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How One Designer Updated an 1890s Farmhouse Kitchen to Create Flow and Function

Bright white kitchen with blue island and farmhouse feel.

Design: Libby Rawes; Photo: S. Brenner Photography; Graphic: MyDomaine

If there’s something we never get tired of seeing, it’s a great makeover. Whether it’s transforming a retro bathroom into a modern oasis or giving a lackluster bedroom a fresh look, pros perform these design miracles all the time.

To give designers a chance to showcase their favorite makeovers—and to bring you plenty of inspiration for your own home—we’re sharing the best before and afters we’ve seen in our series, Makeover of the Week. Take notes for your next renovation.

 “The homeowners purchased this historic house with the intent of updating the kitchen to be brighter and more functional—with two small children under the age of five, they needed a better flow for their family,” interior designer Libby Rawes says.The room had been last updated sometime in the 1980s with inexpensive cabinets, countertops, and flooring—all of which were showing their age.”

Meet the Expert

Interior designer Libby Rawes is the owner and principal designer of Sharp and Grey Interiors in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She loves to create warm and inspiring spaces that are practical for everyday living.


Cramped small white kitchen with vintage wallpaper.

Courtesy of Libby Rawes

“The original kitchen had Formica cabinetry, wallpaper that looked like it belonged in a bedroom, dated scalloped wood trim, and yellow linoleum flooring,” Rawes notes. “The windows were located up high up on the walls—so they were hard to see out of—and the area felt closed off, thanks to its L-shaped design.”


Bright white kitchen with blue island.

Design: Libby Rawes; Photo: S. Brenner Photography

“The end result is a completely reimagined kitchen with ample counter space, storage, and a much better flow. Fresh white shaker cabinets, quartzite countertops, and handmade blue and white terracotta tile give the room a fresh new look,” Rawes shares. “A band of walnut wood on the range hood adds a touch of warmth and ties into the floor’s hardwoods while the main window was enlarged and centered to bring in more natural light.”

What Changed:

  • Color theme: White paired with pops of saturated blue and warm wood tones create a classic yet elevated vibe.
  • Cabinets: To-the-ceiling white Shaker cabinetry features simple brass hardware and glass fronts. 
  • Backsplash: White crackle subway tile paired with a bold blue terracotta tile gives off a fresh feel.
  • Island: Legs were added to the painted blue island to give it a more furniture-like feel.  
  • Countertops: The Macaubus quartzite has subtle gray veining to add movement to the countertop.
  • Island pendants: Delicate globe lighting keeps the area over the island feeling open and airy.
  • Table pendant: The shades on the linear brass chandelier create a soft glow.
  • Sconces: Classic brass library sconces provide task lighting over the sink.
  • Table: A rustic walnut trestle table adds warmth to the space.
  • Stools: Walnut and metal stools are a nod to farmhouse style. 
  • Rug: A striped indoor/outdoor blue and white runner adds a pop of color to the wood floor.
  • Chairs: Modern black Windsor-style chairs juxtapose the rustic feel of the table.
  • Windows: Crisp white linen roman shades add a touch of softness and texture. 
  • Sink: A fireclay farmhouse sink features a classic polished nickel bridge faucet. 
  • Range hood: A walnut band adds a pop of interest to the custom hood. 
  • Appliances: A stainless steel beverage fridge provides storage for drinks in the island. 
  • Floors: Hardwood floors were stained in a mix of provincial and early American stain.

Shop the Look:

White kitchen with blue backsplash and island.

Design: Libby Rawes; Photo: S. Brenner Photography

Boston Functional Single Arm Library Light
Circa Lighting Boston Functional Single Arm Library Light $499.00

“These sconces are timeless and add warmth and character to a room,” Rawes shares.

Samson Indoor/Outdoor Rug
Dash & Albert Samson Indoor/Outdoor Rug $288.00

“This handmade rug is made from recycled plastic bottles and is super durable, perfect for a kitchen,” Rawes notes.

Flat Roman Shade
Loom Decor Flat Roman Shade $121.00

“These crisp linen roman shades add subtle texture and create a lovely glow when the light shines through it,” Rawes says.