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The Two Month (YES TWO) Kitchen Reno That’s Sporting An Unexpected Trend

If you are renovating or following any designer on Instagram you know lead times are truly OUT OF THIS WORLD right now. I’m talking 20 weeks for even a piece of furniture (ok that’s a long one but not as rare as you’d think). So when our friend Anne Sage emailed us about this stunning kitchen and told us it was completed in two months…during covid (cut to everyone doing a spit take) we needed to know HOW! Plus I mean, look at this beauty. Like we weren’t going to show you regardless?? It’s perfectly modern and sleek while still being warm and inviting. NOT an easy combo but one that was very important to her clients as they have, let’s just say… opposing styles.

So for the first WOW moment, take a look at this before…

I KNOW. So let’s get to Anne and see how she made this possible in such a short amount of time.

How did you get this beautiful kitchen done in two months…during covid?? Any tips and tricks?

It definitely feels pretty miraculous that we turned it around as quickly as we did! A few reflections on how we managed to do it:

1. We jumped on a last-minute opening in our contractor’s schedule and ran with it! We met with him for the first time at the house on a Wednesday, and by Friday we were in demo mode. We didn’t even have designs for the kitchen yet! While I of course don’t suggest making hasty decisions, but I do recommend keeping your eyes open for the signs and opportunities telling you it’s go-time. 

2. We chose materials based on when we could get them (i.e. ASAP!) and worked our design around that. If something couldn’t ship out in time for our install, we didn’t even consider it. (BOXI by Semihandmade played a huge role here, since their cabinets ship in 2-3 weeks from the date you order them!) 

3. Incorporating vintage elements into the space also helped us stay on track. There are already so many great reasons to shop vintage—it’s environmentally responsible, it’s one-of-a-kind—but in these COVID times, it has the added benefit of no manufacturing delays since it already exists! Plus if you purchase your vintage items locally, you can have them THAT DAY. Incredible, haha!

If you can share what was your client’s budget? Did you have to pay extra to rush anything?

We started with a budget of $60k, but that included also redoing the floors throughout the entire house and painting every room in the house. We ended up spending more like $80k, after deciding to do some additional work like giving the fireplace in the living room a facelift and replacing all the baseboards. It’s a bit tricky to separate out what the kitchen itself cost, since it was all folded into the work on the house as a whole. But if I had to guess, I’d say $40k? And while we didn’t have to pay extra to rush anything materials-wise, my project manager and I definitely put in a ton of extra hours visiting the house (usually twice daily, morning and evening!) to make sure the tradesmen were staying on track. Which I guess is paying extra, in a way. 

On the topic of visiting the job site daily to monitor the work, and racking up our hours that way, we also had some unfortunate occurrences with one of our tradesmen that is all-too-frequent in the construction industry. I won’t go into great detail, but suffice to say that the relationship became sufficiently strained that two days before my client was scheduled to move in, our painter walked off the job site leaving the work unfinished and the site sabotaged. 

I was SO determined that my client not have to change their move-in date that I scrambled to find an emergency crew to replace him. I’d learned about a home project management app called Pulled last Christmas when I ordered my Christmas tree through them, so as a last-ditch effort I gave them a call and explained the situation. The next morning at 8 am, the founder of the app himself showed up with a crew of four pros and helped us finish painting all the rooms and laying all the baseboards. (LIFESAVERS!!!) 

Then, since the day we’d reserved for cleaning the house ended up being used to finish the construction, I and a few friends did the cleaning the morning before the family moved in. (It was Easter Sunday, so all the cleaning crews were understandably not available). I guess the moral of this story is that to finish an 8-week renovation like this, you have to be willing to all hands on deck and get ‘er done no matter what!

Did you have to deal with any structural issues when demoing?

We took the main floor of the space from three small, cramped rooms (kitchen, dining, living) into one large open concept! It required opening out big chunks of the ceiling, taking down the dividing walls, and shoring things up with some new structural support beams in the ceiling. There were also several different levels of ceiling (thank you, 1980s architecture) and we made them all one height for a greater sense of continuity. All that work represented a pretty significant chunk of our budget and timeline—but it also gave us a bit of breathing room in the schedule for the kitchen materials to arrive. 

