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When Julianna Guill set out to renovate her dated kitchen, she knew she had her work cut out for her. With only two previous owners and in near original condition, the 1949 ranch sported yellow walls,  tile, and cabinets in major need of some TLC. 

“When we moved in, it was pretty clear we’d need to renovate the kitchen and bathroom eventually,” Guill says. “The tile, while colorful, was very hard to keep clean and ready for a makeover, and the cabinets and floors were showing their 67 years.”

Fortunately, the actress and mother of two found a design soulmate in Renovate 108’s Jessica D’Itri Marés, and the pair quickly drew up a plan to revamp her cookspace. “I actually found Jess on Instagram, and noticed that her kitchen had almost the exact same layout as mine,” Guill says. “Now we’re basically redesigning the entire house together!” 

In addition to incorporating some custom features for the kids, Guill wanted to inject some soul and personality into the kitchen. “We wanted to create this happy, California-inspired oasis,” says the actress. “We didn’t even change the roofline, and I truly feel like I’m living in a different house.” 

Ahead, Guill and D’Itri Marés share exactly how they designed a family-friendly kitchen without sacrificing style

 

Open Up the Layout

The first order of business for D’Itri Marés was to open up the wall between the former breakfast nook and the dining room. “Julianna really wanted to create more of an open floor plan instead of three disjointed rooms,”says the designer. “So we decided to demo that wall, flip the cabinet to make it perpendicular to the kitchen area, and turn it into a little bar.” 

 

Plan Custom Features

While the layout changes were incredibly impactful, the custom features in this kitchen are truly what make the space sing. “We added a trash pull-out near the sink, a pot filler over the stove, a proper island with seating, and a lower-level homework station, art cabinet, and snack cabinet for the kids,” explains the designer. 

Unsurprisingly, these are some of Guill’s favorite features. “These little touches really make my life easier — I never knew I could love a trash pull-out so much,” Guill says. “The customization possibilities are endless with this system, and Jess is an absolute pro.” 

 

Mix and Match Cabinets

The customizations aren’t just hidden behind closed doors. D’Itri Marés decided on Semihandmade’s DIY Shaker fronts for the cabinet doors and DIY Slab for the drawers for an unexpected touch. “Not only does this small variation help you distinguish doors from drawers, it makes an IKEA kitchen feel that much more custom,” she notes. In addition to finishing off all the cabinets with filler pieces for a built-in look, the two went with fluted paneling around the island. Finished in a coat of Hazy Skies by Benjamin Moore, a delicate gray-green, the cabinetry looks incredibly high-end.

 

Lean Playful

As for the design, Guill wanted the space to feel like a warm, lived-in family home, as opposed to a stark, modern kitchen. “We ultimately went with a neutral base with playful pops of color,” says Guill, noting the jewel-flecked terrazzo countertops, warm wood floating shelves, and colorful bowls. “Even when styling, I tried to let go of perfection with this project — not everything is tucked away in a cabinet.” 

 

Incorporate Comfortable Seating

The two had another stroke of genius when they decided to turn the old breakfast nook into a little seating area. Outfitted with comfortable seating, new French doors, and a low coffee table perfect for the kids, it’s a natural, heart-of-the-home gathering space. “Everyone wants to spend time in this kitchen now,” Guill adds. “I love the way it turned out!” 

 

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Island Hopping

A lot goes into a kitchen renovation, but it’s usually hard to tell from a beautiful “after” shot. Our monthly series “Island Hopping” is about getting a behind-the-scenes account of what the process is like through honest conversations—you know, the kind that typically take place around a kitchen island. We’ll chat with designers, homeowners, and architects about their projects, hoping to peel back the curtain on picture-perfect spaces.