Before and After: This Renovation Bucks the All-White Kitchen Trend

published Mar 27, 2018
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If you’re tempted to skip this post because you assume the wood cabinetry—and everything else—will be painted white, please trust me when I say you’re going to want to see this one. Just don’t get too attached to that tablecloth.

Before the big reveal, let’s fully examine this full-length shot of the kitchen before, which reveals both the paneled ceiling and the peeling floor. Still, the kitchen has its charms: a lovely wood built-in, a quirky door leading to a secret passageway, plenty of natural light. What this kitchen needs is someone who will replace everything that needs replacing, save everything worth saving, and help it to be as beautiful as it can possibly be.

The person for the job was clearly photographer Johanna Dominguez, who utterly transformed this kitchen with an admirable boldness and clarity of vision. A room that was once sweet-n-country is now warm and vibrant, overflowing with color and texture. This renovated kitchen is the opposite of my style, and I absolutely love it.

Interestingly, the room’s most eye-catching feature was the last one added:

The last element to be added, which really pulls the kitchen together, is the Frida Kahlo bamboo curtain. The room behind that is a walk-in pantry that originally was a back stairway to the basement that I blocked off to create the pantry. I didn’t want folks looking into a messy pantry, but didn’t want another door in a room that already had too many doors. The curtain was the perfect way to add that division but still making it accessible.

That’s really smart. By my count, the kitchen already has four doors, so finding a way to avoid adding a fifth—while also gaining the opportunity to pay homage to a revolutionary painter on a daily basis—was a good move. There also appears to be more counterspace, and the new sink is much more spacious—not to mention amazing.

This shot shows some of the elements that Johanna was able to preserve during the harrowing renovation process:

This was my first time ever designing anything and it wasn’t without hiccups. I had no idea (but had a good hunch) that the brick was there. It was buried under an inch and a half of plaster and several layers of wallpaper. Uncovering this was a great moment as I feel it adds to the kitchen feeling old.

Another mishap was the ceiling caving in. I wanted to keep the original ceiling, but without the support of the walls, it started to come down. What I found under the ceiling though turned out to be phenomenal. The exposed rafters added to the character (and the age) of the kitchen tenfold. The [dried] flowers are from my house-warming party and I plan to add more as I receive them.

The ceiling is indeed stunning—there’s nothing better than when what seems like a disaster turns out to be a win. Congrats, Johanna!

Can’t you just imagine hunkering down in this kitchen on a snowy winter day, playing games at the table and drinking endless pots of tea, awash in the sunlight bouncing off the sunny walls? Dreamy. The brick, terracotta, and wood tones are inherently cozy, and the room as a whole is the definition of warm.

While Frida Kahlo rules over this kitchen now, it was actually inspired by other artists:

When I was looking for inspiration for this kitchen I turned to the impressionists—Monet and Van Gogh. Both of their homes were filled with so much color—especially Monet. Something I find lacking in much design today is color, but colors make us feel so much and I see no reason to run from them.

I already had a lot of blue in other rooms in the house and I wanted something brighter and warmer for the kitchen, so I borrowed some from Monet’s dining room’s color palate. Yellow is an incredibly difficult color to work with, I found, but it helped set a cheery tone for the kitchen. I wanted to have a poured cement floor, like in Monet’s kitchen, but it was not feasible. The terracotta-like tiles were a decent substitute.

I like to call this kitchen “Spanish Country” style. I wanted the kitchen to feel old even though it was a complete gut. Keeping many of the elements from the original kitchen helped with that. I insisted on keeping the chunky original moldings, which I think really brought out the character. I also kept (but rebuilt) the shoe rack under the window, the storage bench is the original storage bench, and I kept the top cupboards as windows rather than solid. The shelf that holds the pots was garbage-picked on the side of the road and is a mysterious item that no one has figured out what it’s original use was for—but it is excellent for holding pots and pans!

That brick was a great find; it pairs perfectly with the terracotta floor, and adds a restrained counterpoint to the ornate and riotously patterned tile.

I love this detail photo because it captures how well all the patterns at play come together. This kind of power-clashing—blue-streaked marble + blue tiles is a pro move—is not for the faint of heart, and it should come as no surprise that the entire kitchen was designed around the intricate wall tiles:

Most folks who walk into the kitchen go nuts over the backsplash. I found the tiles before I found anything else for the kitchen and built the concept around that. I picked up one of the yellows and one of the greens in the tiles and used that on the wall and trim. The floor tiles also were bought picking up a color within them.

Most of the décor are pieces found throughout the house or items I found in antique shop. The magnetic knife rack is a 100-year-old cedar fence from North Dakota. The cutting board is from Thin Ice Gift Shop, an establishment that carries items mostly made by local [Buffalo, NY] artisans.

This little coat rack is to the right of the doorway to the outdoors:

The coat hooks I made with old floor boards we ripped up and some knobs from the company that made the backsplash.

Again, so smart!

Finally, a bit of love for this darling spice rack—found at an antique mall—that fits perfectly into this space and this kitchen’s style.

Thank you, Johanna Dominguez!