The kitchen renovation

Royal AF

When we bought our place two and a half years ago, we had zero intentions of staying in the Mile High City much longer. Which probably sounds crazy but, at the time, the rental market in Denver was exploding and we really wanted to lay down roots in the city. Despite knowing that it wasn’t going to be our home for long, I had a laundry list of requirements – top floor corner unit, two bedrooms, considerable storage, hardwood floors, original features, etc. And while our place checked all the boxes, the one thing that didn’t make the cut was the kitchen. The previous owners renovated it just before putting it on the market and, although it was a few steps up from the original kitchen (even that’s a stretch), it was dark, the finishes were cheap, and it just didn’t flow well with the rest of the space. Had we been planning to stay in Denver, the kitchen would have been a deal breaker. But since we weren’t, we signed our life away and got the keys, and I lived with the kitchen but spent a lot of time dreaming about what I’d do if we ever got the chance to renovate it.

As it turns out, we wound up staying in Denver for reasons you’ll hear about in a few weeks. And I went full-force with my ideas for the kitchen renovation even though there was a part of me that saw the renovation as impractical (and wasteful) given that everything was brand new when we moved in. But another part of me – the homebody part – that knew I could never be fully satisfied cooking (and working) in that moody Tuscan kitchen. So when I was contacted by a woman who wanted to take everything from the kitchen – right down to the backsplash and outlet plates – and repurpose it for a mother-in-law suite, I knew it was time to take the leap.

So we did.

Thom wanted a pantry, I did not (because $$$). I wanted a funky, cement tile floor, Thom did not (because $$$). He was all about some subway tiles and I was on the fence (but, somehow, still convinced that subway tiles were the way to go). We both wanted white cabinets, stainless steel appliances, and a small eat-in area. The other things on my wish list? A narrow cabinet for cutting boards and rolling pins, wood shelves to bring in some texture, and three light sources because 1) our kitchen is a dungeon and 2) I like having options. As for Thom’s wish list, the dude just really wanted a pantry. So once we made up our minds on the finishes, we had a designer (HI ANNA) bring our vision to life, and it was then that I changed my mind about subway tiles, visible shelf brackets, corded pendants, and partial-upper cabinets. I thought I knew what I wanted but then I saw it on paper and I was like WAIT. NO. THIS IS TERRIBLE.

After seeing the rendering, I also decided to throw in some subtle brass elements and go a little more rustic with the exposed shelving because, even with the butcher block countertops and coordinating shelving, the kitchen felt cold. We also saw the potential to maximize the kitchen’s footprint, so we went from a 36″ sink cabinet to a 30″ sink cabinet and, as a result, managed to squeeze in an 18″ dishwasher (which meant the dishwasher could be right next to the sink).

Aside from maximizing square footage and making the layout more functional, we also wanted a space that was geared towards left-handed folks (we’re both lefties) and designed with taller people in mind (Thom’s 6’3″). And although designing a space for a taller person made for some off-balance visuals, I’m almost always willing to sacrifice aesthetics for things that are practical and/or serve a purpose. The XL overhang? Not a big deal if it means we can sit together without bonking knees. The negative space around the sink and range? Totally fine with me if it means Thom’s going to feel more comfortable using our kitchen. At the end of the day, that’s what mattered most – that our new space was functional.. for both of us.


– Aside from tearing the space down to the studs, adding a pantry was probably the biggest addition to the kitchen. We had our GC (HI CHRISTIAN) seal off the nook in the spare bedroom and reframe the wall in the kitchen to add a pocket door. And I dragged my feet the entire time because WE DON’T NEED A FUCKING PANTRY, THOM.
– To maximize cabinet (and counter) space, we had our GC tighten both entrances (by a few inches each). This allowed us to squeeze in wider cabinets and reduce the amount of wasted space.
– We swapped the standard American-sized refrigerator and dishwasher for the European size. We went from a 30″ 23 cuft refrigerator to a 24″ 12 cuft refrigerator (we haven’t had any issues with space.. yet) and from a 24″ dishwasher to an 18″ dishwasher (but it has a cutlery tray so I kind of feel like we’re cheating).
– We decided to swap the upper cabinetry with open shelving (it took me forever to decide on a configuration, and even when I did I still wound up changing my mind in the end). And no, we haven’t had any issues with dust.. but everyone loves making comments about that. ;)

A few things to keep in mind: 1) Murphy’s Law. We found a cement wall (which meant we lost three inches on the east/west span and had to reconfigure the layout), silicate minerals, a seriously sagging ceiling, and – just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse – we discovered extensive water damage in our spare bedroom. Each of those things added to the renovation time. And that last one put the renovation on hold for a whopping six weeks. While the cement wall was enough to drive me to the loony bin, I eventually learned to embrace the chaos and roll with the punches because there’s really not much you can do except pay someone to remedy the situation and move on. 2) You sacrifice quality when you DIY. Sure we could have demolished the old kitchen, rebuilt the walls, and moved the gas line ourselves – but it would have taken us 3x longer and there’s a pretty big chance we would have screwed up something along the way. 3) Do what you can but know your limits. Thom installed the cabinets, cut the countertops, and installed the sink so we could save some cash to splurge on a fancy dishwasher and a crazy-expensive cement tile floor. Worth it? Worth it.

