New Old Kitchen Renovation on a Budget

New Old Kitchen Renovation on a Budget

by Cindy Bogart

Photography by Tria Giovan

We bought a pretty plain box colonial house in Newport a few years ago. The house was in the perfect location,  just 2 miles from the beach in a great neighborhood. The only problem was we love older homes.  The only solution was to turn this new house into an old one by adding the charm and detail that it lacked. Coming from a family of serial fixer-uppers, we had a vision of what we wanted and we went for it.

This first thing to work on was the heart of the home, the kitchen. The out-of-the-box factory kitchen that was there had to go. The first person we called was kitchen style maven and designer, Susan Serra .  I had known Susan for years having produced stories on many of her kitchens when I was a Regional Editor for Better Homes & Gardens and Kitchen & Bath magazines.  I had seen her transform difficult spaces into dream kitchens and I knew she’d be able to work her magic and create the kitchen we wanted.

We had a wish list

Of course, we wanted the kitchen to have a beachy vibe with a butlers pantry feeling, a nod to the turn-of-the-century Newport mansions not far away. It had to be a cook’s kitchen with a center island for prep that could double as a serving and gathering spot for our young family of five plus tons of friends and guests.

The first thing Susan did when she assessed the shape of the kitchen was to play off of the long and narrow shape of the room and make a few minor structural changes. The original windows were replaced with a bank of three traditional windows and the sliding door was replaced with a wide multi-pane door instead.

The far end of the kitchen had a few inexpensive adjustments that made a world of difference.  The fireplace jutted out into the room. To minimalize it, we added built-in window seats under the windows and instead of adding a mantel, we designed paneling on the wall above to give it dimension.  The basement door also stuck out all by itself into the room. We extended the wall next to it and added a walk in pantry and added another pantry opposite it on the fireplace wall.  The pantry storage space we gained here saved us from adding additional cabinetry in the main part of the kitchen.

Deep cornice moldings, raised paneling over the fireplace, built-in window seats and a very high ‘chair’ or ‘picture’ rail gives the room the feeling of a traditional butler’s pantry .  The straw yellow paint above the railing and white below add a clean, crisp look.

A Working Kitchen

This kitchen needed to be efficient and it had to accommodate more than one chef.  The large built-in black hutch houses everyday needs and is within one step of the working island and range.  We found the old 19th century meat rack rusted and hanging from a ceiling in an antique store on Route 1 in Wells, Maine. After stripping it and applying a few coats of black Rustoleum paint, it now serves as pot rack alleviating the need for pot storage in the cabinets.

The built in hutch is the star and workhorse of the kitchen

Two walk in pantries sit opposite each

Where We Saved

The two most expensive costs in a kitchen are the cabinetry and the appliances.  We love to cook and entertain and I desparately wanted top grade appliances and we splurged for a 48" Wolf Range with a French cooktop and two -30" wide Subzero units, one a full refrigerator and one a full freezer. The cabinetry cost was cut in half by not having any over-the counter cabinets but instead two walk in food pantries for dry goods and kitchen extras were created.

The 48" Wolf Range has 4 burners with a French cooktop. An inexpensive substitute for a large slab of marble behind the range were marble  12″ x 12″ tiles from Home Depot at $12. each. No grout was used which gave it a more solid look.  The trivets are drilled into the teak counter for resting hot pots.

We invested in the teak counters which not only look great but wear extremely well.  To freshen them requires a light sanding followed by a rub of teak oil. Hardware is the jewelry of the kitchen but jewelry is expensive. Instead I found round wooden knobs at the hardware store for a few dollars each and after a little Minwax stain and urethane sealer, the knobs looked like something out of an English butler’s pantry.

The teak counters require a periodic rub of teak oil.  The pot rack is an 19th century meat rack found rusted in an antique shop and refurbished.

The Floors

The original floors in the house were engineered hardwood floors and we didn’t love them. Instead, we replaced them with Brazilian walnut from Lumber Liquidators. Not only are they beautiful, but they are easy to keep, have a 50 year warranty and are less expensive than a tile floor. As a matter of fact, they were so cost effective, we did all of the floors in the entire house.


There is a mindset you have to have going into a kitchen remodel. Set a budget and add 20% on for unforeseeable expenses and stay true to your ‘style’ and be prepared to be without a kitchen for a couple or three months . Make a list of ‘must haves’ and be flexible on everything else. Serra was able to create this hard-working kitchen loaded with charm that way and you could, too.

Before, left, After, right

Susan Serra, CKD

Susan Serra

Susan Serra, a leader in the Kitchen Design community, has been chosen to be published in numerous publications.

  • President, Susan Serra Associates, Inc. since 1991 (Kitchen/Bath Design Firm)

  • Kitchen Design Professional Since 1986

  • Certified Kitchen Designer Since 1993

  • Certified Aging in Place Specialist (Since 2008)

  • NKBA Member Since 1991

  • Award Winning Designs by – NKBA, NARI, others

  • Speaker, Brand Consultant

  • Founder: Scandinavian Made www.scandinavianmade.com


Flooring: Lumber Liquidators
Cabinetry: Quality Custom Cabinetry
Blinds:Mahogany Matchstick Blinds Blinds.com
Teak: Kobenhavn Design, NY
Appliances: Sub-zero and Wolf Range
Stools: Bed, Bath and Beyond
Table: Vietnamese Rubberwood from Pier One

Benches: Pottery Barn
Rug: Dash & Albert
Pot Rack: Antiques, Wells, Maine on Route 1
Tiles: Marble 12″ x 12″ – Home Depot
Lighting over the sink: Pottery Barn
Shade over the table: Base from Home Depot, Shade from Restoration Hardware Outlet
Paint- Devine Color

All photographs and materials are reproduced with the permission of REMODEL MAGAZINE, Better Homes & Gardens, Meredith Corporation

This article was originally published in our previous site, The Daily Basics

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