Dated Kitchen Goes Mod Farmhouse

A family remodels their century-old kitchen into a modern farmhouse cookery, chock-full of charm.
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RWAP_farmhouse-kitchen-table-and-bench_s3x4

©Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn 2013

Photo by: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

©Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn 2013

By: Annette Joseph

This past winter, five weeks after welcoming their youngest daughter into the world, Sam and Lesley Graham embarked on renovating a 1910 farmhouse in Marietta, GA. What started as a tour of a recently purchased auction house by Lesley's father Mike (with the intention to flip it), turned into a preview of their future home. Lesley knew she wanted the fixer-upper as soon as she walked into the kitchen and saw the two large picture windows. After living in a dark house, lots of natural light was a must. "I called my dad that night and asked him if we could buy it from him. I just fell in love with it," Lesley says. The next thing they knew they were packing up their tiny bungalow and moving in with her dad while they renovated.

Sam loves to cook, and they both love to entertain, so they knew immediately that there would have to be some major changes made to their 14x14 kitchen to make it work for their family. The original layout featured track lighting and a sink that faced the corner. There was also a really awkward working triangle with a refrigerator that jutted out into the room as well as a window seat that eliminated extra counter space. The tiled countertops were sagging and the cabinets were dated. "We could see past all of the flaws and honed in on what we loved... the vaulted ceilings and wood beams and all of the gorgeous light," Lesley says. "It just felt right."

Rustic Farmhouse Kitchen Remodel

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Whole New World

To update their 1910 farmhouse, Sam and Lesley Graham took on a major kitchen renovation, starting with an entirely new layout and updating everything for the countertops to the appliances.

One Step at a Time

Despite the fact that the original countertops were sagging and the rest of the space was dated, Sam and Lesley focused on the beautiful vaulted ceilings, wood beams and natural light. Everything else had to go. And with the help of their builder, Mark Lewis, the couple turned the out-of-date space into a modern farmhouse kitchen.

Color-Coded Cooking

A full view of the main cooking space showcases color-coded shelves. The new shelving system makes for easy organization when putting away dishes, while adding visual interest. A metal stool is kept on hand to reach the top shelf which is stocked with less-used items like vases and serving ware.

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn ©Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn 2013

Going Gray

Gray grout on subway tile is an easy way to make the backsplash low maintenance. White grout in a kitchen can be tricky. Subway tile is one of the most affordable tiles on the market.

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Brass Tacks

These brass planters were originally going to hold herbs, but when they arrived, they were much smaller than expected. Lesley's mom Debbie had the brilliant idea to use them to store things like garlic and shallots. They add a little bit of luxe to the raw-wood shelving.

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Unexpected Seating

This great bench is a soft spot to land for friends and family. The round table is a little unexpected with it, which they love. "We aren’t matchy people, so it just makes sense for us to have a funky pairing like this," Lesley says.

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Sunny Side Up

Yellow ended up being one of the main colors in the kitchen, so this outdoor metal table fit the bill. Lesley wanted the girls to have a fun spot to color and hang out while she got meals ready for them.

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Baking Made Easy

While Sam cooks more dinners, Lesley loves to bake. Having dedicated drawers for baking items makes prepping a snap. They also keep their mixer out to expedite making any last minute cupcakes for school parties.

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Hard-Working Hardware

For the shelf hardware, the couple headed to their nearest big box store. They wanted more pops of black and these were an affordable option that could hold a lot of weight.

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Reclaimed Style

A local reclaimed lumber supplier, Darien Millworks, took 100-year-old timbers from an old warehouse in Atlanta and ripped them to make the shelves. Lesley requested they left the wood raw to give it that "rustic" feel.

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn ©Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn 2013

Clutter-Free Cutlery

In an effort to keep the counters free from clutter, Sam installed this metal knife rack. They also love the industrial look and easy access when preparing food. It’s kid-friendly too, keeping them out of reach from little hands.

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn ©Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn 2013

Suitable Storage

To create lots of storage, the kitchen design incorporates loads of drawers in different sizes. IKEA has a free computer program that allows you to design the kitchen with whatever suits your taste.

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn ©Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn 2013

Brass Is Back

Lesley found these great pulls at Home Depot for around $2.50 each. She loved that they weren’t shiny, 80’s brass. The antique finish makes them feel timeless.

