Before & After: Amanda’s “Empty Nest” Kitchen in Arizona

Amanda submitted these impressive before and after photos for my Hooked on Your Kitchens Contest, writing, “This is my favorite room in our little ’empty nest’ house. We sold our big family home in Arizona to our middle daughter and bought this bank-owned home less than a mile away. It was in bad shape and everything had to go (hip hip hooray!).”

They did most of the work themselves, and here are the results:

Wow. It looks bigger doesn’t it? She explains: “We moved the counter out about four inches into the eat-in area of the kitchen so that the oven wouldn’t seem so squished in. That gave me two good-sized cabinets on each side, one for spices and one for cookie sheets, and it made the entire area roomier.”

“My favorite thing about this kitchen is probably the faucet! When I finally got around to buying it I was so sick of spending money that I kept going to Lowe’s trying to find an inexpensive alternative. But the Grohe model I had seen at the plumbing supply store was just too perfect to pass up, so I forked over the dough one last time! It is something I use constantly, and it is made so well it just has a feel of luxury to it.”

“The white subway tile was supposed to go in one of the bathrooms. I was going back and forth on a different backsplash, so I got online one night looking at kitchens and found a couple with the white subway tile. My husband was anxious to get that job finished so I told him to use the bathroom tile. He thought I was nuts. Now you see subway tiles in kitchens a lot, but at the time I was a bit worried.”

“The big cabinet on the right was made by my husband nearly 20 years ago and now holds all of my kitchen gadgets. The chair was a ‘curb alert’ find that I slipcovered. That was my cherry-on-the-top moment when I felt that the kitchen was finally finished!”

I love how bright and open and friendly it looks now. Thanks, Amanda!

Penelope Bianchi's kitchen 1
Welcome to Penelope Bianche's colorful kitchen in Montecito, which is full of character and stories (like its owner). I featured her “Provençal Farmhouse” when it was…
Laura's modern kitchen wood cabinets
One thing that surprised me as all the entries poured in for my Hooked on Your Kitchens Contest was that most of them had white…

See More


  1. Emily says

    I love how she put the cozy armchair and little side table and plant in the “breakfast nook” of the kitchen, instead of the usual table and chairs. Sometimes it seems like overkill when people have a counter with a row of stools right next to a table and chairs. Do they really use both?

    • Marielle says

      No. Last year we moved our dining table out of the great room dining area, too. Added two comfortable chairs with a 30″ round occasional table between, next to the wall and aside the French doors–informal lap dining and one of the best reading areas in the house. That repurposing opened up the room and now mirrors the way we really live (also empty nesters).

    • says

      I have to admit that the chair now belongs to the our dog, Penny! It looks like such a great place to sit and read or have a cup of coffee (very magazine-ish!), but we don’t dare sit there! I actually had to scoot her off to take the picture. I should have just left her there and kept it real!!

  2. Marielle says

    Absolutely loving this series. Window peeping at its best! This kitchen appeals to me very much–simplicity, ingenuity, economy, and utility. Plus it feels real and comfortable. Thank you.

  3. Michael says

    This is really a beautiful transformation.

    I have a question for Amanda and anyone else who has open shelving in their ktichen: don’t you have an issue with grease residue and dust settling onto your exposed dishware? I seem to be forever cleaning my cabinet surfaces, because I cook a lot. But I don’t have open shelving.

    • says

      Yep, the shelves get dirty! It just takes a minute to wipe them off. I cook a lot so everything you see on those shelves gets used on a weekly basis and gets thrown in the dishwasher. Arizona is so dusty. I used to wipe dust from the INSIDE of my cabinets at the old house!

  4. says

    Lovely! Practical and modern while still keeping it classic!

    A counter is great next to a table as long as it doesn´t make it difficult to fit a dining table group.

    Our home has an open layout with a counter I could not imagine living without. Nowadays guests tend to arrive earlier than planned just have a chat over a glass of wine while I am cooking.

    But it has all to do with the layout and how spacious the kitchen is. A counter that makes a kitchen feel crowded is a TERRIBLE investment and a very common mistake I am afraid.

    / the realtor

  5. says

    Dear Julia,
    I about choked on my coffee this morning when I saw our kitchen on your blog!! Thank you for featuring it in your contest.

    You’re right . . . it is a friendly kitchen, but after seeing Penelope Bianchi’s kitchen yesterday I’m about to make it even friendlier! I want to cover my chalkboard pantry door the way she covered her fridge. I miss having all the “stuff” I used to have plastered to my old fridge. I’m going for it!

    Thanks again, Julia, for giving our little kitchen a moment of fame!

