A gray and white kitchen with white subway title backsplash, gray grout, navy island, gold hardward, and white marble quartz countertops by cambria in the pattern swanbridge

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you likely know that last fall, we sold our home in the suburbs (the one my husband Ben grew up in!) and moved to downtown Milwaukee.

And if you follow along on Instagram, you likely know that we spent a good chunk of June redoing our kitchen

WELL, I’m excited to share that the before/after photos of our kitchen have arrived!

When we moved in, our kitchen walls were a color of deep velvet red I associate with The Library in the board game Clue, the appliances on their last legs, and the sink was tiny and not meant for any form of serious dishwashing.

The counters were a hard-to-clean black granite, and the island? It was little more than a make-shift wooden table that showed every watermark.

And now…

GORGEOUSNESS!

Erin standing in a white kitchen with a plate of brownies

We have a single basin, ginormous sink made to handle my largest sheet pans and deepest stock pots, a stunning backsplash and fresh paint job, a real-deal, functional kitchen island with outlets and the most stunning Cambria quartz countertops!

When we decided to redo the kitchen, I spent months researching appliances, finishes, and most of all, what kind of island/countertop I wanted.

I can’t overstate how happy I am with our choices. Not only is our kitchen exactly what I envisioned aesthetically, it is PRACTICAL.

Everything about the space is easy to use, easy to clean, and makes me feel all the more joyful when I cook. Equally important in our decision is what we didn’t change.

While our kitchen remodel was a major investment, we weren’t willing to completely drain our savings. We recognized that the existing kitchen had a number of good qualities, prioritized what had to change, and left what we could live with happily and fit into our new design.

WHAT WE CHANGED – The Priorities!

A beautiful white kitchen with a navy island

A Real, Functional Kitchen Island

Having a workspace that offered storage, seating, and most importantly of all a legitimate work surface was Priority #1.

The island was also the main remodel catalyst. Our thought process went something like…

BEN: OK, we can install an island.

ERIN: Well, if we build a new island, I know I’m going to want a different countertop than the ones we have now…and the island countertop should match the other counters, so we’ll have to change those…and well, if we’re lifting off the counter anyway, we should probably do a new sink too and…

I think you see where this is going.

The island decision involved two parts: the countertops, which we also installed around the perimeter of the kitchen and the island base.

A kitchen with white cabinets, navy island, and subway tile backsplash

Quartz Counters

After researching quartz vs. granite vs. marble, I came to the clear conclusion that quartz was the countertop material for me.

Quartz is a manufactured stone, meaning it is created for a purpose. And a few of those key purposes: being easy to clean, durable, nonporous (it won’t soak up moisture, odors, and other yucky things), and beautiful.

Unlike granite (which looks a certain way when it comes out of the ground), quartz can be designed to a variety of patterns. Unlike marble, it’s a breeze to clean and doesn’t have to be continually resealed and polished.

Within the quartz realm, however, I had more options than I knew existed.

Eventually, my research led me to Cambria. Their quartz has a lifetime warranty, the company’s practices are environmentally friendly, and the quality control Cambria maintains over its products is bar none.

Another reason I fell for Cambria is the aesthetics. Because quartz is manufactured, some producers are better at creating and replicating a pattern than others. I wanted a real marble look…without having to maintain real marble. Cambria has a wide array of beautiful, natural-looking marbles. Eventually, I settled on a design called Swanbridge.

I like that Swanbridge has some interest, pattern, and veining, but it isn’t so bold that it overtakes our smaller kitchen.

COUNTERTOPS BEFORE: Dark. Impossible to Clean. Easily Stained.

A kitchen with white cabinets and black countertops before a major remodel

COUNTERTOPS AFTER: A Breeze to Clean. Ridiculously Durable. STUNNING.

A navy island in a kitchen with white cabinets

The Island Base

We created bar seating (let’s be honest—everyone wants to hang in the kitchen!), storage drawers and cabinets, and a pull-out trash can (LOVE).

We also ditched the regular microwave (which had occupied a doorless cabinet and was both small and an eyesore) in favor of an in-island drawer microwave. It’s fantastic having the microwave out of the way.

For the color of the island, I chose a timeless admiral navy. It pops against the gold hardware, looks classic, and adds a dimension of color to our otherwise neutral space.

