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.

Kelly Mindell of Studio DIY spoke to SemiStories contributor Kelsey Clark about what it was like to renovate the kitchen in the California home she shares with her husband, Jeff Mindell, and their son. She transformed a dated time capsule—complete with red, coral, and sage cabinetry—into a bright space that reflects the warmth and personality of her family.

KC:

First things first: I cannot get over this before and after!

KM:

I know! We love color, but the bright red, coral, and sage green were just overwhelming—the space was so dated. It also had a non-functioning oven and microwave, in addition to a new working oven, which took up so much unnecessary space.

KC:

Not all vintage details maintain their charm, that’s for sure! When was the house built?

KM:

In 1938. When we purchased the home around August of 2017, it still had many of the original 1930s details, like hardwood floors, molding, arches, curved walls, and an old hand-crank telephone on the wall! Details like these are what sold us on the home, despite its dated kitchen, awkward layout, and bathrooms that were in disrepair.

KC:

Speaking of layout, did you change it at all?

KM:

Yes! Our biggest non-negotiable was opening the kitchen up to the living area. It was very closed off from the rest of the space, and only had entrance points through the dining room and hallway. We have a toddler, and we wanted to be able to keep an eye on him while cooking. We ended up closing the doorway from the kitchen to the hallway and shifting the oven and hood slightly down the wall to make room for a new archway. Our construction team “traced” the existing archway in the room onto plywood, and used that as a template for the new one so that it seamlessly fit with the existing architecture. It was by far the biggest structural change of the renovation.

KC:

That second archway really wonders for the space! How else did you open it up?

KM:

It’s a narrow kitchen, and we really wanted to lighten it up in every sense of the word—from the colors and the cabinetry to the lighting itself. We repainted the cabinets, tore out the tile floor, replaced one wall of cabinetry with open shelving, and removed the drop ceiling to build out two large skylights. They transformed the kitchen from a natural-light standpoint. 

KC:

As far as color goes, were you hesitant to go with another vibrant palette after the red, sage, and orange situation?

KM:

Nope—I actually wanted an even brighter color palette, believe it or not! I had planned on painting the cabinet fronts a mustard or ochre color, but after testing it in the space, the intensity just didn’t work. So I went back to the drawing board, and after numerous color samples, landed on Dunn Edwards’ “Galveston Tan,” which reads as a blush, mauve-y pink. It brings in color without overwhelming the space. I used the open shelving to bring in pops of bolder hues I love with our kitchenware collection.

KC:

The kitchenware definitely lends a playful feel to the space. Is that what you had in mind when designing it?

KM:

I really wanted the new kitchen to feel open and airy, but also cozy and inviting. I wanted it to have layers, depth, and texture so it felt fresh and functional, but not out of place in a 1930s-era home.

KC:

You did a great job of maintaining the integrity of the home while lending it your personal flair! As the proud owner of a newly-renovated space, what advice would you give to novice renovators?

KM:

First and foremost, you should work within a budget that is less than your actual budget, because there will always be unexpected costs and surprises. And perhaps my biggest lesson of all is to double the estimated timeline for any renovation. It always takes significantly longer than you think, without fail, and it’s better to be prepared. And that’s especially true when it’s space that’s so integral to your home, like a kitchen.

KC:

What’s your favorite part of your new kitchen?

KM:

I absolutely love the view through the new archway to the zellige-tiled wall and open shelving. The blush cabinets anchor your eye, and the tile really draws it upward to all the dishes on display and then toward the skylights. It looks like a completely different house!

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