Kitchen Before & After: A Cookbook Author Transforms His 1950s Kitchen

Reader Kitchen Remodel

Pin it button

After spending two years cooking and recipe testing in his 1950s kitchen, cookbook author Chris Reynolds knew the time was right to redo his kitchen. As he tells us, it was "while baking, at least, three recipes a day" that he was able to plan out his perfect kitchen — something timeless, free of gimmicks or trendy finishes.

Pin it button

A lovely transformation! Without adding any square footage to the space or moving any appliances, Chris was able to create a bright, classic live/work kitchen studio. The removal of one wall that had blocked the light enabled him to add counter seating for guests. And although he didn't add any additional cabinet space, he did put in a few more drawers and tall pantries, which greatly increased the kitchen's functionality. 

Chris also stayed with the retro vibe of his kitchen by installing quartz countertops that look like vintage speckled Formica!

Pin it button

Pin it button

Here's what else Chris says about his kitchen makeover:

The house is a 1949 ranch and the cabinetry in the before photos are original. I designed the new kitchen myself. I kept notes and sketches while I was testing and photographing recipes for my cookbook. The kitchen was very dark with only one overhead light and the window above the sink and had awkward storage with many cabinets too high for me to reach. The work triangle was efficient so I kept all the appliances in the same place which saved money.

We removed the wall between the kitchen and the laundry room and also removed a walk-in pantry. With the wall gone, light now pours in from two windows and the back door. I ran cabinetry down the entire length of the "refrigerator wall" with pantries and a long stretch of counter for baking. The open shelving was needed since there is a heat vent. It was much cheaper to create open shelves (originally intended for cookbooks) than it was to reroute the ductwork. We added an additional bookshelf at the end of the peninsula. Being a culinary professional, I have tons of cookbooks!

The goal was to create a timeless look with few gimmicks or trendy finishes.  I wanted the space to look like it had been built that way back in 1949.
The only trouble during the renovation was having to rewire half the house. Apparently having 3 breaker panels is against code. And, there always seemed to be a ceiling beam where I wanted a recessed light. But, the entire crew, and myself, remained flexible and the job got done on time. I learned to pick my battles — I was not going to give up my quartz counters or 5-burner stove!

Pin it button

Pin it button

Pin it button

Pin it button

Thanks so much for sharing, Chris!

(Images: Chris Reynolds via The Kitchn's submission form)

27 Comments