ISLAND BEFORE: Limited Storage. No Seating. No Outlets. The Microwave is in a Weird, Doorless Cabinet to the Left of the Sink.

A kitchen with an island before a remodel

ISLAND AFTER: Seating for Four. Loads of Storage. Microwave Hidden. Outlets Galore.

A bright, white kitchen with navy island and subway tile backsplash

Bright, white kitchen with stainless steel appliances and a navy island

The Wall Color

Before we even moved in, we painted the red walls a calm gray. We used the same color throughout most of our main floor, and if we ever move, I’d paint my whole interior with it again.

WALL COLOR BEFORE: Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers Red.

Erin sitting on a kitchen island in a red kitchen

WALL COLOR AFTER: Same Girl, New Scene.

Erin standing in a remodeled white kitchen with a plate of brownies

The Sink

We ditched the divided, shallow stainless steel sink in favor of a single basin white ceramic.

The Faucet

All I can say is, once you own a touch faucet, you don’t go back.

Our faucet is also TALL, and because its neck is completely flexible, you can maneuver it super duper easily. This model is a favorite among professional chefs, and after using it, I can see why.

We also added an instant hot/instant cold water faucet (that’s the smaller black spigot you’ll see in the below photo to the right of the regular faucet). The hot water comes out PIPING hot, and the cold is refreshing and filtered.

SINK + FAUCET BEFORE: Shallow. Divided. Short Faucet. Zero Flexibility.

A vase full of tulips on a windowsill in a white kitchen

SINK + FAUCET AFTER: I (Almost) Like Washing Dishes Now.

A new sink faucet in a remodeled kitchen

The Backsplash

White tile + gray grout.♥

We also added a wall niche above the range. To make it a focal point, we broke up the subway tile pattern elsewhere in the kitchen with a chevron inlay. I adore chevron, and this was a really fun, manageable way to tie it in.

BACKSPLASH BEFORE: *Crickets*.

WE DIDN’T HAVE ONE (!)

BACKSPLASH AFTER: Dreamy Subway Tile + Chevron Niche.

A stainless steel oven and gas cooktop in a kitchen with white cabinets

Appliances

We made a serious upgrade to our range and hood, replaced a dishwasher that was breathing its last, and swapped out the small, narrow refrigerator for one that is standard width.

FRIDGE + RANGE BEFORE: Narrow, Single Door Refrigerator and Old-School Range.

A kitchen with white cabinets before a remodel

FRIDGE + RANGE AFTER: Sleek, Streamlined, and Built for Serious Cooking.

A beautiful white kitchen with stainless steel appliances

^^Side note: the refrigerator turned out to be the biggest stressor of the entire project, because of the wall that juts out to the refrigerator’s left. The wall was too deep to allow a standard width French door refrigerator door to open wide enough to allow access to the interior drawers.

I will spare you the drama, but I was eventually able to find the one refrigerator on the market with doors/drawers that are workable. The new refrigerator didn’t fit the opening fully, so we added a few pieces of wooden trim around its top and sides to create a built-in look at a more manageable price point.

The Hardware

We replaced the round nickel nobs with brushed gold handles. I love the way the gold warms up the space.

Erin leaning on a white countertop in a kitchen with white cabinets

What We Didn’t Change

  • The Big-Picture Layout. We didn’t touch the walls or move the positions or openings for any of the appliances.
  • The Appliance Openings. Not touching the size of the openings for or positions of the appliances made it hard to find appliances at times (like that fridge!), but it certainly kept the project more streamlined.
  • The Cabinets. If you’ve looked into redoing a kitchen before, you know that cabinets are among one of the most expensive components. Had the cabinets been a deeper color, I would have looked into painting them, but we were happy enough with the existing color. New hardware was the perfect facelift!

Cooking in our new kitchen has been so energizing and exciting. I am incredibly grateful for this beautiful space. I can’t wait to use it to create even more recipes for you!

Erin and her dog in a white kitchen with a plate of brownies

Teddy approves.

Thanks for following along with our kitchen remodel! We paid for the remodel ourselves. Cambria gave us a credit towards one quartz slab. I stand by all of the opinions in this post, which are my own. You can find a full list of our selections here.

