The Empty Nest :: The Renovated Kitchen and Dining Room Are My Happy Place

renovated kitchen & dining room

A renovated kitchen and dining room adventure ~

I receive a large number of emails asking about our “fixer upper” and questions regarding the entire adventure. Everyone loves HGTV these days don’t they? Every season there is a new city where couples are fixing up old homes and creating amazing living spaces. I can’t get enough. How about you?

Our “updated Spanish” designed kitchen and dining room are my happy place. They are bright and cheery, quaint and efficient. We don’t have a lot of extra room for “stuff”, therefore, we do not purchase multiple sets of dishes and glasses like we had prior to downsizing. Just the basics. Downsizing feels good. Everything has a place and if we want to buy something new, we need to get rid of something in order to make room.

renovated kitchen & dining room
House before…
renovated kitchen and dining room
Mi bonita casa! On the interior the house was taken to the studs and on the exterior we added a new roof, stucco, front wall and iron gate, new courtyard, reinforced balcony, widened driveway and all new landscape.
renovated kitchen and dining room
The new courtyard

The quick back story ~

To take you back to the beginning, my husband Craig and I decided to downsize, move away from a town and friends we had lived with for 27 years in order to live nearer to family and to find adventure.

We found this empty nester renovating adventure in Pasadena, California in a 1937 Spanish Colonial total fixer upper. We took the challenge and lived in the dilapidated dwelling for nine months while we hired the architect and contractor and waited for plans and permits to be prepared.

We have now been living in the house for 18 months and couldn’t be happier. We are thrilled with the results and super proud of our accomplishments. When we initially moved in, we owned about half of the furniture we needed and there was no landscaping, no drapes and no art on the walls.

In the bedrooms we used disposable paper blinds (yay for Home Depot) for almost a year while we determined what window coverings would be just right. When you have such a blank canvas it can be overwhelming to know where to begin.

Backyard ~

The original backyard was super old and dated, with thick ivy growing up the sides of the house, garage and fences.

Because we completely removed the backyard landscape we had a blank canvas when the pool was fixed and resurfaced. The heat in Pasadena can be quite brutal, so we were patient and planted when the time was right. It took nearly a year to get it planted. The final result is our own little empty nester oasis.

renovated kitchen & dining room
Backyard before
renovated kitchen & dining room
The view from my table in the kitchen. Pretty inspiring.


Kitchen Nook ~

The final cookbook banquette is so inviting, so me, so happy, that I can still hardly stand it. I bring my laptop downstairs daily to work and write here instead of my office/guest room upstairs. The lighting sparkles in the morning and Rocco curls up under my feet from sunrise to sunset. The views of the backyard and pool never cease to delight me.

My cookbook library is my feng shui wealth corner. It holds my treasured cookbooks, some that are spattered with icing, memories of family meals and cookie baking with the kids. I proudly display the photo of Alex and me with iconic French chef, Jacque Pepin and my food photos hang on the adjacent wall.

I framed my favorite food photography in black frames and had several of the photos printed on metal by Social Print Studio. The lovely dark wood table we found at Art de Mexico where our custom dining room light fixtures were made. Once again, we patiently waited for just the right fit and design.

renovated kitchen & dining room
Old kitchen
renovated kitchen & dining room
This is the same view of the kitchen as the photo above. Hard to believe? I am sitting where the old Wedgewood stove was located.

Kitchen ~

The original kitchen was a combination of peacock wallpaper, (I kid you not) a 1950’s Wedgewood stove, forest green 1980’s tile and a terrible design. Our genius architect suggested we flip the kitchen to the opposite side of the space and build in a kitchen nook, plus a library for my cookbook collection.

fixer upper
The old and dated kitchen.
renovated kitchen & dining room
New kitchen – I chose vintage style fabric to keep with the age of the house. It offers modern conveniences, but with a little old school Pasadena thrown in.


I often say to Craig, we did this, we really did it. I can’t lose sight of the challenging and partly sacrificial journey to arrive at this place in our lives. We cook together, listen to music and have truly created the quintessential personal empty nester “Nest”. The home has room for our grown kids to come visit, but it was really designed for two and a dog!

The Dining Room ~

renovated kitchen and dining room
Same view as below. Notice that we closed the opening to the breakfast room with peacock wallpaper, removed the one window and added two higher ones on the back wall.

renovated kitchen and dining room
We removed the wall to the right of this photo.
renovated kitchen and dining room
Amazing! We have so much more space.
renovated kitchen and dining room
Old claustrophobic hallway and indoor/outdoor carpeting on the stairs. We removed the carpeting and found these sweet little stamps of fleur de lis on the risers of the staircase.
renovated kitchen and dining room
By taking down the wall it opened up the entire house .


