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Traditional Eclectic Kitchen: Sneak Peek and Process

It’s a quick and happy kitchen makeover, led by Ginny – my favorite brit, whom I would die without. I oversaw this project and Ginny did an insane job designing and executing it. Ginny, take it away and tell the people how you redesigned this kitchen.

Ok. Ginny here. Last November our client Sara (pregnant at the time), contacted us as she was in escrow on a house with her husband, and needed some help renovating her kitchen and bathroom.

Sarah Stabuel Kitchen Emily Henderson Design Before 1

This was the kitchen before the previous owners moved out.  There were a lot of things that we didn’t love about the space so I’m just going to get down and dirty and call out a few that really bothered us.

1) The high contrast of the ‘tuxedo’ style wasn’t doing it for me. Now don’t get me wrong I love a monochromatic kitchen but the ‘black’ cabinets were more like deep roasted espresso which gets a big thumbs down from me.

2) The upper cabinets around the window really blocked the natural light coming through and felt heavy in the space.  Not only that but the window was tiny and half covered over by a venetian blind (Anyone know why they are called venetian? Did the people of Venice invent them?!)

3) The hardware and plumbing fixtures weren’t all that exciting…

Sarah Stabuel Kitchen Emily Henderson Design Before 2

4) The microwave and cabinet above didn’t line up with the fridge cabinet.

5) The layout in general didn’t feel very considered at all. And whilst the viking appliances are pretty spectacular, the 36″ range dwarfed that corner and with the island being sat super close it didn’t really leave much room to move around.

Were there any positives do I hear you ask??? The answer is yes. Since the floors are solid marble tile and weren’t in that of bad condition (aside from a few stains- which we had polished out) we decided to save the money and keep that.  The island was mobile too, from Ikea I think, so we could remove that without damaging the floor. Oh and the appliances, I really like those and have constant dreams about owning my very own 36″ range, that size to an English person is pretty much unheard of.


The house is Spanish style and Sara was pretty much open to my suggestions but did love the idea of a white ceasarstone countertop, with a traditional feature tile and interesting hardware.  I pulled together some ideas that could get the ball rolling and also showed her inspiration ideas of a white, grey and blue kitchen. We had a strict budget to work with and a tight deadline – they wanted to move in mid-end of February since their baby was due end of March – so pulling triggers was crucial for this project, which thankfully Sara was/is brilliant at doing.


The first thing was to decide if we went the fully custom route or partial prefab. We hired one of our contractors Golan to do the job since I knew he’d be able to do it in the timeframe allowed. Golan is they guy that will pretty much say that anything is possible, it just comes down to what you want to spend. So in this case we went for partial prefab in the kitchen,  and fully custom for a linen closet in the bathroom and cabinetry in the pantry/laundry area – stay tuned for those.

Blue and Gold Inspiration Sarah Stabuel Kitchen Concept Plan Emily Henderson Design

I pulled some ideas of look and feel for materials, narrowing it down to 4 main options. Sara was initially heading in the brass direction but I wanted to throw the idea of doing matte black or oil rubbed bronze into the mix.  Option 1 is shown with brass hardware and a traditional faucet since the house was built in the 20’s. Sara loved the idea of bringing blue in somewhere so I gave her blue tile options too. This tile is probably my least favourite and I’m so glad we didn’t go that direction since it’s pretty much everywhere now, or at least the black and white version is, and you know when the local discount tile store sells it, it’s definitely time to move on. Sara also didn’t love this, saying it felt like a snowflake, which it totally does!

Blue and Black Inspiration Sarah Stabuel Kitchen Concept Plan Emily Henderson Design

With Option 2 I brought in a more modern style faucet but combined it with traditional hardware. I still like this tile and I love the fact that there was a softer blue tone to the pattern and felt more tonal to the first option.

Gold and Black Inspiration Sarah Stabuel Kitchen Concept Plan Emily Henderson Design

Option 3 I went with a matte brass route but with a traditional style faucet (I also dream about this guy too).  I still love this tile, it just feels more graphic and modern and sits well with the modern hardware.

