Kitchen Before & After: Amanda Hesser's Budget Kitchen Makeover

Kitchen Before & After: Amanda Hesser's Budget Kitchen Makeover

Faith Durand
Aug 15, 2012

Let's say you wanted to make over the look of your kitchen (which you detest) but feel, rightly, that it would be unwise to spend a huge amount of money on a full renovation. What approach would you take? What would you do? Well, we should all take inspiration from Amanda Hesser's recent kitchen makeover, which turned what was rapidly becoming a dated space into something more sophisticated and modern, better tuned now for the video and photographic work done every week in this kitchen. Want to see the after?

Dark to light, right? We think it's pretty stunning!

Hesser's kitchen was renovated by previous owners before she bought the Brooklyn Heights apartment. It had a lot of the signature luxury items of a high-end kitchen: Sub-Zero fridge, Viking stove, Miele dishwasher. She installed a pantry in the dining room for extra storage space, and then proceeded to use that kitchen hard for the next 10 years. Hesser says she tested over 1,400 recipes there, and now it is the site for weekly photo and video shoots for Food52.

But the kitchen wasn't ideal. Some of those "luxury" touches made Hesser uncomfortable. Cherry wood cabinets and shiny green marble showed up unpleasantly on video, and the kitchen felt dark and dated.

So Hesser decided to renovate, on a budget. This kitchen was the place where she spent the most time, and it was the place that visually represented her business. Hesser hired a new designer, Lithe Sebesta, who helped her get the kitchen freshened up and freshly styled. A few months later, she has what she calls a serene gray kitchen, not to mention a fresh dining room area — and all within her modest (by New York standards) budget.

Amanda Hesser's kitchen designer: Lithe Sebesta

It turns out, too, that the budget constraint was actually a blessing. Hesser has smart insights on the benefits of budget renovations:

It made me wish I'd done all our previous renovations on the tightest possible budget. First, because you don't make lazy decisions, get bitten by the-most-expensive-must-be-the-best bug, or buy everything at once.

Second, because you must work harder and more creatively to get every detail done — every little knob that you track down on sale, every fixture from a little-known shop in Brooklyn, feels like a triumph, and you appreciate the results so much more. I've never been this happy with a renovation.

So, what did her budget cover? How did this kitchen move from cherry-cabinet-green-marble-darkness to the lighter, sleeker look you see here? First: Lots of resurfacing, including painting the cabinets and honing the marble countertop. The contractor cleverly masked the tile backsplash with concrete-covered boards, and Hesser and Sebesta searched out lighting and cabinet hardware that fit in the budget. There are smart upgrades and small but important improvements throughout this kitchen makeover, from re-covered chairs to a painted refrigerator.

See photos below of two of my favorite upgrades: The smart, inexpensive backsplash solution, and a fresh walnut butcher block countertop.

We rather adore this kitchen makeover. It transformed what was rapidly becoming a dated look into something more modern, much better for photography and video (key to Hesser's business), and altogether more lovely. Many more photos and details, including budget and notes on each step of the process, can be seen at Food52. Go take a peek, and let us know what you think!

Read more about the details and see more photos:
Amanda Hesser's Kitchen Makeover at Food52

Hesser's dining room pantry.

More Kitchen Before & Afters
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Kitchen Before & After: From Bland Contractor Grade to Chic Modern
Kitchen Before & After: Cheryl's 'Very Tight Budget' DIY Redo
Kitchen Before & After: Theresa's 11-Day Gut Overhaul
Kitchen Before & After: A Small Outdated Kitchen Gets a Fantastic Green Makeover

(Images: James Ransom)

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