    • kasey says

      Amanda you took a cold, lifeless area and made it into an utterly charming, warm destination. For me the lamp is a big part of it, cozy instead of distancing like hanging pendant lights would be. And the chair–you have seating at the bar so why not have a cozy little nook there. I really like the wire cube with the pears (?) in it. Also, the jars with your flour etc in it are exactly what I’ve been looking for. I’ve seen similar little ones with plastic lids at the dollar store, but not large ones.

      I like your chalk board pantry door, but agree that the fabric boards from yesterdays refrigerator would work really well on your pantry door as well.

      Congratulations on creating such a wonderful space.

      • says

        Kasey, thank you so much! Got the jars at Target about 9 years ago, but I’m pretty sure they still carry them.

  6. Anne C. says

    love this! what a difference! I loved my white subway tile backsplash that we did when we renovated to kitchen in our old house. I plan on doing one again in my current house (someday…..)

  7. Ashley says

    I love this kitchen. I can’t believe they did most of the work themselves. I really like their use of different materials from the white cabinetry to the stainless appliances and shelving to the old wood cabinet to the subway tiles. And she decorated it so neat. Family pictures, plants, art. Very eclectic. I feel like I could live there!

  8. Julie Straughn says

    Amanda, your kitchen re-design is just beautiful! I reall like the subway tile back splash, especially. The open space is eye catching, relaxing, and makes me want to come over in my PJ’s and lounge around in your kitchen for a while. The flooring choice adds color and texture to your room. Very nice! Really enjoyed the tour of your before and after kitchen pictures! Makes me want to start my kitchen re-design project soon. I am always amazed at individuals, like you, who have a knack for design, color, and theme. Thank you for sharing your lovely home!

  9. carrie says

    Amanda, I love your kitchen! It’s fresh and clean and very functional, as well as being beautiful. Congratulations on your re-do.

  10. DORIS says

    Amanda’s new kitchen is a beauty. It is so inviting and warm. I love the way she decorated it.

  11. Kelly S says

    Wow! This kitchen is beautiful. I love everything from the subway tiles to the little decorative accents. Great pops of color too! I can’t believe they did most of this work by themselves! This kitchen has inspired me to start my own kitchen remodel!

    • Kelly Traylor says

      This is truly an inspirational kitchen to show how anyone can make their house look like a showroom. What I like best is that it is a very typical house for an average family with a reasonable budget. Clearly she isn’t living in a mansion or next door to any celebrities; just an average family with good decorating sense. I like how she has minimized the clutter and kept it family friendly. She clearly took her time to find just the right accents. Using a neutral color and adding bright accent tones (green and blue) makes it very versatile to change with the seasons or even if she got tired of the color. I also live in AZ–I wish I knew her so she could come help me with my decorating adventures!

  12. Arlene says

    What a big difference in the before and after pictures. I am impressed with the open shelves and the use of natural light. The colors and under cabinet lights along with the stainless steel pulls brings everything together. What a welcoming bright and cheey kitchen, I love it… GREAT JOB!

  13. Tom Sinclair says

    Great job on this remodel! Ever think of going pro? Wish I could hire you to redo my kitchen…

  14. Rebecca C. says

    This kitchen works! The design is great, the materials are great. I love the seating in it. Thanks for sharing.

  15. laura @ the shorehouse says

    Great job, Amanda! I’m jealous of your ability to keep open shelves….I’d have to do DAILY washing of everything! Apparently we bought the dustiest house in all of the land. (Actually my neighbors have corroborated that it’s not just us. :-) I’m glad we’ve lived with (in) it long enough to figure that out — our kitchen remodel plans have actually now been remodeled to include more covered cabinetry. C’est la vie.

    I just love everything about your kitchen — down to the vintage accessories! May I ask what make the range hood is? Love how simple the lines are.

  16. Beth says

    WOW!!! Beautiful kitchen! I can’t believe your husband did all the work, he’s very creative and talented!!! I like the way he did the bookshelf above the refrigerator. You also did a great job with the decorating, I like the lamp on the counter top, very inviting!!! :o)

  17. Thomas says

    Wow! That is an awesome improvement from the gaudy beginning. I love the new countertop and the space for dishes. Take those ugly cabinets off! The wood floor really finishes off a beautiful remodel.

  18. Carrie Cox says

    Amazing Amanda! It is just lovely!
    love, Carrie (zimmerman) Cox

  19. Sun City Living says

    Loved the kitchen! Bright and beautiful! Wish I had THAT kitchen when I cooked and entertained this past Thanksgiving! :)

  20. April says

    I’m keeping these pictures for what I’d like to do with my kitchen in the future. Functionality and beauty meets lived in comfort. They nailed it.

  21. says

    I need a better photo of that dog rocker ride on on top of the armoire!!! KYOOT!
    Great kitchen redo!