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Understated Industrial

For the lights over the sink they wanted to do something industrial and simple that wouldn’t compete with the vintage Hungarian factory lights that hang from the beams. These handmade lights were perfect, but the canopies didn’t match up with their existing wiring. Sam worked for hours to fit the current keyless fixtures to the remaining pipe. Edison bulbs dress it up a bit.

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Must Love Dogs

Their bulldog Guinness is a big part of their family. Their oldest daughter Matilda loves giving him treats and helps with taking him out too.

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Personal Touch

These old framed photographs were Sam's dad's World War 2 photos. "We lost both of Sam's parents a few years ago, so there are special reminders of them throughout the house," Lesley says.

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Coffee Corner

Lesley dubs this area the "beverage station." Mugs hang on a vintage-inspired bottle drying rack and everyday cups sit on two smaller shelves that mimic the the larger ones. Their coffee maker also stays put, keeping everything in reach.

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Back to Nature

Coming from a long line of gardeners, the Grahams wanted to be able to bring plants into their home as well. "I had one spot in our last house with enough light for plants," Lesley says. "This time I wanted to fill our entire home with succulents, fresh herbs, and cool indoor plants.”

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Sink Space

The sink wall is a great use of space which formerly housed two double doors. Placing the dishwasher to the right of the sink was a way to make loading and unloading even easier. They also gained storage and counter space.

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Mixed Metals

The couple used brass hardware with stainless steel appliances. In order to neutralize the mix, they chose a black faucet to tie in with the black shelf hardware, hood, and windows and doors. They were restricted to a one-hole faucet because of the sink, so they did a pull down so that they’d have an easy way to do dishes.

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Steel the Look

All of the window sashes and doors in the house were painted black to mimic steel. Lesley and Sam love that look but didn't have the budget to do it. The black makes a sophisticated statement. "Our last house was cute, and I tend to gravitate towards cute," Lesley says. "I wanted this home to show that we've matured and I wanted it to feel classic."

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Just Passing Through

The “pass-through” window makes setting up a party even more fun. Large casement windows push fully open, and a large table creates a makeshift bar. The kitchen becomes an included part of outdoor festivities.

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Moveable Feast

Sam was originally going to build a bar that connected to the house, but then Lesley found this really great reclaimed folding table. “We loved the idea that we could easily bring it out for parties and use it in the house the rest of the time,” says Sam.

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Open Spaces

The couple had originally wanted to have this bottle opener mounted in the kitchen. At the last minute they decided to attach it to this vintage Coca-Cola crate so that they could move it from kitchen to porch in a snap.

Photo By: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Architect Dan Olah drew their dreams into a plan and their builder Mark Lewis of Lonestar Builders got to work on making it a reality. The first structural change was to connect the kitchen to their back porch. "There was originally a set of double doors along one wall of the kitchen with a matching set just around the corner in the hall," Lesley says. "Since we really didn't need both doors, we decided to wall up that area and add in large casement windows and a sink that looked out over the garden." The couple also gained counter space and storage by doing this, a win-win. One of their favorite features is the pass-through window over the sink inspired by a friend's house. "We can be prepping dinner and passing drinks to guests outside all at the same time. It's pretty amazing," says Sam.

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Rustic, open shelving, combined with black hardware and white subway tiles tie the farmhouse look together.

Photo by: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn ©Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn 2013

Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn, Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn 2013

Rustic, open shelving, combined with black hardware and white subway tiles tie the farmhouse look together.

The next obstacle was to create a way to access the kitchen from the driveway. The previous homeowners had to walk all the way to the front or back of the house to get in, but the thought of unloading groceries with two little girls made the Grahams rethink that idea. The obvious solution was to eliminate the window seat in lieu of a much more practical side door. With the help of her mom Debbie, Lesley designed a layout that would work best for them and make the most of the space. A professional helped fine tune the design. They wanted a modern farmhouse feel with industrial touches, rustic open shelving, and a big farmhouse sink. "I wanted a sink I could bathe my kids in, countertops I could cut on, and shelves that were reminiscent of a prop house," Lesley says. "Clean subway tile, pops of black and brass, and a utilitarian Scandinavian vibe were what set the tone."

Renovating with two young daughters, four-year-old Matilda and baby Phoebe, certainly had its challenges. Lesley would check on the progress and meet with subcontractors during Matilda's preschool hours with an infant in tow. "Phoebe wasn't sleeping through the night, Matilda was adjusting to her new sister and being at Dad's," Lesley says. "It was definitely an adventure. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat but I'm glad it's over!"

