Back to Burgevin Gardens: Kitchen Edition!

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As we well know by now, I love a makeover. Always have; always
will. I expect this information to shock exactly nobody. But even
if all my past and present projects hold special places in my heart
(and, maybe, ulcers in my stomach), frankly some makeovers are less
exciting than others. Some projects involve more grunt work than
creativity, or the balance is tipped more heavily toward
practicality and function than aesthetics, or the space just
isn’t especially inspiring and you kinda have to force it. Ya





Allow me to elaborate.

Over time, I’ve worked on a few projects over at my friend
John’s house in Kingston, which I have named Burgevin
—not because John is a Burgevin, but the original
owners were. The Burgevins were a fascinating family—florists by
trade—who appear to have built the original house in the 1880s
and then did a major renovation around 1920 that doubled the size
of the house and reworked the original 1880s structure. They built
the house in an area of Kingston that wasn’t really developed at
the time, and owned and operated the Burgevin Florist Shop in
Uptown Kingston for close to 100 years—it was actually still open
when I moved here (it’s currently being beaaautttiffullly
renovated and restored as part of a new hotel project)! When the
Burgevins built the house, they also had something like 50,000
square feet of greenhouse space erected on adjacent land, which
kept the florist in operation year-round in the days long before
fresh flowers could be easily shipped across the world.

Based on all this, I’m gonna go ahead and say they were a
family of means, and they built one helluva house to show for it!
Here it is around 1950, still largely intact (although already
missing its shutters, and after rectangular storm windows obscured
the arched tops on the upper sashes!):

It is fabulous, and huge, and full of huge projects. It’s
been updated and messed with over the years in generally extremely
bummer ways, and John has spent the last few years slowly chipping
away at restoring it to some version of its original glory as time
and money allow. It’s a truly massive undertaking and he’s
doing a great job of it.

Last year, he enlisted me to design and rebuild the
original 800 square foot wraparound front porch (indeed, that is
bigger than my entire Brooklyn apartment!)—I shared a lot of that
process over on
stories as it was unfolding (the good bits are saved
to highlights!).

Before that
we restored the fireplace mantel
in the sprawling living room
(I think it’s 32 feet long??), and a little later I did a quick
n’ dirty
laundry room makeover
because friends don’t let friends have
terrible laundry spaces, right?

(For those curious about the porch project, you didn’t miss
anything! Unfortunately it’s still not quite complete, and I’m
hesitant to share it until it is…but I’m really hoping that can
happen this fall because I’m so excited to show you!! Also, even
though it’s not mine, I’d really love to close the book on that
particular project because I’m really very proud of it. So
standby on that.)

SO ANYWAY. The house is a center hall layout, meaning the
entryway and staircase are in the center with rooms on either side.
Turn right and you enter the ENORMOUS living room. Turn left and
there’s a small foyer sort of space, followed by a massive dining
room with beautiful oak panel details on the walls and a beamed
ceiling. I somehow managed to never take a good picture of this
room, so I made John dig one up…shockingly most normal people
don’t obsessively take naturally-lit photos of rooms in their
house all the time, so give the guy a break:

And then there’s a doorway from the dining room into the
kitchen (out of frame, far right—see the edge of the door
casing?), and it’s kind of like entering a different world? Based
on the grand scale and relative intactness of these other spaces,
the kitchen reads almost like a bad joke. BEHOLD:

I think part of me was excited when John bought this house just
so I could have the honor of tearing out this mess. It’s so ugly,
you guys. Should we count the ways?

From what I’ve been able to deduce, here we have an early-80s
special of basically all the things people hate nowadays in a
kitchen. Outdated dark oak cabinetry. Sheet linoleum covering the
hardwoods. Laminate faux-granite (I guess? that seems generous.)
countertops. Matching laminate backsplashes, which mysteriously
stop short of the stove (you know, where one might functionally
want a backsplash??). Granny wallpaper. Small upper cabinets with
big huge soffits, which look not-so-big only because the top TWO
FEET of them are obscured by the dropped ceiling. Bizarrely placed
recessed can lights. Florescent box over the sink. A cheap metal
venetian blind obscuring a beautiful arched original window. Have I
missed anything? It’s truly a brown-town masterpiece of bad

