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Our Best Before-and-After Kitchens

Here, some of our most memorable kitchen renovations in stark before-and-after contrast

Produced by Lucy Fitzgerald
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  • Renovations are part and parcel of owning a home, and while few are stress-free (Hmm—granite or marble, hardwood floors or subway tiles?), the end result can be stunning. We have collected some of our most memorable kitchen renovations here in stark before-and-after contrast to inspire readers who may be staring down the abyss of renovation. Read on for the fabulous results.

    The kitchen needed a sturdier island that better fit the scale of the space. Appliances integrated into the custom cabinets by Casa Verde give the kitchen a furniture feel that blends with the adjoining living room. The island chandelier and the hanging lantern between the wall cabinets are from Dennis & Leen.

    See the “before” photo on the following slide.

  • BEFORE

    The original layout of this kitchen was large and utilitarian, appropriate for raising a busy family. With the kids out of the house and homeowner Susan Brunn living more independently, she desired a more updated, stylish look for her kitchen.

    See another view of the updated kitchen on the following slide.

  • AFTER

    The updated kitchen is much brighter and more cheerful than the previous one. Wavy handmade glass imported from Germany and installed in cabinet fronts reflects light and adds character to the space. “Calacatta Gold” marble countertops give the space an airy, lighter feel.

    Photographs: Werner Straube
    Design: Rosemary Merrill

    Explore the rest of this remodeled suburban Minneapolis home here.

  • BEFORE

    Prior to renovation, this kitchen was narrow and unremarkable.

  • AFTER

    Above, homeowner Stephen Heavner enjoys his new oversized island, which was designed to emulate a tall farmhouse table with mahogany turned legs and a custom beadboard base.

    See another angle of the updated kitchen on the following slide.

  • AFTER

    Designer (and co-homeowner) Bob Williams incorporated a mix of materials—Carrara marble, honed black granite, stainless steel, and subway wall tiles­—in the expanded space. A 1936 Magic Chef range adds vintage appeal.

    Photographs: Colleen Duffley
    Design: Bob Mitchell

    See the rest of this stylishly updated classic home.

  • BEFORE

    Wooden cabinetry lining the walls made Trish Scalia’s kitchen seem dark and constricted.

  • AFTER

    One island was replaced with two—one for cooking, the other for cleaning—to ease traffic flow. Pendant fixtures from Circa Lighting illuminate the counters. Stools from Restoration Hardware add a touch of rustic charm at the island for casual seating.

    Photograph: Francesco Lagnese
    Kitchen Design: Nancy Thornett

    See the rest of this family-friendly D.C.-area home here.

  • BEFORE

    The original kitchen was spacious but not comfortable or inviting. There were two large existing islands, including this large trapezoid one. 

  • AFTER

    The two islands were combined into one large island, introducing more balance to the space. With seating for six, the island features “Amsterdam Bar Stools” in blue from the Suzanne Kasler Collection for Hickory Chair. Three nickel-banded pendants from Lauren by Ralph Lauren for Circa illuminate the kitchen and visually fill spatial volume above the island.

    See this kitchen remodel from another angle on the following slide.

  • BEFORE

    Previously, the knee wall separating the two rooms had little functional purpose.

  • AFTER

    Now, the granite-topped cabinets against the knee wall serve as a staging area and provide extra storage underneath.

    Photographs: John Bessler and Peter Rymwid
    Design: Julia Kleyman

    See more of this showhouse kitchen here.

  • BEFORE

    The countertop in this original kitchen broke up the room, but the addition to the back of the house allowed the homeowners to completely renovate and open up the space.

  • AFTER

    In the new kitchen, a window above the sink was high on homeowner Ellen Conley’s wish list. This window embraces the historic language of the original windows, notes architect Donald Lococo. The massive island, stained in a delightful chocolate brown, serves as the focal point of the kitchen work area.

    See the remodeled breakfast room on the following slide.

