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before and afterInteriors

Before & After: A Home Gets a Charming Overhaul in Portland, OR

by Erin Austen Abbott

It’s not often that you can find an older home on the market that’s only had one owner. But that was exactly the case for Portland, OR couple David and Brandt with their 1928 Cape Cod style, 1,700-square-foot cottage. They are only the second family to live in the home, just blocks from the restaurants, shopping, and coffee shops in the neighborhood of Beaumont Village.

Before they could get to the point of looking for a home, though, they had a list of boxes they wanted to check off before taking the plunge into buying. They knew that a fixer-upper was not out of the question, so they spent a year prior vetting contractors, researching vendors, and consulting with a structural engineer. Once they found the home they wanted to make an offer on, the couple worked with the sellers and were able to have all of the “unseen but necessary” things done before closing on the house. “We decommissioned an oil tank, replaced electric, replaced plumbing, replaced water line, replaced water heater. So that left the ‘fun’ stuff,” Kimberly says. After planning and ordering materials, their contractor, Kevin Pasion of Grebs Kitchen & Bath Remodeling, knocked out the entire renovation in about 10 weeks. “Would’ve been quicker if we weren’t hit with an epic snowstorm in the middle of it,” Kimberly notes.

With a new kitchen, bathroom, and living room, their home is now a mix of a British country cottage and a beautiful, streamlined Scandinavian aesthetic. “Our goal was finding a balance of both of these, while creating a welcoming, family-friendly space,” Kimberly shares. “Nothing is off-limits to our kid or pets. Everything was selected with the ‘Hound Dog’ filter in mind.” The living room fireplace was what really sold them on the home in the first place, with its curved, brick lining. The cabinets on either side of the fireplace were added during the renovation. One side holds their son’s toys, and the other side hides a TV. “Our woodworker had the genius idea of putting the TV on a lift, so the top opens and the TV slides up at the push of a button! It’s so hard to solve the TV dilemma in a tiny space where you want to be able to entertain,” Kimberly says.

All the gorgeous cottage details and smart, functional living solutions are no doubt thanks to Kimberly and David’s careful planning before even setting sights on this home. Please scroll down to see this amazing transformation. — 

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Photography by Kris Seymore

Image above: After giving the kitchen a modern cottage makeover, the Brandts now have the kitchen look they dreamed of achieving. 

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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“Selecting a floor surface in this space was a challenge,” Kimberly begins. “I knew I did not want wood; transitioning from the original flooring in the dining room to new in the kitchen would’ve been difficult and I didn’t want the upkeep of a wood floor in a wet room. I explored concrete tile like we executed in the bathroom, but eventually landed on this beautiful Saltillo brick. I decided to lay it in a herringbone pattern to better contrast against the vertical lines of the wood floor in the adjacent room, and to add a bit of tonal interest in the small space. It’s such a lovely material and SO easy to keep looking clean. It’s suitable inside and outside; eventually, I’d love to carry it out into the cuddle room and onto the back patio.”

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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From 1940s mint cabinets to serene marble tiles and soft wood tones.

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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“The kitchen, just like the bathroom and cuddle room, had also not been touched since the 1940s or 50s. We lived with it in this state for about a year to really get a feel for how it functioned,” Kimberly says.

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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“We’ve loved having the combination of closed cabinets and open shelving. Our everyday dishes are out on the shelves for ease of access. They are rotated out often enough that we avoid the build-up of dust and grime that plagues open kitchens.”

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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“This sink is a life-changer. We absolutely LOVE how the cutting board can mount to the top. It helps expand our working space (which is critical in a tiny kitchen) and makes it so easy to drop scraps into the garbage disposal,” Kimberly shares.

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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“This fireplace sold us on the house and set the stage for all our cottage dreams.” 

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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The before and after look at the living room, complete with original plaster walls.

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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“Our built-ins to the left and right of the fireplace are where the toys are tucked and the TV pops up. Besides the fireplace, my favorite part of this room is the original plaster walls. The previous owners only used the picture rails, and they’ve survived almost 100 years without a single nail hole. It’s magic,” Kimberly muses.

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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A close-up look at the built-in cabinets next to the fireplace.

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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A few details from the cozy living room. “That’s our hound Lazlo snoozing in the background,” Kimberly points out.

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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“I found that mirror at an antique store on a family trip to Maine last year. It was my first time to that part of the country and I was blown away by all the amazing Americana antiques. I feel pretty lucky it made the haul all the way back to Portland,” Kimberly shares.

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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“Ah, the workhorse that is the entry table. This is where we dump all of our daily ‘stuff’ and it almost always has a coffee ring that needs to be wiped up. I have the worst habit of taking my coffee mug into the car with me every morning on the way to work, and I always manage to place it down with a splash as we’re scrambling to get out the door,” Kimberly laughs.

