Kitchen Before & After: A 1970s Kitchen Gets Open Shelving and Safer Appliances

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Kitchn reader Heather knew the time had come to remodel her 1970s kitchen when she started smelling gas: “Our oven smelled like gas for the first 10 minutes after being turned on, and the outside got as hot as the inside, which was too dangerous for a child, and we have a 4-year-old,” Heather tells us. So, inspired by this kitchen, she set about to design something a little more airy and open.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

What a change! Here’s what else Heather has to say about her renovation:

We didn’t want a wall oven any longer, so this meant ripping out cupboards to remove the oven and also the cook top we currently had. Our dishwasher had also stopped running, so in having to replace all 3 of these items, it just made sense to do that side of the kitchen altogether.

I entered the remodel with a pretty set vision, but my vision changed here and there as the project went on. My contractor and I worked really well together, and he’d often suggest great ideas and the kitchen morphed into something that is pretty much a dream kitchen for me.

We tried to keep our contractor budget to below 25k, our budget for appliances being separate, since we had a splurge item on that list (the Aga stove and the butcher block from Grothouse). There weren’t really any challenges, except in not having enough of matching pieces of metal or wood, but since we were going for a rustic lived-in look, we weren’t completely married to all pieces looking perfect or matchy-matchy. We like the fact that copper acquires a patina, that using butcher block as an actual workspace will change its look over time, that the countertops might acquire a chip here and there, and we like that the metal isn’t all uniform and the wood isn’t perfect.


  • Barn wood from an 1850’s barn that has been dismantled on my husband’s uncle’s property for years
  • Zinc and rusted iron and rusted iron hinges (on the coming island doors) and galvanized metal – all from either the same barn or my husband’s grandfather’s workshop. He was an engineer who built a lot of things.
  • Pietra del cardosa countertops
  • Sapele mahogany & sapwood end grain butcher blocks from Grothouse Lumber – island top and workspace built in to the counters
  • Copper sink
  • Bronze sheet metal from my contractors workshop for the backsplash
  • Lots of mason jars – mason jar light above sink is from a shop on Etsy
  • LED barn light
  • IKEA spotlight track lighting with snaking arms – we call it Medusa
  • AGA legacy stove
  • KitchenAid dishwasher
  • Lots of pieces that I’ve had around the house forever (an old wooden boat with shelves, now repurposed into a spice rack. Lots of apothecary jars from a foray into terrariums, an old rusted coffee can lined with an ikea container, etc.)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

We only had the functional side of our kitchen remodeled, or that was the plan and we mostly stuck to it. The other side of the kitchen had had a cheap off-the-street white hutch/cupboard type thing, a hand-me-down antique pine cupboard and my husband’s grandmother’s kitchen table. We ended up putting a pantry on that side, that we had intended for the functional side, but i realized it was a design flaw and completely undid my work to keep the kitchen open and airy feeling. It closed everything in. When moved to the other side, it had a better feel of continuity.

I bought a bunch of organizational containers to help the kitchen with its clutter problem and messy cupboard issue I’ve always had before. These plus chalkboard stickers have cut down enormously on that clutter!

We’d also had a dollhouse in the middle of one of the walls, previously. We moved that to a corner and painted that corner with chalkboard paint. Now my daughter has a corner to herself.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
Thanks for sharing, Heather!

(Images: Heather K. via The Kitchn’s submission form)