See How a Couple Instantly Made Their “Busy, Brown” 300-Square Feet Kitchen Look Twice as Big

published Mar 22, 2024
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Kitchen before renovation.

If you take a moment to think about how kitchens have changed over the past 100 years, you’ll be reminded that kitchens throughout history have skewed much smaller than they are in new builds.

The kitchen in Tanner Clausen (@interior.james); his partner, Tyler; and dog, Theo’s 1950s rambler-style home is expectedly small, at 300 square feet. Not to mention, it was also rather dated before Tanner, an interior designer, got his hands on it. 

It wasn’t a relic of the 1950s but rather of the early 2010s, when it was last updated. Picture “cherry cabinets, lots of busy brown countertops and flooring, and boob lights,” as Tanner describes. He says the overwhelming amounts of brown made it always feel a little bit dirty. 

Tanner and Tyler were looking for something more modern “that was bright and made us want to cook in the space every day.”

First came demo — and layout changes. 

“We started demoing down to the studs in August and completed the kitchen in early November,” Tanner says of the revamp. In the renovation, they swapped the fridge and range placement, and extended the cabinetry and countertops in one corner. “The flow is much better now,” Tanner says.

The appliances were a splurge.

The biggest surprise in the kitchen renovation was how expensive the appliances were. “We knew we would get new appliances, but panel-ready really tipped the budget!” Tanner says. But, he says, they were worth it, as they help to maintain the bright white airy feel in the space. 

To offset the cost of the appliances, Tanner and Tyler made and painted their own range hood to match the kitchen cabinetry they ordered. “We framed the hood itself with wood and then used a thin MDF wood board to frame and trim [it] out,” Tanner explains. “We used joint compound to give some texture to the piece and sanded and smoothed for a more organic finish. I had The Home Depot color match our upper cabinet color so that way the hood looked very custom and seamless.”

White walls, counters, and cabinets brighten the space.

Tanner and Tyler worked with a contractor, Steve, and a kitchen planner (from Semihandmade), Tracy, on the refreshed kitchen cabinetry. “We saved quite a bit of money by going with Semihandmade custom fronts on IKEA base cabinets,” Tanner says. “It makes your kitchen look a bit more high-end and nicer-quality than doing all IKEA. This was considerably cheaper than doing all custom cabinetry.” 

And although Tanner and Tyler worked with a designer to plan the two-toned look of the cabinets, they installed the IKEA SEKTION bases themselves. “It took about two full weekends to put the cabinets together, but it saved us quite a bit,” he says. 

The lower cabinets are Semihandmade x CLG Saddle Shaker, and the uppers are a Shaker-style matte choice in stone that help things feel much brighter and airier than the cherry wood before. The fresh white paint (Behr’s Smoky White) and quartz countertops do the same. 

The tile and hardware add an old-school feel.

The off-white zellige backsplash tile brightens up the room, too, but also adds a hand-hewn, old-school look that Tanner and Tyler both love. In addition, “We went with unlacquered brass hardware to keep up with the vintage timeless vibe of the kitchen,” Tanner adds. (The knobs and handles are from Rejuvenation, and the sconce is from Lulu and Georgia.)

Tanner says if there’s one thing he and Tyler would change about the kitchen, it might be the floor tile. While they love the (again, classic, vintage-inspired) asphalt- and silver-colored checkerboard porcelain tiles, they might choose them in a smaller-scale size just to incorporate more of the pattern, Tyler says. (The ones pictured are 24 inches.)

But in the big picture, when asked what he would change, he says, “Honestly, not much!” “We wish we would have started earlier,” he says. “We love the vintage floor paired with the more modern cabinetry and countertops.”

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Before and After: A “Modern Meets Vintage” Kitchen Makeover Saves Big on Luxe Cabinetry