Emily Henderson

The final big kitchen makeover post

For those that read the blog often (THANK YOU VERY, VERY MUCH) you have kinda seen the ‘before‘, ‘process’ and some of the ‘afters‘ of the kitchen in various posts. But since its been 9 months since we started the process I wanted to do one big epic ‘THE KITCHEN MAKEOVER’ post so it’s all in one place. I find that when I’m reading makeover blogs I like to be reminded of the before and other posts often so I don’t have to click all over the internet to get the full story. So let’s get into it (briefly, don’t worry):

Here is what our kitchen looked like after we moved in.

Yes we had a toaster over that we baked almost all of our food in because the oven didn’t work. Also, does anyone need a toaster oven?


The formica countertops were bad (although EXTREMELY durable) that flooring had already been replaced (I actually can’t remember what was in there – linoleum or bad wood flooring maybe? The cabinets were simple and nice – just needed refinishing and new hardware (which sounds easy and of course wasn’t … keep reading).  Plus all new appliances, faucet and sink. No knocking out walls or any major reconfiguration. Easy peasy, right?


We started with the demo. We had dudes to do it, don’t get me wrong, but Brian and I kinda got our hands dirty on this one because we thought it would be fun. The blue taped up mountainscape is a failed backsplash design you can see here so just ignore that.


Also demo-ing is pretty satisfying. and strangely easy – well if you are as strong as us – VERY. Of course the removal of it is annoying (which is why demo-ing can be kinda expensive, hauling and dumping ain’t cheap, folks). Next up was installing the new countertops.

kitchen_new counters

In case you haven’t done this before here is how it goes: A granite/marble dude comes in and measures, then gives you a quote (I believe mine were around 3k for the materials and installation. OUCH) and they make a template out of paper. Then they cut, glue (the sides to the top) and polish them at the shop and then bring them in three pieces to install and cut holes for the sink and stove. Look how instantly different the kitchen looks.

kitchen_new counters1

Next we installed the new appliances and it was glorious and stressful. Carrying that fridge up two flights of stairs made no one happy, that’s for sure. I was a really good audience member on that one – cheering from the sidelines.

kitchen_new appliances

After the appliances were installed we started the brass and marble backsplash. Read all about the design of that here. Its pretty much my favorite thing.

kitchen_installing backsplash

Then came the really tricky part; the part where mistakes were made that cost a lot of money.

I wanted to keep the cabinets because I really liked how simple they were and the tone of the wood was pretty. Sure, they were dirty and gross with years of food and oil and general disgustingness all over, but I figured we could just clean the heck out of them. People (Brian and my team) disagreed. They said that to have everything fresh and pretty would highlight how kinda old and gross the cabinets were. Point taken. I agreed, too. I just didn’t want to spend $1800 on refinishing cabinets that wouldn’t end up looking that different – especially in a photo. So we committed to refinishing.

kitchen_refinishing cabinets

We had a sample made and the sample looked good. We decided to just sand and do a clear coat – to bring out the tone of the wood without adding any shine. The sample looked good WHEN IT WAS HELD AGAINST THE TOP CABINETS. I highlight (shout) this because this was our first mistake (or maybe second – its all a blur). You see because the cabinet door against the white looked pretty – so we went with it. It’s like only testing a paint color on one side of the wall – most of the time that is enough but sometimes you really need to see it on multiple walls to know that it’s the right color.

kitchen_refinished cabinets

The above photo is the real tragedy. The top was just sanded and the bottom were sanded and refinished. I came into the kitchen and my stomach got instantly nauseous. That is what they look like, AFTER we spent three days and $1800?????? I stopped them from refinishing the top because I hated how the lowers looked. So they threw on the handles.

They were ugly because of two reasons: 1. The wood was cheap and really just had a thin layer of pretty wood as the veneer. My refinisher should have told me this but he said there was no way of really know how the wood will react until its done. Once they were sanded, which he claimed had to be done in order to get off the top coat of old veneer, there were huge patches in the wood – bald spots if you will. It looked WORSE then before we refinished. Awesome.

