Before + After: Reimagining the Kitchen, Dining Room and Home Office

Probably the most important question I had when we were looking at buying our farmhouse out here on the coast was, “what walls can come down?”. For real. We almost didn’t buy the house because we weren’t sure it was possible. As most who have owned old houses are aware, they are comprised of a series of little boxes, built that way to keep folks warm way back when. And the original kitchen and dining room were no exception to the rule. Decorated in what I’d call “oh so 1986”, there was again, as mentioned in other Before & After posts, a LOT of chiffon, a LOT of country oak, and in this room, a LOT of terrifyingly ugly brown and cream granite surfaces.

The special bonus with our house is that all those interior walls? Built with tongue & groove wood. So on the positive side, you don’t need anchors to hang pictures. But on the negative? Tearing down a wall? It’s a doozy. Nothing like the ‘Chip & JoJo’ sledgehammer deconstruction you dream of doing to “open up that wall over there”. But…it was worth it.

For this post, I’m going to show the remodel first for the kitchen in a slideshow, followed by an overview of how we did it and a few detail photos, then I’ll do the dining room and home office area (my office is a nook off the dining room), with more little details to finish it off. Cool? Cool.

The brunt of the kitchen remodel was completed in Fall 2018, which tends to happen when you’re afraid the ancient wall oven will start spitting fire and there is no vent/hood to go over the burners and you wonder how safe any of the plumbing is. Plus, that pesky little thing called claustrophobia. Ever since I removed the upper cabinets in my old house in P-town, going into small kitchens with them gives me the creeps. Just too much, too close in, and to be honest? I like to see where my stuff is. Keeps me organized and as minimalist as possible. So while running my business from the other room, I’d basically take a random break and go on a tangent removing bits and pieces…and since we still weren’t totally unpacked and the weather was nice? BBQ, Salad and Microwave Living it was for a couple of months 😉

Here’s the evolution of our kitchen from Tacky 1986 to Modern Eco Farmhouse 2020…

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Deconstruction: We kept the old fridge, which last year we turned into a curing chamber. I turned two pieces of the tongue & groove wall that was removed into tabletops for outdoor dining. All other appliances were donated or recycled. 100% of the cabinetry including the island were sold or donated. When everything was removed, you’ll see the drywall was a patchwork of horrors, so we ended up pulling everything out and replacing it. The ceiling was ugly and messed up as well, so we removed that, patched it, and covered it with tile (way, way easier than drywall).

Expenditures: Paid a great electrician to clean up everything and prep for pendant lighting over the countertops and island, wire for the new range, and brought in a great HVAC guy to install the vent for the range hood since there was none prior to this. Hired a contractor to do the drywall because at the time we didn’t know how to do it (big mistake, the guy was terrible and we had to kick him out…we’ve since learned the art, saved a ton!). Splurged on a few gorgeous thick pieces of reclaimed barn wood from Salvage Works in Portland for the island and workbench. New sink, faucet, and appliances. The induction double oven range was the dream fulfilled, I must say (and for those hooked on natural gas? This appliance cooks like a dream, cooks evenly, and works great with both All Clad and cast iron. Literally the only thing we had to replace was our stovetop Bialetti coffee maker to an induction-friendly version. And of course the pendant lighting, which I love. Amen to Pinterest for providing a link to a ‘how high to hang things’. Oh, and I did buy some smooth poplar for the upper shelves after realizing our existing old shelves from the last house were not going to be long enough for the space.

DIY: I built, sanded, stained &/or painted the base cabinets and upper shelving myself, using repurposed wood found on the property and in the barn, along with the reclaimed barn wood mentioned above. I used an Ana White plan to build the island. I also used Annie Sloan chalk paint, mixing black and white to my perfect shade of dark gray, for the floors. While I’d love to have had the cash to have everything refinished in the whole house and stained a darker color, that wasn’t an option and with all the not-cool-looking imperfections in the floor, painting them was a risk I’m glad to have taken.

Design Notes:

  • Choosing to do extra-deep (30″) counters was so so SO worth it. Those extra 5″ allow us to have a few select appliances on the back of the counter while not sacrificing prep space.
  • The Ancona stainless backsplash for the range with the built-in shelf and hooks was very much worth the $100, particularly with our decision to paint the walls white.
  • I absolutely adore the range hood. I was nervous about glass but it actually is easier to keep clean than the stainless one we had in our last house.
  • If you can afford it, get a double range. By DIY’ing the countertops, we were able to go to the next tier with the range while going with a more standard dishwasher and refrigerator.
  • Speaking of base ‘cabinets’, we have no regrets about doing the workbench style kitchen. We have a credenza in the dining room for our silverware, cloth napkins and dishtowels, and everything else is visible, just like in a commercial kitchen. Easy to see what you have, easy to keep clean, and easy to not hoard because everything is on display 🙂
  • The other day I noticed on a kitchen photo in a magazine that framed photos can be integrated into upper shelves, so I’m sharing how I did this (it’s a photo of myself back in ’08 with my Rottie, Daisy, that I love).
  • The Ikea stainless bar used for hanging all the kitchen tools on the right of the range is something that gets a lot of compliments by visitors for its usefulness, and I couldn’t agree more. I’ve never liked the ‘basket of tools’ – again, visibility is important to both of us.
  • Everything is zero-VOC, from the water-based stain to the white paint on the walls and chalk paint on the floor.
  • And speaking of the floor, as I mentioned we painted it. Ultimately we decided to take it into the dining room as well, as for some reason the last owner had it gloss-coated which was super annoying. Painting also really helped with the open floor plan of the kitchen and dining room.

Which leads to the next part of the project – the dining room, and the nook off of it that I transformed from “chiffon filled plant room” to my home office!

 

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After finishing the kitchen, I was wiped out. For dining, we initially used the small breakfast nook table my husband had built in Portland (from reclaimed materials, of course). Then I bought a round table at Target which was okay, but didn’t allow for us to seat 4 *and* have all the food on the table. So I put the next plans together to make a “real” dining room, from finding a square jute rug to finally building a farmhouse table earlier this year, to investing in an actual chandelier (the latter took me forever as most seemed to be either really expensive, or really tacky).

As mentioned earlier, I used our existing credenza for linens and flatware, placing it along the wall between the two ‘rooms’ and built a simple shelf on the wall for my antique cast iron skillets with cookbooks on top. The credenza was my grandmother’s, used behind the bar in their basement, and I treasure it. (Speaking of their bar, it was nothing short of creepy to be sitting in a doctor’s office a couple years later, flipping through the pages of a local magazine to see an entire photo spread of that basement bar, now clearly taken over by hipsters.) This year we also bought a liquor cabinet of sorts from World Market, more for aesthetics, not because of a need or massive alcohol storage, haha. And finally

With the nook off the dining room, immediately I knew it was the perfect spot for my office. Honestly, I don’t like working far from the front door in a small dark room like some. So I built the console that holds my printer/etc to fit it, using 100% reclaimed wood from the barn, inspired by Ana White’s Taylor design. Heavy as can be, but hey it’s not going anywhere. The former breakfast table from the old house, which I mentioned was a temporary dining table, is now my super simple desk, allowing me to gaze out the window at the flower garden when I look up from whatever work, blog, etc. I’m focused on. I also found a smaller version of our jute dining rug to fit perfectly in there which was pretty rad.

So there you have it ! Hopefully this inspires some DIY’ing out there!

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