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The Final Big Kitchen Makeover Post + Get The Look

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 room,  guest bedroom and unfinished family room.  

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