Cottage Reborn Before and After

A few big investments and other budget-friendly choices make for a dramatic transformation.

Written by:Cambria USA
Photographed by:Steve Henke

Cambria design shown: Cambria Black™

This simple 1950s post-war home did not have much in terms of character or charm to speak of. The original layout and size was “low bar” function over form and rumor has it the home may have been a servants’ quarters for a farmhouse across the alley. However, the one standout design element is two arches—one that leads to a staircase leading upstairs and another toward a small hallway leading to the bath and two main-floor bedrooms. These dual arches also very gracefully separate the front of the house from the back of the house. Here is where we begin…

The Dining Room 


The dining room was very small and cramped—more of an annoying traffic pass-through to a sun porch addition and kitchen rather than a functioning space. Add to that sliding doors into said sun porch and you have not only one bottleneck into the kitchen, but another into the sun porch making it a constant shuffling act to get from one place to another.



The plan was to remove the two dining room walls and repeat two arches opposite each other, opening up the kitchen and also the room directly across to create a separate and more defined dining space, thus creating better flow and a “heart” for the home. Luckily, neither wall contained a main support or other core elements, so removal remained within budget. The new arches gracefully separate the rooms while what used to be the old dining space is now a larger area for traffic to flow and kitchen counter seating. A gorgeous brass butterfly light fixture combined with vintage inspired Heron wallpaper lends a high design and austere feel to the new and ample dining area.


The Kitchen


The original kitchen had no countertop to speak of, full upper cabinetry that made the kitchen feel even more cramped, and barely any natural light. There was cracked tile on the floor due to a support issue in the basement. And the small space with limited airflow made the kitchen a literal hotbox when anyone was cooking. The kitchen was also closed off and stuck in the corner of the house so cooks were not able to engage with anyone or anything else going on in the home.



With a tight budget, the initial plan was to create an arched opening with a breakfast bar and keep all of the appliances within the same footprint. Enter supply chain issues, a couple of COVID quarantines, and some other unavoidable hindrances which created time to sit and live in the space for a spell with both arches cut open. During that time, the realization hit regarding how much more open the space felt overall, and that newfound space created by pushing the dining into what was a bedroom could be transitioned into more kitchen and MUCH better flow. Voilà! The heart of the home was born with a gorgeous oversized Cambria Ella™ peninsula. This change provides ample space for seating, and lots of sorely needed work space simply by adding a few base cabinets on the seating side. An added benefit is lots of small appliance storage and designated spaces for a microwave and doggie nook.


Cambria Black on the perimeter countertops is a beautiful contrast to the Ella design on the peninsula. Both countertops, heftier in thickness, create a powerful statement and a nice solid foundation for the color palette of the kitchen. The countertop also runs into a new garden window providing additional counter space for a makeshift baking nook. There is a new patio-style window above the deep Kohler farmhouse sink. Because this window is a single pane, it has more glass than frame and literally floods the kitchen with light making the space feel larger than it is.

White cabinetry in a satin finish and Café matte white appliances create the perfect backdrop for the glossy saturated color of Fireclay tile that’s on both the floor and the walls. A Mediterranean star-cross tile pattern on the walls in Fireclay’s Lake Tahoe blue creates a full-height backsplash and also runs floor to ceiling all the way to the back of the kitchen and above the side door entrance—creating a colorful continuity and pattern. The terracotta-inspired floor (which is also in the sunroom and bathroom) is Columbia Plateau in a herringbone pattern and is a delightful visual surprise, playing perfectly off the high gloss of the modern Cambria Black countertops.

The Sun Porch


Too hot in the summer with the solar gain, freezing in the winter with an uninsulated floor, and no heat source to speak of, this sun porch, although beautiful, was not a super functional addition to a Minnesota home. Thus, it became an addition to the renovation project. Not initially included in the renovation plan, as things progressed, the sun porch was adopted into the fold. As the largest room in the house, a proper renovation would make it viable for all-season use and create an all-purpose family room filled with sunlight.


The plan began as opening up the space to create a seamless transition into the sun porch from the main house by replacing existing sliding doors with French doors that would allow a fully open traffic flow and an equally beautiful way to close it off as desired. A custom-sized Pella Reserve French door replaced the original off-size sliding doors and instantly opened up the room to the rest of the home as if it had been there all along. Using the same beautiful floor tiles, but in a brick-style pattern this time, created consistency with the kitchen that is just steps away. The unsightly aluminum strips and shiny white insulated sheets on the ceiling were covered with natural plywood and boxed in beams to beautifully finish off the space. The exterior wall, previously whitewashed beadboard, was painted a matte black along with the door trim, to create drama and mimic the Cambria in the kitchen. The final touch was sheer burlap textured floor-length curtains that create privacy and a soft texture in a space which now functions as a beautiful and lived-in family room.


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