Black Inspiration Sarah Stabuel Kitchen Concept Plan Emily Henderson Design

For the last option I went back to black accents and suggested another traditional style faucet – can you tell I was really trying for that?!  Since the tile I proposed here has lots of curves in the pattern, I paired it with hardware that has more softness and organic lines.


Bearing in mind that we were on a total time crunch, we had to get a tile that was in stock so we ordered a ton of different samples to choose from and ended up agreeing on this one above. It’s super pretty and feels traditional and timeless yet modern with it’s colour palette. We also decided on white for the cabinets so we chose a concrete grey countertop so that it was just all white in there. Which one would you pick?


We met up with Golan at his showroom to select the cabinets and countertop. The positives of going prefab are that it’s fast and cheap(er) and looks great. The downsides are that you’re limited to certain colours, finishes and sizes. So as much as good contractors can make the cabinets fit into awkwardly sized spaces and make it feel more built-in, you can often tell when a kitchen isn’t custom just by the size of the cupboard doors and how the finer details are finished off. Like the existing espresso kitchen, you can tell this is definitely prefab just from the layout, sizes and how things didn’t line up so well.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with doing prefab at all, the opposite in fact, but I can’t stress enough that you really have to ensure that either you or your designer or contractor are paying attention to how things are laid out.  What happens with that awkward corner? Is it going to cost that much more to move the range and fridge? Can we do less doors on the uppers?  All these questions and more are what we asked ourselves and discussed at length throughout the project. It was my job to be on top and make sure we considered every last little detail so that the kitchen functioned well for everyday use, felt comfortable and was easy to navigate (especially with a growing family) and above all look really really good aesthetically.


Golan’s team also came out to measure the space so they could draw up the layout for us which was so helpful. Often I will draw it up first so we can show contractors when we’re bidding out the work but in this case we didn’t have the time.

APPLIANCE-MOVEWe ended up moving the range, fridge, dishwasher and wine fridge to a better location so we completely redesigned the layout.



They laid everything out on elevation and in 3D so we can see just how it would look and check if there were any areas that felt unbalanced.



These were the last set of plans. We went through a few options before we approved these guys.  You can see the laundry closet to the right there which we ended up changing and going the custom route for this since we couldn’t get the door sizes we wanted from prefab.

Sarah Stabuel Kitchen Progress photos Emily Henderson Design

This was just as the cabinets had been installed.  As you can see we also added a bigger window which makes better use of that wall and brings in so much more light. And no one has ever said they don’t love natural light, except for vampires of course.  By moving the range it has allowed us to have more counter space which was lacking in the previous layout. We did talk at length about potentially adding an island but I thought it would feel too cramped and with us now able to have counter space in one area meant that we didn’t really need that additional surface space.

We ended up going for simple white shaker cabinet front that has a slight bevel detail to keep it feeling slightly more traditional.  We also installed a 33″ single farmhouse sink which is another item on my dream kitchen list. I prefer a single to to a double basin as it gives you more flexibility and space for cutting flowers, stacking dirty dishes and washing large pots, pans, dogs and babies.

Be sure to come back tomorrow where we’ll be showing you the full reveal as well as another episode of style school where we will walk you through how to set up/style your kitchen for every day use.

Ginny xXx

* First photo by Zeke Ruelas

* Design boards by Ginny Macdonald for EHD

* Kitchen drawing by H&A My Design


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37 thoughts on “Traditional Eclectic Kitchen: Sneak Peek and Process

  1. It kind of bums me out to see a pretty brand new kitchen pulled out just because no one liked the aesthetic. I get that design is important but that’s a big strain on the environment, don’t you think?

    1. I would say the same, but they rearranged appliances so the kitchen works better. I guess this is borderline.

      As someone who bought a house with a perfectly fine newish kitchen that I hate for aesthetic (and some functional) reasons I completely understand the desire to remodel, especially if this is their “forever” home.

      1. Actually it moves the best bit of counter space across the room from both the sink and the range. I am not sure how this is an improvement. I agree with Eliza. And even if it is forever, I always think you should live with the place for a while before such a drastic change. There’s a whole big picture thing you don’t get until you have lived in a place for a while.

        As an example, I have hated my cabinets since I bought my house 16 years ago. I had more important things to do [roof, all new electrical, etc] because the house was built in 1916. By the time I got to the kitchen my ideas of what really bothered me had completely changed.

