Kitchen Tour: Matt and Blair's Fresh Retro Kitchen

For the last two years, Matt and Blair have been working on their old, fix-em-up home in Columbus, Ohio on East Tulane Road. This home is a gem in the making, and nowhere is this more apparent than their kitchen. Their kitchen has beautiful blue-green walls, in a color that's very hard to photograph accurately: It shifts between pale blue, green, and turquoise in a delightful play of colors as the morning sun comes in. It's so lovely, and yet it's just one of the many smart, modern, and retro-inspired decisions Matt and Blair made in their kitchen.

Matt, Blair, and Hudson (their sweet, friendly dog) live in an old fixer-upper near downtown Columbus. It's in an old neighborhood near the university, and it's full of 100-year-old four-square homes that have often been in the hands of the original owners until very recently. That was the case for Matt and Blair; there were only two or three owners before them in the life of this house.

So when they bought it they found many, many layers of wallpaper over the plaster walls, and a ton of cosmetic work that had to be done. They have been spackling, painting, re-plumbing, and laying flooring themselves — all the work has been done by their own labor, with some help from family. This has been a laborious process stretching over the past two years, but they're almost done! The kitchen is finally sparkling and full of light and color, and they are enjoying it a lot as they finish off the last bits of renovation upstairs. They are getting married in the autumn, and hope to have everything done by then.

The kitchen is a wonderfully pleasant space: A big room, with high ceilings, and windows open to the backyard. Even though the house itself is not terribly big, the kitchen feels so spacious. They chose a "fresh retro" look, that great blue-green color, and bright red cabinets.

A distinctive facet of this tour, in fact, is that Matt and Blair chose to preserve many things about the kitchen as it was (see the dramatically different BEFORE photos in the kitchen gallery!) — including the cabinets. Instead of buying a new sink and cabinets they had them refinished in town. The sink was refinished with fresh porcelain enamel, which cost less than $250 — significantly less than a new sink! — and preserved some of the history and charm of the old kitchen. They also had the steel cabinets painted a fresh cherry red, and a new plate made for them too!

Overall, this was just one of the loveliest kitchens I've ever stepped into, and I love how the modern touches of glass tile and walnut countertops enhance the vintage details that they have kept.

Blair was cooking sausage and peppers while I was there — a fresh yet comforting meal that definitely suits their style, and their kitchen.

The Kitchn Questionnaire

1. What's your cooking style?
Simple, quick and super fresh.

2. What inspires your kitchen?
A fresh approach to retro. We tried to be mindful during our entire renovation that "just because we can doesn't mean we should." As a result, we ended up refinishing the original '50s steel cabinets but added new modern elements such as solid walnut counter tops, glass tile backsplash, and a custom-routed faceplate under the sink that really give the space a high-end feel without sacrificing character.

3. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
The original porcelain sink.

4. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
Every artist was first an amateur (don't be afraid to try new things).

5. Biggest challenge in your kitchen:
Keeping the travertine tile clean.

6. Biggest indulgence:
The glass tile backsplash. Luckily, we saved a lot of money by re-purposing the cabinets and finding a discounted source on the tile floors.

7. Dream tool or splurge:
We would love a new refrigerator (our current model was a $100 Craigslist find).

8. What are you cooking this week?
Homemade pizzas with mushrooms, chicken, bacon and white sauce.

9. What cookbook has inspired you the most?
Giada De Laurentiis' Everyday Italian (great risotto recipe) and Matt’s mom’s family recipes.

10. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
Thanksgiving Day brunch for Blair's entire family to announce our recent engagement.

Resources

• Original Republic Steel Cabinets - refinished at General Theming Contractors
• Sink - Refinished by Porcelain Professionals of Columbus
• Travertine tile floors - closeout special at The Home Depot
• Countertops - Custom-built from 5/4-inch thick walnut purchased at Wood Werks
• Backsplash - 1-inch white glass purchased from Hamilton Parker
• Appliances - Craigslist and family "hand-me-downs"
• Accents/Decorations (picture frames, rack above sink, and kitchen table) - IKEA.
• Rug - Urban Outfitters

Thank you so much for letting us peek into your kitchen, Matt and Blair (and Hudson!)

Visit their house renovation blog: Tulane Rehab
Visit Matt's site: The Real Russo

Want to show us your own kitchen?
We're always looking for real kitchens from real cooks.
Submit your kitchen here.

(Images: Faith Durand; Matthew Russo)

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