  • AFTER

    Two steps up from the family room, the breakfast area is bathed in light from new windows that also repeat the unusual grid of the house’s original windows.

    Photographs: Gordon Beall
    Design: Mary Jo Donohoe

    See the rest of this Maryland renovation here.

  • BEFORE

    Lacking flow, this kitchen seemed stuck in the ‘80s.

  • AFTER

    The new traditional-style kitchen is more open. New custom-built cabinets in creamy white now complement the architectural details of the house and provide generous storage—a must-have for homeowners who love to cook and entertain. A peninsula was removed to open the kitchen to the family room, and a large island painted a soft gray now anchors the space. To bring in more natural light, two small kitchen windows were replaced with taller ones that rise from the countertops and symmetrically flank the range.

    Photograph: Emily Followill
    Design: Debbie Cummins

    Take a look at the rest of this Atlanta remodel here.

  • BEFORE

    When he began this redo, the kitchen was “state-of-the-art 1980s,” laughs designer Eric Lysdahl, who worked with a kitchen design company on the makeover.

  • AFTER

    “With no redeeming interior architectural features to start with, I was able to do a complete renovation that included drawing all interior moldings, millwork, and ceiling details,” explains Lysdahl. The “blank slate” allowed him to create a working kitchen with great flow and a spacious center island for cooking and casual dining.

    Photograph: John Bessler
    Design: Eric Lysdahl

    See the rest of this revamped Connecticut Tudor-style home here.

  • BEFORE

    Both narrow and short, with limited storage space, this kitchen was due for a makeover.

  • AFTER

    The galley kitchen was updated with new floor-to-ceiling cabinets (to maximize storage space) and Calcutta marble countertops that were designed to complement the elegant millwork in the home’s main living area. The cabinets are glazed with a subtle honey-toned stripe, and the ceiling is painted a deep taupe to highlight the elaborate new crown molding. Floor tiles laid on the diagonal “blow out the space and make it seem larger,” explains designer Gerald Pomeroy.

    Photograph: Gordon Beall
    Design: Gerald Pomeroy

    See the rest of this gorgeous Boston brownstone here.

  • BEFORE

    This Scottsdale condominium had not been updated since its construction in 1979. “It was in dire need of a lift to today’s standards,” says homeowner and designer Christopher Coffin. The icy white kitchen lacked character and warmth.

  • AFTER

    The only room in the condominium in which Christopher opted to retain the original white marble floor tiles was the kitchen, where, he reasoned, they contributed to his vision of chic French style. Getting that look required a complete transformation with all new cabinetry, countertops and appliances.

    Photograph: Michal Venera
    Design: Christopher Coffin

    See the rest of this Arizona remodel here.

  • BEFORE

    Blue cabinets against white walls gave this kitchen a depressing pallor, which was only emphasized by the high ceilings and expansive wall space.

  • AFTER

    The kitchen was transformed with flame-mahogany trompe l’oeil over gray Formica cabinets. Bamboo details and bright colors give the space a West Indies feel. The brightest hue, a snappy lemon-lime on the kitchen’s far wall, lights up the darkest part of the space, while a duskier chartreuse defines the adjacent entry.

    Photograph: Bruce Buck
    Design: Michael Connors

  • BEFORE

    A dreary kitchen with 1960s cabinetry and a worn linoleum floor begs for an update.

  • AFTER

    New painted cabinets with a mix of open shelves and glass-front doors were added. A vintage-looking apron sink with bridge-style faucet blends easily with a modern stainless-steel stove, vent hood, and dishwasher. A blue-and-white color scheme is warmed by coral accents.

    See another view of this remodeled kitchen on the following slide.

  • AFTER

    The kitchen’s dining area is centered around a functional 19th-century cookstove, which was lovingly refurbished with extra-fine steel wool and stove-black polish–“just enough to show its age nicely,” says designer Liz Mitchell. Accessories reflect the stove’s vintage styling: pewter platters, iron sconces, a pewter chandelier, and white stoneware.

