Before and After: A Second Kitchen Is Put To Much Better Use

updated May 3, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Susan Harlan)

An extra kitchen? As tempting as it would be to trash it every year during the holidays, pay for a professional cleaning, and shut the door again until the next big event, an extra kitchen almost always seems like a total waste of space. In this renovation, the upstairs kitchen becomes a much-more-useful room!

(Image credit: Susan Harlan)

From baby blue kitchen to gloriously green bedroom! This room is not only beautiful; it’s also an example of taking sorrow, anger, and frustration and turning it into something beautiful. Here’s how Susan Harlan describes her project:

The funny thing about decorating the room is that I pretty much already had everything I needed, so it only took a day or so. I did it in the days after the election last year, as a distraction — a creative outlet because I was upset. I really only had to get the bed and the rugs. Because I’m a collector, I had been collecting things for the space for the last few years, and all of this was tucked away in a closet upstairs. It’s important to me that a room is personal and that it reflects things that I love and places I have been. I can remember where I got everything, and why I liked it when I saw it.

An extra bedroom is such a luxurious thing to have—we are lucky enough to have two guest rooms and our families are already outgrowing it—especially one this cozy and personal. Guest rooms can tend to feel like The Island of Misfit Toys, so it’s sweet to see one filled with treasures and memories.

(Image credit: Susan Harlan)

Susan’s home was featured on Apartment Therapy, and she described this room as her biggest challenge: “I need to convert the kitchen upstairs into a fourth bedroom. I’m hoping to do that soon.” And she did it!

She described herself as “excited to have a new room to decorate,” which is the ideal attitude to have going into a renovation.

(Image credit: Susan Harlan)

Here’s the room mid-renovation, the moment when both inspiration and panic can set in. Luckily, it seems like inspiration won out for Susan:

There was a kitchen upstairs because the house was a duplex when I bought it. But there is only one entrance on the front of the house, so I knew this would be easy to change. My contractor took out the appliances and the cabinets and countertops, and because there was an odd nook in the wall once this was done, we decided to put in a built-in bookcase. I love my books and objects, and I thought it would be a nice place to display some things. I had an electrician put in some new sockets, and then there was the drywall, and then I ended up switching contractors, so someone else did the floor and the paint. The hardwood under the linoleum wasn’t salvageable, and I don’t really like laminate flooring, so I chose a gray tile from Lowe’s, and my contractor did a dark grout so it has a concrete floor kind of vibe, but not industrial.

Hoorah for unconventional flooring! Tile is an unusual choice for a bedroom, but the one she chose is lovely, and obviously nobody is living in the room full-time, so any negative aspects (if there are any) probably wouldn’t be noticed.

(Image credit: Susan Harlan)

Built-ins are so covetable—so smart of Susan to create one when she had the chance. Here’s how she describes the rest of the decor:

I had bought the art deco vanity and dresser a while ago, so they had just been sitting in the kitchen, waiting for it to be turned into a bedroom. I arranged my Russian doll collection on the dresser and added a green vase from Ikea, a lamp from One King’s Lane, and a vintage ceramic dish. At the vanity, I put an Eero Saarinen-esque stool from CB2. I wanted the room to be a bit art deco and a bit mid-century modern and a bit granny (the yarn paintings, the afghan and quilt, etc.). I got the rattan magazine holder on eBay. I thought it added a Florida, Golden Girls touch. The lamp and all the objects on the vanity are things I have collected (a vintage ashtray and telephone money box, etc.). The rubbish bin is from the John Derian collection for Target from years ago. The postcards on the mirror are from friends. The plant stand is vintage, as are the pots and vases.

The rugs and duvet are from Target, while the curtains are the discontinued SYSSAN from IKEA (the SYSSAN throw pillow is still available). If she ever decides to go for a more minimal style, the walls, duvet, stool, and dresser could form the basis for a modern, pretty look.

(Image credit: Susan Harlan)

The entire room has the feel of a cabinet of curiosities, what with all the collections and critters. That effect was not an accident:

I thought it would be fun to put a lot of animals in the room, so I gathered up anything animal-oriented from around my house: a carved wooden mount I picked up at a stoop sale in Astoria, painting of a raccoon, dog bookends, a snow globe of a paper crane, a plastic hedgehog, a ceramic hedgehog (I really like hedgehogs), a model alpaca from an alpaca farm in the mountains nearby (his name is Doug), plus a vintage horse door knocker. (The door was downstairs in my house, leading into a hallway that didn’t really need a door, so we moved it upstairs). I like having door knockers on interior doors – they are wonderfully useless. With the carved wooden mount and the raccoon painting, I hung another vintage painting and an antique printer’s tray that I had glued rocks, shells, and other objects (creepy doll heads) into.

I love the notion of using an “extra” room to bring together collections that might otherwise be scattered throughout the home—or might not have an appropriate spot at all. I certainly have a few collections tucked away (Russian nesting dolls, tiny deer) that I’m trying to figure out how to display in our guest room. I’d like to be able to admire them once in a while, but more importantly, I think my nieces will enjoy looking at/playing with them when they visit.

This room turned out beautifully, and Susan does a great job of capturing how inspiration and desire can take hold:

The renovation process was pretty easy. It took a few weeks to finish everything, but it was really only a few days over those weeks. This was a pretty small undertaking, all told, but it has really transformed my upstairs. So my advice is to think about what else you really want to do with your house, and then do it. In the end, I think I really just wanted a green room. The paint is BEHR Hemlock Green. I love bold paint colors and have used them throughout the rest of the house, and I’m kind of obsessed with the turquoises and jades of Miss Fisher’s living room in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, so I decided to go with a rich green. And I love it.

Sometimes you just need a green room! In the end, Susan achieved one of the major goals of most renovations:

I love that it feels like the rest of the house.

Thank you Susan!