The second mistake was that by not holding the sample cabinet against the floor we didn’t realize that the floor would actually bring out all the orange tones in the wood and literally make it look like orange 70’s finished cabinetry. I was so bummed, you guys. So bummed. I didn’t have time to paint both the tops and bottoms before the shoot. I think the shoot was on the monday and the above shot was taken on the thursday before. So I pulled the trigger and said, paint the top white. I didn’t want to refinish them and have them look like the lowers. Man, I was bummed. And I guess that most of the work – sanding and stripping is most of the cost of refinishing so it’s not like I even saved any money but not having the apply the top coat. So annoying. The lesson is to really analyze the wood and make sure its quality enough to invest in. Veneer can only be sanded so many times before it done. And mine was done.

kitchen_painting cabinets white

The second the uppers were painted white the room became a happy place again and I wasn’t totally embarrassed. Did I want to paint the uppers and the lowers? Sure. But we didn’t have time and I couldn’t pull the trigger on the money. I think the uppers were $600 to paint (they sprayed) and the lowers would be another $600 and I just couldn’t. Especially not with people advising me that the lowers didn’t look that bad.

kitchen_painting cabinets white1

Then came the new white track lighting and the pendant lights. I got these from Shopclass and had them put on brass stems. You can’t tell but they have a really beautiful circular texture to them that makes them special.

kitchen_installing lighting

The above shots were like the Saturday before the shoot. How would you feel if in two days a magazine was shooting your house and your kitchen looked like that?

But, we pulled it off and here’s how it looked in the magazine:


The lower cabinets were fine in this shot because you don’t see too much of them, but I stared at the rest of them every day. I mourned the way the handles DIDN’T pop off the cabinets. Those beautiful brass handles. And the kitchen just didn’t feel happy enough for me. Sure, it does in this shot because it’s a beautiful shot, on your average Tuesday evening it still felt like it wasn’t there yet.

Meanwhile I really wasn’t happy with the stools we had in there because they were getting lost against all the wood, so I found these stools on Craigslist for $60 each and had them recovered in gray Sunbrella fabric.

kitchen_reupholstering stools

We were almost there, folks. I didn’t take any photos of us painting the lowers navy blue because well, it was a super last-minute decision that was literally done the next day. My friend David, was like – “yeah, you should just paint them if you hate them and I picked up the phone that second and texted for a quote. They said “$600″, I said “when?” they said “tomorrow” and I said “fine”. Pulling triggers, folks. Yes, I wasted money, for sure, but there are a lot of unknowns and you just do the best you can.

So, here is how my kitchen looks all styled out (previously unreleased photos!).

kitchen_after emily henderson blue white brass stools overall

I actually think that when it’s styled like this it looks better with a person in it, right?

So, then we styled it just for everyday – how we actually live (on a REALLY clean day).

kitchen_after_everyday living blue white brass

Please note the bottle holder and real dish soap! Dish soap actually in a shot!!!!! Charlie’s high chair has moved now to sit at the dining table with us because he feels like a big boy when we do that. But for the first three months of his eating solids he sat here:


And here’s the pulled back version with my awesome new playpen in it – because that is what actually happens there (although there aren’t usually THAT many toys in there, geez).

kitchen_after emily henderson blue white brass family room tv

Pardon my cords. How embarrassing to have such hideous CORDS in your own home (but seriously, i’m dying to photoshop those out).

kitchen_after_emily henderson blue white brass appliances

kitchen_after countertops
kitchen_after_emily henderson blue white brass countertops cabinets


kitchen_after_emily henderson blue white brass stove

Here is what is happening on the other side of the room.

kitchen_after_emily henderson blue white brass_ family room

Tell no one. Not done with family room yet – read this post about it.

The kitchen is done. Besides making the canopies on the lighting prettier, we have nothing else to do. And she is a really happy place to be.

kitchen_after_emily henderson blue white brass lighting overall

The only regrets so far are the undermount lighting (we don’t use them and when we do they are like blue and ugly) and the fact that we have nowhere to put the garbage. The lower cabinets are kinda too small to install a retro-fit garbage slider thing, so we just have a nice looking white can in there that I run into constantly. Its a bummer.

I’m actually sitting at that island on the far right drinking coffee maniacally trying to finish this post. Just picture the sweat dripping off me, the inspiration pouring out of my fingers the child standing there begging for attention. Not now, Charlie, mommy is finishing an epic post. If only it actually looked this clean every day.

(And I’m kidding, he’s with Brian getting a proper dose of attention while not being over-praised, don’t worry).

Its resources time, folks. Wanna replicate my kitchen in your house (or part so it?), here you go:

Kitchen Design Moodboard

1. Brass Pulls: Schoolhouse Electric | 2. Blanco Precis Sink: Wayfair| 3. Carrera Marble Tile  (we bought from local tile store) | 4. Schluter Schiene Edge Trim: Westside Tile | 5. Roman Shades: Decorview | 6. Brass Globe Pendants: (similar) Schoolhouse Electric | 7. Acacia Wood Hardwood Flooring: Build Direct | 8. Delta Brass Faucet: Wayfair | 9. Ceaserstone Countertops: Ceaserstone | 10. Cabinet Paint: Hague Blue by Farrow and Ball

All the appliance information is in this post.

kitchen emily blue white brass family

You know how much I love a side by side before and after:

kitchen_emily henderson before after

Alright, let me know if you have any additional questions. I started piecing together a budget and it looks to be around $10K not including the painting of the walls and the flooring (because that was an overall house budget). I meant to take photos of the underside of the cabinets to show the outlets and the undermounted lighting – when I have a second I will and update the post.

