Before and After: Designer Emily Henderson Tackles a No-Demo Kitchen Reno

published Jul 27, 2023
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.
kitchen before remodel: white cabinets, drawers, counters, kitchen island, wood ceiling, accents
Credit: Courtesy of Emily Henderson

When stylist, author, and design extraordinaire Emily Henderson is casting for a makeover location, people in her orbit — especially those who follow her blog — take notice. That’s exactly how Julie, an antiques dealer, found herself working with Henderson and her team after Julie’s sister, a long-time follower of Henderson’s, encouraged her to apply.

The design brief? A no-demo, seven-week kitchen renovation that would focus predominantly on cosmetic fixes to give the space personality. The cherry on top was that Henderson had just signed on to partner with Crate & Barrel for the release of their new home renovation collection, and they’d be able to leverage some of those pieces in the redo. 

Credit: Courtesy of Emily Henderson
1 / 2

Truthfully, the kitchen wasn’t exactly in bad shape before. It had great bones — a wood-clad ceiling, a large window above the sink, doors that lead out to the deck. The appliances were just a bit dated, and the finishes a little blah (or, in the case of the ceiling, a bit too orange). An interior pass-through window, sandwiched between the fridge/freezer combo and a solo upper corner cabinet, wasn’t really doing much for the room’s functionality. Henderson saw potential and knew it didn’t need much tinkering to be beautiful and more modern.

As a first step, Henderson and her client decided what features were worth salvaging, going through the room element by element to arrive at their reno punch list. “Starting with the mentality of ‘what can we keep?’ first, instead of ‘what do we want to change?’ can drastically reduce the work, and therefore, time and budget,” says Henderson.

“So many elements just need a new color or a hardware tweak, but the thing itself is workable. The countertops were fine! The backsplash was fine! What was bringing this kitchen down was the dated appliances, the subdued color palette, and the less functional island and lighting. So that’s what we focused on.”

Credit: Courtesy of Crate & Barrel
1 / 3

Henderson shopped for new stainless steel appliances and made the decision to not open up any walls to move plumbing or electrical because of the unknowns, even though ideally, some of the outlets would have been moved to more inconspicuous, convenient locations. What she would do, though, is close up that awkward wall opening and pull out the lone corner cabinet, replacing both with open shelving for a light and airy look.

The old island had to go, as did the bland blue wall color. As for the cabinets, they’d pull out the uppers (and the microwave over the original stove), and keep the bases, choosing to paint them Sherwin-Williams’ Rosemary (SW 6187), a handsome herbaceous green that sets off the Shaker-style fronts. “Paint is the most transformative best friend when it comes to high-impact improvement,” says Henderson. “Even the most dated cabinet front profile can look chic in a dark matte color.” 

A new stove and concealed vent hood whisper quiet luxury while adding a counterpoint that balances out the existing window along the sink wall. Wallpaper from Kelly Ventura English Garden Wallpaper in Blush was installed above the beadboard backsplash for a pop of pattern. Pepe & Carols solid brass towel bar, tricked out with s-hooks, introduces a touch of shine and storage to keep cooking tools handy. A portion of the budget was also reserved for new cabinet fronts for panel-ready appliances, which gives the space a more streamlined look. Henderson reinstalled the sweet white plate wall on one of the kitchen’s walls, building it out with additional platters.

Credit: Courtesy of Crate & Barrel
1 / 2

For the pièce de résistance, Henderson brought in Crate & Barrel’s Terra 78″ Marble Top and Natural Oak Wood Kitchen Island with Storage and pulled a few of the Petrie Bleached Ash Upholstered Counter Stool with Performance Fabric up to it. “This island is substantial, grounding, and made of extremely high-quality real materials — white oak and marble — and by adding it to this kitchen, it made all the rest of the elements better,” says Henderson. “Not everything needs to be splurgey or high-end, but a few substantial pieces can go a long way.”

She also sourced an over-the-island fixture, the Andre Brass 2-Light Pendant, and hardware from the collection, a mix of the Classic Round Brushed Brass Cabinet Knobs, the Classic 5″ Round Brushed Brass Cabinet Drawer Bar Pulls, and the Classic 6″ Round Brushed Brass Cabinet Drawer Bar Pull. In fact, her biggest trick to make the space sing came down to a clever hardware hack. “Updating hardware does a lot to modernize a space, but I want to encourage mixing the updated hardware — a knob and a handle and not just a knob or a handle (I’m not talking about on the same drawer, of course),” says Henderson. “This makes your kitchen look more custom and thoughtful.”

Now, the family can’t get enough of the space, and the island is the perfect place for meals. And if you, too, would like to see and hear more about this renovation, you can check out additional details on Henderson’s blog