Renovation Diaries

Before & After: This 1920s Spanish Bungalow Gets a Kitchen That’s Infused with Warmth and Style

published Mar 19, 2022
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Credit: Petra Ford

Stephanie Wong and her partner, Daniel Watson, were happy that the 150-square-foot kitchen in their newly purchased 1920s Spanish-style home had not been redone. It definitely “needed some help,” Stephanie admits. It was closed off from the backyard, had older white appliances that were perfectly serviceable but nothing special, and it felt disconnected from the warmth of the rest of the home. (The good news is that the rest of the home was really charming. “It’s got the original hardwood floors. It has beautiful arches … so much natural light everywhere. We walked in and immediately felt good vibes,” she says.) Because the kitchen had been untouched, the couple felt like they had free rein to make the space their own.

Credit: Stephanie Wong

After missing out on another house they liked that had gone for half a million (!!!) over asking price, they were excited to have their home and focused on transforming their new kitchen into the modern and welcoming space they had dreamed of. They dubbed the house Finca Glenfeliz — finca meaning country estate in Spanish and Glenfeliz being the name of a street that runs through the neighborhood. The couple was anxious to get started, so they started with little changes right away. “It was [painted] a creamy beige but we wanted it brighter and whiter,” she says of the lackluster kitchen. “So before we even moved in, [Daniel] and I and a friend painted the whole entire house ourselves.”

Credit: Stephanie Wong

They decided to live in the kitchen for a while to get a feeling for what they really needed. This was a smart move and especially helpful because it was the couple’s first renovation project. It quickly became clear that the original kitchen felt congested, and they wanted the kitchen to lead straight to the backyard. One of the things they liked best about “the house that got away” was the “indoor/outdoor flow,” Stephanie explains, with the kitchen leading out to a deck. 

Credit: Petra Ford

Stephanie’s Renovation in 15 “Simple” Steps

  • Step 1: Paint.
  • Step 2: Move in.
  • Step 3: Get a feel for the old kitchen and decide what needs to be changed.
  • Step 4: Knock out the laundry room wall to add more space and incorporate smaller European appliances to fit beneath the counter.
  • Step 5: Open up the kitchen and dining room with a newly created archway.
  • Step 6: Tear out the old kitchen.
  • Step 7: Work on electrical and plumbing installation.
  • Step 8: Install drywall, tiled flooring, and warm-colored cabinets.
  • Step 9: Finish off cabinets with brass pulls.
  • Step 10: Make way for new appliances, including a gorgeous, Italian-made stove.
  • Step 11: Select backsplash tile.
  • Step 12: Plaster finish on the walls to warm up the space.
  • Step 13: Add lighting and open floating shelves in place of upper cabinetry.
  • Step 14: Install concrete-style countertop.
  • Step 15: Decorate with embellishments!

The indoor/outdoor flow inspired the plan to knock out the wall to the laundry room located next to the kitchen, and put in French doors opening to the soon-to-be deck. The other structural change that brought it all together was opening up the dining room and kitchen with a dramatic arch. 

Credit: Petra Ford

Stephanie started planning for all of the major changes. “I have a background in branding, and I’m very visual so I created a lot of different mood boards,” she explains. Because of the home’s Spanish style, they aimed for a balance of warm desert vibes with a modern twist.

Once all of the plans were in place, the couple began tearing out the old kitchen. To save money, they remained in the house for the duration of the renovation — aside from a two-week trip during the most intense phase of construction. Mostly, they managed to get by with fashioning a makeshift cook space in the dining room while construction continued. They also worked on incorporating the former laundry room footprint into the enlarged kitchen layout by tucking a smaller, European-style washer and dryer under the kitchen counter.

Credit: Petra Ford

Read more about how the couple decided to lose the nearby laundry room to open up the kitchen: This Couple Put Their Washer and Dryer in Their Kitchen — And It Was the Best Decision They Ever Made

After demo, it was time for electrical and plumbing updates, followed by new drywall and a subfloor. Then they were ready for cabinets. These were a big splurge with semi-custom cabinets from Joshua Tree-based designer Fire on the Mesa. The warm, light honeyed tones of the white oak, accented with matte brass pulls, set the stage for the rest of the space. 

Throughout the process, the couple were inspired by a trip to Mexico and the dream of making the kitchen feel like a welcoming vacation. Stephanie especially loved the look of red terra-cotta clay Saltillo floor tiles, which came next. 

Credit: Petra Ford

Then it was time for new appliances — and a change in plans. They opted originally for a standard big-box store fridge and stove, but the stove didn’t quite hit the mark. So they switched gears and returned it so they could install a showstopping, $3,000-plus Bertazzoni instead. To complete the stunning look, they tiled the backsplash in gorgeous, handmade Moroccan zellige in Glazed Earth and plastered around the range hood to create a cooking space that feels absolutely warm and inviting.

Credit: Petra Ford

The kitchen walls got a textured look with Roman Clay by Portola Paints. It’s a plaster finish that’s much more organic than typical drywall, but with a smooth and subtle look. Light fixtures (with their terra-cotta hue), and the addition of open floating shelves (in place of traditional upper cabinetry), along with quartz, concrete-style countertops from Caesarstone completed the picture. 

After all that was complete, Stephanie focused on adding the fun stuff. Think: plenty of greenery, a wall hanging from Küdd:Krig HOME, a growing wine collection, and pretty dishware.

Credit: Petra Ford

With the new archway between the dining room and kitchen, and the French doors opening to the backyard deck, the finished space is everything the couple hoped for — warm and inviting, modern and inspired, and, best of all, a place that feels like they’re on vacation. And despite a couple of instances of trial and error, “Looking back, it was fun,” Stephanie says with a smile. “Especially in the pandemic, when there wasn’t that much to do, it was so nice for us to have this shared kind of experience to be working on something together.”

Were there stressful moments? Of course. But Stephanie can’t wait to continue renovating the rest of the house and has words of encouragement: “If I can do it, anyone can!”

Credit: Petra Ford

Thanks for sharing, Stephanie! 

See Stephanie’s Full Reno Diary