Before & After: A Massive Makeover for a Minuscule Kitchen

One cramped kitchen sees new life, thanks to the husband-and-wife team behind The Grit and Polish.

Kitchen Before and After


Cathy Poshusta says, “My husband and I are a couple of old-house renovation junkies.” Together, she and Garrett renovate one after another residence in the Seattle, WA, area, temporarily living within the walls of the project house before moving on to their next adventure. Right now, the couple lives in a 1926 Tudor they’ve dubbed the Ravenna House. Here, one major area of focus has been the kitchen, which at the outset was woefully outdated and inconveniently closed off from the rest of the home. The plan? Transform the space into the sort of heart-of-the-home kitchen that modern families have grown accustomed to enjoying. The result? Stunning. Though Cathy documents her challenges and triumphs over on The Grit and Polish, we tracked her down to find out more details about the design decision-making and do-it-yourself feats that went into achieving a kitchen before-and-after of such jaw-dropping style and persuasive substance.

Kitchen Before and After - Full View


What was the kitchen like before?
When we bought the house, the kitchen had 1920s cabinets, an original cast-iron sink, and a wall-mounted faucet. It was also the smallest kitchen I had ever seen and completely closed off from the rest of house. It all added up to a space that no one wanted to be in. Our renovation goal was to open up the space and create a room that people actually wanted to gather in.

Where did you look for inspiration?
I have a pretty robust “kitchen” board on Pinterest, where I keep all my inspiration. Once I saw a kitchen with a marble herringbone backsplash, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. In the last two kitchens we remodeled, I installed a white subway tile backsplash. This time, I wanted to try something new.

Kitchen Before and After - Herringbone Backsplash


What did you learn from installing the tile yourself?
My husband and I learned a lot from that DIY tile installation, mainly that laying tile in a herringbone pattern is not for the faint of heart. There are a lot of custom-cuts and sore thumbs involved. We probably won’t attempt herringbone again.

Kitchen Before and After - In Progress Work


What was the biggest challenge? Any compromises along the way?
Like many old houses, nothing in the Ravenna House is square or plumb. That proved tedious, particularly when it came to hanging cabinets and installing molding. The ceilings were a real construction challenge as well. After taking out the wall between the kitchen and living room, we had varying ceiling heights. The simplest solution to hide the imperfections, we decided, would be to install a faux beam and beadboard ceiling. In the end, those details are two of my favorite features. We did have to compromise on counter and cabinet space in order to fit in a dining table. An island would have added workspace and storage, but I just couldn’t stomach the idea of not having a table, since our family gathers there every night.

Small Kitchen Makeover


As someone who’s renovated a few different houses, do you have any tips for our readers?
If all else fails, shim it and caulk it, and everything will look just fine. That’s a mantra my husband and I find ourselves repeating during every renovation. I’ve also learned to take my time and do the job right. It’s natural to want to rush through a project… but doing that second measurement and checking the level one more time will ultimately save you time and money. Having to redo a project that you or a previous homeowner has already done is beyond frustrating. Just check out the tile floor we had to rip up and redo in our basement shower!

Kitchen Window Seat


Now that you’ve lived with the new kitchen, how do you think it’s changed the way you use the space?
The new kitchen is way more open. It is a small space but well laid out and really efficient. It’s now a gathering place for our family and friends (instead of a closed-off room that could only fit one person). And we use the space every day for every meal and often sit at the table to do coloring or reading with our 1-year-old son. This kitchen is now truly the heart of our home.


See even more photos of this kitchen before-and-after over at The Grit and Polish.