But ask any questions in the comments!

All ‘after’ photos by Tessa Neustadt

*Click through these links to see more about our backsplash fail, the successful backsplash how-to,  the kitchen progress, and how much we love cooking in our kitchen, and if you are new to the blog check out our living roomguest bedroom and unfinished family room.  

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  1. Emily! I absolutely love everything about your kitchen…I actually chose the same Schoolhouse Electric hardware but I’ve had trouble finding matching hinges that don’t look “cheap” – like you, we are painting old-school cabinets, white, but I want to find hinges that look good with the rest of the brass hardware. Can you share where you found? Thank you so much!! Xx Katie

    1. I have the same question as Katie! What hinges did you use to match the schoolhouse electric hardware? I hate all the surface mount hinges I see- the brass is too shiny for the SE hardware and I’m trying to update my kitchen :(

      1. I, too, am interested in the hinges. I’m beginning the same type of kitchen remodel. Any links to nice hinges?

    1. Hi Emily! I hope I’m not to late to have my question answered. Can I ask about the big colorful artwork? I think it’s to the right of the sink. Thank you so much!

  2. Hi Emily! Wondering what color white you painted your kitchen walls and what color white you painted your upper cabinets? Currently in the process of reno-ing our kitchen and not sure if the white walls and upper cabinets should match?! Thanks! ?

  3. Hey Emily your kitchen is gorgeous!! I wanted those Schoolhouse Electric hardware to refinish a dresser but couldn’t quite justify it so I found similar ones on Wayfair.

    But the link to your successful backsplash how-to isn’t working and I’d love to see it…looks beautiful! Please fix it :)

  4. Emily,

    What a gorgeous kitchen remodel. I absolutely love the color scheme that you chose for the new kitchen. The tile backsplash gives it a very unique look.

    Ryan @ KitchenBuilders.net

  5. Very nice design, I have been looking at kitchens for much of the day looking for great ideas for my showroom. I would have used white hinges, the brass ones are too in your face for me,

  6. Just tried to go back and re-read your marble backsplash how-to and the link doesn’t work! Nor does the appliance one. Re-doing my kitchen now and desperate to look more carefully at how you did that beautiful backsplash. Can you please fix?

  7. I’m in love with your kitchen.. actually everything you do! I was wondering if you could share the name of the white that you used on your cabinets

    1. I would also love to know the color of the white paint you used if you don’t mind sharing. Just love how it all came together, so lovely.

  8. first thing i should say about this blog is “it is more delightful”, thank you for sharing such useful modern way of remodeling with the wonderful pics

  9. Spectacular! Thank you for sharing your beautiful kitchen. I am so inspired to do the same with ours. It really is happy!

  10. Loved the change!!! Delightful transformation. You are a very creative decorator. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. Some companies like IngwallKöket helps you to remodel your kitchen. Which will definitely give a nice look to your kitchen and will save your time as well as money. I have visited one site and found it useful you can refer it:

  11. In case you kitchen appears to be dull, and those cabinet seems to be outdated, it is right time for a makeover. You can add those custom cabinetries with fine detailing. It simply gives the new kitchen look, maintain the traditional charm. Another thing you can do is switch to white ceramic subway tiles and stainless steel appliances.

  12. I wasn’t as impressed with remodel till I started getting into the “after” pictures. All I can say is WOW. The floor have so much character too.

    Looks like your baby approves too.

  13. I am in love with this kitchen and the flooring in particular! What is it and where did you get it? We are in the market to redo ours.

  14. What finish was the paint you used for the cabinets? Eggshell, semi gloss etc? I love the color combo and shade of blue! Thank you.

  15. Your kitchen turned out absolutely beautiful. Everything is so thought out and I love how taking out the attached island opened up your space so much especially since I used your kitchen photos tonight to show my husband why we have to do the same to ours. We’ve been contemplating it for awhile but my husband has a hard time visualizing all my plans! Our kitchen layout is almost exactly the same! So thank you thank you thank you!!! Looking forward to your source list! Great job!!!!

    1. I see that the flooring you have is the Acacia Hardwood from Build Direct – Did you get the Chai Beige stain? The color looks much different on the site than it does in your beautiful house. And is it the plain or the hand scraped? I’m worried that the ripples in the hand scraped will get old though rather trendy lately.

  16. What a amazing Kitchen renovation..very nice and relevant information…you covered all things in your blog…i just fall in love with your kitchen..great job…n may i know the color of the white paint u used??

  17. The kitchen looks wonderful! I love how light and bright it looks! Did you have any problems when remodeling? Did you find any previously unknown leaks? If so, did you hire a plumber to fix it or did you fix it yourself?