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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“This space was actually really cool on the surface. We considered keeping it as a time capsule; it was a 1950s-esque ‘tiki room’ complete with an indoor BBQ and television with speakers throughout. But, the DIY electrical and leaky corners convinced us a facelift was necessary,” Kimberly shares.

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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The sunroom, or as it’s affectionally called, the “cuddle room,” before and after.

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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“Our three-year-old son named this space the cuddle room. It’s our favorite spot to snuggle up; especially on a rainy day! We’re slowly building our plant library, and I can’t wait for the Boston Ivy to grow in around the windows.”

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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A lovely matte black floor connecting to the brick walls only makes the “cuddle room” that much cozier.

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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“When we first looked at the house, I immediately knew I wanted to put French doors in here and open the space up to the backyard. By far, this was one of the most dynamic improvements we made to the overall feel of the house. It opens the space up, brings the outside in, and draws in beautiful light,” Kimberly says.

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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The bathroom before was dark and dimly lit, with pink tiles and cream walls.

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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From a light pink sink and cream walls to beautiful handcrafted black and white cement tiles against black walls.

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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“We didn’t change the footprint in the bathroom at all; but every finish was updated. With such a small space, I was nervous to do such a bold patterned tile; but I feel like the warmer wood tones help balance it out and it ended up working,” Kimberly notes.

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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A closer look at the new black and white cement tiles.

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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“The bathroom had not been updated since sometime in the 40s. Fun surprise, when we started demo’ing, it turns out that all those tiles were plastic.”

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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A before and after look at the bathroom.

Kimberly and David Brandt on Design*Sponge
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Connecting to a bedroom, the new bathroom is now a beautiful, calming room.

SOURCE LIST

Kitchen

French Doors – Anderson Windows and Doors
Arched Window – Anderson Windows and Doors
Sink –
Sink hardware –
Gas Range –
Fridge –
Dishwasher –
Bar Light Fixture –
Sconces –
Tile Floors –
Countertops –
Range Hood –
Cabinet Hardware (Pulls) –
Cabinet Hardware (Upper) –
Backsplash –
Dishes & Glassware –
Area Rug –
Paint –

Bathroom

Bathtub – Craig’s List
Sink –
Faucet –
Storage Basket –
Medicine Cabinet –
Step Stool – Vintage
Shelves –
Flooring –
Toilet – Ace Hardware
Sconce – School House Electric (no longer available)
Shower Head –
Shower Curtain Rings –
Towels –
Robe Hooks / Towel Bar / Towel Ring / Toilet Paper Bar –

Living Room

Couch –
Rug –
Coffee Table –
Entry Console –
Ceiling Light –
Rattan Chairs –
Prints over bookshelf –
Square Prints – made by their son
Ceiling Medallion – 

Dining Room

Table –
Chairs – Vintage
Rug –
Chandelier –
Ceiling Medallion –

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Comments

  • I think every room is beautiful. It’s fun to see the before pictures and while many things needed to be updated, I’d say everyone got their money’s worth from the old kitchen, bathroom and sunroom TV. My favorite part has to be that the new owners REALLY did their homework. Taking the time to research and keep track of information isn’t easy and it’s great to see that a lot of thought went into breathing new life into this home.

  • i love this home so much.. looks like it was professionally designed and nd you can see all the love and hard work that has been put in to it. Just wish we could see more of it, I can see a little of the bedroom and it looks stunning!!! Wish I could live here ….. :)

    • Thanks, Skyler!

      We love seeing as much of a home as possible, too- but always try to veer toward respecting any boundaries or requests home owners have about not showing certain parts of their homes. Thanks for your understanding :)

      Grace

  • I really love that tile floor in the black and white bathroom! All of it is lovely and well done. However, I’m actually kind of sad to see the mint cabinets are gone. I can see how that might not fit into the owners’ style with the way the rest of the house looks, but were I to own this place, I would have kept the cabinets, swapped them out with brass hardware, and made everything else in the kitchen plain white with hardwood or laminate floors. I do see that the original kitchen layout was kind of awkward though, so maybe a makeover allowed the owners to make the kitchen more useful and efficient.

    • Shannon,

      Thanks for understanding where the home owners were coming from with this project. I share your love of mint green though- it’s such a cheerful color :)

      Grace

  • I really need to know the source of the fabulous wooden ‘bath mat’ in the bathroom – please, it’s beautiful!

  • Each room is so beautifully designed. I love that they spent a year with the kitchen as-is before deciding how they should redesign it.

  • Beautiful updates. While I understand where some commenters are coming from regarding keeping of the cabinets, I can only say: photos usually don’t tell the entire story. I have lived with 50 years old kitchen cabinets, and they looked still really nice on the surface, but when you opened the cabinet doors, the “scent” was overwhelming, and not possible to get out (unless you painted over them). So, while I love those mint green cabinets, I totally get where the owner is coming from, wanting to update them. Sometimes it is acceptable to keep cabinets, but sometimes they have simply had their time, and are not in a state where you want to keep your dishes in there, let alone your food. (On this note, I look forward to renovating our beautiful 70s kitchen next year, and thank you for having so many wonderful suggestions and ideas on this site).

