Before & After: A Kitchen and Dining Room Renovation Honors a Home’s History

updated Sep 10, 2019
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“Nice bones.” That’s how Alison Caporimo and her wife Beth Dreher described their New Jersey house the first time they walked through it.

“We had been looking for a home for about a year in a very popular market,” Alison writes. “We didn’t want to pay a premium for a flip that didn’t feel like us or spend a ton of money undoing a bunch of really bad ’90s renovations.” When they found their 1920s center hall colonial, it was exactly the “version of our grandparents’ houses” that they had hoped for, according to Alison. It was “full of charm, mostly untouched, and maybe in need of a little love.”

The kitchen and dining room particularly required some love. “There was a tiny kitchen that had been remodeled for renters, complete with a dropped ceiling and plastic tile floors meant to look like wood,” Alison writes. The bathroom above the kitchen was leaking into the ceiling. And the whole room was lit — as Alison puts it — with “those go-to boob sconces.” (Paints a picture, right?)

The couple had one main goal for their renovations: “We wanted to enhance what the house has always had to offer and to honor everyone who has lived inside it and cared for it before us,” Alison writes.

It took about six months and $27,000 to give the kitchen and dining area its brand-new life; Tom Frederick of TNS Home Improvements helped make the magic happen. Special details, like these chic pendant lights, bridged the new with the old.

Bigger changes included taking down the dining room wall, replacing two windows, moving the stove, and installing hardwood floors, plus cabinets and countertops in the kitchen.

And then there was the ceiling: “One surprise is when our contractor opened up the kitchen ceiling to find a 6-inch slab of concrete sitting on a strip of molding with hardly any support,” Alison writes. “Apparently, ’70s bathroom renos were known for leveling the floor by pouring massive slabs of concrete. In the event of our contractor trying to wedge a support beam underneath this slab, it came loose and the whole chunk of it almost crushed him and his team.” Scary!

Alison’s biggest piece of advice for people taking on similar projects is to back away from their Pinterest accounts. Alison says she was so immersed in her board during her kitchen renovation that she realized she wasn’t stopping to consider her own creative solutions. “It’s good to get ideas,” she writes, “but you also want to give yourself room to make something totally new and special.”

Thank you for sharing, Alison!

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Before and After: A Kitchen and Dining Room Reno Honors a Home’s History