When Amanda Dawbarn and her husband Tim purchased their three-bedroom home in Playa del Rey, California, they knew the kitchen was a complete gut job. Luckily, Dawbarn had a vision—she imagined a light and airy space to experiment with recipes, and stage mini photo-shoots for her blog 100 Layer Cake. As co-founder and creative director of a wedding blog, she knows a thing or two about entertaining in style. With the help of her husband Tim (and a contractor), she transformed a dark and dated kitchen into a spacious multifunctional room that can serve both as a test lab for her budding business, and an area to entertain friends and family.
She gave us a first look into her brand-new space—take the tour, and gather some serious renovation inspiration.
"We did not keep one thing from the old kitchen. It was literally torn to shreds," says Dawbarn of the old space that felt cramped and gloomy. "We made the opening to the kitchen larger, vaulted the ceiling, added a skylight, and closed a kitchen pocket door to a bathroom with a wall of cabinets," she says. "We moved the sink, oven, and stove to areas that were a better fit; moved windows; removed floor tile; added an island; and pretty much changed every surface of the kitchen!" The only items that stayed are a few beloved copper pots and pans, and a vintage glassware collection Dawbarn thrifted for her wedding.
"I wanted the kitchen to be bright, bright, bright," she says. She picked white shaker cabinets, marble countertops, and a herringbone subway tile backsplash as a backdrop, and added in texture with brass hardware, and walnut open shelving. "I had been collecting inspiration for years, and knew I wanted white cabinets, open shelving, and brass," she tells us. "My friend Sarah [Sherman Samuel] had designed her kitchen with shaker cabinets, and it inspired me to use a similar cabinet style."
Having a functional space was at the core of Dawbarn's remodel. "We wanted a space that was easy to cook in, with utensils and cookbooks handy. We also wanted a place where our friends could hang around nibbling and chatting before dinner," she says. A brass towel bar from Schoolhouse Electric doubles as a utensil rack, while shelving built into the island is the perfect nook to store cookbooks.
"The kitchen is always my favorite room in any house," she says. "When I have the time, I love experimenting with sauces, dips, salads, making pasta noodles and smoothie concoctions. Now I have a light and airy space where I can dream up anything."
Having open shelving was important to Dawbarn, who wanted to be able to display pieces collected over the years, from vintage glassware she thrifted for her wedding to a cake stand made by her father in law. "Among my favorite pieces are our olivewood cutting board and utensils from trips to Italy, a vintage African Juju hat, a clay wall hanging that I made on a whim, and our collection of vintage and collected glassware, cake stands, and serving pieces," she says. "They add a special touch to dinner on nights where we entertain friends."
Crisp, modern with a hint of elegance is how Dawbarn describes the space she designed entirely herself. "I love Bottega Louie in downtown Los Angeles with all of its marble, brass, and small colorful accents," she says. "Hopefully we achieved a little bit of that vibe in our kitchen."
"Since we basically managed this whole project on our own to save costs, the biggest challenge was chasing down our contractor at times, and micro-managing each detail to make sure it was what we had envisioned," says Dawbarn. "It was exhausting! But ultimately worth it." This labor of love is proof that with a little bit of elbow grease and a lot of imagination, it's possible to transform a space on a budget.