Susan after 3

Making a Fresh Start

Before After

There’s something irresistible about a fresh start. The opportunity to reset feels like a breath of fresh air, especially after a particularly stressful year. I’m looking at you, 2020! I’m extra excited to tell you about a very special house and its fresh start.

Before you read any further, I want you to close your eyes. I mean, not actually, because I want you to keep reading my blog. So, let’s just pretend to close your eyes. Okay? Now imagine this community called Riverwood. It’s located alongside the wild and scenic Myakka River in Port Charlotte, Florida. This meticulously scenic community includes 28 unique neighborhoods. It’s truly an ecological paradise that includes an eagle preserves and a bird sanctuary. One of the main features of this community is the 18-hole golf course. And the nearest beaches on the Gulf are only fifteen minutes away. The stunning landscapes throughout this beautiful neighborhood look like they’re straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. It’s easy to imagine you’re in another world. This is where God lives. That’s just how gorgeous this community is!

But, getting back to this very special house without obviously giving out our client’s address, it’s in Riverwood.

First, some background. Susan, a recent widow, with an adventurous spirit, had hopes of renovating some spaces in her 17-year-old home. The areas she wanted to focus on were the kitchen, master bathroom, and two guest bathrooms. Today I’m only going to tell you about the kitchen. The original kitchen was a good size and was fully functional. But our new client felt the aesthetic needed a refresh, along with some other rooms in her home.

I first met with Susan last year when she decided it was time to make a change, so she enlisted my help. When she opened the front door to her home, she greeted me with a smile like a friend who hasn’t seen you in a while would. Susan invited me into her beautiful home. I asked some simple questions to help break the ice. Then we started with the basics…what she wanted…what she didn’t like. Susan shared some inspiration photos she had collected online.

Susan wasn’t looking for a full gut renovation. In her original plans, this homeowner was looking to create an epic kitchen that didn’t require tearing down walls or having the plumbing altered. In fact, the existing footprint would remain the same. Bright, light, and contemporary were at the top of Susan’s wish list. She didn’t want anything too pretentious, fancy, or flamboyant. She was looking for high quality and long-lasting. Thermofoil cabinets are especially prone to delamination, and that’s exactly what was happening to Susan’s existing cabinets.

After measuring the room, I designed a new kitchen with detailed 3D renderings. This allowed Susan to experience a virtual walk-through of her new kitchen. The countertop, Cambria’s Brittanicca Gold, was the first major decision Susan made. I can’t stress how important it is to select the right countertop. One of the saddest things for me to see is a great kitchen being ruined by a poor countertop choice. Sadly, too often I’ve heard customers say, “Well, this one isn’t too bad.” Susan wanted something that would marry the original traditional elements of her home, with the new, modern touches she planned to bring in. Quartz with something stark white or with drastic veining wouldn’t have blended. Cambria’s Brittanicca Gold was something that could lend itself to multiple styles, and something that would complement Aspect’s soft white cabinetry. Brittanicca Gold features a light crème main color with warm gold veining.

When Mark Kemeny, the owner of Just Counters & Other Stuff, arrived to re-measure Susan’s kitchen, he suggested lowering the bar-height wall to counter height to see the full effects of the Brittanicca Gold countertop. That’s when Susan had an “aha moment” and agreed to “lower the bar.” By lowering the traditional bar-height countertop, Susan gained so much. Now there’s a larger work space around the sink, a clearer, more open feel to the kitchen and the room beyond, and a gorgeous expanse of uninterrupted quartz.

Previously, Susan had a double bowl undermount sink. In theory, two compartments are better than one. But Susan seldom could fit more than one pot at a time, or lay pans flat. She was interested in the idea of one big sink, but not with the curved-cut-out that she felt looked dated. Susan saw a contemporary stainless steel sink with square corner edges that was streamlined, straight, and sleek. This ended up being her deciding factor. This unbelievably gorgeous sink will make washing dishes feel like a luxury. With the bar-height no longer interrupting the view, the sink and faucet will become the center focal point of the kitchen and living room. There won’t be any more hiding behind a bar-height counter! Speaking of faucet, Susan purchased a brand new one with a sparkling brushed gold finish.

Now buckle your seatbelt because you’re about to be blown away. The now-gleaming kitchen with its vaulted ceilings has many meticulous details throughout. It turned into a beautiful tropical paradise! There’s no sign of the former, dark and dated kitchen, but rather a fresh new one.

