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The Manse Kitchen Renovation

After doing one massive whole house renovation in my previous home (AKA The Queen Anne), I really got to know what I like and what I don’t like.

For the The Manse renovation, I decided to do the floor plan myself (how hard could it be?).  I found a basic CAD program online and began to think about the space.


Unfortunately, there was nothing remaining from the original 1800s kitchen. And most likely it was a very basic one, as this was a very humble farmhouse.  While the existing cabinets were beautiful, once I began designing, we realized we couldn’t re-purpose them in the kitchen. We ended up using some of the uppers in the laundry room, some in the basement and the rest, along with the countertops, were donated to charity.  Note: Always try to salvage as much as possible from an old kitchen.  Often if cabinets are in good shape or countertops are stone, there is a way to re-use or donate.  Don’t let your contractor just demolish them if they can have a second life.  Same for appliances.  We ended up just giving the appliances away to some of the workmen on the job.  

When we first moved in, I changed the paint color (below). I believe it’s important to live in a space for awhile (if possible, of course).  Below, you can see the eating area.  The vinyl floor had to go! 

The Floor Plan

The existing floor plan cut the kitchen off from the rest of the house. The open space was the eating area with a bit a makeshift pantry.  There was a combo laundry powder room. We decided to open the walls and create a great room which would allow for a seating area, and dining area. In order to give more room to the kitchen, we moved a wall 5′ back, taking a little space from the existing office. That area became the powder room and gave space for a large pantry.

Demo Days!

Under the old flooring in the powder room and kitchen, we discovered the original linoleum. One of the things I love about demo days is finding out more clues about what the original house was like. The floor had to be ripped out (joists were old and split in some places.  We discovered the remains of an old back porch.

Removing the walls gave the space an incredible feel. The downside to this home was the lower ceilings (an indication it pre-dated the Victorian era). The ceilings were just under 8′, so opening up the space by removing walls gave it more flow and breathing room.  

The day the sliding french doors went in was AWESOME!

Now for the reason why we thought this beauty deserved to be brought back to life: THE VIEW!

The Cabinets & Other Finishing Touches

I chose white shaker for the upper and lower cabinets and natural cherry for the island. Backsplash tile is Ann Sacks Michael Smith Collection in Ghost Gloss (unfortunately they no longer carry this). The cabinet style, like the moldings and architecture of the home, was simple and unpretentious. We purchased our cabinets during a sale at a big box store and got very high end semi-custom for half the price (you can shop the look below). The white cabinets are solid maple and we chose a natural cherry for the island.  

The Budget

It’s TOTALLY possible to do a big kitchen renovation without breaking the bank and without going OVER budget. While we had a couple of unknown issues pop up, we stuck to the plan, and got ‘er done.  All plumbing and electrical was replaced, and we added central air to the first floor.  We also had to update the heating system, getting rid of the old radiators.  I would have liked to have kept them, but the cost of adding on was very expensive, and I don’t like baseboard heating (a cheaper option if you’re adding onto a water-based heating system).  

The Reveal!

The 10′ Island is my favorite thing about the kitchen.  Tons of storage and room to seat four.

These are steel support beams wrapped with the old sheathing.  I sanded and applied tung oil. 

From both the kitchen and dining area we can see the beautiful view out the back.  Flooring was woven in to match the existing flooring in the rest of the first floor.  I think keeping all the same flooring on one level just looks better, and the old flooring in the other rooms just needed a good sanding.

I was nervous about having white cabinets for the first time, but they are very easy to keep clean and I like how open it makes the room feel (remember, we have less than 8′ ceilings). The black trim on the kitchen window really frames the view.

I love elements with a story. This Pennsylvania Fireback is a duplicate of the one we had in our former home. We used it as a focal point over the cooktop. This was a wedding gift. The saying “Alter Idem” means “Another Like Me” or “Soulmate”. I feel grateful to have him and this fireback to remind me.  

The drawer below the cooktop store spices, and all the pots.  I am a big drawer fan, and these drawers can hold a lot of weight.

We went with natural cherry on the island to add more warmth to the kitchen.

OK, let’s talk about these drawers! Since we didn’t have a lot of wall space for upper cabinets, these are brilliant for storage. These wooden pegs keep dishes in place, plus the dishwasher is right across from this drawer – so convenient. 

I love marble and had it in my previous home. It was just to hard to maintain for me. So, I found this quartz that is the closest you can get to marble. I wanted subtle veining. Always be sure to see the actual slab for any stone you pick. Even engineered products like Quartz can vary in color since they are made from stone. 

With the low ceilings, I wanted island lighting that wasn’t going to block the view of the room. I found LED Dimmable Edison bulbs that are VERY bright and dimmable. This took some trial and error as some LED bulbs are too blue and some not bright enough. 

This 7′ pantry was a huge cost savings. This was much cheaper than doing built in cabinets. We used natural pine shelving inside and I have yet to run out of room.  The shelving was less than $200 and the doors and framing were included in the renovation budget.

You may notice in the “before” kitchen photo that the dining table had a darker stain. We had it stripped and refinished to lighten it up. The trestle table expands for large dinner parties. I love the side transom windows.  They give privacy and space for furnishings, like the sideboard.

Because there was limited space, we opted for this combination oven. The top is a microwave speed oven (can work as convection or microwave) and the bottom is full sized convection. This is genius because I don’t like microwave drawers nor do I want a big unit on my counter or over my cooktop, and I have double ovens when I need them.

Did I mention I love my plant shelf? Having a little green around especially in winter is key.

Got this bowl from my mom, a little vintage Pfaltzgraf.  Reminds me of my childhood.



Update: Upgraded the island chairs

Paint Colors:
Walls: Sherwin Williams Alabaster
Trim: Sherwin Williams High Reflective White

I hope you enjoyed the tour. What do you think? Sources for many of the items below.  

Source Book

xox Sara

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