The kitchen renovation: Done! The Big Reveal

By Caitlin Kelly

After 25 years of ugly, we finally have our brand-new kitchen, which my husband Jose  — (thank you, Jose!) — took out a loan for, and which he allowed me to design.

(All photos here were taken by him as well; he is a professional photographer.)

Our contractor, Bruce, brought his terrific team: Tim, Mike, John, Ray and Kevin, whose patience, good humor, talent, experience, ideas and general fabulousness made this process as much fun as dust, noise and chaos for a month can be. I will miss their company, consultations and the chance to watch such skilled workmen doing amazing things.

If you live anywhere near us — north of New York City — hire them!

From initial demolition to “done!” took four weeks, as promised. That was even with a few delays — wrong tile, wrong door — that had to be dealt with and replaced.

Here are some photos — OK, lots of photos! — to give you an idea of the dozens of decisions we made along the way, and why, and how they all played together in the end.



Colors, Materials and Finishes

I chose the color scheme after reading dozens of design magazines, some of them French and English, like Country Living. I wanted something neutral, but not boring (not white!), something that would work well with the soft gray walls of the adjoining dining room and the pale-yellow-green of the hallway, visible beyond.

Having studied color at design school, I knew that red and green, (complementary opposites on the color wheel), would work — so I went with a sage green and rusty-red, accented with a rich cream, the color of very good vanilla ice cream.

I chose pale green granite counters, with a honed finish: I don’t like the high gloss of polished stone and this powdery finish is totally different in feeling. It had the artisanal quality I wanted.

I chose tile that is machine-made but appears hand-made, with minor curves, bumps and color variations. The accent tiles differ in size, shape, number and texture, but they contain all the colors in the room.

The new wooden floor is herringbone, a pattern more common in European homes.


The walls are painted a Farrow & Ball color, Clunch, a cool beige. The cabinets are painted French Gray, another of their colors. I’m a huge fan of this British company and its rich, calm colors.


We chose a Bosch dishwasher primarily because they are extremely quiet — I work at home and the sloshing of our old dishwasher drove me nuts. If we ever sell this place, I also wanted to instal high-end appliances for re-sale value.

Our gas stove, four-burner, is 30 inches wide, and counter depth, made by Bertazzoni.


I chose three wall sconces from Restoration Hardware, and ordered them on-line. I wanted a rustic, patina-ed finish to complement the hand-made feeling of the tile. Their color echoes the accent tile, copper sink and oiled bronze faucet.

Two high hats (ceiling pots) add more illumination. I didn’t want under-shelf lighting, as it would have been visible. The sconces and high hats are both on separate dimmers.


Faucet and Sink

Hammered copper sink, from Lowe’s, ordered on-line.

Oiled bronze faucet, bought off the floor at our local Home Depot; the small spout to the right contains dish soap.

I chose those colors and finishes as all hardware in the apartment, (replaced from ugly, cheap brass originals), is oiled bronze, creating a unified look. I also wanted the deep rich brown of the copper to echo the rusty-red of the sconces, the color in the accent tile and the objects on our open shelves, some of which is brown-and-white Victorian transferware, which I collect.



Custom-made, lower ones only. The kitchen is small (eight feet long). I’m short and hate reaching for stuff. All the messy things are now stowed in a cabinet around the corner.


I blew $700 on outlets that are completely flush with the walls. They’re gorgeous.


I specified no hardware on the cabinets. Styles date. They also get grubby. They also hurt when you bump into them, which in a small, narrow kitchen, you always do.

We chose to have cabinets custom-made. It was a no-brainer. I wanted what I wanted — no compromises. Yes, they were more costly than Ikea.

My reasoning? It’s an hour’s drive to Ikea; I didn’t want to waste even more time fussing with fitting the stuff into a room whose walls (it turned out) were in appalling condition. Time is money. I’m fine with this choice.

For those of you trying to decide which route to take, here’s a recent post from Apartment Therapy on the pro’s and con’s of Ikea kitchens; and 124 comments from another AT post on the same topic.

The wooden box with French writing was all of $12; I found it at a local garden nursery and, lined with plastic, it keeps salt, pepper, oils, sugar, peanut butter and honey (the bare essentials), nearby but hidden.

The cotton throw rug, $20 from Pier One, is washable and, we hope, will keep our floors looking lovely.

The shelves, and brackets, also from Restoration Hardware, were stupidly expensive, but I didn’t have time or inclination to shop around endlessly for something less, and possibly less well-made. They turned out to have a subtle pale green finish, which was perfect; had my color scheme been different — not so much!


I’m short, and so always need a step-ladder to reach upper shelves. Here’s the pull-out drawer I also specified that keeps the step-ladder handy, but hidden.


We also re-made an adjacent closet into a stone-topped breakfast bar (that holds toaster, coffeemaker and juicer, with a built-in outlet in one wall.) The three drawers below it hold all work-related papers and documents.


We are loving it — everything glides smoothly and quietly. It’s both efficient and sensual.

Now I’m looking for clients, locally and by email/photo/Skype consultation. Happy to help you choose colors, furniture, lighting, fabrics, even just one room. 

You’ll find me at or 914-332-6065.

59 thoughts on “The kitchen renovation: Done! The Big Reveal

  1. I like the wood floor. On the cusp ( who really knows when) of a kitchen remodel myself. Looking at thirty three years on this one – seems like yesterday when Mr. Larkin, a postal worker with a linoleum laying side job, did our floor. Really beautiful – and fast! That’s six months in SoCal.

