Chicago Kitchen and Living Room, The Renovation - Before And After

Today I'm excited to share with you all the reveal of our kitchen and living room in our new house in Chicago. For the most part, these rooms have been done for a while, but of course there are always things I want to tweak and change, so I knew if I waited until it was "officially" done, I'd probably never post it up here!

As most of you know, when we first arrived to Chicago, we lived in temporary housing for eight weeks. For four weeks, we waited to close on the house, and the second four weeks we spent on the major renovations of the house. By the time our stay was up at temp housing, we were about 85 percent done with everything, so we moved in with the plan to finish up the last few things while living here.

We hired someone who did a majority of the work on his own, but trust me, I was extremely involved. With two kids in a tiny apartment, I was over there every day checking on progress and doing the few things I could while keeping Eli from setting the nail gun off. Mike and I also spent a lot of weekends and evenings here, napping the kids in pack n' plays in the basement while we worked. And at the time, with a newborn and a fussy two-year old, that meant one of us worked while the other watched the kids. It was a hard season, but when I look at the before and after photos now, I am so glad we put in the work to get it done and be able to enjoy it.

We bought the house for its simple bones and the fenced-in backyard with mature trees. With lots of suburbia-type homes (we're not in the city of Chicago, we're in a suburb), many of the houses were just not my style. When I told people the entire house was going white, most people thought I was crazy - even our painter! But thankfully I convinced him (and he did try to talk me out of it), and I couldn't be happier with the choice today.

Okay, here's the living room before with the seller's furniture. These are the listing photos:

And after:

Here's what we did:
  • Knocked down the wall separating the kitchen and the living room (see the photos below).
  • Ripped out the existing paneling, trim, speakers and TV mount. Patched the drywall underneath. Painted the walls and ceilings Benjamin Moore's Simply White. Added new trim in Benjamin Moore's White Dove.
  • Replaced all light switches, sockets and covers.
  • Replaced eyeball can lights with flush, added three additional can lights on the opposite side of the living room to balance things out. 
  • Removed wood mantle from fireplace, mounted a new TV, added trim to the fireplace to hide TV wiring (it also goes through the wall for a bit), removed tile from hearth to reveal and seal concrete underneath, painted interior of fireplace black and the exterior to match the trim. Added new custom glass door. (The fireplace makeover was a bit of a beast and I had a very specific vision for it - I have my dad and Mike to thank for executing it perfectly!)
One of the biggest things we did was knock out the wall between the living room and the eat-in kitchen. In our neighborhood, almost all the houses have the exact same footprint, but I learned (at National Night Out last August) that we are likely the only people in the neighborhood that have actually removed this wall. A lot of people have changed their wall to be a half-wall, but we have literally given tours of the house so people can "see what it would look like." Neighbors, if you are reading this: KNOCK DOWN THE WALL. 


And here's the kitchen before:


And after. 

People were literally croaking when I told them I was going to paint those cherry cabinets white. But they were 15+ years old and while I know cherry is nice, they were beat up and I was bound and determined to have a white kitchen this time around. 

Here's what we did: 
  • Removed the microwave, upper cabinets and soffit above the sink wall. 
  • Installed a range hood and open shelving in their place, and moved the microwave to the pantry.
  • Sprayed all cabinets and painted trim in BM's White Dove, painted walls and ceilings in BM's Simply White. 
  • Replaced all kitchen hardware, vents, door handles, light switches, sockets, covers and light fixtures. 
Overall, it was a ton of work, and while Mike and I did a lot of the work, we hired out the big things (removing the wall, adding the range hood, painting) and I don't regret that decision for a second. While we both love a good DIY and saving money, for the stage of life we were in this was the right decision for us. While there are still some things that I'd love to change, (For example, the kitchen counters: I'd love marble or quartz instead, but I know that granite is still really amazing to have.) we're overall so satisfied and happy with the house.

I just got to the end of this post and realized that I haven't even written a word about the decor! It's crazy to think how much work had to be done before we could even get to the fun part - decorating. But at the same time, having a good foundation really makes a huge difference in allowing the decorating take shape.

Since this post is long enough, I'll be back with a huge photo dump and lots more information about the furniture and decorating process - but do let me know if you have any specific questions and I'll be sure to answer them in the post!

pssss. Here's the entire Home Tour. (You'll find links for both our Chicago and Minneapolis houses.)


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