Before & After: A 1920s Kitchen Gets a Bright & Modern Makeover

Before & After: A 1920s Kitchen Gets a Bright & Modern Makeover

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Emily Billings
Oct 25, 2016
(Image credit: Sarah Waldman)

Sarah and Nick purchased their 1924 traditional island cottage in 2013, and spent the next five months renovating much of their new home. They were working with a very tight budget and a very real deadline; baby number two was on the way and the couple had made a pact that the kitchen be completed before his birth. Naturally, this made tackling the project a particular challenge. Since Sarah is a food blogger with a great eye for interior aesthetics and husband Nick is an architectural designer and maker, who better to handle the project?

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

The transformation involved adding on a "modern box kitchen that was scabbed onto their traditional island cottage." The thought behind the design was that it would feel intentional and unique while still respecting the rest of the home. Influenced by Sarah's career in cooking, the space is bright and airy, thanks to the installation of an oversized picture window and skylight, and an open layout that allows the family to all gather inside the space; cooking, building legos, and watching the wild turkeys in their backyard. And thankfully, the kitchen renovation was completed within their deadline — by only six days time!

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

From Sarah: The location (on a dead-end street and a short walk to town), a guesthouse (to rent for supplemental income), the inherent charm, nice proportions, small size, fair price, and the right scope of work sold us on the space.

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

The design was conceived around the act of cooking and photography. The goal was to use light materials (in color) with an abundance of natural light to allow me to use our kitchen to further my work in food writing, recipe development, and cookbook creation. We also wanted it to be completely connected to the dining room, and have an easy view into the yard to watch the kids. Another consideration was having all of the materials be made by Nick, a factor in a wood countertop, in that he could fabricate it himself and not have to use expensive subcontractors. Our end goals were economy, simplicity, and lightness.

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

Nick learned a lot about construction and how to keep water out of a dry house (ha!). I learned to be patient (because doing it yourself always takes longer) and creative (because a tight budget means simple solutions). It was important not to compromise good design with bad craft, to make each choice count (everything had to be deliberate), and not to rush (redoing stuff means lost time and money). We identified the things that really mattered to us, those that we touch and use everyday, and spent money on those (specifically the windows and range).

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

The most obvious lesson is that there will always be projects. The list just grows…renovate bathrooms, new gutters, new roof, finish shingling, move the front stairs, paint exterior trim, replace the last window, build a patio space, make a fire pit, consolidate the boys to one room / build cool bunk beds, and make a bigger office/guest space so we can actually invite friends to stay!

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

Thank you, Sarah & Nick!

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