The Kitchen Renovation
Vintage European bistro chairs found on Craigslist, kitchen table passed down to my husband from his grandmother.
We’ve been living in our home for fifteen years now and up until this fall, we had never put a hammer or paintbrush to anything in the house except for Paloma’s baby room, right before she was born. We inherited some classic 90s Florida detailing from the previous owners – dust-attracting, shaggy red and white carpeting, stucco walls, green laminate countertops and a low-hanging ceiling in the kitchen. Just like many other families I know, we are quite food-oriented and tend to crowd in the kitchen, since that’s where most of the action happens. It’s also where I work, where I come up with recipes for this site and for my cookbooks, so it’s fair to say that I spend most of my life in this space. We recently completed a long, laborious kitchen renovation that spilled out into the living room, and I cannot describe how much my heart sings when I come downstairs every morning and see this kitchen that finally feels so entirely mine. It took us a decade and a half to gather up the courage and the funds to do this, and these past few months have brought some of the most trying times for us as a family, but it finally feels like it was worth it and I’m so excited to share some snaps of Golubka Kitchen HQ with you.
We took a documentary approach to these photos, and instead of shooting everything in one day, the photos were taken over a week, on cloudy days and on sunny days, in the morning and in the evening. There are different aspects of the kitchen that shine on different days, and we really wanted to capture that.
‘Farmhouse’ kitchen sink from Ikea, faucet from Ebay.
Our house has three stories – garage on the first floor, open kitchen and living room on the second, and bedrooms on the third. We renovated the kitchen, the living room floor, ceiling, and fireplace (yes, we have a fireplace in Florida and we use it, too), and both staircases leading up and down to the kitchen and living room. The most expensive part of the whole renovation was the removal of the old hanging ceiling in the kitchen, together with all the electrical work involved. We decided on the cabinets and countertops quickly, but the easy decisions ended there. It took me so incredibly long to settle on a cohesive look for the kitchen. As a notoriously undecisive Libra, I endlessly kept changing my mind about the wall treatment, the tile, the light fixtures, the shelves, the faucet, cabinet pulls, etc. I do love those clean, white kitchens with minimal everything, but in the end I decided that in order to stay true to my heart, I had to go with something a little more feminine and detail-oriented, with a hint of the Downton Abbey kitchen.
The old kitchen had endless cabinets on the walls, some of which always ended up a mess, while others weren’t utilized at all, so I knew I wanted exposed shelves. I’m super happy with that decision – I love having my dishes and jars within arm’s reach and at eye level, since it allows me to be more organized and minimal. Many people wonder whether dust is an issue with open shelves, and I’ve found that it’s not any more of an issue than anywhere else in the house. I also use all the objects on the shelves quite frequently, which doesn’t allow too much dust to accumulate. The shelves are made of very beautiful and sturdy wood reclaimed from an old barn in Kentucky, which we found at Barn Works. I finished the wood myself without the use of a wood stain. The floating shelf arrangement was made possible with the heavy duty brackets from Shelfology, which secure the shelves to the wall very safely and seamlessly.
Tadelakt Moroccan Plaster with Benjamin Moore ‘White Stone’ color pigment
Industrial brass rod with copper hooks from Etsy, vintage Brazilian copper utensils with wooden handles found on Craigslist.
During the initial planning stage, I was certain that I wanted a subway tile backsplash, but was simultaneously seeing and liking backsplashes made with Moroccan, Spanish and Mexican patterned tiles. I agonized over my choice between the two until I discovered Tadelakt, the Moroccan plaster, and there was no turning back. I knew I wanted grey shaker kitchen cabinets, but the plaster treatment also presented the possibility of grey walls. I’ve always been attracted to grey rooms, to me they just speak of serenity, so I was pretty happy with this opportunity. Finding someone who would apply the plaster masterfully but for a fair price, and getting the job completed was probably one of the most nerve-racking parts of the renovation. We did find someone brilliant, and it ended up worth the stress, because I am completely in love with my new walls. The material is so warm, textural and interesting, and it totally ties the whole kitchen together.
