My Farmhouse Kitchen Renovation

For me, my house is my sanctuary. It’s the place I go to escape the world and all it may throw at me. It’s the place where memories are made, where I garden and cook, bake, and entertain. And while I’ve only lived in my current house for right around ten years, it’s quickly become my home. Not just a house – truly a home. A home in need of a dramatic kitchen renovation!

A home evokes a feeling and a sense of belonging that other locales just can’t seem to provide. That’s why I embarked on the journey of home renovation: to create my ideal sanctuary, my idea of perfection.

I won’t lie: it was a long, arduous process. But it was well worth it in the end, as are so many things that test your very being. Dramatic? Maybe, but there were times when all I craved was my home back. Now that it is, I couldn’t be happier. And I’m excited to be able to share it with you, in the hope that it inspires you revel in your home. If you haven’t found your “home” yet, I hope this small glimpse into mine will tide you over ’til you do!

History of my house and property

My southeast Iowa farmhouse pre-dates 1900. As is the case with many old homes, the surviving records aren’t the best, but others in my community have dated the structure to around 1890. I do happen to know that when it was built, it was finished in more of a Victorian aesthetic, including corbels in the eaves and ornate trim work.

At some point in the course of history, most likely when the siding was updated, all the home’s original features were removed. In fact, at one time, pieces of the original woodwork were stored in the farm’s barn. Alas, the barn is no longer standing and with it went some of the house’s exterior ornaments. To my knowledge, there is no surviving record or pictures of this period.

So the house became a modified four-square, a typical Midwestern farmhouse.

The house was purchased by my grandparents in 1980 and my parents moved in after their wedding in 1982. At that time, the house had undergone lackluster, but completely expected, updates. It had wood paneling on all main floor walls and a temporary drop ceiling. This was a common way to cover up the original plaster that likely needed to be replaced. All original details, including doors, hardwood flooring, and woodwork had been stripped out and were long gone. Sigh…

My parents put in a “new” 1980s kitchen, complete with a soffit. To this day, my mom still says she thought she had the world on a string when she completed that remodel. As I was demoing the tile backsplash, she commented on how she loved the stalk of wheat imprinted on select tiles strategically placed among their plain counterparts. I’m sure it was quite the “upgrade” back in 1982.

In 1988, as my dad was taking on a larger role on the fourth-generation family farm, my parents swapped houses with my grandparents, who had lived in the larger farm’s house for years. When my grandparents moved into their “new” home, they lovingly renovated the main floor (kitchen excluded) and brought it into the 1990s. At the time, it seemed like a brand new house!

Exterior of white farmhouse with large front door and double windows with sun setting in background
My house in its current state, ten years from my move-in date.

I purchased the home in 2010. For the first nine years, I did nothing but paint and focus on the outdoors. I moved the vegetable gardens, planted new landscaping, and reshaped the entire yard. When I say the entire yard… I mean, the entire yard.

The house has always been in great condition but it didn’t feel like it had any farmhouse soul left. I spent years dreaming and thinking of ways to not only update the house but instead, bring the house back to its farming roots. Every other occupant had left their stamp and it was time for me to do the same, right?!

Floor Plan

If you’ve got an eye for technical drawings, sometimes a visual representation is just easier than trying to explain everything in word form.

Use the slider below to see the floor plan before and after. If you slide to the left, you’ll see the new kitchen layout. If you slide to the right, you’ll see the old kitchen. The same footprint was preserved, but the layout was updated, revised, and improved.

The Finished Space

While the initial idea was the only renovate the kitchen, this renovation was no different than any other. When do you decide to stop? At first, I didn’t really draw a line. I had a checklist of things I wanted:

  • 9-foot ceilings in the kitchen
  • Wall opened between the kitchen and dining space
  • Removal of the entry closet and repositioning of the front door
  • New French doors leading to the back patio
  • Opening between the living room and TV room

That was all the further I was going to go. But, oh, it turned into so much more. So much!

  • New baseboard and trim throughout the entire space, matched perfectly with the original trim which can still be found in my second-floor rooms
  • New doors to match the original doors
  • Structural and cosmetic updates to my stairs
  • Removal of a useless closet in the TV
  • Addition of a built-in TV unit
  • Replacement of the original “true” front door to match all the others
  • 9-foot ceilings in the rest of the first floor
  • A new electrical box and wiring throughout the first floor

I know I’m not alone with this ever-expanding list of what to fix in the house. I finally pulled the plug and applied the brakes. The first-floor bathroom and laundry will have to wait until another year (or maybe decade – ha!).

Without further ado, here are the final finished spaces:

The kitchen

I wanted an open entertaining space while still maintaining the feeling of “rooms.” Since the walls were structural, I used the casing to create this look. When guests are sitting at the dining room table, they can still interact with whoever is in the kitchen.

