Before and After: A 117-Year-Old Kitchen Gets a Functional, Storage-Packed Redo

published Apr 6, 2021
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When tackling any home reno, peeling back layers of wallpaper, tile, and carpeting can be tempting but scary. What you find underneath could be the stuff of nightmares (cringeworthy cracks, rot, and leaks), or the stuff of dreams. (Exposed brick and hardwood floors, anyone?)

It’s an even bigger gamble to peel back the layers of a home as old as DIYer Anna Luttrell’s (@renorowhome) 1904 rowhouse, but for her renovation, she was all in. “I’ve always dreamed of buying a fixer-upper and learning to do all the work myself,” she says. 

Anna purchased her rowhouse in Baltimore in 2018, and she has completely overhauled — thanks to lots of Googling — each room over the past three years. Her first DIY was her bathroom, and then she moved on to the kitchen: an outdated space with green walls, lath ceilings, and tan floors, but lots of hidden gems. 

Anna removed layers of ceiling tiles to expose the rafters, which made the space feel more open, airy, and industrial-modern. “I gutted the whole room,” Anna says. 

In addition to peeling up seven layers of tile off the floors, Anna peeled years worth of wallpaper off the walls to reveal the original plaster. 

After a few patches and a coat of white paint (Behr’s Swirling Water), the walls are much simpler, and the whole space is brighter. 

In the spirit of thriftiness, Anna even managed to reuse some of the layers she tore down. That cool chevron pattern on the back of the new island? That’s leftover lath from the ceiling. 

Speaking of the island, the concrete countertops add to the industrial vibe Anna was going for. She poured those herself using Z Counterform’s DIY system. Cosmetic touches like a new sink and faucet, white subway tiles, two barn light pendants, a runner from Target, and leather barstools for the island help complete the look.

To stay within her $13,000 budget, Anna installed the cabinetry herself and built the statement-making white hood and open shelving. She also did all the plumbing and electrical work. “You don’t always have to hire a professional,” Anna says. “With a lot of research and practice, you can do the scary things.”

The kitchen took seven months to finish, but that includes time split between working on the kitchen and wedding planning. “I got married during these seven months,” Anna says. “My husband moved in with no kitchen, and we washed our dishes in the upstairs bathroom for a bit!” 

But the wait was worth it. “Designing and making this home look the way I want it to with my own hands has been inspiring,” Anna says. 

If she could change one thing, Anna says she would cover the hardwood floors during the renovation. “We did a lot of damage to them, and they were just redone,” she says. 

But she’s learning to see the silver linings.

“I’m learning to be okay with mistakes and imperfections,” she says. “When I walk into my bathroom — my first project  — I see all the mistakes I made, and it bothers me. So I’m learning to enjoy the process and enjoy the mistakes. If you’re too scared to make a mistake, you’ll never try something new!” 

Her ambitious DIY in the kitchen definitely paid off as it’s now brighter, more welcoming, and more functional — not to mention her favorite room in the house.

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