We tend to not include too many personal stories on our blog…but I feel like our kitchen remodel has been a supporting cast member in not only our lives but the lives of any client who saw the construction, along with friends, family and peers who heard us talking about it and helped us work on it.
As a quick recap, we live in a home that had an addition put onto the back of the house in the 80s…they literally just slapped it onto the back of the house, we found siding and shingles in the walls during demo. When they busted through the back wall to create a doorway from the kitchen to the back room, they neglected to properly reinforce a load bearing wall. When we bought the home, the ceiling was newly painted in the kitchen and we soon realized why when the first heavy rains came and large water stains appeared. Over the years we tried to find the leaks which continued even after new tyvek and siding was installed, our new upstairs drywall kept cracking and we couldn’t figure out why, and the house was starting to become depressing, especially since we had a 2, 3, and 4 year old to raise. In comes our hero, Andy, of Worth Design Build who walked us through the scary moments that part of the upper floor of our home was being held up only by 2 2x4s and (I kid you not) SIX NAILS, but who also talked us through how to fix it well, fix it right, and fix it without costing us thousands. We also loved working with Iron River Construction who replaced part of our roof to make sure everything was sealed up tight.
And us being us thought, “hey, since we have to tear up the entire kitchen ceiling and the back room is all patched and ugly anyway, lets remodel, we hate our kitchen!” and then, us being further us thought, “hey, this back room is awkward and the kitchen is, too, it would be better if we switched them!” So the journey started.
We had Andy’s expertise and also utilized a great program that St Louis Park residents have at their disposal…an architect comes to your home for two hours to help give ideas for only $25! We couldn’t pass that up! For us, we needed a mediator to take my super simple aesthetic and John’s “lets build as big and fit as much in here as we can!” energy and find a healthy middle. Through this program we met Jeremiah Battles of Acacia Architects and working with him was such a joy! He helped us see that a functional kitchen footprint is about the same size no matter how large the room is, and gave us the great idea to line up the back door with the island and light fixtures…to see the space in functional areas and gave us ideas that inspired us even further.
This is our original kitchen. NO counter space, not much room to walk around in…cramped and not functional…
As with any remodel, the moment you open a wall, you discover 45 new things that weren’t done correctly. John found exposed live wires buried in the walls, duct work improperly routed, and numerous plumbing and electrical DIY projects that were done so incorrectly it started to feel like it was on purpose. Slowly the two room project leaked to various other rooms in the house as John fixed all the old mistakes just to get to doing the original job. We always tried to see the silver lining in everything, like the fact that Cooper loved the hole in his bedroom floor that opened to the kitchen below it! And the kids helped us work and demo! Below, you can see the family’s game faces.
The kitchen had a totally unnecessary soffit that made the ceiling feel low and dark, we think it was there to keep smoke over the oven since the oven’s exhaust fan was just an opening to the outside! We quickly got rid of that fan (and the breeze that blew through our house consistently) and the soffit, reinforced the opening from the old kitchen to the new, and got to work. It was two and a half years of work since we only built when we had money and John was doing almost everything himself.
A small cramped kitchen, was the perfect size for a family dining room. The birch bark wallpaper and schoolhouse industrial chandelier were the splurges for this room (want to ever have a marriage building activity? hang wallpaper together) and I wanted to keep it simple and clean. The grey in this room is slightly darker than in the kitchen so everything ties in together, but the room feels more intimate. We also love that the room gave us a clean large wall to feature our custom Josey Lewis art piece, I just adore this room. A huge shout out to Sarah of Lifestyle Interiors for the color choices and helping me tie all our ideas together!
And THIS is the back room. The room we initially saw as a studio, that quickly became a well used family room, that turned out to be a drafty cold back room we never used. We blocked it off completely, and fully demoed it. The decision to switch the kitchen to this room came easily to us as we could sacrifice this space without too much inconvenience and John could work at his own pace without having to clean up each night. It was basically a workshop he slowly turned into the kitchen. Oh, and drywalling that angled ceiling? The dude deserves an award for that work!
I went to school for interior design, and architecture is a passion of mine (though it is very hard for me to design my own spaces!). John and I love all things old, unique and antique, but we didn’t want a kitchy country kitchen or something that was shabby chic. I like clean lines and a fairly monochromatic color scheme with punches of texture and color. Industrial modern is one of my favorite design aesthetics, along with primitive antiques. Primitive design has always resonated with me because it is so practical, yet with solid hand crafted quality and just a touch of decorative embellishments.
The kitchen is a balance of modern and old, cool and warm. Textured concrete countertops are sleek yet have a worn texture, the mahogany cabinets have a shaker design and add that touch of luxe and have pulls that have the same texture as the concrete, the backsplash tiles are the same color as our front room studio and are modern and fashion forward, the barn wood again gives texture and echos the concrete color while beautifully contrasting the warm wood of the floor and cabinets, modern appliances and industrial stools also balance the design. Cook books, trivets, pots, and bowls we regularly use are display pieces along with an awesome piece of a farmhouse hung up high as decor. The industrial pendant lights have my favorite Edison bulbs in them and give off a warm light at night.
When I found this 1800’s Norwegian hutch at Carver’s The Nature of It, I initially walked away…it would have been the largest antique purchase we had ever made. However, I kept having dreams (yes, I dream about furniture) about it, and two months later it was still there, and we had the anchor point of the kitchen.
Ryan Noble’s craftsmanship is simply impeccable. We are over the moon with how this 100 year old salvaged barn wood looks in our kitchen!
Speaking of workmanship, John’s talent really shines when he is doing the little details. He added these little cubby holes because he can’t help himself, he has to give purpose to every surface…and they look so fabulous. And the way he meticulously married the concrete, barnwood siding, and his handmade cabinetry was truly impressive. Yes, I know how lucky I am to be married to this man…for so many reasons!
John and I talked about how we wanted our house to flow and worked the design around that. We like open breezy spaces, but I’m not a fan of open concept homes. I like separate rooms for separate things. This design allows us to see from one end of the house to the other, but still feels cozy and gives each room its own identity. The angled archways were already a part of the home design, so John made sure to keep that look for the arch from the dining room to the kitchen. And when we designed the front room and dining room, we purposefully kept an open hallway from the front of the house to the back for good hyper kid traffic flow and to make the space feel large and clean.
This is the view from our front room to the kitchen area. This room is the first we really remodeled when we moved in and it set the tone for the rest of the house. I can’t tell you how much we love the first floor of our home now! The years of hard work and scrimping and finding creative solutions were worth it!