Creamy and light farmhouse kitchen with large island and three stool tucked away with wall oven and black windows

This is the main pantry where my glasses, plates, mugs, and even coffee maker are stored. I didn’t love the idea of always having open shelving, but I still wanted them to be accessible. So I had the doors constructed to recede into the cabinet on tracks.

Large pantry cabinet in creamy white farmhouse kitchen with yellow bowl filled with squash sitting on large island with white countertop and pendants hanging above island
Large upper cabinet sitting on countertop with doors open revealing plates, mugs, bowls, and coffee maker

I didn’t want the range to feel like it was exposed, but I also didn’t want an extra large hood. So I opted for a “column” look wherein the hood feels as though it’s touching the countertop. Rather than waste the space within each column, I had my shelves installed on either side. This is great for storing spices, oils, utensils, and so much more!

My cookbooks are readily accessible to the left of the stove along with my antique yellow and brown ware bowls. And any kitchen wouldn’t be complete without some wood cutting boards to provide warm tones.

Stainless steel oven with red knobs at far end of kitchen with red rug on wood floors with side of island exposed
Large stainless steel range with red knobs surrounded by cabinetry and vent above with cutting boards sitting on a wooden shelf

Since the renovated kitchen isn’t overly large, I knew I wanted to “hide” my refrigerator. So panel-front it was!

Large panel front refrigerator sitting behind island with stools and light hardwood floors

Let’s face it: I have a lot of kettles. I just can’t help it! But that also meant I had to stuff them in a corner cabinet in my old kitchen. Not so with my new island. I made sure to design deep drawers complete with a peg system that would provide flexibility.

Large drawers in a kitchen island with range in background and red rug on hardwood floors
My trash container was also super necessary. I wanted to reserve space below my kitchen sink, so placing it in the island was a must! Plus, if I make a mess on the island, I can simply open the trash door and wipe it right into the can.

Baking room

I’m all about designating spaces within a home. And while my kitchen isn’t large, there was something comforting in the idea that there’s a space for everything. That’s why I lovingly termed what used to be part of my mud room the “baking room.” I plan to do all my baking here, including breads, cookies, pies, you name it!

Small island with chunky legs and lower shelf covered in marble with wall oven behind and rack filled with copper cookware
A second island makes this baking room a true dream! To make sure I don’t run out of space and don’t burn anything wood, I added my quartz countertop to the lower shelf. This way, I’ll have plenty of space to cool batches of cookies while I’m prepping other delicious goods!

To mirror the pantry cabinet right beside it (in the regular part of the kitchen – the “cooking room” maybe?), I installed one in the baking room. This houses my mixer, flours, sugars, and extra pans. Any good baker needs an oven, so to add convenience, I added a wall oven to this room as well as a microwave.

Wall oven in a creamy white cabinet with pantry cabinet right beside it with black door in distance

Over the years, I’ve seemed to expand my collection of copper pots and kettles. How does that even happen?! I guess I’m a true collector at heart. I didn’t want these to be cooped up in the basement any longer, so part of my design was their own wall, compete with brass rail. These add such beautiful warm light when the afternoon sunlight shines in!

Lots of copper pots hanging on a brass rail with ship lap and large baseboard all with light wood floors

I opted for traditional farmhouse windows (in black!) and simple four-panel doors. To match my upstairs, I installed rim lock door handles that will patina and age with use and time.

For the floors, I wanted to keep things light and airy. A 3/4″ hardwood white oak with no stain was my final decision. They’ll also age and wear a bit over time, but since they’re real hardwood, I’ll be able to do a few sandings over their life.

Four square creamy colored panel door with light oak floors leading up to it with small island to the side

Dining room

My old dining room was separated from the kitchen and had a leaky bay window. I couldn’t wait to get rid of it, both for aesthetic and structural reasons. I had two large black French doors installed, leading out to the patio. In the pre-renovation kitchen, the only way I could exit to the patio was through a sliding patio door, which became harder to use each summer. These two French doors will allow for true al fresco dining and I can’t wait to entertain this season!

Light wood dining table with steel chairs and large white shelf stacked with brown and yellow decor with black French door to the side

It was also important to me that the dining space feel extremely open to the kitchen. This way, I’ll still be able to entertain anyone who’s over for a meal if my preparations taking longer than expected… or if the guests arrive earlier than they should!

Wood dining table with steel chairs and white linen chandelier with black French doors in background
Wood dining room table with metal chairs around with pots and plants on table and large French doors in background

Living room

My living room and dining room have always been open to each other. But when the ceilings were raised to nine feet, my contractor discovered a load-bearing beam. Rather than be disappointed, I decided to make it an extra thick cased opening. Turns out, I love the look!