    Photograph: Kevin Lein
    Designer: Liz Mitchell

  • BEFORE

    The biggest obstacles to overcome in this kitchen were an outdated heating system and the location of the kitchen sink, which was in the center island facing away from the windows.

  • AFTER

    The kitchen received a mechanical workover as well as some cosmetic changes. The radiator and upper cabinets were removed to make room for open shelving, the sink was relocated to the window wall, and a new island was built for casual meals.

    Photograph: Gordon Beall
    Design: Stephen O’Brien and Eileen Deymier

  • BEFORE

    This former Manhattan apartment kitchen felt constricted with heavy red walls, dated cabinetry, and black countertops.

  • AFTER

    Instead of replacing cabinets, designer Brad Boles changed their look with wallpaper insets. "We had a limited amount of money to make a major difference, and this was a great trick that I highly recommend," homeowner Jill Zarin says.

    Photograph: John Bessler
    Design: Brad Boles

    See the rest of this reality star’s real-life redo here.

  • BEFORE

    The asymmetrical cabinetry gave the kitchen an unpolished feel and did not maximize the usable space.

  • AFTER

    Cabinets in the butler's pantry were reconfigured to provide a more symmetrical layout. New countertops, a wine refrigerator, and additional refrigerator drawers were added to transform it into a workhorse prep and storage space­–perfectly placed between the large kitchen and the dining room.

    See this kitchen remodel from another angle on the following slide.

  • BEFORE

    Architect Dan Rew was brought in to relocate the kitchen to the center of the home, creating a family-friendly hub for meals and socializing.

  • AFTER

    The kitchen work area was shifted from the rear of the home to the heart of it, and 500 square feet were added to accommodate the adjoining breakfast nook and mudroom. An oversized center island was also added, perfect for food prep, art projects, and meals on the fly.

    Photograph: John Bessler
    Design: Joe Lucas and Parrish Chilcoat

    See the rest of this New Jersey home here.

  • BEFORE

    A former fraternity house at the University of Maryland was in desperate need of an update as part of the 2009 Baltimore Symphony Showhouse. The before kitchen had no seating and outdated cabinetry and appliances.

  • AFTER

    A new cherry island with a bowed limestone top offers seating for two. A Wolf Appliance cooktop and hood puts the chef in the middle of the action. Weathered-finish faucets by Herbeau add charm.

    "I like the idea of cooking as theater, and having the cooktop in the island provides for that," says designer Blue Arnold. "Family and friends can interact with the cook."

    See the updated kitchen from another angle on the following slide.

  • AFTER

    Granite countertops from Brazil in Cabernet Brown are finished with wire brushes for a distressed-leather look. Wet Bar Sub-Zero refrigerator drawers and a wine cooler are near the door to the dining room, providing a convenient area for guests to gather out of the main workspace.

    Photograph: Gordon Beall
    Design: Blue Arnold

    See the rest of this impressive kitchen update here.

  • BEFORE

    The existing kitchen was just nine feet wide, making it seem more like a “bowling alley” than a kitchen, according to designer Mary Douglas Drysdale.

  • AFTER

    An addition bumped out the kitchen several feet on one side and allowed for a large center island and more seating space in the breakfast room. Wine is stored in cubbies below the island and across from the bar area. To improve the home’s rear entrance, an interior stairway that leads to a ground-level mudroom was added.

    See another view of this updated kitchen on the following slide.

  • AFTER

    A secondary sink eases meal preparation time, especially with multiple cooks in the kitchen.

    Photograph: Ron Blunt
    Design: Mary Douglas Drysdale

    See more of this gorgeous Capitol Hill renovation here.

  • BEFORE

    The existing kitchen read “outdated” instead of the classic “Old World” style that designer and homeowner Norm Wogan desired.