What did your client ask for in terms of style, materials, and function?

The client was a husband/wife pair and the project was a balancing act between her boho inclinations and his more modern taste. There were a few style requests they both agreed on from the beginning: They both wanted black cabinets, liked the earthy look of concrete, and didn’t want the space to feel too delicate or fussy. They’re both quite tall, so appreciate finishes and furnishings that have a certain weightiness to them.

Wood Floors

Height also played a role in some of the functional decisions we made—specifically, raising the countertops from the standard 36” to a custom height of 38”. Since our BOXI cabinets and all our appliances were off-the-shelf in terms of standard sizing, our contractor built a platform beneath everything. Rather than use the 4” toe kick that came with the cabinetry, he then painted a 1×8 board to match the matte back cabinets and used that as our toe kick. We got the clients the extra height they wanted but still managed to stay on schedule without any time-consuming customizations!

Another functional request from the client was a place to store cookbooks. It ended up being the perfect way to use that corner area to the left of the sink! Corners are SO tricky in kitchens and often end up being dead space, but I really love our little solution of continuing the open shelf into the corner and then adding a second shelf above. It looks intentional and streamlined, and makes use of every inch in the kitchen!

Table | Chairs (vintage) | Rug (vintage)

Was there a discussion of island vs dining table?

There sure was! We explored multiple layouts before arriving at this one. Because we were opening out the kitchen walls and extending the kitchen space into what had been the original dining area, it meant there was no longer a designated dining room. We played around with layouts that had only a kitchen island, but ultimately decided that for daily family life, it wasn’t ideal to have only a counter-height spot to eat. Then, we tried layouts that featured a small island and small dining table, but that would have felt cramped in a space whose entire purpose was to cultivate an open and airy feel. So I rounded up several photos of kitchens in which a long table sits where an island would, creating a hybrid island/dining vibe. We all agreed that it was our best solution!

Range | Refridgerator | Dishwasher

I love how the appliances really blend into the kitchen so perfectly! But was there a discussion of integrated appliances? If so, what was the determining factor to forgo them?

Appliances are amongst the most back-ordered materials on the market right now, so we were lucky to get these in time! As mentioned before, we limited our selection pool to what was most readily available, and these appliances were the first available in a darker colorway. Integrated appliances would have meant waiting weeks more. 

However, we did base our cabinet layout on the idea of making the three tall pantry cabinets on the left to be the exact dimensions of the fridge and single tall cabinet on the right. That is to say, three 18” cabinets on the left are the mirror of the 18” double fridge doors and one 18” cabinet. So there’s the streamlined feeling of integration without having to wait or pay extra for actual integrated appliances. As well, the gorgeous waterfall edge surrounding the dishwasher also adds to that streamlined, quasi-integrated effect!

So I don’t think I’ve ever loved an espresso-like toned wood tone so much! What was the inspo to go darker in a world of light/medium wood tones? 

The choice of wood was informed by a couple of things! Firstly, I mentioned the client’s boho inclinations; bringing some earthy raw walnut into the space was a way of adding an organic touch to soften the modern matte black finish of the cabinets. 

Secondly, since we were doing white oak floors throughout, I didn’t want to use light woods in the open shelving, table, and chairs. It felt like I needed to incorporate materials that provided a half-step between the light floors and dark black of the kitchen cabinets; the espresso-toned woods tie the light and dark elements together by acting as a bridge.

Jess Note: Ok I think “espresso” or very dark woods like walnut are going to hit big this year. And while this wood table and chairs are, of course, the most beautiful form, we are pretty into it. Is this year that light, blonde wood will be knocked out of first place???

Tile | Grout

The subway tile is both simple but so special because of the color you chose. What is that tile and what grout color did you use?

Isn’t that tile a showstopper? Fireclay Tile is my go-to, and this is their Glazed Thin Brick in the color “Elk”. Fireclay offers several of their colors in a quick-ship option (ships out in 5 days or less!) and I ordered samples of all of them to show to the client. Elk was not in fact a quick ship, but I threw it into the mix because I knew with the initial structural work we were doing, we had that room for a bit of a longer lead time on the tile. (Tile has the benefit of being one of the last things to go in!)

