The New Kitchen: Before & After!

It’s been a long time coming… but the kitchen is finally ready for its big reveal. We built the new kitchen from scratch from what was previously a den or tv room in the back of the house.

Here’s a look at the den before we moved in three years ago:

And now the space is a new kitchen!

Kitchen Renovation - Spanish Contemporary

Since our 1930’s home was built in traditional San Diegan Spanish-style architecture, our goal was to create a contemporary kitchen that would compliment the original design of the home. To do that, we chose warm woods, oil rubbed bronze hardware, subway tile and Spanish-style lighting. Beyond that, we wanted a space that was fresh and modern! (Here’s the original inspiration post.)

If you were standing in the above photo looking at the new kitchen, the original kitchen (which received a 1970’s facelift somewhere along the way) was actually behind you. Here’s the kitchen when we first moved in:

Within the first couple of months we had stained the cabinets a dark walnut, changed out the hardware and painted the walls a sage green – and that’s how our kitchen stayed for about two and a half years.

Here’s a shot from the back of the den looking in on the kitchen:

Today the older kitchen is the construction zone for a new third bedroom/office.

Jen of Papaya Sky (incredible photography if you’re from the SD area) took a few photos of us making breakfast to capture some of the details.

We chose Kraftmaid shaker cabinets from Lowe’s for their easy installation and great price. We found the backsplash subway tile at Arizona Tile and I love how the rich green glass looks against the honey-stained cabinets. Dark grey grout will help to hide stains.

We contemplated open shelving for a long time but settled on clear glass doors that keep dust at bay. I filled these cabinets with white ceramic dishware from our wedding (we chose basic white Crate & Barrel placesettings instead of china) and thrift store finds from here and there.

We began construction on the kitchen on September 1 of 2010, and Kevin nearly knocked it out in three months. The goal was thirty days of full time work – could it be done?

Here’s the breakdown: demo time! week 1, new walls – week 2, doors & cabinets – week 3, new tile & counters! week 4, and of course all of the little projects such as kitchen space planning, lighting details and new bar stool cushions. All in all it worked out to be about 6 weeks of full time work (full time meaning a full day dedicated to kitchen construction – a bit longer than our 30 day goal) over the course of three months. The kitchen worked out to be the perfect project while Kevin was finishing his winter quarter of school.

It was the little details that stretched out the kitchen timeline so that it wasn’t 100% complete by Christmas… but instead this spring :).

Our big splurge had to be the doors which now integrate the outdoor grilling and patio area with the kitchen. We added two 10′ sets of sliding doors along the back and side walls of the kitchen to bring in as much natural light as possible and to make indoor/outdoor entertaining a central function of the house. They also qualified us for a $1500 energy tax rebate this past April (here’s a helpful list to see what home improvements qualify).

Most thought they would be too big for the space – they nearly run into the cabinets along the back wall! – but I think they’re perfect.

When the carpet was pulled up in the den we found a mis-match of wood flooring running in different directions with several beams through the middle of the room. Most of the wood in the house was salvageable – but unfortunately not in the kitchen. We opted for a dark, porcelain tile and ordered 12×24″ pieces for a modern feel.

I’ve always been a sucker for dark counter tops… but how to balance dark floors and dark counter tops without creating a dark space? That was the dilemma. And what material? With so many options to choose from we really had to do our research. In the end we settled on Quartz – a fabricated material that combines natural quartz with a polymer resin and has been named by Consumer Reports as the top overall performing counter (plus it’s resistant to scratches, heat and stains!).

We loved the look of stainless steel appliances and scoured Craigslist every day (in about a 500 mile radius :)) to find pieces that would fit our budget. We scored a stainless steal fridge, viking range (drove over 300 miles to nab this beauty – thankfully it turned into a great roadtrip!), range hood, dishwasher and sink for anywhere from 40-80% off of the original price.

And that’s the new kitchen! All in all we guestimate that we saved 50-75% of what a contractor might charge for the same kitchen had we outsourced the work and bought everything brand new. We know that we’ll enjoy this  space for years to come and it was all well worth it.