I guess the faux-granite laminate was supposed to be an
improvement over the faux-butcherblock laminate?! The mind

AND THEN IT GETS WORSE! Because the whole room is only about
9’x16′, but only about half of it is currently being used for
the kitchen! Presumably because a prior owner wanted an eat-in
kitchen, so left half the room empty—leaving a crowded U-shaped
kitchen on one side and a bunch of wasted space on the other.
Obviously it’s not being used as an eat-in kitchen now, and
neither John nor I understand why anyone would waste their time
eating in here with that GLORIOUS dining room just steps away. (I
know actual dining rooms are out of fashion for many people. Those
people are wrong. End of story; don’t @ me.)

The problem is, John doesn’t have the cash to renovate this
kitchen (did I mention the enormous old house with endless projects
that still has to be maintained and heated in the winter?), and
that’s unlikely to really change any time soon. There are bigger
priorities and even though it’s ugly as hell and no fun to cook
in, it does function, more or less. So he bravely perseveres.

But with holidays around the corner (I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M
WRITING THOSE WORDS) and plans to host family for both
Thanksgiving and Christmas, he asked me if I thought there
was something that could be done to makeover this space on a
budget. Don’t tempt me with a good time!


So, in turn, I approached my friends at
to see if they would be interested in partnering up on
this project, and they generously agreed! But there’s a catch. I
have like…$2,500 to turn this thing around. That number is not
missing a zero. That’s basically pocket change in the world of
kitchen renovations that involve more than a little paint and maybe
some tile. For some reason I am still convinced a total overhaul is

How, you may be asking? Because we have three things going for

  1. Unfounded optimism and a healthy dose of good old-fashioned
    delusion. This is my main fuel source and I’ve learned to embrace
    it up until the point that I start hating myself.
  2. Underneath all this disaster, there are good bones. There’s
    gotta be, because this is a good old house! There have got to be
    hardwoods under that linoleum, right? We know there’s a beautiful
    original window, half-covered by nonsense. A peek above the drop
    ceiling confirms a TEN FOOT actual ceiling height. And there’s
    more space to work with than is currently being utilized, so we can
    play a little with the existing layout. We can and we WILL!
  3. We have a wonderful and free renewable resource: ELBOW GREASE.
    Rather than rip it all out, send it to a landfill, and throw money
    at the problem, we’re going to approach this very
    carefully, working what we’re working with and making some
    strategic decisions to maximize the impact of our budget. Luckily,

    has allllll the products we could possibly need to do
    just that, which is why I love working with them so much. High-end
    looks for budget-friendly prices! (they don’t tell me to say
    these things; I just have a lot of enthusiasm.)

Current financial constraints and impending family arrivals
aside, why do a more budget-friendly renovation of this space?
Because a) nothing will happen otherwise and b) I’d wager this is
the last renovation this kitchen will ever see. Ideally,
I’d love to see this house returned to a single-family someday
(currently there’s a whole apartment upstairs, but it would be
easily converted back), and the wall behind the refrigerator is
just a non-load-bearing wall into a room 2-3x the size of this one.
Which is to say, in another reality, I can totally see somebody
ripping this whole thing out, knocking down the wall between this
room and the next one, and putting in a big big kitchen to match
the big big house. Old houses generally don’t have big kitchens
like that, and while I’m usually not one to tear out walls in old
houses, I actually think it would be a good approach for this
particular house. The existing layout isn’t all that nice and it
would be more suited to modern living. It wouldn’t be a crime
here, and this is coming from someone who considers most decisions
about old houses to be crimes against them. Ha!

But the reality is, that could easily be a $100,000+ project
and, short of a new owner moving in or John winning the lottery,
there’s just no way. So let’s make this kitchen as nice as we
can without going insane so John can enjoy his big Jersey family
and, maybe, someday sell the house to someone who will see this
space as totally workable at least for however long they want/need
it to be.

NOW. THE HOW. HOW WILL WE DO THIS. Here are a few strategies
that I think are helpful to think about if you, too, are
considering upgrades but not equipped for the type of FULL,
EVERYTHING MUST GO remodels we tend to mostly see on TV and online
and stuff.