Jess Note: Not all subway tile needs to be the classic white. You can still have that classic look while stepping a little outside the box with varying tiles and grout color combos.

Footed Ceramic Bowl | Faucet | Air Gap Cover | Sconce

We tried a few different tile colorways in our renderings and the Elk won by a landslide. It felt cool and modern—and evoked the feel of concrete, which the client had listed as style inspiration—but also brought warmth and organicism, since each tile is handmade and unique.

In terms of the install, we considered a grid layout but opted for a traditional offset subway pattern (with a ⅜” thickness), again for that feeling of warmth (a grid was farther down the path of contemporary than we wanted to go). 

I chose the Polyblend Oyster Gray grout because it was the closest tone-on-tone warm grey to the color of the tile. I briefly toyed with the idea of a dark charcoal-colored tile—it would have been a very cool effect to be sure—but ultimately really wanted the tile itself to be the star. A monochromatic grout lets that Fireclay Brick really shine!

Oof those countertops are beautiful! What kind of stone is it and how did you go about finding it?

The counters are a quartz by an Italian company named Antolini. This is their Belvedere colorway, a delicious black with tons of yummy gold, white, and burnt sienna veining. I’d received a sample of it in a press kit about a year earlier and had been keeping it in my back pocket for just the right project to use it on. Everywhere I looked was sold out of it, though, so I dragged my fabricator to a few different stoneyards in LA looking for something similar. At the last place we tried, I showed them my sample and they just happened to have one slab that someone had bought and returned! It felt like stars aligning and I was jumping up and down like a little gleeful kid when they forklifted it out for me. The total surface area of our counters was small enough that one slab did the job, thankfully.

Oh, and as for that waterfall edge next to the dishwasher, that was something we decided we wanted pretty early on in the design process. The stairs and outer edge of that cabinet bank are the first thing you see when you walk in the front door, so it felt really important to make it a special visual moment!

Tell me about the stairs? What was that process like to get them to look like that?

OH BOY, those stairs! What a journey! So as I mentioned previously, our initial scope of work included redoing the floors throughout the house. Downstairs, it was a simple swap of replacing the old vinyl floors with new engineered hardwood in a 7” white European oak. Upstairs, however, had hardwood floors already—so the client opted to sand and stain them to match the finish of the new floors downstairs. To replace the floors entirely would have blown out our budget, so sanding and refinishing them with the same stain used upstairs was the route we chose. They’re not an exact match with the new floors used downstairs, but they’re pretty darn close!

Cabinets in “Edge” (a slim Shaker style) in Peppercorn (a matte black finish) | Knobs | Pulls

Have you ever worked with IKEA boxes before and Semihandmade fronts? If so, how was using BOXI different?

I’ve done two IKEA/Semihandmade kitchen installs before, including one in my own home! I’ve always loved the result from a Semihandmade kitchen, both in terms of function as well as finished aesthetics.

And now, working with the BOXI cabinets was a total dream beyond even the Semihandmade. For starters, my contractor was thrilled to learn that he didn’t have to assemble anything from IKEA, ha! It was really easy to design the kitchen using the BOXI components—there was enough variety in the offerings that I could get exactly the look and function that I wanted, but not so many options that I got overwhelmed. Then cabinets arrived ready to install just two weeks after we placed our order, the ultimate in cabinetry plug-and-play. They look so luxe, too. It really feels like a custom kitchen with none of the waiting time, cost, or additional work!

How did you and your client go about planning out the cabinets/storage needs to best fit their lives?

My client is a family of four with two young children, so we knew that maximizing storage would be essential. Floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinets are a great way to do that, and BOXI offers a pull-out drawer option in those tall cabinets, which I love for easy access to food and dishwares. Around the stove, we opted for a mix of deep drawers for pots and pans, and then hinged cabinet doors that hide additional pull-out drawers for utensils. (Can you tell I love drawers?!) Then right next to the sink is BOXI’s pull-out trash receptacle cabinet, which hides both trash and recycling bins!

