Today’s post isn’t about my kitchen, but I’m going to start today’s post by talking about my kitchen. Why? Well, I finally have a kitchen of my own, and now I fully understand the itch people who own houses have to renovate their kitchen. My kitchen needs a lot of help, but we can’t afford a full renovation any time soon (phase one & two of our renovation swallowed most of our budget).
But what if I could just update my kitchen instead of enacting a full on renovation war with it? Enter today’s blog subject, and my inspiration . . . .
Last spring we shot an adorable home here in LA for Em’s next book, and its owners had really embraced the “work with what you’ve got” ethos. Granted, what the house had was a lot of cute vintage architecture. But owners, Allison and Benjamin, really worked with the house to amplify it.
When they bought the home in January of 2018 they didn’t suddenly start ripping down walls (guilty), rearranging floor plans (double guilty), or tearing up floors (wow, I am a VERY guilty person). Instead, they brought in fresh life to the house with paint, wallpaper, and hardware – which just gave it even more vintage charm and personality. So we snuck a few photos out of our top-secret book archive and today we’re giving you peek into the kitchen, dining nook, and laundry room.
Alison, the homeowner, was kind enough to chat with me about how she and her husband kept so much of the kitchen’s vintage charm, while also making it practical for modern living, all while avoiding a costly full-on renovation. Let’s dive in.
Note: From here on out, I’m going to be “speaking” to your eyeballs in italics. Mostly so you can tell who’s talking (me or Alison), but also because it makes me feel elegant.
Allison, I think the first thing I, and everyone else, NEEDS to know is: How much did this kitchen “makeover” cost you, and did you have a budget in mind when you started?
Nope! We didn’t have a budget, but I knew it wasn’t going to break the bank. All in it was around $8k, including hardware (which I got on Etsy for $40). It helped that all the accessories and furniture we sourced are vintage.
I know $8k may sound like a lot to anyone who hasn’t updated or renovated a kitchen before, but honestly $8k is IMPRESSIVE. What were you able to do with $8k?
We demoed some upper cabinets on one side of the kitchen, installed open shelving, built a cabinet around the fridge, built a cabinet around the stove, got new appliances, swapped the hardware, and painted.
And how much of this work did you do yourselves, versus how much did you contract out?
I did some of the smaller painting jobs, but left the rest to the professionals! I didn’t really have a timeline, but I had a vision, and luckily was able to make it come together pretty quickly. There was one day of demo where my handyman took out the existing upper cabinets on two walls, one day of measuring by my superhero cabinet guys, 1 day of installation of the new cabinets, and one day of painting. All in all, I think it was done in about 2 weeks.
Ok, speaking of contracting out, let’s chat about some of the very cool features you added to the kitchen – starting with the cabinets around the stove. Are those custom?
They are custom! I got lucky with an amazing cabinet guy and he did a really great job. He just showed up with the stuff and installed them and they fit like a glove. They are the “one big drawer with shelves” kind.
I’m very curious about this “amazing cabinet guy” and will need his info . . . It also looks like you had some custom work down around the fridge. Are the cabinets above the fridge new, or just refaced?
They are new. That whole wall was empty so we put in everything you see there.
Wait, so that whole wall was EMPTY before? That means you came up with that cool wine rack idea for right above the fridge, right?
I had really wanted a Subzero fridge but it wasn’t in the budget, so I had the cabinet guy put in a removable wine rack so that if one day we get a Subzero we can squeeze it in.
You’ve got closed cabinets everywhere else in the kitchen, but over on the sink side of the kitchen you opted to demo out the cabinets and install open shelving. Honestly, brave, because I don’t know if I’ll ever be organized enough for open shelving. What prompted the decision to go open on that side of the kitchen?
I just like the look of it. I collect china and it’s the best way to get to look at it every day. This way I can see all the beautiful plates, bowls, pitchers, and teapots that bring me so much joy.
So what about the aspects of the kitchen you decided to keep? What were the elements you were just going to make work?
