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In the early days of the pandemic, Kate Arends bought a sprawling 1956 rambler less than a mile from her house. The Wit & Delight founder had no interest in leaving her charming St. Paul, Minnesota neighborhood — she just wanted her family and her lifestyle brand to live in one place.

The 6,000-square-foot midcentury home had plenty of space for Arends, her husband Joe, their two young children, and the company’s headquarters, but came with unique design challenges. Original features like crown molding, multiple fireplaces, and high ceilings were paired with funky paint choices and outdated late-1980s updates.

Arends was certain she’d need to fully overhaul the kitchen, with its dysfunctional appliances and cabinets that were falling apart, but decided to wait a year before beginning the project. During that period, however, she fell in love with some of the existing finishes and decided against starting from scratch.

“Taking our time saved us a lot of money in the end and showed me that you don’t have to completely gut something to make it really special,” she shares. Ahead, she explains how she managed to flawlessly blend the old and new to achieve a deeply personal, character-filled kitchen.

Maintain Elements That Spark Joy

After 12 months of daily cooking in the former kitchen, Arends developed a fondness for its practical layout and the extensive white oak wall paneling that was hand-fabricated by a previous owner. Though the golden stain wasn’t the exact hue she would’ve picked herself, the wood’s cabin-style warmth, impressive craftsmanship, and modern Scandinavian aesthetic convinced her to keep it. “It makes me happy every time we walk in there,” she reflects.

Create Focal Points First

Arends’s first choices were an ink blue KitchenAid range, which has the chef quality and bold color she was seeking, and a graphic Calacatta Viola marble countertop that checks all her boxes. “It’s still a natural stone, but it’s really forgiving and packs a visual punch,” she explains. “With this marble, my husband’s not worried about stains and etching and I get that feeling of it changing over time and it getting worn-in.”

The rest of Arends’s design decisions were informed by these eye-catching moments, especially the Farrow & Ball paint colors on the BOXI by Semihandmade cabinets. The prep area storage is sheathed in a rich navy called Hague Blue, while the work zone cupboards are outfitted in the neutral Sulking Room Pink,“There’s enough gray and beige in it that it does not read as pink,” Arends describes.

Always Mix Styles

In terms of the style of the cabinet fronts, Arends mixed DIY Shaker and DIY Slab to represent both traditional and contemporary influences, paintable BOXI doors that are going to be available on select cabinets this spring.

She accomplished a similar juxtaposition with the floors, where she arranged Neoclassical honed Queen Beige marble tiles in a midcentury Versailles pattern, and by merging sculptural, modern sconces with an unlacquered brass bridge faucet that’s intended to age.

“I like spaces that feel really personal,” Arends says. “When you combine styles, what you end up with is something unique to you. That eclecticism is something I’ve always gravitated towards.” With details like antique-inspired hardware, IKEA laminated brass panels on BOXI floating shelves, and vintage Swedish rag rugs throughout, this kitchen couldn’t belong to anyone else.

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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.