Two leather chairs with blue couch with red pillows in background all with white walls and light oak flooring

Entry

My previous entry was unusable. Period. No, seriously. Whenever someone would try to open the door, it would inevitably bump into the closet door that was also in the entryway. I knew it was time to gut the whole thing. Instead of keeping the door where it was (positioned to the south), I moved it to an east wall. Now, sunshine streams into this small space during the pre-noon hours.

Black French door leading into entryway with black slate flooring and cream colored trim

To add functionality, a wood-topped bench was a must. I opted for white oak to match the floors. And to add durability, I went with a black slate floor, laid in a herringbone pattern with a double bond around the edge. Love it!

Oh, and the sconces! My favorite part of the entire renovation was picking out lighting, especially when it highlights artwork I’ve had for years and never been able to display! Dreams do come true, guys!

Dark gray slate floor and white oak bench make up a small entry space with black window and painting with a brass sconce above

TV room

Believe it or not, this smallish room used to be my grandparents’ bedroom. Their queen bed fit easily and the closet (probably added in the ’90s) made it the perfect space. Due to its cozy feel, it became the TV room when I moved in.

Two brown leather chairs sitting on blue colored rug with pine chest and black French door in background

Since I don’t need a super-deep closet in my TV room, I filled it in with a TV cabinet. Now, I know the style of TVs change over the years, so I opted for a built-in that will change with the times. It’s a great place to display pottery, artwork, and house some of my “mess.” We all have some mess, right?

TV sitting in a built-in unit with cabinets underneath and shelves above with paintings on the surrounding walls and a blue rug on on the hardwood floors

Stairs

The stairs leading to my second floor bedrooms were bad. And I mean, really bad. At some point, a prior occupant of the house also realized the stairs were going bad. So they braced the treads from the underside. They weren’t the greatest carpenter, though, since some of the nails were actually exposed on the other side. There have been numerous times that I’ve stepped on one of these exposed nails. I’ll fill ya in: it hurts!

Instead of getting an entirely new set of stairs, my carpenter created new treads (white oak to match the floors) and veneers for the risers. And what’s the result? Practically brand new stairs… with no exposed nails. That’s a win!

White oak stairs leading to a second floor

What I learned

I’ve always heard people say “you need to build at least three houses to know exactly what you want.” In my head, I never believed anyone would actually need to do that. Who doesn’t know what they want? Now I understand why the saying.

Even though I spent years thinking about how I wanted to remodel, there were still items I didn’t plan for about and things I would change. I’ve realized that you can never be too overprepared.

These are a few things I now know:

Confirm the details and communicate. I spent a lot of time and focus on finding and purchasing the perfect lighting. I love lights and couldn’t wait to find the right piece for each spot. While I went over the indoor light placements and double-checked the height of the picture lights, I forgot to go over how the outdoor lights by each door. They ended up much higher than I wanted. It’s a small loss: I had to switch the style of light I can use. I’ll survive, but I did learn an important lesson about confirming all the details.

You’ll never think of everything. I spent a lot of time thinking about the location of each electrical outlet. For someone who lives in an old house, the idea of adding outlets wherever you want is amazing. I know some of you will say “amen” to that! I also found the perfect black outlets and unlacquered brass plates. After finishing everything, I wish I would have requested they be installed in the baseboard. Yes, this is possible, especially since my replica baseboard is 11” tall. This would have lowered their visibility and given off an older, farmhouse vibe. But the moral is: you won’t think of everything and you’ll have to come to terms with that. It builds character, right?

Be prepared for perfection to evade you. For this renovation, I was my own general contractor. This hopefully saved some money, but also let some things slide that would’ve been good to address. There is a significant hump in the floor from the dining room to the kitchen. I noticed it throughout the demo and asked about it, but it never seemed to be a big deal to my subs. After everything was installed I still notice it. And yes, I’ll live with it just fine, but wish I would have had it leveled out. When you begin the demo, you’re so excited and it’s easy to glaze over things that don’t seem like a big deal. Take time to think about each thing, even if you may seem annoying to those you’re working with. Overall, realize that perfection isn’t possible and the quirks of an old house create a story!

Always prepare for the project to take longer. Even if it seems like no big deal, everything takes longer than you’d think. Right now, the construction industry seems to have more jobs lined up than time available. More than likely, your contractors will not be dedicated only to your project. I found this out many times with various stages of the project. Sometimes it takes a bit of coercing to get them back on-site, but remember that kindness always wins in the end.

Restoring is very different and more expensive than remodeling. While there is an obvious overlap between building something brand new and renovating something already built, restoring tends to takes more time. I wanted to bring back my house’s charm and soul and that included custom-made trim to make what would’ve been in the home when it was built. Just know that custom trim takes more time to manufacture and install.

I regret no choices in terms of product or finishes but be warned that it definitely adds up when it comes to the budget.