  1. Have appliances? KEEP THEM. Even if they don’t match. Even if
    you don’t love them. If they work, save your money and upgrade
    down the line if you want, and throw those not-ideal but
    still-functioning appliances back in there. Your dishwasher will
    still be 24″ when you go to replace it. This kitchen is going to
    have a KitchenAid stainless dishwasher, a stainless Kenmore stove,
    and a white Whirlpool fridge and I truly do not care. If you want a
    bigger fridge or something down the line, just leave enough space
    for it and use your smaller one in the meantime. You aren’t the
    queen of England. (Unless you are! In which case, a warm welcome,
    Your Majesty. Thank you for dropping by.)
  2. Have cabinets? CONSIDER KEEPING THEM TOO. You can often change
    a layout without scrapping all the cabinets, and I’ll be showing
    you some strategies to upgrade their looks and their function.
    These are NOT NICE cabinets by any means, but even your most basic
    cabinets can still often benefit from a few upgrades and strategic
  3. Embrace negative thinking. What I mean by this is: identify
    what you DON’T need or want, and strip that stuff out. In this
    case, that includes wallpaper, the drop ceiling, the recessed
    lighting, the linoleum floor…there’s a lot we can accomplish
    just by simply stripping out the bad and giving some TLC to
    what’s left behind. That’s basically free!
  4. Fill in the gaps with budget-friendly new and vintage. This is
    another not-so-subtle plug for
    because S E R I O U S L Y even if you feel kind of
    “meh” about your in-store displays, they have THOUSANDS of
    products online that might be more your speed. I’ve noticed
    they’ve also been making incremental improvements to
    their website
    which makes online shopping and sorting through
    products a lot easier, and so far I haven’t felt limited by
    options and this is coming from someone who literally hates
  5. Consider less fitted. As Americans we are conditioned to think
    of kitchens as long continuous runs of matching cabinets punctuated
    by appliances, but there are so many more ways to kitchen! Consider
    freestanding vintage or antique furniture pieces like armoires,
    dressers, dry sinks, side tables…these things can often be bought
    CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP and provide TONS of storage and a totally unique

OHHHHHHH BOY HERE WE GO! John and I did a couple days of
initial/exploratory demo just to really figure out what we were
working with and so I could get to designing and figuring out how
to make this budget work, and CAN YOU SEE IT ALREADY?! Am I the
only one that would run screaming from the kitchen in the first
picture but be completely thrilled about the kitchen in the second
one? This is a fun one. I think it’s going to be really cool.

Here’s the basic layout plan! My goal is to really use the
whole space, go from two awkward corners to just one, and allow for
two people to comfortably prep and cook in here since currently
I’d call it a one-butt kitchen. I think prep space on both sides
of the stove will be a game-changer, and increased floor space and
ceiling height will give the illusion of more space. Plus centering
the sink under the window will just bring everyone joy and I aim to

OK so this is a pretty basic mood board but check it out. These
are my thoughts.

  1. LIGHTING! I want two big-ish pendants for the main lighting and
    one small one over the sink. No recessed. John doesn’t like under
    cabinet lighting so we’re not doing that. I found
    this little pendant
    these larger more impactful ones
    that both have a
    turn-of-the-century vibe I can get down with. The prices and
    reviews are GREAT so I’m waiting with anxious anticipation to see
    them in real life!
  2. WALLS! I think a nice warm white on the walls and ceiling will
    look best. I have my eye on Valspar’s “Hint of Cream” but
    have to
    grab a sample
  3. BACKSPLASH! It’s the tile du jour for bloggers everywhere,
    except green! And square! This
    Cloe Bedrosians tile
    is really beautiful in real life, with a
    lot of variation in the glaze and a handmade look. At $7.85/square
    foot, the price point is great considering that it looks like a
    much more expensive handmade tile from a more boutique source.
    Anyway John LOVED it so I made it my business to include it in the
    budget and design a kitchen that’ll pull it off. I think I can, I
    think I can! (It also comes in
    , and

Source: FS – All – Real Estate News 1
Back to Burgevin Gardens: Kitchen Edition!