    2. Eliza – they’re actually keeping quite a lot of that kitchen. Appliances and flooring are a huge part of the set up. I come to this blog because it feels as if has less snark than other blogs – can we please continue to respect other people’s choices instead of being very quick to judge? For all we know the carcasses could have been in poor shape and unable to re-used.
      Also this *is* a design blog. It suggests people are often driven by the aesthetics…

    3. I don’t think Eliza or anyone who posts concerns is being disrespectful or snarky. And I think if readers are uncomfortable reading anything besides adoring comments, maybe they shouldn’t read the comments section.

      I see both sides of this one. Cabinets are expensive but if you hate them, you hate them.

      I see some kitchen makeovers where I like the “before” better (not on this blog but elsewhere).

      Honestly I thought the “MUST GO NOW” item here was going to be that off-white flooring. But it just looks so dingey next to the original white countertops and, in my opinion, the new white cabinetry. Maybe in the end it’ll be ‘fixed’ with the gray counters or something. I do think the final option shown was the prettiest.

      1. I really enjoy seeing people tackle real-life issues with homes (budget/layout) and if I don’t like the aesthetics/approach I can happily move on without having to point it out.
        I don’t want to just see adoring comments but I think some consideration should be given to people’s feelings (it’s their actual home) and that we don’t always know the whole story.

        1. It’s a design blog and allowing for comments means there will be a range of opinions. There shouldn’t be a comment section if homeowners/designers don’t want to open themselves up critical review. However, I do believe this should be done with respect–and yet it’s hard to sound respectful when not being all sunshine and roses about a project.

          Maybe I’m contradicting myself on this one, but I do think it’s a little silly to go on about why you wouldn’t remodel at the same point these homeowners did.

    4. I see what you’re saying, but… you might be in the wrong place if you’re not interested in seeing remodels/redesigns?

    5. The implication being that one ought to love with a poor design because the person who put it in moved before the appropriate amount of time lapsed?

      Personally I think it’s a larger disservice to the environment that kitchens dating pre-1970s get pulled out to have these new kitchens put in, whose primary virtue is just that they are new. (In my experience) the older kitchen layouts are more intelligently designed with better materials. Obviously wiring gets old and tiles break and that requires attending to, but a lot of beautiful homes are ruined by “contemporary” kitchens and bathrooms. Not to mention the current trend for hating walls (ooh! Let’s make the whole house one large open room, who needs privacy anyway?)

    6. I see your point for sure, but I don’t think it was mentioned what happened with the cabinetry, They very well may have taken it to Habitat or another organization. We have several such places here in Ann Arbor and they’re full of kitchen cabinet sets.

      You could make the exact same argument for an old kitchen. If it’s aesthetically not pleasing, you should keep it because of the environment and the fact that it technically functions as a kitchen.

  2. Ahhhh!! I cheated and scrolled to the bottom of the post because I was dying to see the after photo and its tomorrow!!! you got me- hahahahah! I should’ve read the title but I was too excited. I have a kitchen re-do I’m currently saving up for so I just love these posts. Thanks for sharing all the dirty details.

  3. Hi Ginny, would you be able to share which program you use for boards? Im looking for a good one…Thanks!

    1. Hey Ola,
      Yes, I use photoshop for the moodboards and use indesign for compiling presentations. Both are good programs for different reason. You should def look into them 🙂

  4. Absolutely love! Cant wait to see the rest tomorrow…. PS the blog has been on fire the last couple months, its always good, but recently it has just been top notch!

  5. We just did a round of pricing for a kitchen remodel (eek!) and I’d be super interested to hear more about custom vs. pre-fab. What makes something custom vs. pre-fab (to what extent), what the pricing differences are, what are some brands out there on the market? This is the stuff that feels OVERWHELMING!

