Kitchen and Dining Room Before and After

My make-it-work kitchen makeover is finished! I have a slew of before and after photos for you. Some of the befores are from when I started this recent decorating wave and some are from when we first bought the house, to show how far this space has come. I try to capture the same angle whenever possible. Let’s dive in…

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So much better than where we started…

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The kitchen cabinets were professionally painted Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White. They turned out exactly as I hoped. There’s plenty of color and pattern elsewhere throughout the first floor, so I’m happy to have this space simply feel clean, bright, and cohesive. An added bonus is that paint, wood filler, and caulk conceal the previous owner’s DIY installation flaws.

Before:Kitchen Island Vertical Before.jpg

After:Kitchen Island Vertical After.jpg

Now that the cabinets are white, I considered replacing the counter stools with something wood and/or woven (like these gorgeous leather ones from CB2), but we really like these metal ones. They’re indestructible: our cat can’t claw them, I use them as stepstools all the time, and the handle cutout on top is really nice for moving them around. They’re from Overstock; all of the sources are linked at the bottom of this post.

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After:Kitchen After.jpg

Sorry, it looks washed out here – it was a sunny day and I’m not a great photographer. I trust you come here for realness and not professional-grade photography!

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After:Kitchen Island After 2.jpg

Speaking of photography: do you know what’s impossible to photograph? A freaking window. But I love the way this area turned out. It feels so much more intentional now that there’s a bit of decoration and proper moulding (for details, see Kitchen Progress: Faucet, Hardware, and Window Trim).

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After:Kitchen Window Clock and Hanging Cutting Board.jpg

This is a north-facing window, which I covered in frosted film (the view isn’t great) – it’s relatively low-light, but it’s enough for a potted pothos and an assortment of plant cuttings that I’m rooting in water.

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Speaking of plant cuttings: my mother always has plant starts on her kitchen window sill as well. She’s been reusing an old Eggling shell my brother gave her 20 years ago. So, in honor of my mom, I asked my friend Jenni to include a few eggshells when I commissioned these plant drawings from her.

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I know you’re supposed to remove the glass for better photographs, but it took a thousand hours to get this grid perfectly aligned and there was no way in hell I was going to take them down to do that.

Moving along, I bought a new dishwasher, refrigerator, and slide-in gas range from Abt. We love having the fridge on top, and we have an ice maker for the very first time! What luxury.

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After:Kitchen Range White.jpg

You may remember that I debated getting a white vs. black vs. stainless range (see Kitchen Decision Making). Obviously, I landed on white, and I’m happy with it. The grate helps it blend in with the existing countertop. The control console looks a little like it belongs in a hospital surgical suite, but it’s fine. I do like that the knobs are on top, and I really like the way it looks from the front.

Before:Kitchen Island Cabinet Before.jpg

After:Kitchen Island Cabinet After.jpg

You already saw this coffee + toaster nook in a previous post: Kitchen Progress: Butcher Block Shelf.

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After:Kitchen Butcher Block Shelf over Trashcans

And this door makeover was documented here: Kitchen Progress: New Door, Trim, and Threshold Tile.

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After:Glass Door with Ceramic Tile Transom

Moving on to the dining area, which is adjacent to the kitchen. I’m using the same rug, chairs, and table from our last place (seen in our Apartment Therapy tour). The light fixture is the same as the apartment as well – that’s one thing still on my to do list. I need to have the junction box relocated above the table before I buy and install a permanent fixture.

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After:Dining Room Corner After.jpg

I found the landscape lithograph prints for $5 each at an antique store in my hometown (Jefferson City, Missouri). The moulding around the dining room was installed by a previous owner.

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The big splurge in this room is the Danish corner cabinet, purchased from SharkGravy.

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That ZZ plant is turning into a beast – it’s almost overgrown this space. To the right, you can see a wall-mounted bottle opener and cap collector, which I installed at our last place as well (see Wall-Mounted Bottle Opener).

A couple more shots of the cabinet, because I love it so much.

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We keep bottles on top – shout out to my sister-in-law Kateri for this vintage Kentucky Tavern decanter. No one needs to know there’s Fireball in there.

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One parting shot. I’ll do a follow-up post to share some details and decisions I want to call out. Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll try to address them in that post!

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Sources:

For more information about this project, check out these related posts:

Kitchen Progress and Plans

I can’t believe it’s already been half a year since we moved into our house. Sorry I didn’t do a great job of keeping you all up to date on changes as they happened over the past six months! So, I thought I would do a shot-for-shot juxtaposition of the first floor tour I posted in August, filling you in on what has happened in the interim.

We’ll start in the kitchen. These photos haven’t been staged (not that I’m good at that if I had even tried): I just want to show you what I’ve done and tell you what I plan to do.