It is so important to work with people that understand you and your vision. Since there was a high level of detail in the remodel, the finish carpentry work was key. Thankfully, I had amazing people that had worked with old homes and wanted me to be happy. They noticed little things before I would and made sure everything was how I pictured it. This sometimes meant removing an incorrect piece of trim and changing it. At the time, I felt bad saying something. But if you’re always going to notice it, say something!

Watch the tour of my kitchen renovation:


Materials and Sources

Note: no links contained in this post are affiliate links. I have received no payment and will not receive any commission for the products linked below. These links are for your convenience only.

Paint Colors, Floors & Fixtures


TV Room


Dining Room


Hallway

  • SconcesRidgewood by Hudson Valley Lighting | Finish: Aged Brass | Width: 24.5″

Living Room


Entry


Kitchen

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  • I absolutely love love your remodeling!!!! You have great style and everything is so neat and homey! If we build a house I am going to try to go with your style! I so appreciate the fact that you listed all of your resources. As I was watching your video I was wondering what color you had painted your trim and walls and you told me, yeah! I had one house that I painted the walls relaxed khaki which I think is on the same paint card as wool skein. I love all your ideas that you used in the kitchen and the brass handles and knobs are so warm and will look so neat as they age. I used quartz countertops in my present kitchen and I love the quartz. I wanted mine to look like marble too and it does. You could be a designer in a New York minute!! Again thanks for listing your sources and sharing your home!! Love your instagram and all your cooking videos!!!

  • I love it have seen all white rooms in magazines and never liked the photos but your accessories add so much to the all. White

  • Your home is wonderful. Thank you for sharing it (and your sources) with us! Your IG account is delightful, educational and just plain fun. Love it!

  • You did an amazing job! I wouldn’t change a thing. Are your kitchen cabinets also painted wool skein? I love how they feel light and airy, but also very warm. (Side note: I’m DIYing my Portland OR fixer and I can tell how much time, thought and money you’ve put into the space. You’ve done an excellent job making the space look loved)

  • Just stumbled across your posts. Enjoyed the renovation of your home. Will continue to watch what you have to say. I myself love the outside aspects of the outside gardening and landscaping

    • I love reading everything about your kitchen. I understand renovations are unpredictable. Your reno looks amazing! Congratulations!

  • I . Live in a 400 year old cottage in Surrey, England. Unusually for this country it is has a wooden structure and has wood cladding on the outside and ship lap on some of the interior walls. The trim on my interior doors is exactly the same profile as your. Because it is such an old building it has been given an historical status which means I can paint but cannot alter structurally any walls , doors or windows (not that I want to) . Ive just purchased unfinished brass light switches for the whole house , to match the original door knobs and the same brass catches for my kitchen cabinets. I was super excited when I stumbled upon your site . It’s like my house has been picked up and moved to Iowa. I can’t wait to see the upstairs of your home.

  • Southeast Iowa! My son lives in Fort Madison…love it there! Amazing..stunning kitchen and your generosity to share your product info is greatly appreciated! Love your farmhouse, your style and spirit!!

  • Absolutely fabulous remodel. I love it!!! What a great job! I completely understand about perfection being evasive. We had a hump in our kitchen floor that I just couldn’t live with. I knew it would drive me insane, so we had our builder correct that. On the other hand, there is a slightly imperfect paint job in our master bath- no one else might notice, but I do. Strangely enough, I let that slide. Like you, I decided to chalk that up to “character” and move on. Enjoy your lovely new space! It’s beautiful.

  • I love everything you did to your home. I have a sense of calm and peace. I love the kitchen and want to bake with you in this space. I want to wish you lots of happiness in your updates home.

  • Lovely home. Love the wall colors and adding your personality with it make it feel warm and beautiful. You’re a kind young man and very talented!

  • Everything is absolute perfection!! Just stunning!! Thank you for sharing your journey. I am all about restoration over renovation so I genuinely appreciate your attention to detail. I love how you incorporated modern conveniences with classic design! I can’t wait to see your new space all done up for the holidays. Wishing you all the best. ❤️

  • Beautiful job on your restoration! Our house is 100+ years old, also, so I understand what you say about restoration vs. remodeling. I noticed in the description that the kitchen sink was crossed out. Did you put a different one in than what is listed? I feel green with envy when I watch you using that beautiful sink in your videos!

  • LOVE YOUR HOUSE AND DECOR! Lived in Southeast Iowa for more than 30 years. Raised my children there, Am in Florida now. But, in addition, I truly adore your cooking/recipes 💕
    You are a real charmer, my dear. I can say that because I’m old enough to be your Grandma😊

  • I just inherited a very similar house. You have inspired me! I love you esthetic. Why are is the Ryder Chair and Ottoman crossed out?