• Melissa Sanabria


Even as a kid, I used to daydream about buying an old house and restoring it to bring it back to life (I was a huge This Old House fan as a kid which I realize now is weird). Last year we bought an adorable bungalow in Takoma Park, Maryland (just outside of DC), and had the opportunity to restore it top to bottom. It was a time capsule and I was obsessed with all of the original details. After nearly a year of planning, designing, and construction, I’m excited to finally share the before and afters with you guys (you can see more photos of the project here). I hope you love it as much as I do! If not, please don’t tell me. If you do, let me know because she is now on the market so she could be yours! I love this house and it will always have a special place in my heart.

Getting Started on the Restoration

Today we’re starting with the kitchen reveal — arguably the space that saw the greatest transformation. See that before photo on the left? The only wall we removed in the house was that one (with the scary stain in the middle). We were trying not to mess with the layout too much, but that wall separated the dining room from the kitchen and we did want to open up the space a bit. That gross stain was where the chimney was. It was dead center in the middle of the house and right where we wanted the kitchen sink to go. Although you may think it’s quick and easy to move a functioning chimney over about 3 feet, it’s actually kind of a big pain and it required careful consideration, planning, and about $5,000. We gladly payed the hefty price tag to make this transformation happen because we knew it would have a huge impact on the space.

Obviously, everything else in the kitchen had to go (although I did save the can opener) and while it was necessary, it made me kind of sad that we weren’t able to reuse anything. The cabinets were metal – just like the ones my grandparents had in their house in Levittown – and there was a large cast-iron sink that I desperately wanted to re-use but just couldn’t make it work. Don’t worry – it did not go to a landfill. We donated it to Community Forklift.

Once the wall was gone, the chimney relocated, and everything was removed, we had to update the layout to create more space to increase function and storage.

Creating Space for Modern Living

In the 21st Century, most folks like to have a refrigerator that’s actually in the kitchen. As it was, the existing kitchen couldn’t fit a refrigerator so it was cast off to the back room just behind the kitchen. To create space for the fridge so that it’s actually in the kitchen hanging with all of its other appliance buddies, we stole two feet from an expansive 4th bedroom, which ensures a modern family could not only enjoy their refrigerator but also gain a large pantry equipped with the perfect little coffee bar. I’ve admittedly had a quiet cup of joe (and / or wine) in there as I admired the fruits of our labor.

The pantry and the rest of these pretty cabinets pack a ton of storage in this small but mighty kitchen. We went with IKEA cabinet boxes, but we wanted a custom look for this special house so we worked with Semihandmade to create custom doors and drawer fronts in “clay” shaker.

Selecting the Right Appliances

We found a steal-of-a-deal on the refrigerator at an outlet store in the area. We love the pretty little red detail in those strong, industrial pulls. Most importantly, it’s equipped with a wine rack. Next, our dishwasher came from the same line, but from Lowe’s at a great price during the holidays. Lastly, we found the Italian dual-fuel range and vent hood, which was beautiful and high-quality for a great price on Houzz.

When it comes to appliances, don’t feel like you have to buy your appliances in a package deal. Sometimes package deals can be great, but it’s worth shopping around a bit to see if you can get better deals if you buy appliances in a piecemeal fashion. We wanted a professional range, but didn’t want to splurge on a pro fridge and dishwasher so we mixed things up. Our goal was to source high-quality appliances for the best price available and ensure the styles mesh well. We suggest finding a few appliances you love then shopping around for the best price.

Finishing the Space and Styling

Let’s dive into the finishes a bit, shall we? For countertops we went with Carrara, which we especially love with the cabinet color. It’s timeless and classic and it doesn’t break the bank.

Another detail we are all in love with are those brass cabinet pulls. They are so elegant and add just the right amount of warmth. As Sara and I were working late night cleaning and peeling vinyl off of every appliance and cabinet door, we had the great hardware debate of 2018: brass vs black pulls. Hardware is a serious business, people! Brass won.

We installed a combination of lighting in the space. There is under-cabinet lighting for tasks at the counter, recessed lights overhead, and simple pendants above the peninsula. When selecting your lighting, there are a lot of things to consider, but one of the key concepts to understand is the Kelvins. The Kelvins tell you how warm or cool the light is; the higher the Kelvin the cooler the light.Typically we don’t go higher than 3000K (2700K is even better). Make sure your bulbs are all the same number of Kelvins and that they don’t exceed 3000K. Kitchen lighting can be an entire blog post unto itself, but if I can impart one nugget of wisdom about lighting it’s that it’s all about the Kelvins (and you thought it was all about the Benjamins). And also dimmers. Don’t skip the dimmers.

Products and Links

You’ve been asking, so here are the deets: Cabinets: IKEA and Semihandmade; Cabinet color is “clay”; Cabinet Pulls: Pottery Barn; Backsplash Tile: Olean Starting Line; Faucet: Kohler Purist; Sink: Ikea Havsen; Pendant Lighting: One Forty Three; Under-cabinet Lighting: Kichler; Styling & Accessories: Salt & Sundry; Contractor: Wall to Wall Construction, Inc.

A huge thank you to Lisa and Sara for all the hard work cleaning and getting this little lady ready to hit the market! I am so lucky and grateful to have the most amazing ladies on my team.

Anything else that you want to know? Let us know in the comments! All “after” photos are courtesy of the lovely Erin Kelleher.

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