Before After

Art can bring so much life in a room. Where there was once this huge, practically bare wall that always looked…well…kind of awkward. Well, here’s the result. The difference of this view is huge. A massive painting brightens things up and gave a much-needed-break to that boring, wasteland of a wall. The super huge painting, “Ocean Trilogy,” was done by not one, but by two of Susan’s favorite painters. I’m paraphrasing from the internet: Hailing from Madison Heights, Michigan, Robert Wyland (born July 9, 1956) is an American artist and conservationist best known for his more than 100 Whaling Walls, large outdoor murals featuring images of life-size whales and other sea life. Wyland showed interest in art from an early age. At age fourteen, on a family trip to Laguna Beach, Wyland visited the ocean for the first time where he witnessed several gray whales migrating down the coast of California. In 1977, after pursuing an art degree at Detroit’s Center for Creative Studies, Wyland returned to that very beach to paint his celebrated “100 Whaling Walls.” Since then the artist has received many wildlife commissions and has been featured on specialty licenses plates and stamps multiple times. In 1993 he founded the non-profit Wyland Foundation with the goal of helping children discover the ocean through art. Hawaiian artist, Roy Gonzalez Tabora was in many ways raised as an artist. Born in 1956 to a family of painters, Tabora was introduced to art from an early age as a way of life. By the young age of 20, Tabora was a disciplined and well received realist landscape painter. Rounding out his education at the University of Hawaii, Tabora has worked as an artist since and is considered to be one of Hawaii’s leading seascape artists. Alright, that was a lot of information. I know!!! But here is what I want you to remember if you don’t remember anything else: This huge painting, “Ocean Trilogy,” was done by two of Susan’s favorite painters: Wyland and Tabora. This collaboration attempts to capture the wonder and passion each artist has for the natural world around them.

Most homes have poor lighting. Builders often put in just the minimum lighting required and most homeowners don’t think about upgrading it. Good lighting can make a world of difference in how a home looks and performs. Nothing improves safety like a little more light attached to a dimmer switch or motion sensor. And a new light fixture can instantly change the feel of a space and brighten up a room. Susan’s new kitchen is a perfect example. She wasn’t afraid to swap out old light fixtures for something new and totally different. In fact, in addition to the under cabinet lighting, an added level of detail in this kitchen renovation included a motion sensor lighted toe kick. As soon as we entered the kitchen, the toe kick lights automatically turned on. How cool that was! And I love, love the aged brass finish sculptural light fixture hung over the island and the two warm brass octave glass pendants hung over the peninsula. 

Glass kitchen cabinet doors often will turn boring, plain wood into something spectacular. Susan chose to have Baroque decorative glass inserts. White never goes out of style.  By combining white Shaker style cabinet doors with subway tiles, this kitchen will weather the test of time.

When your kitchen feels a bit bland and a renovation isn’t in the budget, look to your cabinet hardware for a quick fix. It seems like a miniscule change, but it can make a world of difference. Go for for something that’s functional and on-trend, like the linear brushed gold pulls in this kitchen. Susan ordered her hardware online from Wayfair.

I’m so grateful for our team of people who care so much about what they do. I’d like to recognize everyone that worked together on this project: Just Counters & Other Stuff’s incredibly talented and skilled cabinet installers, Ben Hanson and Tyler Mowatt. Lowering the bar-height wall and installing all the toe kick and under cabinet lighting was done by Just Counters & Other Stuff’s father and son team: Gary Shaffer and Aaron Shaffer. Imex Stone installed the beautiful Cambria countertops. Pucci Tile installed the sleek subway tile. Jamie from The Local Lighting Shop personally selected the stunning light fixtures. The plumbing fixtures were purchased from Charlotte Plumbing. 

Well, after the whole house was completed, I was invited to take after pictures. I swooned over this gorgeous kitchen. I’m certain that Susan will be happy with her kitchen for a very, very long time. And yes, I definitely felt relaxed and at home in Susan’s new place. She knew where to find the best deals after she did some serious browsing online. Susan created a beautiful place that will tell all who enter that her home is a place of peace and joy. Job well done, Susan.

Before After

Would you like to see Susan’s beautiful master bath? Meet me back here next Wednesday.


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