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There’s a lot to love about our circa-1916 foursquare home on Richmond’s Northside. When we bought our home in 2019, we knew it was for us. We had looked at countless other houses, and this one just spoke to us. It had everything we wanted: a grand entryway, large backyard, and had been largely and lovingly renovated by its former owners.

With all that we loved about the house, though, the kitchen was never on our list. Dated and dark, our best guess (based on our knowledge of the house and the name of the owners at the time written on the backs of the cabinets we pulled out) was that the kitchen was last renovated in the early 1980s. The most recent owners had painted the oak cabinets, but not much else had been updated.

The before

On a mission to give our kitchen a bright and updated look to match the rest of our home, we worked with my wife’s talented stepdad and mom to tackle the space one thing at a time.

The process

As with most things in a 105-year-old house, renovating our kitchen brought with it a multitude of surprises and unexpected twists and turns.

We started from the top down, dropping the 11-foot ceilings just enough to accommodate LED recessed lighting. This also allowed us to smooth out the textured paint that existed prior to starting and add new sheetrock.

The textured walls, however, had to be sanded down by hand – a process that we all took turns doing and that created an incredible amount of dust. By the time we were done with this portion of the project, our entire house had a layer of dust as though a distant volcano had deposited a light dusting of ash everywhere. This was by far the most intense part of the project that Katie and I participated in.

With the ceiling painted, the lights in place, and the walls sanded down and repainted, we moved on to the floors. This, too, turned out to be quite the process. Removing the existing brown laminate exposed earlier white laminate, and beneath that, the original pine hardwood flooring.

This layer allowed a solid foundation upon which to lay substrate and then the new tile, but water damage from leaks over the years was exposed under our refrigerator necessitating cutting the entire floor out, including the subfloor, which added to the time and expense of the project. The upside, though, was a solid floor with less creaking.

At this point, we were ready to sand down the existing cabinets and have new cabinet doors built. We also took advantage of the tall ceilings and added a row of cabinets all the way up to the tops of the walls with glass fronts to give us some extra storage where we could also display some of our favorite dishes and other meaningful items. More on this later.

The final product

As the project wrapped up, we were really pleased with how everything was turning out! Brightening the color palette opened the room up quite a bit. We were most surprised by how adding cabinets up to the ceiling and creating new built-ins made the kitchen larger – not smaller as we thought.

For the cabinets, we went with a light gray Sherwin Williams lacquer, accented with satin nickel pulls throughout.

For our countertops, we chose Specchio White quartz countertops, which we got from Brazillian Best Granite.

We added built-in cabinets and a coffee and wine bar, plus a floor-to-ceiling pantry, in place of the existing freestanding pantry. We added a new, 50-pound dedicated Edgestar icemaker, as well as a Wine Enthusiast two-zone wine refrigerator to this unit. Finally, we upgraded our coffee maker with a Jura S8 machine that makes 15 different beverages and milk cooler to level up our coffee game.

Other additions included a new farmhouse sink from Ruvati, a new LG dishwasher, and an Ancona range hood.

Parting thoughts

First and foremost, while my wife’s stepdad, Tim, and mom, Brenda, did the vast majority of the work, we learned quite a bit about what to (and not to) do when embarking on a renovation project. They’re both extremely talented and we can’t thank them enough for lending their talents to this project. It’s certainly gone from the most drab room in the house to our favorite in a matter of a few months!

As for what’s next in our renovation vision? Probably a screened porch or deck. Just waiting on lumber prices to come down a bit!