I was absolutely most definitely keeping the scalloped vent over the stove, even though it doesn’t work all that well. The low setting does practically nothing and the high setting sounds like a rocket taking off in our kitchen, but who cares? It’s adorable! We needed some new cabinetry around the fridge and the space to the left of it, and on either side of the stove, so I had to make the decision to either get all new matching cabinet doors and drawers, or just match the new ones as closely as possible to the old ones. It saved me around $2k to match them rather than getting all new ones. It’s not perfect, but it’s not a big deal. I can live with it.
I love how you’ve decided to display art on the backsplash. This is a technical question, but how did you hang your art on tile?
For some of them I hammer a little nail into the grout (carefully!), some of them I nailed above the tile and hung the piece on clear fishing wire, and some of the smaller pieces without glass I used puddy (which I don’t really recommend).
As we move into the dining room and laundry room, let’s chat about the biggest element these spaces share – the paint scheme. After seeing the rest of your house (coming soon readers), I know that you’re not afraid of color or pattern, but going with the painted trim to match the cabinets was definitely a bold choice. Where did you get that idea?
The kitchen colors happened in stages. First, I painted just the lower cabinets Peale Green by Benjamin Moore, then later decided the refrigerator cabinet should also be green. Then, when I was adding the (not yet painted) crown molding, I liked the contrast that it gave to the room, so instead of painting it off white to match the walls (Swiss Coffee by Benjamin Moore), I painted it green to match the cabinets, along with all other molding and doors. It was one of those things that felt like a risk, but it turned out great. Also, not sure if you can see in the pictures, but the ceiling is painted Setting Plaster by Farrow and Ball which adds a nice pink glow.
Let’s follow the paint into the laundry room/pantry, which is ULTRA happy and just like, my ideal laundry room. First off, where is that statement wallpaper from?
It’s from Schumacher (my favorite) designed by the great architect and fabric designer, Josef Frank. It’s called Citrus Garden, which is fitting because we have a lot of citrus trees in the yard (thanks to Ethel and Henry, the previous owners). It was definitely a splurge, but is one of the most beautiful and joyous things I’ve ever laid eyes on and makes me happy literally every day of my life. The laundry room doubles as the family entrance, so I wanted to make it special.
Hands down my favorite part of these three spaces is the Citrus Garden wallpaper in here. It’s a daily dose of joy.
Is there a story behind that cute Dutch door in the laundry room? And can you tell me what happy shade of yellow that is? And also about the hardware. Just literally everything.
I really wanted a dutch door, partly because I think they are adorable, and partly so that I could have the door open without our little 6 pound dog, Goldie, getting out. Even though we are in the city, we live up on a hill and there’s a lot of wildlife, including coyotes that love hanging out in our yard. I got lucky and found this super quirky and talented door and window maker who built and installed this door for us.
The color of the door is Anjou Pear by Sherwin Williams, and I’m planning on painting the beams in the den that color as soon as this is all over. I can’t wait! The hardware is all from House Of Antique Hardware (which is also where all of my hardware is from!).
Two more questions before we wrap this up. What’s your best tip for “making it work,” and the best way you think others can bring a little more vintage soul into their own homes?
When it comes to making an existing room work as is, I think that it’s all about color. The right color covers a multitude of sins, though, of course, finding the right color is easier said than done. You really have to get in touch with your intuition and listen closely. And also, when it comes to paint, you’ve got to see it in the room. Colors are like magical trickster fairies that appear different in every light, so you have to be very specific! Don’t be afraid to spend money on buying samples. There is NOTHING BETTER than finding the color that makes your heart sing. And, don’t forget, color therapy is a real thing. It can absolutely elevate a mood. Take a risk!
As for keeping (or bringing) a sense of vintage soul, I always prefer pieces and features that are unique, even if they are imperfect or unusual. Making friends with the imperfect is huge in designing a home. If everything is new and perfect it can feel sterile. Imperfections and eccentricities can give a space warmth and make people feel more at home and relaxed. So, I say to resist the urge to make it all new and perfect and let the life of your home find it’s way into the light.
A huge thank you to Allison & Benjamin for letting us come into their home and photograph all their hard work. It’s truly filled with so much soul. Stay tuned for more of this home. In the meantime, has anyone else out there decided to opt for a budget update over a full on reno? I’d love to hear your experiences!