Kitchen Redesign Before After

By The Old House Web

after1.jpg (11709 bytes)

By Kendall Holmes

By my standards (and perhaps by yours) the existing kitchen in this 1960s house in the Washington, D.C., suburbs was neither old nor dumpy.

And in fact, the owners of the house loved the kitchen's classy oak cabinetry.

What they didn't like was the existing kitchen's sense of confinement. It felt closed in by small door openings. And to make matters worse, a full wall separated the kitchen from a spacious adjoining eating area.

before.jpg (8204 bytes)

Nice cabinets; dark and choppy layout.

And so a plan slowly emerged: Remove the offending wall and then create a new kitchen -- re-using the old cabinetry and filling in here and there with new cabinets.

So far, so good. But as remodeler David Merrick started planning the job, he quickly discovered the manufacturer of the cabinetry had recently ceased operations. And while Merrick knew he could use a local cabinetmaker to reproduce the units, he faced a second problem: The bleaching effect of sunlight that hit some cabinets daily while never reaching others had caused the patina in the older oak cabinets to develop unevenly.

during2.jpg (9777 bytes)

Vince Lusi cleans and refinishes existing cabinets.

Getting everything to come out the same color was going to be a challenge.

Merrick's solution?

First, painter Vince Lusi cleaned and dulled the existing cabinet cases. Then Lusi experimented with adding different colorants to laquer until he found the right shade to match the new cabinets with oak trim in the home's dining room. Then he worked up a second batch, with different colorants, to match the darker sections of the existing cabinets with that same oak trim. And then he mixed a third batch to apply to the lighter, sun bleached sections of the existing cabinets.

Painstaking work? You bet. Worth the effort? Judge it yourself from the pictures.

after2.jpg (10290 bytes)

after3.jpg (10065 bytes)


  • Existing Quakermaid cabinets were refinished to match dining room trim.
  • The existing sheet vinyl floor in the kitchen and dining area were replaced with new oak strip flooring to match the rest of the house.
  • Existing 1960s laminate countertops were replaced with new granite countertops.
  • Lightolier recessed lights were added throughout the kitchen.
  • New appliances were added, including a Thermodor convection range and a General Electric Spacesaver microwave oven above the range.

This kitchen won first place in the 1999 Chrysalis Awards for best kitchen facelift.


Designer: David Merrick
Contractor: Merrick Design/Build, Kensington, MD

Search Improvement Project
Old House Blog
Home Improvement Topics