Things we still need to finish: stain the reducer strips, find brass hardware for the pocket door, hang a brass rail to the left of the range, find stools (had my heart set on these and then they sold out) (still regret not snagging them), and maybe (maaaybe) add a narrow countertop table like this next to the pantry (and beneath the Vonnegut print) because I’m a firm believer that there’s no such thing as too much storage space. Especially when you’re someone who has four sets of nesting mixing bowls and a few too many cake stands.

More before photos: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Big thanks to Lowe’sRejuvenationShelfologyIndustrial Light Electric, and Yamazaki for helping to make this renovation a little easier on our bank account.

The living roomToolsBecause doughnuts + caffeine = productive dry wallersWALLS. WE HAVE FINISHED WALLS.BATHTUB DISHESUntitledThe shelves!Invisible brackets from Silicate StudioFin Art hanging the Silicate Studio brackets#SHELFIEUntitledUntitledUntitledIndustrial Light Electric sconcesUntitledYamazaki dish rackYamazaki Home for the fridgeUntitled#shelfieMirrorUntitledUntitledUntitledUntitledB/WBreakfast of ChampionsPantryGASCounter #shelfieRangeSQUARE TILES FTW

If we had to go back and do the renovation again, we’d find a different sink (it took three sinks before we got one that wasn’t warped) because the rim scratches so easily. I’m also not 100% sure I’d go with the cement tile floor because it’s super high maintenance. As in, clean the floor every damn day-high maintenance. But then I look at it and of course I’d do it again! Because HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A MORE BEAUTIFUL FLOOR? I’d also build in the refrigerator to utilize storage on top (though that is something we could still do) (but we probably won’t because we’re lazy).


Diagonal black and white cement tiles
Sektion base cabinets
Edge pulls via Rejuvenation
Hammarp beech countertops
Summit Appliance 24″ refrigerator
Miele fully-integrated slimline dishwasher
5-burner slide-in convection gas range via Lowe’s
Convertible wall-mounted range hood via Lowe’s
Drop-in stainless steel sink via Lowe’s
Stainless steel pull-out faucet via Lowe’s
Heavy-duty floating brackets (for the shelving) via Shelfology
Custom Douglas Fir shelving via Fin Art Co.
Brass wall sconces via Industrial Light Electric
Semi-gloss backsplash tiles

Heavy-duty standards and brackets
Laminate shelf boards via Lowe’s
Lucano 2-step stepladder via Rejuvenation

Organic shaped dinnerware
Latte bowls
Prep set
Pie set
Round cocottes (4QT + 7QT)
2QT saucepan
4QT casserole
Brass pour-over coffee dripper
Weck jars

Saab Breakfast
Vintage Royal baking powder advert (printed the same year our building was built!)
How to cook legumes poster
Do good

Benjamin Moore paint in whitestone
SMEG toaster
Deluxe bread bin via Rejuvenation
Dish rack via Yamazaki
Magnetic towel hanger via Yamazaki
Magnetic spice rack via Yamazaki
Metal framed mirror via Rejuvenation
Tool stand via Yamazaki
Kitchen rack via Yamazaki

Big thanks to Lowe’s, Rejuvenation, ShelfologyIndustrial Light Electric, and Yamazaki for helping to make this renovation a little easier on our bank account.

Kitchen (before)AFTER


  • Reply Rebecca 16 September 2016 at 8:41 AM

    LOVE LOVE LOVE!! so much better and so much more you! 😍

  • Reply dixya @food, pleasure, and health 16 September 2016 at 9:04 AM

    after all, washing dishes in the bathtub was so worth it. I am absolutely loving the no cabinet, subway tiles. this is gorgeous!!!!

  • Reply Katrina 16 September 2016 at 9:04 AM

    I’m moving in!! What a dream!!

  • Reply Sarah F 16 September 2016 at 9:40 AM

    LOVE IT!!! Seriously, BRAVO. I love the mix of rustic and modern, and that it’s simultaneously beautiful and practical– both are key. :)
    Can’t wait to hear about the big business venture!

  • Reply Lauren 16 September 2016 at 10:00 AM

    Where are you kitchen rugs/mats from??

  • Reply ewlake 16 September 2016 at 1:28 PM

    Thanks so much for sharing! Love the wall sconces – would like to put one at the bottom of my basement stairs – do you think one would be bright enough for a spot like that? And love the Breakfast of Champions poster. : )

  • Reply Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine 16 September 2016 at 2:00 PM

    I am in love with the floating shelving!

  • Reply Audrey 16 September 2016 at 2:51 PM

    Oh WOW.
    Looks like there is much more space.
    And of course, pantry was a good idea.

  • Reply Elyse H. 16 September 2016 at 4:47 PM

    It looks AMAZING!! I love the square tiles for the backsplash!!
    You find the coolest art, too!