    1. The floor really makes it, I think…It’s more costly than regular planks, but makes a big difference, esp. if you are creating a small space where every detail really shows up more.

      Fast was a blessing; we were away on vacation for the demolition (2 weeks) and came back for the quieter part. Our guy works on much bigger projects so he had an incentive to get it done in a timely fashion.

  2. I never realized how important the build in soap pump was next to the sink. For years I didn’t have one. Then moved into a house with one. I never thought about the transition. Then the pump broke. Argh! It’s one of those little things that makes life easy.

      1. You don’t know how much I long for a soap pump next to the sink. I HATE counter clutter while John would be content to have everything within easy reach I go behind him tucking things away except the hand soap. You have to have that out, right? I love your solution!

  3. It’s stunning Caitlin, as I’m sure you knew it would be. The crew must have found you a dream client. Able to source the materials you wanted and knowing what you wanted without wavering. No wonder you and Jose are pleased.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    1. Thanks…I was never quite sure how it would come together. One never knows until it’s assembled, which is scary. But I know the crew likes working with me, as I was able to consult and make quick decisions. I’d love to work with them again…but we’ve nothing left to renovate!

  4. this is lovely, absolutely night and day! you do have a talent for this and funny about your ‘missing’ the guys, sounds like a great crew. i think this personal example is the best endorsement for your skills and good you have begun consulting, who knows where this will lead? could be the beginning of an exciting new chapter of your life, and you can enjoy it in your beautiful new kitchen )

    1. Thanks! The old kitchen was so blah…It was great to get rid of it after all those years.

      Part of missing the guys is they’re nice guys and I work alone at home, which gets isolating. But they also bring a really collaborative spirit to the thing, and I think that’s unusual. I made sure to thank them profusely for their skills, which they told me is rare.

      I do hope some new projects come from this. We’ll see.

  5. barbfreda

    Your research and the thought you put into the kitchen paid off…Can you post a close up of the outlets? When I redid a kitchen (years ago now), I probably bought and returned three styles of outlet plates before I found something I loved..but I’m curious about what you found..
    Ingenious: step ladder pullout.
    Lovely: honed finish (I’m with you on that one)…
    Also love that you paired the sage-y green with its complement. Ends up such a pleasing whole.

    Now enjoy…

    1. Funny that so few magazines (never?) feature a honed finish on stone. I had seen two friends’ counters with a raw or “leathered” finish and it was so much more beautiful and organic it gave me the idea to go this route.

      It was funny that our extremely experienced contractor had never seen or used the flush outlets before. They really make a difference…shoot me an email and I’ll send you an image — I had seen them in a design magazine.

      I didn’t know that one typically chooses counters and then builds a design from there…I love marble, but didn’t want white again, or its upkeep; considered soapstone…I simply love the green. It’s a very subtle color.

  6. Your kitchen turned out lovely! I especially like the backsplash tiles. It feels like an accomplishment when it’s finished.
    I just installed new wood blinds on my kitchen window yesterday and I feel like Bob Vila. 🙂

  7. Absolutely lovely, you did a wonderful job and I’ve enjoyed seeing the before and after photos along with the transition posts too. I let a few more comments scattered about adding on to what others have said.

    In support of white walls, I never liked white paint until I moved to Cornwall, but my husband is a huge fan for a number of reasons and after a while it grew on me. I have some color on the walls in my studio space and en-suite bathroom, but the rest of the house has mostly white walls.

    I don’t know whether the size of our rooms or number of grey rainy days we have due to British weather caused this shift for me, but I like the light bright look of a beach cottage even though we live in a more modern and much maligned English bungalow. While our interior doesn’t have a beach cottage look either, the light looks different on our white walls and we get loads of color from art.

    Again, well done on your new space and I wonder … are you finding yourself inspired to do more cooking?

    1. There’s white and there’s white..for sure. I’ve had white in my apartment as well, and it shifts with the light from grey to mauve to whatever’s outside. But I doubt I’d ever go back to it. I find art and photos and fabrics work better (for me) when they pick up and echo the wall colors. I see a big difference when I put a strongly colored piece against a good color. (Think about the deep rich colors many museums choose to highlight their artworks.)

      We’re getting used to the new stove and oven — it us much more efficient so things heat up and cook much more quickly. Which I like, esp. when it’s tea-time! 🙂

      Planning our first dinner party soon so we’ll haul out the recipe books.

  8. How beautiful!! Congrats Caitlin. I love so many elements, the colors, the textures, the open cabinets, the hidden step ladder!! For me, the floor really seals the deal and brings everything together. You are an amazing designer!! Hope this leads to more design projects.

  9. Very nice. The CEO and I just spent four days redoing the kitchen in our cabin. It was a marathon of 12 hour days but we got about 90% down in 4 days. It still needs some finishing touches but pics and post will be forthcoming.

  10. Pingback: The view from the plateau | Broadside

  11. I linked to this kitchen renovation post from your View From the Plateau post, Caitlin, and enjoyed seeing the fruits of your labour. We renovated our own kitchen two years ago this coming April, and have definitely not regretted it for one minute. I sure wish I would have seen that unbelievable pull out for the stool though, that is really skookum!

  12. Haha … I suppose you have just been away from Vancouver far too long!
    From Wikipedia … Skookum is a Chinook Jargon word that has come into general use in the Pacific Northwest … A regional oddity, just like me!

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