as a design team, takes time. I talked to several designers about this and we weren’t so lucky on this project (despite beautiful results)… but that’d be a whole separate post. 

But let’s focus on what reeeeaaalllly worked (and worked their bums off)… this NEW TEAM! I’m so grateful for Grace De Asis (the brain behind so many of these ideas), Julie Rose (the lead throughout this project), Marlene (our newest designer who just FITS), Sara Tramp, and Emily Bowser (who made these photos pretty) and our two stellar freelancers: Brittany and Trina.

Quick note: our lil’ team works all over the world! We offer E-Design and Virtual Consultations, so please reach out… wherever you are!

We’re all grateful for Jeff, Claire, and Trap Baby who are now stuck hosting dinners for us forever… don’t tell them, we’re breaking in the idea gently. And we’re thrilled because we NOW have a stellar contractor aboard for future projects… Dibs-dibs-dibs, mine-mine, stand-back, don’t-touch, I called it – No Take Backs! 

THE END!! Roll Credits:

*Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp 
**Design by Velinda Hellen Design
***Lead Designers: Grace De Asis &  Julie Rose
****Styled by Emily Edith Bowser

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2 years ago

Wowee!!! Soooo perfect that you people are all working together and thd results show the synergy!

Love love love this, and the dowel-look-thing isn’t my thing, but it’s light and airy and just works here.
Truly gorgeous.💗

I advised a friend of mine to look into your kitchen designs recently, Velinda, because they’re so fresh and functional. I remember your basement budget kitchen, too and it was tiny, but you made it sing.

So much happiness that the alumn members have reformed and regrouped.

When it works, it works! #WIWIW 🤗

2 years ago

Dowel cladding is gorgeous. I love that you kept the parquet floors as well. This is some All-Star team you have assembled. Have a blast together, I’m know you will.

Rachel C
2 years ago

This is just gorgeous! The color, the FLOORS (obsessed with these), the dowels, and simplicity of the cabinets. How beautiful! Also I’m going to be that person and ask, do you have a link for the hood range insert?

2 years ago

Hey this looks FABULOUS! Love lovety love the floors. And the dowel, white counter floor / door handle combo is lovely. I know a lot of these design elements are very of the moment right now but the retro curved shapes and soft green harken back to art deco and make the look very timeless (and perfect for CA) to me. I dont fully understand the white uppers with no handles though?

2 years ago
Reply to  Mistymountain

I think they’re push to open doors (she mentions push to open when talking about not needing hardware).

2 years ago

I love Trap Baby!

Also, great design. I love the colors, the light over the sink, the dowel/fluting “thing.”

2 years ago

Wow!! Beautiful!! Can you tell us more about that wood island? I know you used wood tambor sheets (never heard of that before, thank you so much for that hot tip!) – but was this a custom cabinet maker who built it? Or is that Ikea + DIY? It’s insanely good, excellent work ladies!

2 years ago
Reply to  Velinda Hellen

Thank you for talking about this and incorporating it into your post – there is SUCH A MARKET for “cladding/facelift” design and ideas.

2 years ago

Wow, this turned out so well! I just love the terrazzo, dowel fronts, and green.
I have to say though — trap baby is a SUPER awkward nickname. Trap is a pretty common slang term (I think.)

2 years ago

I had to laugh when you said it was so non-functional but then kept the layout. LOL What’s non-functional for a designer and what’s non-functional for a cook are *slightly* different, I think! 😉
Seriously, though, this came out absolutely gorgeous!!

2 years ago

The best kitchen I have ever seen! No joke, the best. I love EVERYTHING about it. I am glad to hear you offer e-design services globally, I hope to have a chance to use it. Congratulations!

2 years ago
Reply to  Miruska

Totally agree. Absolutely GORGEOUS and so glad you all offer e-design. Am sending this to my sister ASAP. I sent her your basement kitchen redo, which she loved. She was inspired by the beauty of what you created there but especially to see someone not rip everything out and start over. And here you’ve done it again – using what is there but improving on it. Creating a whole new space with budget in mind and minimizing waste. Love it love it LOVE IT!!!

2 years ago

I’m OBSESSED with the open shelves below the upper cabinets!

2 years ago
Reply to  Marisa

SAME. It allows for a little bit of design, a way to energize a kitchen’s look, but hides all the IRL detritus of a functioning kitchen that just aren’t cute. You have to have some place to store water bottles, travel mugs, the multiple sizes of different storage containers, the tupperware, etc. It’s not all cute.

2 years ago

I’m obsessed! We’re currently renovating our kitchen ourselves and have a very similar minty shade on our cabinets, original terrazzo floors, similar backsplash, and we’re planning on using tambour on our bar! I’ve been searching everywhere but can only find tambour available in Australia or half round diys. Would you share where you found the sheeted tambour? Thank you for sharing this beautiful reno!

2 years ago
Reply to  Velinda Hellen

Thank you! I’ve been searching forever. Australia seems to have access to all the coolest materials – I wish it was cheap to ship!

2 years ago

In the minimal but elegant and modern and personal spirit of this design, 100%;)

2 years ago

Amazing! What a stellar team!

Roberta Davis
2 years ago

I love it! I love the terrazzo floors and the all-around vibe! Well done!!!!