  22. Aurie says

    Absolutely fabulous!! I love your choices and placement of everything. The choice of materials, including taking the wood floors all the way across has opened up the space so much! Thank you for sharing such your beautiful space with us! Great job!

  23. Pam says

    WoW…That kitchen gives me hope for mine! I love the “homey” touches…thanks Amanda

  24. says

    I love the comfy chair, I cook a lot and not many of the recipes I use give me enough time to leave the kitchen to catch my breath, even though there’s a lot of waiting. It’d be so nice to have a place to just relax for a few minutes and still keep an eye on the food.

  25. missy says

    Amanda, Julia, SOMEBODY! Please show us the rest of this house! I just can’t believe the transformation. Truly a room i could hang in all day long. Love it.

  26. says

    I love this kitchen! They did an amazing job of infusing a ‘builder bland’ kitchen with the warmth, personality and functionality of a custom kitchen! I can’t blame the dog for not wanting to ever leave it! I also live in AZ and the “before” is a good representation of many homes here. I’m curious about the countertop material. In some pictures is looks like black granite, but in the close-ups of the stove it appears lighter and more like a quartz material? Amanda, would you be willing to share the resource info?

    • Amanda says

      Thanks Erin! You’re right it is quartz. The color is called Amazon I think.

  27. Michele says

    My first impression was AAAHHH, stunning, cozy, perfect! Then my second impression was where are the top cabinets?! Not because it looks bad without them – quite the opposite. But I couldn’t live without that closed storage space in my kitchen. I’m guessing with the empty nesting you don’t need service for as many as you used to! :)

    Beautiful job, Amanda. The cabinets and flooring with the contrasting counters are exactly what I’ve always wanted. Ironically my kitchen (redone six years ago) is caramel colored maple cabinets with dark green granite and a hardwood floor. Had to compromise with the hubs, who had strong opinions as well! I LOVE my kitchen – but someday I want YOURS!

  28. Stephanie says

    OMG! This kithcen is super!!!! Someday I hope to have a kitchen EXACTLY like this. I wouldn’t change a thing….great job!!

  29. Willow says

    This kitchen is Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  30. Liz says

    Love your new kitchen! Great job Amanda, it is beautiful. I am sitting at my kitchen counter feeling a little jealous!

  31. E. george says

    Beautiful kitchen Amanda. Hi Julia this is fun thank you for sharing. Regards Esther from Sydney (we are melting over here). I have done my Christmas shopping on the net it’s too hot and crowded out there (thank God for ONLINE shopping). I do prefer the cold……

  32. Joey T says

    Out of all the kitchen remodels you have shown, this is the best “real” kitchen featured. This takes what most people have and hate–the average builder basics–and transforms it to magazine material. A few quirky, cute accents and you get the personality of the family shining through. Well done Amanda and Husband! I have a few projects that I could use help with!! Do you make house calls?

  33. Jeff says

    Amanda’s kitchen is the most amazing kitchen I have ever seen. It looks like it should be in a million dollar house. If she doesn’t win this contest, it is a travesty!!

  34. David says

    If someone had shown me the before picture and asked me where this kitchen was located I would have easily guessed Arizona! It just looks like an Arizona builders grade Kitchen. Even remodeled kitchens tend to have an AZ feeling to them, and not always in a good way. But these after pictures…Arizona would have been the very last place I would have thought of! Beautiful job!

  35. says

    I’ve enjoyed all the kitchens but I think this is my favorite ‘before and after’ so far. While the “rip it all out/blow it all up/start over” remodels are always fun to see how someone improves on a layout, seeing someone take a builder’s special and re-do it in the same footprint so elegantly and welcomingly is a better inspiration for those of us without unlimited budgets. I would clone this kitchen in my own tiny cucina in a minute — except for the open shelving. My cats would think it was a place for them to climb and sleep!

  36. Mary Ann says

    Amanda did a great job with this kitchen. What I like best is that it doesn’t look staged. I would love to see the rest of the home.

  37. Lisette says

    I can’t stop staring at this kitchen – it is GORGEOUS!! Wonderful job, you two xo

  38. Debbie says

    I absolutely love this kitchen! The combination of sleek modern and a touch of antiques is just right. It looks like Martha Stewart had a hand in decorating it . Way to go, Amanda, and kudos to your husband for all his hard work in the project!

  39. B Kent says

    This is my favorite kitchen! What an amazing result! Great job Amanda!

  40. Amanda says

    Thanks to everyone who left a comment on our kitchen. I am overwhelmed by the nice things you’ve said!!

    Love and Happy Holidays!

  41. melinda says

    Wow. Powerful transformation! The combination of clean and country is homey but very elegant. Come do my house!