    1. Hey Kym,
      How exciting that you’re doing a remodel. Here is a quicky into prefab vs custom. With custom you are almost unlimited in what you can do with regards to sizes, colour/finish and styles. Whereas prefab you are limited to all of those because they only manufacture a certain amount of options. Timing – depending on the contractors you use you can be looking at 4-6 weeks for custom cabinets to be made (that is not including the time it takes to design). Prefab is pretty much readily avail, just need to allow for shipping time. Quality – prefab are actually pretty good quality and there are some companies like Semi-Handmade that are making custom cabinet fronts for IKEA carcasses which is a great mid-way route. With custom, like most things custom made, you get great timeless craftsmanship, just as long as your carpenter really cares and that is probably the most important thing to consider – making sure you and your contractor are on the same page from the beginning. Price – you could save yourself thousands by going prefab. It’s always good to weigh up the options though and never hurts to get a quote for both routes. Hope that helps 🙂

      1. Apologies Noreen, I read Kym’s name below so thought that’s who I was responding too! Good luck with your remodel!! x

        1. Thanks, Ginny! Our cabinet bid came in SO high we were stunned. And our designer wouldn’t budge. Knowing that there are other brands and price points out there is helpful. Appreciate your response and all the discussion below!

          1. We ended up going custom and it was considerably cheaper than semi-custom and actually only slightly higher than prefab. We went with an Amish cabinet maker and they did a fantastic job–all wood, dovetail joints etc. They could do absolutely anything as long as we had photos and exact measurements. If at all possible, I highly recommend this option. We live 4 hours from the person who did ours. Our contractor didn’t have issue with picking them up. I realize this option wouldn’t work out for many.

    2. I was a kitchen and bath designer/remodel specialist (and interior designer) for 18 years. I mostly sold prefab cabinets so I may be biased but depending on the Mfg I think they can be superb. I could design and customize the kitchens with no wasted space and have doors sized to be aesthetically pleasing without compromising function.
      I could get every feature touted in a custom line but for much less money. In fact most “custom” cabinets had less basic features than the prefab. for instance, self-closing, undermounted, full extension hardware.
      I would definitely check out the prefab. I must say I worked at a private showroom where we could pull everything together for the client. We carried several lines from medium to high end and had the capabilities to do custom work also.
      BTW often people came to me after going to a
      big box store and we were able to pull together a better look fore less price. Not to put them down, but I think it would behoove you to look for a good designer and check out company reviews.
      In my experience Diamond cabinets are great, also Canyon Creek.

  6. Thanks for mentioning the design involved in using prefab cabinets – this is one point that I think many people miss. Prefab cab’s are less expensive ( than custom or semi-custom cabinets ) but do not mean that a designer is unnecessary. If the kitchen is to look cohesive and designed, then someone must actually design it! Kitchens involve a huge number of decisions which might seem small on their own but impact the final look and the usefulness of the space for the entirety of the kitchen’s life!

    One question – why not take out the second door and wall at the restroom (plan south-east). Even if the wall is structural, the span is small so only a framed header would be necessary. You mention their small budget, but without the need for an LVL (etc…real beam), the benefits of capturing that space likely outweigh the cost. The cost could be recouped elsewhere (cheaper tile for now…or no tile) while the cost of new cabinets, moving appliances, etc. are significant and permanent so getting the best layout is paramount. The ikea island seems to imply a lack of counter top/work space…so why not capture an extra 6′ for the new kitchen. (I hope im not sounding too critical…i know everyone’s a critic… just wondering if there really was a reason to leave that odd wall?) thanks!

    1. Hey Kym,
      We did think about losing that wall completely and that was up for discussion. What isn’t evident from that drawing is that’s where the stacked washer and dryer are. We ultimately decided it was nice to have them in their own separate area so it can be closed off when in use – there’s two pocket doors on either side of the laundry area so closes off nicely. We’d have opened ourselves up to a lot more finagling of the layout to hide those appliances had we removed the wall – that and time, money, budget.
      Totally agree with you about having a designer involved in the process with prefab and that’s what happened with the previous kitchen – no one there to consider the arrangement.
      Thanks for your thoughtful comments, have a great 🙂 x

  7. I might have missed this information somewhere…. Could you provide the sources for the various paint color (for all options). If you feel like it—the tile and brass hardware from option one. Such great options! Thank you.

  8. Thank you for featuring the process, and rationale, behind reworking a kitchen layout! I renovate lots of houses and this is frequently the #1 thing I struggle with. More please!

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