  • Reply Natalie 16 September 2016 at 4:50 PM

    It looks so good, and perfectly designed for use, you must be loving it. Thanks for the shelf insight too, always looking for store cupboard inspo

    – Natalie

  • Reply Mara 16 September 2016 at 5:05 PM

    Omg. That floor. Those shelves. All of it is so you, Ashlae! It’s perfect.

  • Reply Heather 16 September 2016 at 5:20 PM

    You have such a good eye for design! The kitchen is beautiful and so well thought out, and I love how you implemented vibrant colors and geometric patterns to make the space pop.

    I hope you both are enjoying your new space! Can’t wait to see what kind of recipes you whip up in it.

  • Reply Randle Browning 16 September 2016 at 9:05 PM

    Thanks for sharing! This is a cook’s kitchen – it’s beautiful! And everything is in the exact place where you need it!

  • Reply sara forte 16 September 2016 at 9:20 PM

    how amazing that you were able to repurpose all the stuff – I didn’t know that was a thing! It looks incredible. I am so glad it’s (mostly) over. I think it’s so important to have a space you are happy in even if it’s not forever or the market may dip. There are too many things to guess on besides that NOW you want to feel good in there. It looks so “you”. Enjoy!

  • Reply Lisa 16 September 2016 at 10:41 PM

    FYI – You will never love another dishwasher as much as you love your Miele. It is an amazing dishwasher. We had one in our last house and I loved it every single time I even glanced at it. My sister is currently working on a kitchen reno and I’m all YOU MUST GET A MIELE. Sell your car if you have to. Those things are beasts and I will never buy any other brand.

    Love your kitchen, use it in good health!

  • Reply Clem @ the vegan cookie fairy 17 September 2016 at 1:31 AM

    Why are you anti-pantry? Pantries are great! They keep your kitchen tidy! And you can shop in bulk and keep all your dry goods in there so you have clearer shelves and counter-tops. PANTRIES ARE GREAT. (Also Nigella Lawson has a pantry therefore someday, I want one.)

    Your kitchen looks AMAZEBALLS btw, and very you. Well done! What I don’t get is the floor. What’s so high maintenance about it? Looks like you could just hoover and mop and ta-dah.

  • Reply Baked Vegan 17 September 2016 at 7:53 AM

    I loveee your style! I love how clean and organized your kitchen is too :) the pantry is a game changer. I have my own now and can’t imagine my life without one lol

  • Reply Ashley 17 September 2016 at 10:53 AM

    That looks awesome! What a huge step up from the original kitchen. I love those shelves and the countertops. Must be MUCH nicer to cook in that space :) The Denver market is crazy – we’re looking to sell our fixer upper here soon (hooray) which means buying too (crap).

  • Reply Jessica @ From Jessica's Kitchen 17 September 2016 at 2:51 PM

    It looks so light and airy, wow, talk about a before and after! Good move going with a pantry, you will wonder how you lived without. Enjoy your new space!

  • Reply The Wooden Spoon 19 September 2016 at 9:19 AM

    I love it! Congrats to you two as a kitchen renovation is serious work!

  • Reply Baked Vegan 19 September 2016 at 10:33 AM

    Beautiful! Pantries are da best! I especially love how clean your kitchen is :) My kitchen floor isn’t high maintenance, but I’m always cleaning it because I have really bad OCD lol. I also have a no shoe rule in my house to help with maintaining my floors clean.

  • Reply Kasey 20 September 2016 at 1:46 PM

    I cannot even imagine how good it must feel to finally be done with the kitchen reno!! I hope you drank A LOT to celebrate. Looks beautiful! xo

  • Reply Ashley Leonardo 20 September 2016 at 5:40 PM

    The shelves are amazing!

  • Reply Lavues 21 September 2016 at 5:38 AM

    A big success on the renovation! It looks really nice!

  • Reply Lan | MoreStomach 21 September 2016 at 12:01 PM

    i’m envious of your pantry space.

  • Reply Laura (A Beautiful Plate) 21 September 2016 at 1:14 PM

    It looks so, so great! I totally see your personality shine through in the kitchen, and can understand why you felt the need to go for it. Also, LOVE those Yamazaki shelves/fridge things! I was thinking to myself, “I need to know where those are from!” the whole time while I was looking at the before/after photos.

  • Reply Emily 22 September 2016 at 10:41 AM

    I absolutely love it! It’s got character and charm, and so much personality. What a process though- how did you ever manage to blog in the midst of all of that?! You are pretty incredible. :)

  • Reply Kate 22 September 2016 at 5:42 PM

    You really nailed it! Love your aesthetic.

  • Reply Jerry Wood 25 September 2016 at 3:32 PM

    Thanks for sharing your sources. I’ve always enjoyed your taste!

  • Reply Lynn | The Actor's Diet 5 October 2016 at 10:32 PM

    This is a stunning transformation! P.S. My husband is flying to Denver tomorrow for the night!

  • Reply Bek 19 October 2016 at 8:14 PM

    This is gorgeous! So much kitchen envy (and a lot of inspiration)!

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