2 years ago

Love this so much, & that you worked with the existing floor!

2 years ago

I love your design work, VH. Every single project, I pour over the images to soak in the details. The work sings. Congrats to everyone involved in this gorgeous kitchen!

2 years ago

Love so much about this: the floors! The sheeted backsplash tile! The cabinetry which is a mix of open/closed! Countertop rec! The explanations of high/low. I’ll be coming back to this one for ideas for months.

2 years ago

sheeted ‘tambour’ Vender

2 years ago

Stunning work! It has such a great balance between clean simplistic lines but textural appeal. Do you mind sharing where you sourced your wood for the sheeted ‘tambour’?

2 years ago

This looks soo so good! And I’m mid-install on my new IKEA kitchen and quickly changing my mind haha Do you have a resource for the the half-round/dowel cladding that you used? I’d love to do a similar treatment on my island. For the drawers that had the cladding assuming that was custom-made by a carpenter?? Seriously would love to recreate this exact thing but I have terracotta tiles I’m working with that I can’t replace lol but amazing work!!  

2 years ago

Such a breath of fresh air! This kitchen is so calm and serene, AND looks ready for some major cooking, coffee making and general living at the same time – I love it! Well done Velinda and design team!!

I love terrazzo floors so pretty, durable and easy to clean. My favorite is an art installation at Seattle City Light’s 4th Ave South reception area floors representing the PNW waterways that help power the city. The warm, wood fluting is beautiful in lovely contrast to the cool, smooth quartz counters and the pistachio color adds to the sense of calm, with a hint of playfulness. This is one of my favorite kitchens!

2 years ago

This is so stunning. I love the tambor wood detail on the cabinets. Did you just add that to plain slab cabinets? Seriously bravo on all of this. I love the use of the parquet floors and the beautiful mix of vintage mid century and modern!

2 years ago

this is so, so good, that my eyes & heart hurt. very inspiring flow, intention, and just overall vibe. and drooling over the products as well. Congratulations!!!

Jodie Hewson
2 years ago

This is soooo beautiful! Congratulations! Can you share what tool you use for renders? They’re stunning!

2 years ago

What is your experience like with Reform cabinets, esp the quality compared to other similar ones like Boxi/Semihandmade? Love the look of Reform cabinets but haven’t been able to see them in person!

2 years ago

Is the dining room light (over the dining table) CB2? Does it seem to sufficiently light the space? I’ve been considering that fixture for my own dining room but haven’t been able to tell if I think it could handle lighting the room through dark MN winters! Thanks!!

2 years ago

This kitchen reno is gorgeous! I grew up in a MCM custom-built home with poured terrazzo floors. I loved how they looked and think about doing large scale terrazzo tiles in my kitchen some day. Seeing these floors in this kitchen made my heart sing.

omgoodness! i love this kitchen so much! i’m filing away so many ideas from here. literally everything is so good.

2 years ago

Oh wow.
This kitchen jumped straight into my little collection of FAVOURITE KITCHENS EVER.
The design is SO GOOD and the styling and photography complement it perfectly.

I love that you worked with everything you could. This renovation is practical (keeping what works) and yet resulting in this space that feels so special.

Amazing work, Velinda, Julie, Grace, Sara, Emily – so nice to see you all working together and what an incredible result for this sweet family. Every photo makes me so happy!

2 years ago

This kitchen is so fresh it made my eyeballs jump for joy. Somehow the vintage vibe could not be more current and the color palette is a delight. I love this couple’s willingness to embrace what works. The result is such a collected, personalized design. I also am in love with the lighting, as evidenced by the fact I bought two of the Kelly Wearstler Node sconces for our bedroom renovation last summer and they make the whole room look so much cooler and pulled together. They also didn’t break the bank. Hooray for style without giant price tags.

2 years ago

Awesome – original, fresh, practical.

2 years ago

Oooooh, this is swoon worthy! Well done, VHD team.

2 years ago

I love love the aesthetic of this space!! Especially the floor and mint cabinets… but all I can picture is the nightmare of food (or play-dough, slime etc) smashed into the groves of this tambour wood cladding. I think this cladding a clean freak ‘adult only’ material for a kitchen or dining room.

emily jane
2 years ago

Sensational!!! LOVE that it was created by all of these familiar -and oh-SO-talented!- faces (I feel like you are all members of my ‘extended design family’..? : ). Just… I mean… if there wasn’t already a genre called “Feel Good -like, REALLY good” design, there sure the heck is now! Congratulations to all of you lovely humans and thank you so, so much for sharing with us. Looking forward to seeing more of this project (actually, to ANYthing from Velinda Hellen Design ; )

2 years ago

This is to die for!!!! A job well done.

I have a similar kitchen/dining area layout (except my kitchen is narrower). I have considered taking out the kitchen door for i) more cupboard space and ii) to stop using the kitchen door as the main entrance to the house so we can start using the sliding door.

Was there any consideration to closing off the kitchen door in this project?

2 years ago

LOVE this reno, so beautiful! Well done Velinda + her team. But please please think about changing the reference to “trap baby”… Every single possible definition of that term is derogatory and negative and super awkward to use here. Otherwise, great job!