Here’s a breakdown of the sources:

Shaker-style Cabinets: Kraftmaid from Lowe’s
Quartz Countertops:
Hanstone in Tiffany Grey
Porcelain Tile Floors:
Arizona Tile’s Metro Leather
Backsplash Tiles:
Arizona Tile’s glass subway tile in Kiwi
Our appliances are a hodge podge of Craistlist finds. the stove is a Viking and the dishwasher and fridge are by GE.
Hardware and Accessories:
the oil rubbed bronze pulls are from Cabinets Galore (a local mom & pop shop), the faucet is a Lowe’s 50% off bin find and we’re still waiting on that perfect pot filler for behind the stove (that’s what that nob is for). Craigslist, we’re watching you.
Happy Trellis Rug in chocolate by Shades of Light, two jute remnants found at a local remnant shop that we had bound for next to each set of doors.
Wood Hood for Range:
Cabinets Galore (a reject from a previous buyer that we had restained and fitted to our stove’s hood – it ended up costing us just 50% of the original value since it was a castoff).
Buzz Brown by Valspar
Lowe’s Allen + Roth Bronze Pendant
Sliding Exterior Doors:
Bar Stools + Cushions:
Craigslist find but I believe they’re World Market. The cushions were handmade handmade and the fabric is Petite Zig Zag by Quadrille Fabrics.

A few more ways to save:

Purchase coupons on ebay to use for big ticket items, sign up to receive store emails for an extra 10% off, ask about in-store discounts (we received 10% off our cabinets because Kevin had been in the military), take advantage of competitor coupons – nearly all stores take them, ask for bulk discounts (such as for pulls for all of your cabinets), check out state rebates (like those for energy efficient updates), Craigslist! for both products and supplies – more than once we’ve scored extra tile, wood planks, even sod from a contractor working on a big project, hire independent contractors (no, they usually don’t have a Yelp review but a personally referred electrician will do the job for half the price of a big business – just be sure they have the appropriate license and insurance), offer to split work (if you hire a contractor, only pay for what you don’t know how to do. If you order anything custom, take care of the painting, installation yourself – we ordered our doors unstained, purchased the same color as the cabinets and took care of it instead – saved a bundle), and finally, DIY as much as possible! there is a wealth of resources out there to help. Every little bit adds up!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. amelia says

    LOVE the kitchen, huge difference!! we are doing ours and we wanted to let in as much natural light as we could too since it’s a row house (houses attached on sides) so the sliding doors would be a perfect fit. I tried looking online for these doors, but couldn’t find anything close enough, if you don’t mind, could you share the details of these doors so I can find something similar ? (like the size, brand etc) Thanks!!

    • says

      Hi Amelia, thank you for your kind comment! We LOVE our sliding doors. They are by Anderson and we ordered through Home Depot. I would be happy to measure for you tomorrow if you’d like – these guys are four panel sliding doors (two doors in the center slide out, two doors on side are basically windows and don’t move). I hope that helps!

  2. Lindsay says

    Hi! Your kitcen is amazing. We also live in San Diego and just purcahsed glass subway tile from Arizon tile too! Can you tell me who did your backsplash installation? Or did you do it yourself? If you did it yourself,what did you use to cut the tile? Do we really need to rent a wet saw with a diamond blade???


    • says

      Hi Lindsay! Hello fellow San Diegan. Yes, we installed the tile ourselves and we actually co-own a tile saw with a friend of ours (funny arrangement, but it is a big purchase :)). I highly suggest renting one from a home improvement store for your project, it will make cutting worlds easier. I’d install everything that you can without cut tile, and then rent a saw for one day and finish up the last pieces. Well, well worth the short term investment.

      Good luck!

  3. Michelle says

    What a great job you guys did! I have never liked green tile in a kitchen until now. I saved all the local San Diego sources – perfect!! Again, congratulations on a really stunning job.

  4. Kelly says

    This looks great! Just a quick question, hope you don’t mind me asking. I looked up the Arizona tile in the color moss and it appeared to be much much darker on other websites. (for example,

    Do you think your pictures made it look lighter? Or is it maybe the kiwi color that you used? I’m asking because we were looking for a color similar to your pictures and I wanted to make sure before we ordered. Thanks so much!

    • says

      Yes! You are absolutely right, I’m sorry for the confusion. The tile color is Kiwi. We had debated using Moss but in the end preferred the lighter tint of green in Kiwi. The post has been updated as well :).