    • Alexandra

      Great point. When we moved into our house we found amazing old cabinets that LOOKED great from the outside, but we discovered inside that they had rotted :(

      Grace

    • Excellent point! I’ve had many cabinets in rentals across the years that looked fine, but actually functioned really poorly or were warped/damaged/smelly.

  • my gosh, I want to look at these pictures again and again, great job working within the confines of the original footprint of the house. I am looking to install shelving just like you have in the kitchen. Can you tell me where those shelves and/or brackets are from?

  • This renovation stopped me in my tracks! Gorgeous work. So much charm packed in one home. I especially love the kitchen. (And the pup on the couch.)

  • Homeowner here! Thank you so much for the lovely comments!! And YES! I hear y’all on the cabinets. But, as some have assumed they were rotten beyond repair. We actually didn’t even keep food in them for the year we lived in it before the remodel! But. If it makes you feel any better, the door to the garage is also painted that teal and we didn’t touch it! I really wanted to leave a bit of that history untouched! :)

    • I think you made a great choice with the kitchen, even if the mint cabinets had been in perfect shape! They were pretty overbearing, and the kitchen looked a lot more crowded before (you shouldn’t have to justify any design decisions anyhoo – it’s all about what works best for you as the person living there!) :) Those kitchen shelves are gorgeous!

  • Love everything about this house! From the herringbone pattern for the kitchen floor to the bold b/w bathroom tiles… Amazing how wood really does soften bold patterns. Grace, could you ask the owners what hardware they used for their wood shelves in the kitchen and where did they find those fabulous stools under the counter in their dining room?

  • This house is beautiful! Although that Tiki room–OMG! Maybe it should’ve been shipped to the Smithsonian. I love all the style choices; it must be a pleasure to live there. That’s a gem of a contractor to get the work done in 10 weeks even with all the preliminary work.

  • May I ask a question? I am planning my own kitchen remodel and I have always loved butcher block. Is it a practical kitchen surface? I am only asking for my own reference. The kitchen pictured would be my dream kitchen. Thank you.

    • Hi Shelley!

      It depends on how you treat it. Long term, butcher block (even treated), will show wear. But some people love that (myself included). It will show dings, scrapes and marks over time, giving it a worn in and lived in appearance. But again, a lot of people love that. You can always have the counters sanded down and re-sealed over time, but that’s an investment to consider up front. Marble and some stone is equally tricky (and can show stains), so if you’re looking for something with lots of long term life without much show of wear, I would look into synthetic substances like Corian.

      Grace :)

      • I have butcher block counter tops in my kitchen from IKEA. I mostly love them, but they do need to be treated a bit more often than we get around to (I’d treat them 2-3 times a year if I were doing it right), and my husband has left burn marks on them from a hot cast iron pan. While I love being able too put a hot(ish) pan right on the counter, I really wish there weren’t burn marks. A light sanding has not gotten rid of them, and he has decided that they add character.
        So something to consider when making a counter top choice. I think I’d go with a white silestone if I could have a do-over.

    • It’s interesting – when I see wooden benches, no matter how beautiful I just think “GAARRGGH”. I grew up with stunning, jarrah (Western Australian VERY hard wood) benchtops amd my mother CONSISTENTLY worrying about any scratches on it. Oh god, I can hear the warnings even now!!! And I’m 40!! I think if you’re going to get wooden kitchen benchtops, be prepared for them to be work benches and thus show wear and tear. And be prepared to love that or constantly re-polish etc if you don’t (and not grumble when you do it!). Otherwise it’s just a show kitchen and unless we’re the Queens of England, I doubt any of us have the spare cash (or inclination) for that!

  • Wowowow! Look at that bathroom! 😍Love the subway tile too. (Don’t tell my SO but I love the mint kitchen too…)

    Noticed the link to FE is borked; Here’s an updated one: ❤️

  • Hello! Like one of the other earlier posters, I am very interested in the hardware used on the kitchen shelves…I would love to replicate the same. Beautiful home!

  • I love the framed indigo cloth in the living room. Are they Japanese? I’ve been collecting textiles in my travels and I hadn’t thought to frame them. Great inspiration!

  • Thank you so much for this fabulous article detailing the transformation of this charming home. We are delighted that Tesselle’s Spatial Contrass tiles played a role in this.

  • I was wondering where the kitchen shelves (specifically the brackets) are from. They are stunning! Looking to do something very similar and this looks great.

  • How is wondering! Great collection & nice decor. Really everything & every room are awesome & fantastic. Nice to see. Every item has well placed & positioned. Next time I will do this idea my home remodeling.

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