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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70 Comments

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  1. Beautiful! I love your design choices! Congratulations and enjoy cooking the happiest and most delicious meals! ? ❤️It makes a huge difference to love your kitchen and that it HELPS you while using it.

  2. I’ve remodeled (and lived in) 9 kitchens… Cambria was my favorite countertop brand above all. Good choice!

  3. Hi Erin..love the kitchen makeover! It really brightened up that space “for sure”! We just built our new home and I did Cambria quartz as well. We had it  in our last home and loved it.  This time we chose Annica. It is white too, with a grey vein with a few sprinkles of gold and every so often, a royal purple gem stone within the vein. Pretty. But, I’m disappointed that it really shows every water  spot, and every swipe of the dishcloth. Our last one was a white one with a vein in it as well, and never noticed that. Our island is 10 feet long (got the jumbo piece of quartz..no seams!) and it’s 5 feet wide. I can’t even reach across it. I know one thing I would never do again though, is put my sink in the island . More splashes of water. Ugh! Anyways..you did a lovely job designing yours! Fun, huh? 

    1. Hi Colleen! Thank you for the kind words about the renovation! It was SO much fun to design, and we love our new Cambria countertops!

  4. What a beautiful kitchen. You must be in heaven!

    I agree with you re: single basin sink. I’ve moved around a lot and every house has had double sinks, and my first priority was to put in a single basin sink. I need room!!

    Congratulations and best of luck cooking and baking up a storm in your new space.

  5. Curious why you did gray grout with the white tiles… I am wrestling with the same idea, and can’t Come to conclusion.   Your thought process behind it

    1. Hi Elles, thanks for your question! I wanted to create some dimension! Since the counters and cabinets were white, I wanted the backsplash to stand out a bit versus completely blending in. I also love the tile pattern, and it stands out more with the gray. I hope this helps!

  6. Hi Erin, your new kitchen looks terrific. I’ve been considering a very similar makeover, (white doors, subway tile, new hardware) but have been thinking about black granite. Can you explain why your old black granite countertops were so hard to clean??

    1. Thank you so much, Frank! Because of the dark granite color, the countertops tend to show more crumbs, dust, fingerprints and streaks on the surface. I also love the clean, bright look of the white, so that’s a personal choice. I hope this helps!

  7. Love the light and airy look with the large windows. The sink faucet is amazing, I have never seen one like it. Great job, awesome look. How energized you will feel to be creating in such a beautiful space.

    One question…….where is the recipe for the bread on the island? Selfish, I know, but bread is my weakness and my eyes were instantly drawn to that beautiful loaf. 

    Thanks for sharing your time, creations and love you put into your cooking.  

    1. Thank you SO much for your kind words, Claudia! We’re very happy with it! The bread actually came from our local Italian market, but as a fellow bread lover, you should definitely check out my Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread and Crock Pot Bread recipes.

  8. Beautiful!!! Don’t you just love the huge sink? Mine is stainless rather than the porcelain but you’re right – makes washing the largest pans, etc. so easy. The island is really pretty and compliments the space so well. I have no idea what I ever did without mine for so many years in our previous house. Enjoy your wonderful new kitchen – so worth the work, huh?

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words, Chris! I LOVE my new sink! Everything was definitely worth the work and wait!

  9. Absolutely stunning! Good advice and a beautiful, practical application for a kitchen remodel. I especially love the before and after pictures. Thank you!

  10. Erin, I love how you shared your thought process for the remodel and the before/after pictures. That chevron detail above your cooking space is to die for! I also love quartz and hope to put it into our very 1980s kitchen when we’re able to remodel it. I also hope that we’re able to find some way to turn an essentially gallery-style kitchen (that opens to our family room) into a kitchen with an island. It’ll take a designer to give us our options!

  11. Oooh, la la! It is exquisite! So happy for you and Ben. Teddy looks happy about it, too! I can’t imagine how you managed your daily life, creating recipes, cooking, photographing, blogging, walking Teddy, etc., etc! Those brownies look darn good, too! Congrats on your great new kitchen!

  12. Congrats on your awesome kitchen remodel! I love your practicality combined with beauty! Wishing you many, many happy moments cooking and living in this great space.