  18. I think you did a really good job remodeling your kitchen. Your white cabinets look really great with the blue drawers beneath the countertop. The shades of white and blue that you chose to use really compliment each other. Thanks for sharing these pictures!

  19. In love!!! Thank you for the inspiring work you do.

    What white paint color did you use?! (I love your post in your favorite go to paint colors and am pulling inspiration from that–is it one of those white colors?!)

    Thanks a mil!!

  20. Hi Emily,
    Beautiful transformation. Loooove the backsplash!!! I’ve just spent well over an hour trying in vain to find the post about how you did it since your link, as many have also mentioned, does not work. Please help!! Thank you!!

  21. Hi Emily! I am about to start my kitchen reno and I come back to this post often (our cabinets are the same!). I have tried a few times to click on your “appliance post” link above, but it directs me to a “page not found”. Do you have that post lying around anywhere that you could re-link? I’d love to read your take on appliances! Thank you-and awesome kitchen!

  22. Absolutely love the kitchen remodeling. The well furnish look give the kitchen a great view to work. The new look is at it’s best. The white colour and wooden furniture gives a better refreshment.

  23. Hello Emily,

    Thanks for sharing great kitchen makeover Ideas. Unless you’re renovating a cheap rental, I think this might be a bit of a false economy. Like zippy said, labor’s your big cost here. Not only do I think it’s worth spending a bit to have a kitchen you really like, you don’t want to cheap out and have to redo this sooner than you would’ve had to if you spent a little more and bought durable materials and good appliances. Saving a couple thousand now won’t be a big solace if you have chipped and peeling laminate in 10 years when a solid surface would likely have at least another 10 on it.

    Plus, if you plan on moving any time in the next decade, a cheapy kitchen can hurt your home value. You don’t want to over improve for the price level of your home, of course, but a good kitchen will raise the value and get your home sold faster.

    My advice: If you don’t have enough money to do it right, then wait and save. If you have stuff that really isn’t functional, then get that fixed. If stuff is looking a little tired, some new paint and cabinet hardware can do a lot.

  24. Hi Emily! I am a relatively new follower of your blog, but I am in LOVE with your work. I am just about to embark on my own kitchen reno, with a similar look to yours. I am desperate to know how you treated the interiors of your lower blue cabinets. Did you paint them white to match the uppers, blue to match the outsides or leave them natural. What’s the norm here? Would love to have your take on this conundrum. Thanks!

  25. Emily …love your new kitchen… I’ve always thought the white tea kettle was Kaico from Dwell..then I ordered it and it is extremely small …In looking at your photos once again .. what brand it your tea kettle if you don’t mind sharing ?



  26. Hey Emily,

    I really love everything about your kitchen, and the way you involved & worked on each and every detail. Absolutely amazing!!

    I like the cabinets and counterparts. I was also looking for kitchen remodeling ideas, your post helped me a lot. But maintaining a spotless kitchen is quite a challenging task if you have kids at home.

    My sister told me to hire a professional home remodeling contractor at http://build4uconstruction.com/ for my project. I am pretty much agree with her, I don’t have much time to draft a plan for my own kitchen and at the same time I want perfect color and texture in my kitchen. I think only a professional can help me out from this situation.

    Once again, I would like to thank you for the pictures, now I have some ideas in my hand too :)


  27. Congratulations on your project. The kitchen turned out great! I love the floor and how everything looks so airy and bright.

  28. hey Emily…..your kitchen is so beautiful….I think I am in love with your kitchen…!!! Nice job. Thanks for sharing.

  29. Girllll, having a fit for those brass pulls. MISS YOU on HGTV. You were my Fav. So happy I found u again. I just came home with a brass cab pull and dark blue paint sample, Then i saw this….YEAH FOR ME.

  30. I know I’m late to the party on this post. But, I just have to tell you that I am in the middle of a kitchen remodel and was doing my daily troll through your blog for inspiration and re-stumbled on this. I can relate to this so hard right now. So much so that I almost got a little teary-eyed while reading…about a kitchen. So, thanks for your honesty and showing that even professionals make mistakes. This remodeling journey truly has ups and downs and I appreciate you highlighting that. You’re the best.

  31. I love the changes you made it your kitchen and the first thing I will be doing is changing the plates, out, next adding new hardware, and on down the line. I like to have the non-central shelf on which are cookbooks. Cookbooks are always so colorful – I love being able to see them in a kitchen.



  33. I was browsing through your old posts for inspiration for the renovation we are currently doing. I love your backsplash but am so bummed the link to it doesn’t work and I haven’t been able to find the post. Hoping you still check old posts for comments :) I would love some help finding that content! As always-thank you!