Before & After: ‘90s Shaker-Style Cabinets Get a “Dramatic, Earthy” Makeover

published Dec 20, 2023
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Kitchen before remodel.
Credit: Diana Yen

After more than a decade in the food industry, food stylist, cookbook author, and Studio A La Carte owner, Diana Yen, knows her way around a kitchen. But when she moved into her earthy Ojai home, the kitchen didn’t feel like the most conducive space or layout for her and her work, which was going to be important. So she knew some changes had to be made. 

Credit: Diana Yen

The kitchen was last renovated in the ‘90s with shaker-style cabinets and dark countertops, which were typical of the period. “I’ve gotten used to kitchens that look like this, but nothing about it felt like a place I was inspired to cook in,” Yen said. “The appliances were old and run-down and never at the right temperature. There were outlets all over the place and light switches that didn’t turn anything on.”

Cooking isn’t just Yen’s job — it’s also her passion. She chose not to work with a designer, so she set out to find new appliances and materials, making design choices and coordinating with her contractor — Yen even found ways to save money throughout the process. Here’s how she transformed her run-of-the-mill kitchen into a dramatic, moody space.

Credit: Diana Yen

How the Pro Food Stylist Transformed Her Kitchen

Before beginning the kitchen renovation, Yen had to ensure the updates would cost around her budget of $12,000. Having worked in the food industry for many years, she developed relationships with brands she partnered with to cover some material and product costs. For example, instead of replacing her kitchen cabinets, she painted over them to save money. She worked with Farrow & Ball to pick the shade “Jitney” for the upper cabinets and walls and “London Clay” for the bottom cupboards. 

Credit: Diana Yen

Yen’s neighborhood has all electric appliances, so she researched what options would work (and look!) best in her new space. “I decided to change my stove to a Big Chill induction model,” she said. “I loved that it was traditional in style but environmentally friendly, and there was a cool matching fridge that looked like a bank vault.”

Credit: Diana Yen

Admittedly, the quartz countertops were the priciest addition to the new kitchen. Yen visited over 10 showrooms to find the perfect option that looked similar to marble but didn’t require much maintenance. “I planned on real marble, but after finding out about the special care it requires, I went with quartz. I was advised by professionals that if I were to resell the home, people would prefer that,” Yen said.

Credit: Diana Yen

Because of her work in the kitchen, Yen also needed a big sink to house dirty dishes that are “always a big pileup at the end of a work day.” She chose Native Trails’s black farmhouse sink, which complements the new appliances. To complete the gorgeous kitchen, Yen ordered custom light fixtures and brass light switch panels from Etsy. She also found cabinet door handles on eBay. 

Credit: Diana Yen

It’s hard to believe that Yen’s kitchen looked so basic and dull before. Now, it’s a dramatic, earthy, and functional space for a pro to thrive in. “The finished kitchen is so chic and compact and functions beautifully. I have always loved English country kitchens, so it has a touch of traditional but the appliances are very modern in functionality,” Yen explained. 

If you love the look of Yen’s kitchen, you have to see the rest of her home (especially the DIY terracotta-colored lime wash living room walls!). Visit the full home tour on Apartment Therapy to see more.