  13. Hi Erin! Love your blog and the kitchen reno looks great!  I am getting a “sink makeover” in my kitchen, have less than a week to pick a new faucet and am having a hard time deciding. I’m curious how much you love your Brizo faucet… I’m willing to invest if it’s worth it. I need a high arch and wide reach for the new single farmhouse sink I am getting. Enjoy your new space! ?

    1. Thank you so much, Sam! I do love my faucet – it’s been wonderful so far! I hope this helps, and that you find the perfect fit for your kitchen!

  14. Love the makeover! I’m in the beginning stages of doing the same thing. I especially love the faucet. Who makes it???

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly! It’s a Brizo Artesso Articulating Faucet in luxe gold. You can find all the specifics of our selections here: https://www.wellplated.com/kitchen-remodel-our-selections/. Wishing you all the best with your renovations!

  15. Love your renovation! Great changes, all. Especially the niche behind your stove. We just did our kitchen but without the niche. I’m a wee bit envious. But in a good way. I wish you gobs of glorious hours cooking away in your glorious kitchen. And thanks for your wonderful recipes. I’ve saved many and made quite a few. Look forward to making more of them.

  16. Love the transformation! It’s beautiful! Your blog comes at an opportune time. I just started researching remodeling our kitchen. It’s quite mind-blowing all you need to know to get it right and functional. We decided to use a contractor. God bless you and your husband for tackling such a huge project. May you have many happy years in your new kitchen.

    1. Thank you so much for this incredibly sweet comment, Elise! Wishing you all the best with your kitchen remodel!

  17. Wow!!!! I am in love with this space! When you run out of things to do between your blog, cookbook, home remodel, etc, come on over to my kitchen and work your magic again ;) That kind of stuff stresses me out so much. Well done!

  18. Congratulations! Good luck with your new kitchen. I really like a lot of your recepies. Thanks again for your dedication.

  19. Just beautiful! We remodeled this past November and also chose similar places to save (especially not painting the cabinets). We also chose quartz and were very pleased. I totally understand your new energy to cook in your kitchen! Enjoy!

  20. I love it! The colors/counter are very similar to my kitchen I remodeled a few years ago, although I have a galley kitchen in a small apartment and a breakfast bar pass though, The red knobs on the stove are a great detail and I love the admiral navy. I’m sure you will enjoy it for a long time.

  21. I am remodeling my kitchen and thinking about quartz for my countertops. Is there a guide or something that explains what I should be looking for?

    1. Hi Larry! I don’t have a specific guide to offer on this topic. I would recommend consulting a local professional for tips on what would work best for your home. Wishing you all the best with your remodel!

  22. I’m also looking to renovate my kitchen with some elegant design and this fantastic post is increasing the panic :P , Anyways, I like this classic design very much.

  23. your design is very nice. And, I said that congrats for this amaizing design. this is the beautiful look all the design. Congratulation!

  24. Beautiful kitchen! Do you have more details on the island cabinets? I love the style and color, it’s just what I had in mind for my kitchen! Thanks!

    1. Thank you so much, Lindsay! We love it too! You can find more specific information about our island selections in this post.

  25. I saw your all work carefully. This is all because of your great effort. I appreciate your efforts for this. And I hope that you will be continued this work with more hard works.

  26. Beautiful kitchen!!! Was the base a prefabricated piece or you had some one to build it to your design? If prefabricated where is it from?

    1. Hi Naciem, thank you for your kind words! It’s prefabricated, but we got to customize a few options. The prefabrication was prepared by a company called Belmont and was coordinated through a local contractor. You can find out more about it at this link: https://www.wellplated.com/kitchen-remodel-our-selections/.

  27. You did a 360 there. Congrats! I love how you made the steel and the white work together so well. I also love that type of deep blue that you used as a pop of color right there. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine myself doing this. I always use whites in a safe and muted way but, this gave me a push to be a bit bolder. I’ve always wanted a white countertop but opted not to because I thought it was a hassle to maintain. I see that you used quartz, and this blog from Caesarstone also happens to recommend it as the best material for white countertops. How is your experience with it so far? What thickness would you recommend to homeowners who are planning to go for quartz for their small kitchens?

    1. Hi Susan! Thank you for your kind comments about my kitchen! We’ve loved our countertops so far. The thickness really should depend upon your specific counter and needs, so it’s hard for me to say. I believe ours are about 1-inch. I hope this helps!