I love the simple detail and added warmth of the open shelves. What was the process of getting them made?

The open shelves I commissioned from a fantastic finishing carpenter I’d worked with before. They were the last thing to be installed—actually they went in the week after the family moved in! They’re 12 inches deep and are mounted using super heavy duty brackets that required opening back up the drywall. (I had a small heart attack when I saw him doing that!) 

What are some tips you can give people who want a dark kitchen but still make it feel warm and inviting like this one? 

1. Work with a contrasting mix of finishes: We paired earthy, grained walnut wood with our modern matte black cabinets, chose a black countertop material that still had plenty of warm, chocolate-y veining in it, and added touches of brushed brass to bounce light around the space.

2. Leave some white space: We opted to do tile only beneath the open shelving. This of course helped keep our budget and timeline in check, but mostly we did it because we wanted to leave some negative space and provide the eye with relief from all the surface finishes. I like to think of the white walls above our open shelving as visual palate cleansers, a break for your eyes in between admiring those black cabinets, grey tiles, and dreamy black counter slab!

3. Go light on the floors: I definitely would have approached this kitchen totally differently if the client hadn’t opted for those European white oak floors! They lay such a bright and breezy foundation, we could afford to go moodier with cabinets, counter, and backsplash. 

Footed Tray | Glass and Walnut Food Containers | Stone Round Vase | Utensil Holder | Copper Tea Kettle

4. Don’t skip a rug: A rug in a kitchen is a great way to warm things up no matter what your color palette. This vintage runner from Bente Vintage was an absolute perfect fit, both in terms of size and vibe. It adds that boho flair the client likes, but also feels very graphic and crisp!

Wood Tray | Salt and Pepper Grinders

5. Incorporate playful shapes!: I’ve been dying to use Louis Poulsen’s VL38 sconces in a kitchen for ages, so I was thrilled when the client was into them. They’ve got this pudgy, squatty silhouette that reminds me of a cute little gnome—yet they manage to be utterly sophisticated at the same time. They bring a jovial energy to the space!

It’s Jess again! I told you it was good. Hopefully, if you are renovating or planning to start a reno that you got some great tips because there were so many. Thank you Anne for sharing this wonderful kitchen and your wisdom with us:)

Did you think I’d end this without a before and after side by side?! NEVER.

And actually, I’m not done yet because I want to talk covid renos! How have you been dealing with the lead times? Do you have any other tips and tricks you’d like to share with the class? Any cautionary tales? Do you think dark woods are going to be a trend this year? See you in the comments!

Love you, mean it.

*Design by Anne Sage
**After Photos by Elizabeth Messina

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2 years ago

This was a great read, loved it! The kitchen is absolutely beautiful xx

2 years ago

“They’ve got this pudgy, squatty silhouette that reminds me of a cute little gnome” – that’s the best description of a sconce I’ve ever read. Makes me want to use them somewhere in my house.

2 years ago
Reply to  Jess Bunge

Love them. I’d love to use them, but these stick out too far. Wonder if there is anything similar without the longer arm?

2 years ago

This was a great read and what a gorgeous kitchen! We are just about to replace the doors on our cabinets and I’ve been torn between a mid grey and walnut for weeks. I think the table in this kitchen has finally convinced me to be brave and go for the walnut x

2 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

Just fyi, I experienced walnut wood and verneer going light and turning slightly yellow if exposed to sun.

2 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

Room & Board has great examples of this here:

2 years ago
Reply to  Kj

Thanks for the reference Kj! I’m happy to know the walnut color may even out over time. My inherited chest had a runner on it for years and this may save me from refinishing.

2 years ago

Please tell me more about those counters!

2 years ago
Reply to  Cate

Thee gorgeous counter and waterfall are crying out for more coverage;).

Laura Schembre
2 years ago

We are getting ready to redo our kitchen and want to do black lower cabinets but we have no windows in our kitchen! We can’t decide if it will be a dark and gloomy dungeon if we go with dark lower cabinets.