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RWAP_farmhouse-kitchen-cabinets-before_s4x3

BEFORE

BEFORE

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RWAP-farnhouse-kitchen-stove_s4x3

AFTER

Photo by: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

AFTER

Kitchen Cabinets

The Grahams had to stick to a really tight budget after spending most of their money on framing a second floor and all new plumbing and electrical. When it came to the kitchen, because it was their favorite room, they didn't want to sacrifice style. They did the entire kitchen for around $10,000. For the cabinets, they decided to stick with base cabinets and do open shelving instead of upper cabinets. Not only was this a major cost saver, but it also gave the house some character. Since they were gutting the room, they still wanted it to feel old. Putting in 100-year-old heart pine shelves certainly did the trick. For the cabinets, they opted for a shaker-style design from IKEA.

When we first mentioned IKEA to our builder Mark he was unfamiliar with the brand. Somehow along the way he didn’t understand that the cabinets would be unassembled. After getting a quote for the install that was higher than the cabinets themselves, Mark hired an experienced cabinet installer to help him with the task. "When the 129 boxes arrived, Mark's face got a little white," Lesley laughs. "He ended up going to IKEA five times that week to try and make sense of everything. I felt terrible. We owe him a super fancy dinner." In the end Mark got the job done and they love the soft-close drawers and lazy-susan cabinets. The simple and clean look of the cabinets were just what they were going for.

Farmhouse Kitchen Dining

Farmhouse Kitchen Dining

This country kitchen has a stylish dining space with a yellow table, perfect for gathering with friends.

Photo by: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

This country kitchen has a stylish dining space with a yellow table, perfect for gathering with friends.

Shopping for Appliances

For the appliances, the couple spent countless hours online researching, polling friends, reading reviews, etc. They both love the look of high-end commercial appliances but couldn't justify the price tags. After searching and searching, Lesley finally decided to hit up a major appliance store on a holiday weekend and scored. "I got some really killer deals, I also came prepared with the competitors' prices which really helped me get the prices I needed," Lesley says.

Since the previous fridge had been an issue, they knew that they needed a different location for it. Placing the refrigerator to the right of the side door, kept it convenient for loading in groceries and also gave room for a surrounding pantry. After drawing up the plan, they also knew that they'd have to get a counter-depth fridge in order for it to fit and the solution worked perfectly. The health-minded couple also gave up the microwave in lieu of a range hood. "We never use a microwave, and I've always loved the way a hood looks in a kitchen," says Lesley. "Because the hood doesn't vent to the outside, we use it as a recirculating vent. A lot of hoods can do both, but make sure you do your homework."

Butcher Block Countertops

In the beginning, Lesley and Sam had dreams of doing beautiful Carrera marble for their tops. As hidden costs kept emerging, it became clear that they were going to have to find something more economical. Instead of doing granite or stone, they decided on a light butcher block. "I've always loved how warm and timeless butcher block is," Lesley says. "We loved how affordable it was compared to just about everything else."

To seal the butcher block, they used soap and water, salt and lemon to sanitize and then three coats of food-grade mineral oil. Lesley did a lot of research and found that tung and other seed oils typically used on butcher block could cause reactions in people allergic to nuts. "With little ones around all of the time and friends with nut allergies, I wanted to play it safe," says Lesley. A tip she found online was to buy the mineral oil at a drug store instead of a hardware store. The price is much lower.

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Much easier to clean than popular white, a smoky gray grout was chosen for the space.

Photo by: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Much easier to clean than popular white, a smoky gray grout was chosen for the space.

Subway Tile

From the very beginning, Sam and Lesley knew that they wanted to do a white subway tile for the backsplash. Not only was it affordable, but they love the classic, clean look. They chose a smoky gray for the grout to make it easier to clean and ended up hiring a professional to get the job done. ";By the time we got to the tile, we were tapped out," Lesley says. "Sam and I were going to try and do the tile ourselves, but our tile guy gave us a great quote, and we went for it. Best money ever spent!"

What they did do themselves was hang the shelves and other decorative pieces on the tile. "We used the top of the tile as the guide for the bottom shelf," Sam says. "Lesley had her heart set on that location which required us to drill into the tile. We watched a lot of YouTube videos, got a ceramic drill bit, and did several practice drills on a leftover piece of tile." After Sam and Lesley's dad Mike hung the shelves, they were pros. "It actually wasn't bad at all once we figured it out," Sam says. They used a tip from a friend which was to drill over masking tape. Not only can you make your marks on the tape, but it works as a dust catcher as well!

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