The Kitchen Refresh

03/20/2024  |  Kathy Marshall
The Kitchen Refresh
The Kitchen Refresh


Under the right circumstances, a kitchen refresh can be the perfect solution if you’re looking to revive a tired kitchen. As opposed to a kitchen remodel where virtually everything is replaced and reconfigured, a refresh generally leaves flow and function in place to focus on improving aesthetics and style instead.


We’ve done a ton of them over the last 25 years! I’d love to share one of my recent favorites - and what made it a good candidate for a refresh - in hopes of helping you evaluate and plan your own potential projects.



On our Beverly Farms Colonial Revival Project, we did extensive renovations to multiple baths and several whole-house upgrades including paneling, painting, floor refinishing, and new furnishings. An entirely new kitchen might have strained the budget, so we asked: was it even necessary?


To Remodel or Refresh?

If a kitchen is basically working, meaning if there’s enough space, and everything’s generally in the right place to be functional and have good flow, you might be a candidate for a refresh, as we ultimately determined this kitchen was. 


The Kitchen: Before


After layout, the biggest factor comes down to the quality of the cabinetry. This is why I’ve always advised our clients to invest in the best quality cabinetry that they can afford. Strong, straight, and substantial doors and drawers will hold up better over time, and can handle the rigor of a refresh: the removal of the doors, drawer heads, and hardware, the filling of holes, sanding down, finishing, and then the reinstallation and addition of new hardware if necessary. 



Elements of a Refresh

On this project, the cabinetry passed the test, so it got to stay. Doors and drawer heads were removed and refinished off site, while the boxes were finished in place. We made sure to fine-tune the way each unit fit, and opened and closed, so that when it was all put back together, the cabinetry would perform as it would come to look – like new. 


What would be replaced? A leaking soapstone sink, a few appliances that were in the right places, but not working properly, and outdated lighting, tile, hardware, plus two of the four countertop surfaces.     



The existing honed black granite countertops were in decent shape, but they were a dark and heavy presence in the kitchen. We decided to keep them at the cooktop wall (where the cabinetry was sitting directly on the countertops!) but at the island, with the sink needing replacement, we took the opportunity to do something with more character. We inserted a classic white porcelain farm sink, and used a stone with a lighter profile and more visual interest – one of my absolute favorites - polished Super White quartzite. 



This stone is a great choice for kitchens because it has some characteristics of marble, yet it performs and wears well, like granite. We used this same stone on a small section of countertop near the breakfast nook that had previously been Carrara marble, and repurposed that marble elsewhere. At the coffee bar, we kept the existing walnut wood top which was contributing warmth, texture, and providing a nice variation in material.



Lighting: An Easy Upgrade

Another big player in any kitchen refresh is lighting. The very first thing I selected for this kitchen was the graceful, sleek dome pendant by Urban Electric for over the kitchen table - not only because it echoed the arched doorways throughout the house, but because it nicely set up the idea that we’d be mixing and matching time periods in this space.




At the kitchen island, we swapped the three undersized and outdated tech lights for two classic, polished chrome bistro pendants. Recessed lights were updated, switches and outlets relocated to more appropriate locations. On the plumbing side, we traded the traditional bridge-style faucets at the sinks for sleek, more modern alternatives. In planning for the new Sub-Zero, we left off the wood panels so the stainless steel would provide additional style and reflectivity. 



Paint Color: Adding Layers and Depth

For colors, we eliminated the harsh, bright white of the old cabinetry in favor of a color with more richness and pigment, Wimborne White by Farrow & Ball and did the island base in a fun British racing green called Coach Green from Fine Paints of Europe. Where wall surfaces were visible, we opted to have a decorative painter apply Venetian plaster to provide a subtle warmth and depth that you not only see, but can feel.  



Tile: Spring for Something Special

At the cooktop backsplash, we were able to add more warmth and detail with antique Delft tiles from the 17th century in Holland reclaimed by our friends at Regts Delft Tiles. I’ve used these elegant tiles on several projects, and they always bring a grounding sense of history and patina to a space. Here, we made sure to install them in such a way that they can be removed and reused, again, if ever needed in the future.




Flooring: A Fresh Start

The final aspect of the refresh were the existing black-and-white painted oak floors. The previous owner had stenciled the floors - and we all found the treatment charming - but it was showing signs of wear and staining in some places, so our contractors did a light scuff sanding, and then taped off and hand painted each square using paint and finishes formulated specifically for floors. It instantly freshened and brightened the kitchen.



A Note on Hardware

Overall, this was a successful refresh because we had a beautiful, light-filled space with a functional layout to begin with. The cabinetry was well made and classic with modified Shaker-style doors that just needed new fit, finish, and hardware. One detail that’s very important to me is to correct and unify the style, size, and placement of cabinet hardware. It’s a subtle thing that you may not even necessarily notice at first, but you can somehow feel that it’s more clean and organized when it’s done right. 


Like the hardware, our updates were all strategic and purposeful, down to the custom barstools from a 1960s French design to the Danish modern chairs, the antique pottery, vintage carpet, and artwork. All of the elements work together to create a timelessness and warmth that I strive to create in any kitchen - whether a remodel or refresh – so it remains a place where families can gather together and nourish each other, for years to come. 


The Kitchen: Before



The Kitchen: After





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