  5. says

    this is amazing!! I am in the process of remodeling my master bathroom at a new house I just bought. Well the house is not new, my husband and I have a lot of changes we want to make to it. Thanks for the inspiration. you have my dream kitchen!

  6. says

    What is not to love here? Straight out of a magazine. Absolutely love everything about it. Congratulations on a job amazingly done!

  7. says

    It looks beautiful Morgan! You did a wonderful job! Can’t believe it was so quick as well…feels like just yesterday we were there hanging out in the old den! XO

  8. says

    HOLY COW!!!

    Morgan, I am literally in shock… you guys did such a beautiful, amazing job!!!

    I would have fallen off my chair if it didn’t risk me going into labor :)

    Kevin, you did awesome – kudos to such a handy, hardworking husband! I am so excited to see this in real life one day :) You guys are amazing!

  9. says

    Thanks, PartyMom & Jessica!

    Cathy & Randa, the search was on for major savings and we are so pleased we made it happen for what we think is 75% off what a kitchen like this might cost otherwise – thanks so much for the comment!


  10. says

    I am so impressed by not only the design of your kitchen, but by the tenacity of your search for savings! You have a fantastic kitchen that is easy on the pocketbook! Great job…BTW I think my favorite feature is the range hood, it rocks!

  11. says

    what a transformation!

    i love the flooring and the subway tile is beautiful!

    i’m also very grateful you included ways to update a kitchen while remaining budget conscious. bravo!

    thanks for sharing. it looks wonderful!

  12. says

    The new kitchen is absolutely stunning! Every single detail is so well thought out, but looks so relaxed as well.

    I am totally in love with your flooring, and this post has me thinking about doing something like that in our new storage/laundry/crafting space we’re about to undertake. Thanks for sharing the fabulous results!

  13. Kellie Barney says

    AMAZING!!! I think we came to visit on day 2 or 3 ;-) What a transformation!! You guys did an amazing job!! Beautiful kitchen! Can’t wait to see the rest as you complete it!! We’ll be out there for the 4th of July…can’t wait to see it in person!

    • Morgan says

      Hopefully you’ll get to see the new office and bathroom, Kellie!

      Thanks, Jackie! I love subway tile as well – we’re using the old fashioned white ceramic version in the bathroom.


  14. says

    WOW! What a stunning kitchen. I’m a sucker for subway tile and seeing it in that green shade is phenomenal!

  15. Tanya says

    Your kitchen is beautiful; no one would ever believe it used to be that TV room. Thanks for all the tips you gave about how to save money while creating such a terrific space!

  16. says

    Wow, what an amazing transformation! I LURVE the subway tile you chose. And ohmygoodness those windows are amazing! Incredible light. I officially have kitchen envy now :)

  17. Lisa says

    Looks awesome-fits with the style of your house perfectly! Awesome job.

    Did you find new appliances on craigslist or were they gently used? I’ve looked, but always worry it’s a scam.

    • Morgan says

      Thank you so much everyone!! You guys are awesome – I really appreciate each and every comment. Definitely makes my day :).

      Lisa, I agree that shopping on Craigslist can be a little scary. All of our appliances were gently used and I suppose part of the gamble of purchasing is rolled into the hugely discounted price. We could have never have afforded new but we also did our research, such as what that exact model was going for on today’s market (new) and making sure we saw the appliance running before purchasing. We also tried to stick with items that were just a couple of years old and we were good at asking the owners lots of questions. So far so good, though I know that others have had not-so-great experiences on Craigslist. If you want to be extra careful go for appliances still under warranty and ask the owners for the paper work. Good luck!!


  18. says

    Wow it turned out beautifully! I am also from southern California so I love that you went with the gorgeous spanish style that is so familiar to us in the area. Thanks for sharing your stunning renovation & congratulations!

    -Forever Lovely

  19. says

    It looks fantastic! I love the floor and the backsplash, and its such an airy space. Looks awesome :-)

  20. says

    Wow! It really came together nicely. What an improvement. My favorite part are the doors and all the light! The tile and counters tie for second. It’s just the right touch of modern. Enjoy!


  1. […] take much convincing since I had just seen Morgan’s final kitchen renovation reveal over at Pepper Design Blog.  So I started to look into different shapes and colors of tile.  For a couple days, I […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>