My Kitchen Remodel (Before and After)

my kitchen remodel before and after | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François
Photo by Wing Ta of Canary Grey for Mpls.St.Paul Magazine

In 2013 my husband and I bought a house. It’s a gob-smacking piece of 1902 architecture with ornate woodwork, the likes of which I’d never seen before. It was built by T.P. Healy, who made a name for himself in Minneapolis building homes for the flour barons and other folks making it big in the milling town.

Our house was once a grand gesture of a time of wheat prosperity, but it fell on hard times, as did the country, when the depression hit and it eventually became a boarding house and then apartments. Luckily for us and for the preservation of history, the house was kept in pretty good condition, considering the number of people who ended up owning it and living there.

By the time we bought the house it was broken up into 4 apartments, which was honestly part of the appeal. Not that we intended to rent the apartments out, in fact, it is only zoned as a duplex, so two of them were illegal. The draw was the 4 kitchens that came with all those apartments. I had visions of having a “family” kitchen and then using one of the others as a studio to work in.

For the first several months that’s exactly what I did. At first it was awesome, I cooked meals on the first floor where I had a great gas range, ran up to the second floor, which had the best oven in the house to bake and then to the third floor kitchen to photograph, because the light is AWESOME up there. This was all good fun, then I realized that I was doing about 12 trips up and down the stairs per recipe. Quite a workout plan, but not exactly efficient for my work day.

None of the apartment kitchens really fit the bill, but as a combined effort they were proving less effective than I’d fantasized. This became abundantly clear while a team of 6 people tried to shoot the photos for The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. We all jogged up and down, which I’d come to think as normal, but they moaned as they baked on one floor and shot on another. The photo shoot also took days longer than expected as a result. The next week I had an architect, Gregg Hackett, drawing up plans for one kitchen that would satisfy all the needs. A few months later Blue construction moved in and built it.

my kitchen remodel before and after | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

We were really lucky to have the original blueprints (above) from 1902 to work from and we tried to put the kitchen back to where it had been originally. This meant taking out a bedroom and bathroom to make space. The pictures below are a before and after of that renovation.

My kitchen has been featured in Fine Cooking Magazine’s Behind the Kitchen Door, Mpls.St.Paul Magazine’s Home Tour and Lake Society Magazine. 

Below you will see a before and after tour of my kitchen remodel. My Kitchen Essentials Page has all the equipment that I use.

my kitchen remodel before and after | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

BEFORE: This is the lovely kitchen that came with the house. It was wonderful in most every way, but no windows and a lack of storage for my rather over-sized baking equipment collection. The marble counters and walls are wonderful.

my kitchen remodel before and after | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

AFTER: We did almost nothing to the space, but take out the range and put in a dishwasher in its place, so now I have two dishwashers and fill them both daily (job hazard, lots of dishes!). This is now clean up and storage. The Sub-Zero glass front fridge stayed, at first I thought it was a silly design (no storage on the door, who came up with that?), but then I realized it holds a baking sheet and is super convenient, plus it holds lots of dough, prepped food and beverages.

my kitchen remodel before and after | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

BEFORE: This is the wall across from the original kitchen.

my kitchen remodel before and after | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

AFTER: Once we took down the wall between the bedroom and kitchen, the whole flow of the space changed and there was sun light. I bought the 200 pound butcher block in Vermont (my home state) and drove it back to MN in a groaning minivan. 

my kitchen remodel before and after | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

AFTER: Here’s a slightly different angle of that new space (which was a bathroom). This gave us a spot for another refrigerator (where I keep veggies, condiments, eggs, and more condiments), there’s a spot for all my cake stands and plenty of drawers for my decorating equipment.

my kitchen remodel before and after | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

BEFORE: This was the bedroom that was right next to the kitchen.

my kitchen remodel before and after | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

AFTER: that same corner became the central cooking and prepping area. You can also see my rolling Baking Rack garage under the butcher block island (there is a better picture of it at further down in the post). The floors are black stone, which I would have heated if I had it all to do again and budget was no concern (but, budget is always a concern). The cold stones are also hard on your body when you are standing for 10 to 12 hours a day, so I got cushioned floor mats. I now have them in all the spots I spend most of my time and I can’t recommend them highly enough!

Counters: The black countertops are made of Wisconsin Black Granite that I had done in a “leather” finish, so it is not shiny. 

my kitchen remodel before and after | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

AFTER the AFTER: we replace the Wolf with a Bluestar Range. I LOVE THIS RANGE!

my kitchen remodel before and after | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

BEFORE: The closet at the other end of that bedroom.

my kitchen remodel before and after | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

AFTER: That closet now is a wall of cabinets and my double wall oven. No lack of space. My Kitchen Essentials Page has all the equipment that I use.

my kitchen remodel before and after | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

BEFORE: We tore a hole in the bedroom wall facing the driveway, so we’d have a way to easily get in with groceries.

my kitchen remodel before and after | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François
Photo by Wing Ta of Canary Grey for Mpls.St.Paul Magazine

