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Margot Flynn

Margot Flynn Chavez and her husband, Danial, chose the worst time for a renovation. The couple purchased their Littleton, Colorado abode in April 2021, at the peak of supply chain shortages and delays. Yet despite limited resources, they achieved their dream black-and-white kitchen.

The house was originally built in 1971, so the existing kitchen was cramped and dated. Light pink tiles covered the floor, counters, and backsplash, creating an eyesore Chavez simply couldn’t tolerate. Fortunately, the software engineer and photographer also has a design degree, so she immediately had a vision to reimagine the space.

Chavez, alongside her husband and handy father, gutted and rebuilt the kitchen almost entirely themselves, ensuring the craftsmanship and aesthetic were exactly what they wanted. The result is a warm, personal kitchen that honors the home’s midcentury roots while still bringing it into the 21st century. Ahead, Chavez shares exactly how she pulled it off.

Skip the Open Concept

Though Chavez needed a bigger kitchen — and the trussed roof would’ve easily allowed it, she was adamantly against accomplishing a sense of airiness with an open floor plan. “A lot of people just wipe all of the walls out of the central space, but I don’t particularly like that style,” she admits. “I like the coziness and intimacy of having enclosed rooms.”

Instead, Chavez gained an extra six feet by eliminating the formal dining room and constructing a wall to delineate a small breakfast nook. She also fashioned a perfectly round, 9-foot arch that leads to the living room, so the areas are separate yet connected. “I wanted to have a statement piece, as far as architecture, that added a little bit of interest,” she explains.

Go Classic

For the color palette, Chavez was set on the classic combination of black and white. She opted for cozy Swiss Coffee by Benjamin Moore as a backdrop because black cabinets were a must. “That’s something I’ve been dreaming about and Pinteresting for many years,” she says. “Black cabinets are very timeless. It’s hard to go wrong with them.”

When it came to actually buying cabinetry, however, Chavez struggled to find a company that could deliver within her desired timeframe. BOXI by Semihandmade wasn’t yet available in her region, but she inquired anyway and was pleasantly surprised to learn her order could be fulfilled — and quickly, at that. “BOXI ended up being a godsend for us,” she reveals.

The Peppercorn Edge fronts were exactly what Chavez was searching for: a mix of traditional Shaker-style with a modern touch. She further customized her storage system by installing IKEA hidden drawer inserts within the BOXI cabinets and incorporating modular Crate & Barrel bookcases to act as pantries. “I’ve always loved the look of an unfit kitchen — the very deVOL, English style,” she describes.

Be Spontaneous

Chavez got creative with the island, too, pairing BOXI uppers and lowers for the just-right size. The piece is topped with a show-stopping natural quartzite — which was never part of the plan. Chavez was going to use white quartz throughout, but fell in love with a slab of the graphic stone while shopping. “When you see the right thing, it’s sort of serendipitous and you have to just go for it,” she insists. “It’s leathered, so it has this beautiful texture to it. It’s like a piece of art in our house.”

Honor History

Many of Chavez’s design decisions were informed by the historical elements of the home. She chose hickory engineered hardwood floors to complement the retro mahogany trim, embraced the structural soffit above the sink with extra lighting, and even applied controversial stomp texture to new drywall to match the original. “Even if it’s not trendy or modern, it’s true to the style and time period of the house,” she reasons.

Chavez added even more character by mixing metals (stainless steel KitchenAid appliances juxtapose brass hardware) and hanging vintage artwork. “I like to save things that someone’s loved before and hopefully someone will love after us,” she muses. It’s clear the kitchen is all the more special for it.

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We don’t believe that renovations should be daunting. The key is to arm yourself with the right knowledge, people, and products to achieve your goals. It also helps to ask the right questions: How much does it cost to renovate a kitchen? How do I find the right general contractor in my area? Where do I even start if I’ve never remodeled before? This is where we come in. Through hard-to-believe before and afters, first-person renovation accounts, and step-by-step DIY projects, we demystify every aspect of remodeling and give you a ton of full-house, bathroom, and kitchen renovation ideas. Semihandmade was built on a strong make-it-yourself spirit and we’re carrying that legacy beyond DIY kitchen cabinets (though we’ll certainly touch on those too) by bringing you a ton of weekend projects for novices (have you ever tried making your own planter?) and experts (try your hand at a full-wall media center). What do people really mean when they say a house has “good bones”? Before and after projects show first-hand what’s possible in a transformative remodel. How do you make the most of a narrow galley? Should you swap your upper cabinets for floating shelves? What would it look like if you opened up your small kitchen? Renovation ideas abound in our spotlighted projects. 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.