As much as I loved the idea of a patterned tile floor, I was still torn between its beauty/practicality and the homey feel of hardwood floors, which I wanted to have in the living room. I finally settled on the idea of combining the two, and as a result, the tile follows the line of the kitchen cabinets in the shape of an inverted ‘Z,’ while we can still enjoy the warmth of the hardwood floors in the sitting area and into the living room. The tile is from the Cement Tile Shop, which offers an overwhelming array of the most beautiful, authentic patterns. Of course I found settling on one to be a near impossible task. I went from multicolored to black and white, to pastel, to monochrome tiles dozens of times before landing on the Fountaine Antique pattern with a custom border. As for the hardwood floor, I’d always dreamt of an old-fashioned herringbone pattern in real wood, which proved to be really difficult to find within the United States. The one company that carried thick oak planks in a herringbone pattern didn’t have enough to cover our floor at first, but they later ended up finding one extra box tucked away in a different warehouse. I’m so glad that they did because I’m completely over the moon about how the floors turned out. It’s worth mentioning that the old kitchen floor was white tile that showed off every spec of dust that landed on it, and the living room floors had white plush carpeting, and I am so happy to finally be rid of both.
We found the best contractor, Don, who left us endlessly impressed, together with his talented and considerate team. He truly cared about every step of the process and saved us so many times with his expert advice and creative input. The most standout showcase of the team’s work is the spacious drawer pantry they built out of vintage fruit crates from Schiller’s Salvage. My idea was realized even better than I had envisioned – the crates were originally too long and the crew manually disassembled, shortened and rebuilt them, then positioned them on smoothly sliding tracks. The countertop over the crates is made of old barn oak and finished by me in the same way as the floating shelves. The whole piece, on top of being unique and beautiful, is the most functional and spacious storage space in the whole kitchen.
Quartz countertops from the Home Depot in ‘Snowy Ibiza’
Antique Spanish hutch from the 1800s, a lucky Craigslist find, brought to the U.S. from Madrid
Vintage ceramic and brass cabinet pulls from Ebay and Etsy
Vintage ceramic door knob from eBay, ‘Pink Shadow’ Sherwin Williams paint on the door. Custom built computer shelf made by Algis from old barn wood.
My favorite thing about the vintage French chandelier that I found on Etsy are the rainbows it sends onto the walls in the evenings.
Fireplace brick wall made with 100 year old sliced brick from Craigslist, arranged beautifully by Algis.
Since both of the staircases connect to the kitchen and living room, we realized that we had to redo them as well, so that they wouldn’t be an eyesore within the new renovation. My husband and I set out to do the whole thing ourselves to save some cash, but in hindsight, I wouldn’t wish this type of adventure upon my worst enemy. All the stairs were covered with red carpeting, and the railings were painted an ugly orange-ish brown. The original plan was to remove the old carpet and to cover the existing stairs with new wood planks. To our surprise, however, we discovered a beautiful pine under the carpeting and decided to restore the original stairs along with stripping and re-finishing the railing. It took me two and a half months to complete this part of the project alone.
Ceramic tile from Spain with weathered grey hues, uneven borders, satin finish.
This kitchen renovation wouldn’t have been possible without the help and generosity of Cement Tile Shop, Shelfology, Barn Works, Schiller’s Salvage, and Floor and Decor. My eternal gratitude goes out to Don and the team for your incredible care and craftsmanship in everything you do, Algis for the amazing job with the tile, plaster, fireplace and shelf, Vadim for the impeccable hardwood installation, and Dale for the immense help with the tile and stairs.
Contractor – Don Violette at V & P Construction and Maintenance
Kitchen Tile – Cement Tile Shop
Vintage Fruit Crates – Schiller’s Architectural and Design Salvage
Hardwood Floors – Floor and Decor
Kitchen Cabinets – Floor and Decor
Countertops – Home Depot, quartz in ‘Snowy Ibiza’
Accessory Resources – in photo captions
If you happen to be looking for some incredibly talented craftsmen for your renovation in the Tampa Bay area, please reach out to me and I will be happy to connect you.