Before:

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Now:

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What’s been done:

  • The entire house was painted using the same color of just-barely-not-white that I used at our last apartment: Irish Mist by Behr. I may eventually paint rooms different colors, but I wanted a clean canvas for move-in and this was an easy choice.
  • The oak floors were in decent shape and I love the mid-tone brown color, so a full refinishing job wasn’t necessary. We had them buffed and recoated (also called “screened and recoated”): it’s a light sanding followed by a new coat of satin poly.
  • Replaced all of the kitchen lights with recessed LED lights.
  • Installed a pet door so that the cats can go on the enclosed back porch, where the litter box is located.
  • Hung temporary pleated shades (SCHOTTIS from IKEA).

Before:

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Now:

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Our move-in goal was for everything to be clean, safe, and functional. With that achieved, I now plan to take my time decorating.

Before:

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Now:

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The kitchen lights looked like chaotic eyeballs. The new flush recessed lights are much less crazy. I also scrubbed and spray painted the fan vent so that it blends in better. Yes, they installed a bathroom exhaust fan in the kitchen. SMH.

Before:

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Now:

Ceiling After.JPG

Before:

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Now:

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Before:

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Now:

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I have no idea why the previous owner installed Brazilian cherry in the kitchen. It seems as though they layered it over the original oak. But that’s not weirdest thing about the kitchen. See how the ceiling dips down in the corners? That’s not an optical illusion. That’s not a structural flaw. That’s a design choice. The ceiling is a full several inches higher in the center of the room, and bows down evenly toward the north and south walls. My friend Carolyn joked “Well, the Concave Movement started in the early 1800s. It was an aesthetic designed to confuse and delight.”

Confuse and delight!

So weird! But less noticeable now that the walls are white. We’ll probably live with it forever, unless it impedes future kitchen renovation plans.

What I plan to do, short term (within a year or so):

  • Buy a new rug, table, and possibly chairs. The table is shot, and I’d prefer black chairs that are sturdier. The existing chairs still look good but are rickety for everyday use.
  • Buy a credenza or cabinet of some sort
  • Install window shades
  • Install a new light fixture
  • Hang art and add plants
  • Paint the wainscoting around the dining room (it’s currently the same color as the walls). I’ll probably do pure white – black or some other color would be interesting, but I’m afraid it would look too chopped up by the window and door.
  • Replace the back door with a glass door, so that we get more light and can see into our backyard.

What I plan to do, long term (five years from now, maybe?):

  • Full kitchen remodel: the existing kitchen is totally fine, so there’s no hurry to renovate, but we’ll eventually replace all of the cabinets and appliances.
  • Add a window to the east wall (so that we get more light and can see into our backyard, as with the glass door)
  • Replace the large window next to the dining table: the existing windows are vinyl and the style isn’t appropriate for the house. We’ll do Craftsman casement windows (something like these). The trim around the window will also be replaced with Craftsman style trim.

That’s enough for now!

New House Tour: Main Floor

Thanks for dining at Palermo’s Pizzeria! Jarrod’s your waiter and he’ll be taking care of you this evening while we tour the first floor of our new house.

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Let’s start in the kitchen. It’s the best room of the house right out of the box, which isn’t to say it’s perfect, but it’s functional and is the closest to being pretty decent!

In case it’s not obvious, that’s not our table nor our curtains. The house had been vacant since October 2014 and was mostly empty except for a lot of junk in the garage and basement. I think this table was an attempt at staging, to make the place seem homier. It disappeared the day before we closed; the junk unfortunately stayed put. (The house was sold as-is, so they didn’t have to clean it.)

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We’re not going to talk about that enclosed back porch right now: please pretend that moldy mess doesn’t exist. That’s what we do every day.

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The kitchen cabinets are kinda nice: the drawers are full-extension and everything’s sturdy, but they were also put together poorly and some weird choices were made. That upper cabinet to the right of the sink, for example, is a base cabinet: it’s way too deep to be up top and Jarrod is definitely going to ram his head into it while loading the dishwasher.

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That island is gigantic. I’m excited to have so much counter space on either side of the stove and four matching stools lined up at the bar.

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Another “Good ’nuff!” paint job from the previous occupant. That door on the right leads to the basement.

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Past the kitchen is the staircase I love, terrible beast of a project that it is. Looks like someone started stripping that sixth baluster and then said “Fuck this!” A few months from now, I’ll probably do the same. My only saving grace is that I don’t want to strip to the point of re-staining (that would kill me and/or I’d set my house on fire), just to the point that it can be a clean paint job. I want the risers and balusters to be white, with the handrail and stair treads stained brown.

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There’s a half-bath next to the stairs. The toilet flushes and the sink drains water, and that’s about all it has going for it currently.

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I’ll make it as nice as possible with a minimal amount of money, and then do a full renovation down the road. This bathroom renovation will take priority over the upstairs one because more people will use it and it currently feels crummier.

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downstairs11Moving on to the living room. I love this view.

