Renovation Before & After

Removing a Pesky Upper Cabinet Opened Up This Dated 1920s Kitchen

Sage green storage keeps all the baking supplies tucked away.
green kitchen with terracotta floors

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In every house Jessica Mikesell has lived, she has had shelves dedicated to her cookbook collection. She isn’t a chef by trade, but it is her self-described love language and favorite way to decompress after work. So when she and her husband, Calvin, moved cross-country, from Brooklyn to San Francisco, the ledges were coming with. After a turbulent real-estate search, a 1920s Craftsman caught their eye, even though Jessica immediately knew the kitchen wasn’t up to her standards. “We had a dishwasher and a capable oven,” Calvin jokes. “What more did we need?” A pantry, for one.

Jessica called upon her old friend (and interior designer) Grace Lee-Lim to help her get the house up to snuff. “The layout was perfect; it just needed some upgrades,” says Lee-Lim. Read on to see the changes that have the couple happily cooking up a storm night after night—starting with a storage overhaul. 

Use Every Corner

The kitchen, after. Courtesy of Grace Lee-Lim.

Despite the near perfect layout—the sink under the window was definitely staying—cabinet space was severely lacking, especially with the air fryer, blender, and more Jessica was bringing in. “What can I say, I like tools,” she says, laughing. A dated (and unused) vent hose was taking up almost 4 feet of valuable real estate next to the oven. “By taking it out, and updating the exhaust hose in the process, we were able to add a four-door pantry there,” she explains. Now all her stand mixers and baking ingredients have a home away from the soapstone countertops.

When in Doubt, Knock It Out

The kitchen, before.
The kitchen, after. Courtesy of Grace Lee-Lim.

The narrow room has only two windows, and the larger one is in the breakfast nook, not ideal for a couple who spends most of their time at the stove. In order to let the maximum amount of sunlight bounce around without a major demolition, Lee-Lim’s team knocked out the lone upper cabinet separating the table’s nook from the rest of the kitchen. 

The kitchen, before.
The kitchen, after. Courtesy of Grace Lee-Lim.

The remaining cabinets also got the boot, replaced with brand-new boxes coated in a pea green color. “I was worried the black and green combo would be too dark,” says Jessica, “but it actually makes it feel cozier.” The terracotta floors, however, are original—and part of the reason the pair fell in love with the Craftsman in the first place.

Keep Inspiration Close By

The kitchen, after. Courtesy of Grace Lee-Lim.

“I rearrange them every month based on what recipes I want to try,” notes Jessica of her cookbook trove. The current week’s rotation gets placed in rows within arm’s reach of the kitchen, while those on the metaphorical back burner are closest to the opposite wall. What looks like a custom display is actually just normal picture-frame ledges; her titles make up her version of art. “Everyone says that my favorite color is sand,” she says, laughing. On the docket for April: Carla Lalli Music’s That Sounds So Good and Cherry Bombe: The Cookbook