2 years ago

Also, Jess – yes to dark woods being a trend this year but also alongside that very light floors (like here) or white painted floorboards like the gorgeous ones in Kate Watson-Smyth’s house ( x

2 years ago

Bravo, Anne and team! Such a beautiful kitchen that seems so well thought-out in terms of using the available space and materials. Definitely happy to see a kitchen with a different color scheme than a lot of what is happening right now.

2 years ago

I learned a lot from reading this post. Covid or not, there are some brilliant solutions here that really worked for me and make so much sense. I hate dark kitchens as a rule, and I don’t love this one for myself, but they nailed it. Design wise. It’s just so well done

2 years ago

I’m DYING, this finished kitchen is SO gorgeous!! I know open concepts are starting to fall out of favor for some, but wow, there is just no substitute for how the natural light pours in and bounces around when you open things up. And I’m loving the contrast of that espresso wood against the light floors, just beautiful.

livelygracehome on Insta
2 years ago

Simply beautiful!
I’m also more than a little excited about espresso wood swinging back into style! I picked up a beautiful MCM light wood table from facebook marketplace a couple weeks ago… I was smitten! And I was on the mad hunt for chairs… but my husband wasn’t into it. And, I kept debating on if I wanted to keep our straight lined, bit worn from years of family dinners and birthday parties, dark wood table. Maybe I just needed time, and a beautiful post to warm me back up to what I already have, that happens to sit atop white brushed oak flooring we DIY installed in our own renovation. Alright, talked myself into it; table stays!

2 years ago

We’re nearing the end of our kitchen reno right now. Our GC wouldn’t start until all items were designed, ordered, AND on hand. The dishwasher that we ordered in November was installed on Monday…and has an internal leak! We can’t get another one until November!! agh!! Today we’ll go through all our options with their customer service…

2 years ago
Reply to  MC

Oh no!

Roberta Davis
2 years ago

Very smart. I love the before/after comparison! I am a fan of drawers, too. I would never put cabinets below again- always drawers. I don’t know if dark wood is coming back or not, but I like the dark/light contrast, and I am liking black or dark gray cabinets when I see them. But I also love white oak, either for floors or cabinets.

2 years ago

I’ve been following this reno on Instagram and am so pleased to see final photos. Clearly, supply-limited options were no obstacle in achieving a stellar outcome, at least in the hands of a pro like Anne. Wonderful inspiration!

2 years ago

Love the table instead of an island with bar seating. I don’t want to eat meals while sitting on a bar seat! I want a table! (I apparently have strong feelings about this!) Lovely space.

2 years ago

It’s not my thing for my house, but it looks great! I love that they went with a table jnstead of an island. I’m kinda over kitcgen islands and sitting on stools.
Great job in challenging times.

2 years ago

I love this remodel! Can you please tell me where you found the kitchen utensil jar? The amazing one that’s narrow on the bottom, larger on top and resembles a pitcher? I need it to be mine! Thank you!

2 years ago

This is great mix of materials and a drastic improvement. I like how the light marbling in the countertops ties into the lighter wood floors, a cohesive and beautiful kitchen. My cautionary tales/things to consider: This renovation timeline is only possible with a trusted/competent contractor. Most of my projects experience delays not because of material lead times but because contractors don’t show up when they say they will and/or they use terrible subs whose work needs to be redone. Maybe this is just a Los Angeles thing, but it’s impossible to get contractors to adhere to even the deadlines they establish for themselves. If you’re hiring a contractor, ask specific questions about their availability, how many other projects they’ll be on during yours, their timeline. Make sure they’re actually the ones who will be doing the work. Sometimes I’ve had multiple, involved conversations going over plans with a contractor and then they subcontract without saying anything and a complete stranger shows up on day one and asks you what they’re supposed to be doing that day. Make sure their subs are licensed when needed. Pull permits when needed. Prepare for unexpected expenses/needs. This kitchen required additional support beams in the… Read more »

Jessica Jenkins
2 years ago

This looks so great! I would love to know about the salt & pepper grinders – so chic!