  • AFTER

    Only the original Wolf range remains, and even that was recalibrated and repainted. The beautiful old Belgian black stone floor contrasts with new pale Venetian plaster walls. An airy look prevails despite the black floor, thanks to his opening up the room with two pairs of transomed French doors. "I pushed out the bay. The doors, which are made of leaded 'restoration glass' that looks old, bring in light from two different directions," Norm observes.

    Photograph: Werner Straube
    Design: Norm Wogan

    See the rest of this Old World revival home here.

  • BEFORE

    The 18x18-foot kitchen in this 1928 Colonial-style house in Boston had great bones with less-than-desirable aesthetics. White metal cabinets, red linoleum countertops edged in steel, black-bordered pink tile wainscoting, and asbestos floor tiles begged for an update.

  • AFTER

    The modest kitchen got a modern update with retro appeal. The limited space was maximized with a built-in refrigerator, an appliance garage behind a tambour door, and a niche for the toaster. A wine refrigerator is under the counter.

    See this kitchen update from another angle on the following slides.

  • BEFORE

    The kitchen’s lone cooktop looks small against the original kitchen’s largest wall.

  • AFTER

    A traditional English-made Aga stove replaced the previous cooktop. The wall behind is set with a bold pattern of white and green tiles with chamfered edges for texture and color.

    Photograph: Bruce Buck
    Design: Eileen Kollias

    See the rest of this cozy English kitchen here.

  • BEFORE

    While the configuration of this original kitchen did not change, major updates were needed to the cabinetry and countertops.

  • AFTER

    Brand-new amenities and a cushy cork floor are sharp updates. “The cork is soft and never shows anything,” says homeowner and designer Bill Murphy. “It has a grayish cast that is nice with the stainless finishes.” The swirling grain of the brown marble countertops complements the variegated coloring of the cork floor. Mirrored backsplashes and a stainless-steel panel behind the range hood reflect the light and make the room feel open.

    Photograph: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn
    Design: Bill Murphy

    See the rest of this updated Atlanta home here.

  • BEFORE

    The existing dining-living room and kitchen shared a cavernous space, dominated by a stone fireplace and vaulted ceilings with dark, weathered trusses. Windows were odd sizes, awkwardly positioned, and trimmed with barn board. “The house had no architectural charm whatsoever,” says designer Ken Gemes.

  • AFTER

    Walls were built to separate the kitchen and the dining-living room. "We needed some distinction between the dining area and kitchen," Gemes explains. The wide doorway still allows for comfortable interaction between the rooms. 

    The kitchen, redone to encourage casual gatherings, is anchored by a large mahogany-topped island where family and friends congregate. A boxed beam ceiling with beadboard insets and simple cabinets with chrome hardware give the kitchen a vintage feel. A Roman shade in Bijou Stripe from China Seas adds a pop of warm color, and caned-back bar stools from Thomas Pheasant for McGuire offer comfortable seating at the island.

    Photograph: Tria Giovan
    Design: Ken Gemes

    See the rest of this family vacation home here.

  • BEFORE

    This home’s existing galley kitchen was not ideal for the type of entertaining the homeowner’s frequently hosted.

  • AFTER

    Without completely redesigning the kitchen, the couple was able to retain its galley-style layout while making it more hardworking and aesthetically pleasing. Cabinets were torn out and replaced with recessed-panel Shaker-style ones, which were then painted sunny yellow, a departure from the suite of whites that illuminate most of the rest of the house. Brass hardware from the existing cabinetry was nickel-plated to give the recycled items modern spirit.

    The terra-cotta tiles on the kitchen floor were exchanged for limestone. In the breakfast area, a round table and modern wicker chairs are set in front of a wall with soaring windows that light up the space and afford views of the beautiful garden.

    Photograph: Erik Johnson
    Design: Loi Thai

    See the rest of this bright and cheerful remodel here.

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