AFTER: You can see the new door at the far end of the island. And to the right of the door is my chalkboard.

my kitchen remodel before and after | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

BEFORE: This is the wall between the bedroom and old kitchen.

my kitchen remodel before and after | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This is the point when we discovered the brick chimney that ran through the space.

my kitchen remodel before and after | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

AFTER: The chimney is now a prominent part of the island (which now holds my copper pot collection, you can see in the two magazine articles.) And there’s my rolling Baking Rack, tucked in its garage. This was the design feature that everything else was built around. BUTCHER BLOCK ISLAND: The butcher block was originally going to be more Carrera marble to match the old kitchen counters. I adore marble, its fantastic for pastry making and it is sexy as can be. But, I decided on the butcher block because I live in Minnesota and the winters here are brutal. The island is not only a work space, but a place where my family eats nearly every meal. I wanted a surface that would function  well and feel good to sit at. I’m not at all a fussy person when it comes to the counter surface taking on character. I was thrilled the first time a wine glass left a ring (although the wine quickly absorbed into the wood and disappeared) and my son cut his sandwich directly on the counter and left a mark. All of these things just mean we live at this counter and use it. I hope one day it has the patina of the butcher block I hauled here from Vermont. That will take decades. I really wanted a thick slab of wood, so our contractor had this counter made by Woodgoods in WI. Apparently they’d never made one this thick before. It weighs over 600 pounds and took 6 guys to carry it from the truck into the house. Our cabinet-maker drilled GIANT screws into the sides to make sure it won’t delaminate in the severe weather swings we get here in MN. I also oil it every few months in the winter when it is bone dry in the house.

my kitchen remodel before and after | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

BEFORE: This is the back wall in the old bathroom, which had the sink mirror over it. As they tore the wall paper down, they realized there was a window in the wall. It forced us to redesign the corner, since I was desperate for any light I could get in the space. Turns out this oddly shaped and weirdly situated window was how they delivered ice to the original kitchen in 1902.

my kitchen remodel before and after | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

AFTER: There is the small window that they discovered. It overlooks our back porch and allows light to come in on three sides of the kitchen.

The kitchen is well used and loved. I don’t miss running from one apartment to the next to bake a cake. Next up in the remodel a new staircase. But, that is a story for another day.

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79 thoughts to “My Kitchen Remodel (Before and After)”

  1. Thanks for sharing your journey with the kitchen and house remodel. It is, indeed, a dream. Glad you documented it: wish we’d done it and referred to them when the next project was envisioned, lol.

    1. I was going to ask the same thing! I recently did a kitchen renovation and chose soapstone countertops, myself. I love them. If you have any questions you’re welcome to ask me!

    1. Hi Jan,

      Our cabinet maker had it built in WI, but I will try to find out how to get in touch with them. It is 3-inches thick and weighs over 600 pounds! 😉

      Cheers, Zoë

  2. Discovering a window where they used to deliver ice?! A 1902 home with original blueprints! I love it…as I love the bright light that illuminates your kitchen. A space where I can see you fit in beautifully. Have a great day!

  3. Great remodel. Gorgeous kitchen. Love it. When you find out where the butcher block counter was made in WI, let me know. Would like to feature on my blog. Thanks! Happy baking!

  4. Wow, what a fabulous remodel. That looks like an ideal space, so bright and full of light! Were you tempted to put in a little wood-fired oven in the chimney conduit???

    1. Hi Lucy,

      YES!!! I’d love nothing more than a wood-fired oven, but that wasn’t in the cards for this remodel. I still hold hope there is one in my future for the backyard.

      Cheers, Zoë

  5. This is so fabulous it’s reminded me why I want a house that is older and more unique. Love so much about it — your brother’s talent, that floor! Truly gorgeous, functional design. Thanks for the link back to the Bluestar — although I’ve loved my Wolf range, I think I’m ready for something new. Congrats on your lovely kitchen!

      1. LOVE my soapstone, suits my ol’ 1810 home perfectly. I got a hard variety, Dark Julia… I applied wax to it only once in late September when the countertops were installed and haven’t needed to do it again. They have stayed naturally dark. I haven’t noticed scratches or dents, and I’m not gentle with my countertops. Nothing stains, either! I get some mineral deposits from water spots, but I just give it a bit of a rub with my finger or a cloth and they disappear. I love the ‘softer’ warmer feel they give my kitchen, but really, they look very very similar to your granite countertops. Your choice is an excellent alternative to soapstone, and frankly, I had no idea that kind of granite existed – I thought for sure that was what you used, from the photos!

        1. Hi Larissa,

          I get the same marks on the marble from anything with acid, like lemon juice. It doesn’t bother me, but I should try to oil it or something, so it doesn’t get too bad. We had the granite done in a “honed” or “matte” finish, so it wasn’t shiny and would resemble soapstone.


  6. I love the butcher block countertop. when I remodeled, I opted for granite on the surfaces next to appliances and am waiting for my island to showcase a butcherblock top. Is it maple? I’m concerned about staining and knife marks. But some blocks look indestructable… and more gorgeous reflecting much use. And I’m in WI so I’m looking forward to hearing the contractor you selected for this element.

