Reno Diaries: How I Doubled the Space (and Light) in My Brooklyn Kitchen

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Brooklyn Kitchen Renovation Before and After - A side by side photograph of a renovated kitchen before and after. The photo on the left is the before with a dark space, dishwasher and small window. The one on the right is a bright kitchen with white cabinets, a farm sink and a bright bay window.
Jillian Quint/Thomas Newberger

When my husband and I bought our 1910 craftsman home in Brooklyn five years ago, we loved almost everything about it—the original woodwork, the coffered dining room ceiling, the heavy oak pocket door which, no matter how hard you try, simply cannot be slammed. The one thing we didn’t love? The tiny, dated kitchen which was closed off from the dining room and boasted vinyl floors, a half-size portable dishwasher and a bathroom, which was inexplicably tucked into its corner, taking up tons of valuable real estate.

Brooklyn Kitchen Renovation Before and After - An interior shot of a renovated kitchen with white cabinets and a bay window.
Thomas Newberger

Luckily, we had a lot of time to think about how it could work better for us as we waited and saved over the next half decade. And when the time came to renovate, we knew we had to go big, or go home. Here’s everything we did, and how we went from 100 square feet of usable kitchen space, to more than 150.

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Brooklyn Kitchen Renovation Before and After - A side by side photo of a kitchen renovation where on the left you see a wall hiding most of the kitchen and the right you see a bright, open kitchen with a breakfast bar that divides the space.
Jillian Quint/Thomas Newberger

Breaking Down Walls

The most important question, which we answered with lots of input from our architect and contractor, was how to open up the space. Ultimately, we decided to remove the wall between the kitchen and the dining room and get rid of the bathroom, which was on the other side of it—taking up nearly 50 square feet that could be returned to the kitchen. (Don’t worry, we converted a coat closet into a tiny powder room, so we could still have a bathroom on the first floor.) This was time-consuming and costly (we’re talking structural engineers, steel beams and bureaucratic permits). But for me, it was assuredly worth it, since it was the only way to create an open concept plan and add a breakfast bar, which had always been our dream.

Brooklyn Kitchen Renovation Before and After - A photograph of a bright kitchen with a farmers sink, an oriental rug, white cabinets and a window that looks out to a backyard.
Thomas Newberger

Bringing in Light

The other big structural change was the window, which we shortened but widened, so it could better fill the space above the relocated sink and full-size (!) dishwasher. This is now one of my favorite places to be in my house—which works out well, since I am nearly always washing dishes. But I also love the way it brings significantly more light into the kitchen, as well as the dining room and beyond.

Brooklyn Kitchen Renovation Before and After - A photograph of white open shelves along with white cabinets and a white refrigerator.
Thomas Newberger

Open Shelves (But Lots of Cabinets)

In addition to increasing the kitchen’s overall footprint, we vastly upped our storage thanks to ceiling-height shaker cabinets (from Bridgewood Cabinetry) and a 36-inch pantry/broom closet. And because we had so much cabinet space for all our ugly mugs and cereal boxes, I felt confident adding a little bit of open shelving against some exposed brick we uncovered during the demo.

Brooklyn Kitchen Renovation Before and After - A close up of a white stove and white cabinets. There is a gold pot filler filling water into a dutch oven on the stovetop.
Thomas Newberger

Plumbing, Venting and Appliances

I am absolutely in love with GE’s café line, which offers a white custom look at a decidedly non-custom mid-range price. And my husband (the actual cook in the family) was insistent that our hood vent to the outside, particularly since we went with a gas stove. (I know…I know…) The pièce de résistance? The pot-filler, which we use every damn day.

Brooklyn Kitchen Renovation Before and After - A photo showing the new kitchen renovation with bright cabinets and a new stove and dishwasher leading into the older living room.
Thomas Newberger

Tying the Old to the New

Ultimately, it was very important to us to create a space that worked with our old house, not against it, so a hyper modern kitchen with light, scandi wood just wasn’t going to fly. We chose rich, dark engineered plank wood flooring from Stuga to connect the kitchen to the oak elements throughout dining room, and I cannot say enough good things about it. We get tons of compliments on the floors, which people seem to think are original (despite the fact that they do not match the parquet elsewhere), and we find it remarkably easy to keep clean. Additionally, we tried to keep details—from the brass knobs and pulls to the vintage inspired sconce to the glazed ceramic backsplash tile—in tune with finishes and time periods you’d find throughout the rest of the house. After all, trends may come and go, but if they don’t play nicely with a 110-year-old plate rail, they’re not going to work in my home.

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jillian quint

Editor-in-Chief, Avid Reader, Wallpaper Enthusiast

Jillian Quint is the Editor-in-Chief of PureWow, where she oversees the editorial staff and all the fabulous content you read every day. Jillian began her career as a book editor...