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Blogging is weird: it’s hard to know what balance to strike between “We’re excited about this house we bought!” and “Look at this messed up thing! Here’s another bad choice! And why in the hell would someone do this?” Just know that while I point out all the flaws, I’m excited about the overall promise of the house and still think (85% of the time) that we got a good place! Like George Harrison said in that weird music video that creeped you out as a child: It’s gonna take time, a whole of precious time, it’s going to take patience and time, to do it right and undo all the things some idiot did before you.

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This decorative fireplace will be nice eventually. I’ll paint the brick (it’s already painted – that’s red paint with hand-drawn gray “mortar” lines) and rebuild the shelves. Art — not a TV — will go over the mantle. Nothing against TVs, I just don’t like them up high.

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I’m a little overwhelmed by how to arrange furniture in the living room. There’s a lot of room to work with, but the space is divided visually by the entryways. Neither half is big enough to contain an entire seating area, so whatever couch + chair arrangement we come up with will have spill into the middle of the room. My friend’s mom (hi, Mrs. Priebe!) is an interior decorator and I’m roping her in for advice.

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The front sunroom used to be an exterior porch. It was enclosed a few decades ago, with cheap linoleum on the floor and cheap acoustic tiles on the ceiling. All of it will get changed in time. It’s a sunny bonus room and I look forward to having some comfortable chairs out there for reading and coffee. And lots of plants!

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The brick on the original exterior wall is real. The “brick” on the interior side is not.

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Those are plastic bricks, glued to a thin layer of concrete, which was applied to a piece of wall panelling, which was stuck to the plaster wall. Yeesh. This was one of things we were able to tackle prior to moving in, so it looks quite different now. Pics to come!

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The next post will tour the basement and outside, where we’ve already done a lot of work, so there will be before & after photos of some unglamorous but very necessary changes.

Lighted Leaning Bookcases

My wariness of decorative items — as mentioned in my last post — extends to books, which might be an unusual stance for someone with a master’s degree in Library & Information Science.  But, having worked in three libraries, an illuminated manuscripts gallery and a rare books shop, I agree with the first law of library science (though I’m not sure it’s enforceable in any jurisdiction): Books are for use.  Sure, they’re pretty, but without use, there is little inherit value.  I got all preachy about this before our last move and streamlined our collection, trying to keep only the books that we love, would want to read or reference again, or would want to be able to loan to someone else.  Maybe I’ll hoard books in the future when we’re homeowners, but as frequently-moving renters, a smaller library makes sense.  Books are heavy, man.

Here’s what the bookcases looked like the last time you saw them:

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And here’s what the bookcases look like these days:

Styled Leaning Bookcase

I swapped out some houseplants, got a new stereo and moved the booze to a bar stand.  I tried to style it up a bit, which isn’t my strong suit, but I’m really happy with the current look.

Bookshelf Styling and Storage

Sloane Leaning Bookcase – Crate & Barrel
HEKTAR – IKEA
Big Jambox – Jawbone
Rugby Stripe Bin – The Container Store
It seems like the EcoLogic Pots may no longer be manufactured, which is too bad because they’re awesome looking. I have them scattered throughout our apartment.  Chicagoans can find them at Gethsemane; they’re pretty expensive on Amazon.

Leaning Bookcase Cat

We’ve had these bookshelves for five years and they’ve held up really well.  They’re available only in brown now; some similar white options are:

Bookshelves Storage

The striped bin is perfect for hiding ugly board games and whatever else we want to toss in there, and the HEKTAR spotlights cast a really nice light in the evenings.

Lighted Leaning Bookshelves

The Big Jambox was a splurge and well worth it.  It’s plenty loud for our apartment and it connects wirelessly via Bluetooth with my iPhone and iMac and Jarrod’s iPad mini.  It has a super long battery life, so we can move it to the kitchen or backyard for hours without a power cord.

Styled Leaning Bookshelves

See that electrical outlet on the floor to the right of the bookcase?  That is some crazy stupid luck.  I don’t know why it was placed there originally, but the location couldn’t be more ideal for this arrangement.  All of the cords are hidden neatly behind the bookshelf.

Leaning Bookshelves

Read any good books lately?  Or read Emily Henderson’s blog and been driven crazy by the fact she doesn’t spell “cord” correctly?

Wall-Mounted Bottle Opener v. 2

Last you saw this wall-mounted bottle opener (see here), I had not yet hung a cap receptacle.  I fixed that this afternoon after picking up an ASKER container at IKEA.

The ASKAR is flat-backed, so it hugs the wall nice and close.  The bottle opener, by the way, is the Classic Zinc Starr X from Amazon.

A perfect excuse for a Sunday afternoon beer.  Go Jayhawks!

Note: I’m not actually a Jayhawks devotee, but I have a few friends who are and I’m easily swayed by others’ sports enthusiasm.  See: the 2011 World Series.  See also: my friendships with Emily Cripe and Jenni Wu.

Also note: I must give credit to Andrew and Lanie – their sweet setup gave me the idea to do the same.  Check it!