Jessica Jenkins
2 years ago
Reply to  Jess Bunge

Thank you!!

2 years ago

So much wonderful information on how to design and renovate a kitchen. I will be re-reading. The kitchen is beautiful, especially love how the proportions of the cabinets and the refrigerator work today.

2 years ago

Love the overall approach to this reno. It’s achievable and somewhat easy to replicate for the everyday person. While not a fan of open shelving, I do think it turned out well.

I definitely think darker medium wood tones are making a comeback. They feel warmer and cozier than lighter tones. I see the preference hitting around the dark walnut area, but not going totally espresso like the furniture we saw 10-15 years ago in bigger box furniture stores. The focus will be to keep it easier to maintain as many of us have dealt with dark wood showing every piece of dust and wear.

2 years ago

Any info on the floating shelves would be awesome! Having a surprisingly hard time finding ones that are just right. Thanks!

2 years ago

This design by Anne is just lovely! and thank you for talking about prices AND availability! Being hooked on design TV shows with seemingly unrealistic pricing for reno’s seems the “thing” and it is nice the know you guys keep it real!

Jess C
2 years ago

I gut renovated my house (except for one bathroom that’s still on the list) during covid. We were lucky enough to tackle it before lead times became a major issue (aside from IKEA…that was a headache. I wish BOXI had been released then!) but contractors were so busy that they were hard to find and expensive when I could find them. So, I rolled up my sleeves and GC’d it myself. It took about 10 weeks from demo to move in, and another 4-ish of living in a bit of chaos. Still tying up some loose ends and fine-tuning some details, but there are some design and progress shots on my insta. @jesswils11

2 years ago
Reply to  Jess C

Jess, love it! We need a house tour on here!

2 years ago

I love a long table in lieu of an island – so much better for tedious tasks like shelling peas or picking leaves from herbs, plus you can serve directly to the table and easily keep things warm on the stove, heat up a tortilla, or put a kettle on for tea without leaving the dining area.

Deborah Johansson
2 years ago

Can I ask what sink was used? It’s beautiful!

2 years ago

I really like this reno ! Love the practicality of it : yes, if you want it to be fast, you have to forego some options and most of the time it’s totally fine !!

2 years ago

Gorgeous! I love this so much. The table instead of island is on the top of my renovation list.
Question- are there other lights for the dining area? It’s hard to imagine getting enough light for just chopping and cooking from the three sconces, never mind having a well-lit area for eating (that sounds so weird to write in May but makes sense when I recall December and its 4 pm sunset).

2 years ago
Reply to  Clare

I had the exact same thought. I don’t love cans but…doesn’t this space need more light? A fixture over the table for sure.

2 years ago

This kitchen is beautiful, but I CANNOT imagine having to make decisions that quickly (and I’m impressed with people who can). I would also personally rather wait to get the appliances I wanted instead of what was available. It sounds like the designer did an amazing job shepherding this job and went above and beyond to make everything work. We are in the planning stages of a kitchen renovation, and I am realizing that I need to hire a designer to help me plan and make selections. Of course, every project is different, but I’m curious if there is a general estimate of how much the costs for the designer impacts the budget. We worked with an architect for a time, and I was amazed at how quickly those costs added up!

2 years ago

Is the Antolini Belvedere countertop a quartz (manmade material) or natural stone? On their site, it seems to be referred to as a granite. Trying to find somewhere in my area (N. CA) that might have it- so beautiful! Thanks.

2 years ago

Love it all! Can we see more of this fabulous home?
Pretty please 🙂

2 years ago

I think the link to the round wood tray that the salt and pepper shakers are on is wrong — it links to a different footed tray. What is the link to that round wood tray? I love it! (Love the whole remodel!)

2 years ago
Reply to  Joanne

Do you think it’s this one? I’ve been looking for it too:

2 years ago
Reply to  Kj

I decided to look for a similar tray but on a turntable and found this one on Amazon. It’s perfect! Very good quality.

Kathy Houle
2 years ago

ooh we’re going to have a sliding patio door in our kitchen remodel too. Any tips on window coverings?