    1. Hi Jenna,

      I LOVE the butcherblock. It is maple and it seems to be getting better with age. I picked it over marble, because it is nice to work on, but even better to sit at in the winter when marble would feel cold and hard. I was thrilled when the first spill on it was wine, then my son cut a carrot on it, not knowing you’re not actually supposed to use it to cut on. All the little marks are just character.

      I’ll update the post when I hear back about the butcherblock.

      Thanks, Zoë

  7. Zoe, it’s so so beautiful + particularly inspiring since we’re in the middle of a kitchen remodel too! Love that you preserved that chimney and made it a part of the flow. Just gorgeous.

    1. Thank you Laura,

      It was so cool we didn’t want to get rid of it and it saved us a ton of money to keep it. Win win!

      Cheers, Zoë

  8. Spectacular kitchen. I’m currently in the throes of an old house/kitchen remodel here in NY. I’m using a thick slab of butcher block (from the former bakery of a friend) on my island. How do you find the up-keep and how often do you treat it? Also, where did you get that terrific chalkboard? Although I don’t have a talented brother to paint a mural (amazing, btw), would love to get a uniquely shaped chalkboard. Assume it is peel and stick? Hope you don’t mind all the questions!! Best of luck in your new home!

    1. Hi Michelle,

      The butcherblock is holding up just great, although in this weather it is splitting slightly, because it is sooooo dry. I oil it every couple of months in the winter. The contractor drilled GIANT screws into the sides just to make sure it wouldn’t delaminate.

      Take a look at the video of my brother painting the chalkboard, it is painted directly onto the wall. I think it is a brilliant idea for him to do a peel and stick line of them! I’ll tell him.

      Cheers, Zoë

    1. Thank you Dawn! The marble was here all along, I can’t take credit for that, although I didn’t rip it out!!! 😉

      Cheers, Zoë

  9. LADY! What a gorgeous space you created (although the original is quite swoon worthy, too). I love the wood countertop and the subway tiles AND the island garage – GENIUS.

  10. An absolutely beautiful and well thought of space. I love the palette, the white tiles and the exposed brick with all the wood and steel, so industrial and yet warm. I was literally hanging on to every word of your post and scouring the pictures .. we are in the middle of drawing up plans to redo my 50 year old non-functional kitchen and your pictures were such an eye candy! What a fantastic chalkboard as well! awesome!

  11. i’m not going to lie: the envy coursing through my veins right now is obnoxious. i don’t even bake that much! your remodel is beautiful, thank you for sharing.

    PS. i always wanted a glass door fridge (thanks a lot MTV Cribs!) but you make such a good point about no storage on the door.

    1. Thank you Lan,

      The glass door is designed for people who are way neater than me and don’t have ketchup bottles to deal with! 😉

      Cheers, Zoë

  12. I love your kitchen, but I’ve told you that before. I’m so excited to see the staircase when it’s finished. your house project is a dream to follow.

    1. Thanks Shaina,

      And when the stairs are done it will be warm and there will be a party! And there may be bees, even though I didn’t get into the class in time. Wiating list. You?

      Cheers, Zoë

  13. Love the kitchen. Even though it’s all white–it seems so warm. Good designing. I’m sure the white really reflect the light–just what you need in the north. Enjoy

    1. Thanks Roo,

      Yes, up here in the cold north, when the sun is scarce, I love the white walls. I actually started with another color and switched to white.

      Cheers, Zoë

  14. Oh Zoe, your kitchen is just stunning, so much thought went into the details and it really shows. What a fabulous place to unleash your creativity!!!

  15. I love the design. People don’t realize how much work and detail is put in to a project until they see pictures of the before, during remodeling, and after. I love how the island has storage space underneath for all the pans. The kitchen turned out beautiful.

  16. The rolling cart under the island is just wonderful. I assume that you had it custom made? If not, can you provide some information and where I could purchase? Thank you.

  17. I love your kitchen remodel. You have beautiful taste and style. I am planning on remodelling my own kitchen and would love to find out what your kitchen counter is made of and it’s colour. Also what colour grout did you choose for the subway tile? Thanks

  18. Thank your for taking us on a tour of your beautiful new kitchen–wow! What a beautiful (and super functional) space to cook in. I love everything about it!

  19. Thank you very much Chef for sharing your kitchen and giving us so many important tips. excellent post, cordial greetings, my admiration and respect for you. thank you very much blessings.

  20. I love your kitchen remodel. My 1936 home with it’s 1960 remodeled kitchen has served us well with it’s stainless steel counters and butcher block, range surround, however our 1960 stainless steel Fridigidare range and double oven are nearing end of life. I have been torn on how to maintain the functionality of my kitchen and the look in a remodel. The minute I saw your kitchen I knew I had finally found the example of the kitchen I need for my remodel. I love your use of drawers instead of lower cabinets which I find much more functional. Thank you so much for sharing. Also, congratulations on your new show “Zoe Bakes” on Magnolia Network, it is my new favorite show!

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