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September 26, 2019

5 min


Before and After: A Drab Kitchen Brought to Light

Kitchen renovation

Q&A with Ashley Mills, The Handmade Home

Thinking of updating your kitchen but are unsure where to start? The Handmade Home shares pro tips on how to get started on a project, what to consider when updating lighting, advice on how to prepare for a big renovation project and how to filter “helpful” outside advice.

clients kitchen before remodel


Kitchen remodel with Kichler pendants


Where does the inspiration process start for you with each new project?

We tend to be sponges and soak up a little bit of everything because you never know where inspiration will strike. I know that sounds like a generic answer, but from the grocery store aisle to the graphics in our kiddo's iPad games, you never know! That's what we love the most about it. We adore taking a step back and really looking firsthand at what the space needs the most and then working creatively to meet those needs. This is how we can make sure form meets function in the very best of ways.

What is your favorite part of the design process? The most challenging?

Our favorite part is the challenge! We adore complicated areas that need real solutions for real people. It can feel a lot like putting a puzzle back together again, and we adore all the possibilities that can come from a forgotten space. Our entire house rehab was an exercise in that and thinking through the best ways to be clever with what we have.

What advice would you give someone preparing for a kitchen renovation?

Do your own research, and then don't listen to other people's well-meaning 'advice'. For example, we knew we wanted marble and soapstone on our countertops in our kitchen remodel, so we did our homework. So many people advised against it in conversation, even though they really didn't know much about it. According to them, their grandmother's sister's dog's cousin twice removed had it in their kitchen, and it did not end well. We investigated and installed some beautiful marble and soapstone because we knew it was what we really wanted. If we'd listened to everyone's opinions on the matter, I would have been desperately confused and not ended up with what we wanted. We're so glad we did our homework.

Kitchen table set for dinner party
Bar shelf full of liquor bottles
penny the puppy in the kitchen
What preparations can a homeowner take to reduce the stress of a remodel?

Adjust your expectations. You will be frustrated, and it will be hard. It will take longer than you think, and something will inevitably go wrong. You may cry, and it will be stressful. You'll feel like you're bleeding money and it won't happen on a commercial break. But we promise it will be worth it if you follow your gut and have a little patience.

What is the most important type of lighting for kitchens? 

Combining functional lighting in practical ways, like canned and under cabinet lighting from Kichler, alongside the gorgeous statement pieces they offer are equally important. Bringing them together in beautiful ways are what really make a space so great. 

Favorite part of renovating kitchens? Most challenging? 

Our very favorite part is taking something dated and no longer useful and creating something beautiful from that. Seeing the client's faces afterwards is always the most gratifying part, and families and friends gathered around is a real bonus.  The most challenging part is getting there. Establishing trust between the designer and client can be a struggle. It can be hard to see the grand vision, and it's our job to communicate that. It can be a scary process, and so there is a lot of trust involved in it all. It's also the most rewarding when we can carry it through and seeing the happiness on our client's faces.

Favorite type of lighting in general? 

Unique accents that really polish off a room are like great earrings to our favorite outfit. So, anything fun that brings in an awesome look to the space, is always our favorite. We have this thing with lights. 

If you could design ONE room for an entire year, which type would it be and why?

Anything old, sad, scary, and forgotten. Crusty old basements seem to be our default specialty. We adore creating impressive living spaces from nothing and helping a happy homeowner in the process. Blowing people's minds away is our favorite thing to do. 

Kitchen counter before Kichler lighting redo


Kitcher counter after remodel with Kichler lights


If you could have dinner with any designer in the world, who would it be and why?

OOOOH! Great question. I'm kind of a lifelong Nate Berkus fan. He inspired me from my days when I was sitting at home on the sofa with my babies, to when he made his first appearance on Oprah. Then he helped launch us with an experience of our own when we had the honor of appearing on his show. He comes from the school of self-taught, so we admire his hustle along with how he's evolved as a designer. So many interesting conversation topics to be had!

Any Instagram accounts you are currently drooling over?

We adore watching people pursue their passions, no matter what they are. Some of our very favorites with beautiful, inspiring, and colorful imagery are

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What is the main reason homeowners want to remodel their kitchen? 

A lot of people are a little trapped in their homes with older designs because of the current state of the market. They find that they don't really want to move to fix that problem, because it's pricey or the school system is amazing, or they love their home and just not the kitchen. So, remodeling is a brilliant way to invest in your current home, to gain a lot of value in a smart way. We love helping others see the potential in their current home. Our slogan is "We don't believe in the dream home. We believe in your home".

How do you and your client(s) decide on a color palette? 

We usually look at the rest of their home and discuss what they're currently loving or not loving about it. We pull in options to do some fresh updates, and we love introducing some colors that can help express who they are. It's important to help their home reflect the people who live there, and one of the very best ways to do that is with color. It's a process, but when you strike the right tone, it can really make a space.

Ready to get started on your kitchen remodeling project?

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