Before & After: A Dated, Builder-Grade Kitchen from the Early 2000s Becomes an Open, Airy Stunner

published Jul 3, 2021
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Before: Outdated kitchen with wooden floors and cabinets and round glass dining table
Credit: BHHS Chicago - Isabella De Santis

With red-orange cherry “wood” floors and cabinets, dark brown and black speckled countertops, and black appliances, homeowners Erica and Chris Ashe’s kitchen was like a time capsule from the late ’90s and early 2000s when they moved in.

“It was your typical circa-2000 builder-grade home,” Erica (@chitownhouse) says of her Chicago townhome. She and Chris bought it for $50,000 less than their house-hunting budget with the intention of using the leftover money to bring its style into the 2020s.

Credit: Erica Ashe

First on the couple’s reno list was knocking down the wall between the kitchen and living room. An open-concept floor plan for entertaining friends and family was a must, but it was a hard-earned project.

Credit: BHHS Chicago - Isabella De Santis

“Nothing is ever smooth sailing when it comes to home renovation, despite what most home improvement shows on TV tend to lead you to believe,” Erica says. “Almost every project had some small hiccup.”

Credit: BHHS Chicago - Isabella De Santis

When they decided to remove the partition wall, Erica and Chris found both plumbing and electrical in the wall, which required additional costs and outside help to move. “We were too nervous as rookies to deal with moving gas, HVAC, and electrical,” Erica says. The wall project had them washing dishes in their bathtub for three months during renovations.

Credit: Erica Ashe

But tearing down the wall was a catalyst for the rest of the kitchen and dining renovation project — and for the whole house. “It makes all the difference. Not only does it make the space feel bigger, it is also lighter and brighter,” Erica says. “It changes the entire dynamic of the home and feels a lot more family-friendly.”

The dining area, now furnished with caned chairs, a large dining table and bench, and a modern bronze chandelier, provides a perfect transition from dining to lounging between the living room and kitchen. Also helping to make the transition seamless is the light-toned oak floors (which Erica says do a better job disguising stray pet hair than the cherry ones before them) the Ashes installed wall-to-wall from the living room to the kitchen.

And in the kitchen, in addition to maximizing seating and prep space with a new island, the dark cherry cabinets have been replaced with bright white ones with sleek black hardware. The chrome sink was swapped for a more industrial-looking matte black one, and the addition of the island also allowed for the two striking pendants. The real wow factor in the space is the tile backsplash behind the stove, a geometric choice from Cement Tile Shop.

Although they worked with a contractor, Erica and Chris selected and ordered the finishes on their own to save money. “It really expanded our options, allowing us to get the customized look that we wanted,” Erica said on her blog.

The kitchen, now a custom black and white (Benjamin Moore’s Super White) beauty, is Erica’s vision come to life. “After our contractor gave us initial blueprints, I brought the file into Photoshop and tweaked it a million different ways to get it exactly how I envisioned it,” she writes on her blog.

Although Erica says that no part of a home reno is easy, the “easiest,” or most fun part for her was designing the space — and then getting to see that exact design realized in her dream kitchen.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Before and After: A Dated 2000s Kitchen Becomes an Open, Airy Stunner