What a transformation! The plans called to remove the dining room wall which eliminated a dark and depressing hallway that led to the kitchen. On the south wall, we added two higher windows and removed the one ugly window. The windows were placed higher so we could receive some great light, but not have to look at the side wall of our neighbors home. More genius from Georgie the architect.

By removing the wall, the dining room space became almost a perfect square and this definitely called for a round table. This type of table allows for excellent conversation and fits the room perfectly!

Final Thoughts ~

renovated kitchen & dining room

This entire process has been frightening, way more expensive than we planned, but one of the most satisfying and rewarding projects we have attempted as a couple. We have redesigned our homes before, but never to this extent.

People ask if Craig and I got along, we did. I don’t think we ever had a fight about anything. We talked things through and made decisions (there were hundreds) together. The completion of our home is a badge of honor and accomplishment we are so proud of. We are so appreciative of our family and friends who have come to see the final product and love the praise and support we have received.

Would I do it again?

renovated kitchen & dining room

Absolutely, I would. I don’t think I would change a thing about our design decisions. For the next house I would probably change the interior design a little, so as not to repeat this one, but we will worry about that when we decide to find adventure in another fixer upper!

More posts about the Empty Nest renovation:

The Fixer Upper Recap & Final Video

The Pasadena Empty Nest Fixer Upper Update!

Update of the Renovation of the Empty Nest

The Empty Nest Home Renovation is Delayed…a little

It’s Time for a Fixer Upper Update

The Challenges of Moving Into a New “Old” House

Our Empty Nest Renovation and 6 Months in Seattle


Pin for later

Share Adventure!

31 thoughts on “The Empty Nest :: The Renovated Kitchen and Dining Room Are My Happy Place”

    • It has been so rewarding and liberating getting rid of all of the “stuff” you just don’t need. I am here to support and help you!

  1. Really lovely! Inside remodel is beautiful and love the exterior as well! Our Spanish style house built in 1925 in LCF (near you!) got a long over due major kitchen remodel last year, master bath the year before, and back yard before that. We are done and with our 2 son’s not living home anymore, we have lots of room for out of town friends to visit. Thank you for sharing your home with us!

  2. Wonderful job. We bought a Philaselphia condo with so little light I call it “the cave”. I’m not sure how we didn’t notice before we bought it. However, we have a summer getaway place that is currently being renovated. It won’t be as charming as your place, but there is abundant light.

    • Your summer getaway sounds wonderful! Sure sounds fun to me! Light is everything isn’t it? I lived in a condo that didn’t have any light either, we just got used to it!

  3. Hi Suzanne,

    I love your remodel. The kitchen nook space is perfect for writing your blog posts! I dream of buying an old beach cottage someday and remodeling it. We were fortunate to build a home and design it ourselves. My husband thinks I should be a designer over a blogger. One of my favorite places I’ve traveled to is Greece, I even incorporated a Greece themed laundry room. It is a cool experience to create a home and enjoyed seeing your remodeling design.

    • Thank you Bonnie! Based upon your experience you know how it feels to accomplish a project like this! I too have thought about doing this for a living. I loved it! Your laundry room sounds super cool. I created a great laundry space as well with some fun tile and art work. Thanks again for reading the blog and for taking the time to comment.

  4. Hi Suzanne, I really wanted to change my home decor as I was getting sick of watching the same stuff for last three years and was searching some innovative ideas. Your blog really proved to be the best for my house renovation. Thank you so much for your fantastic ideas!

    • Wow! What a lovely thing to say. I am thrilled to hear that our ideas were helpful. Home design is fun for so many reason. I think even from a personal development perspective, it is extremely satisfying. Thanks again for reading and for taking the time to comment.

  5. Hi Suzanne,
    I have been trying to track down the tile you used for your kitchen backsplash. You mentioned in one post that it was from Mission Tile West but I do not see it on their website. I have emailed both the Pasadena and Costa Mesa locations. Hoping to hear from them. Is there any additional info you can share on the tile? Manufacturer?
    Thank you!

  6. If you don’t have this book in your cookbook collection you MUST find a copy! NOT the KINDLE! They seem to have reprinted it because you couldn’t find it anywhere (I have two just in case…) but now it’s on Amazon with a different cover.

    Laurie Colwin (RIP) Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen. She’s a wonderful writer. Every chapter revolves around a memory/time in her life… with a menu/food item. And the recipes are GREAT. Some are unusual. (something like Caribbean Black Cake or Fruit Cake). She has THE very best Friday Night Pot Roast (for shabbat with latkes)….in the world. Do not believe the online versions, people lie (adapt) her original and you must do the exact original including put the veg through a food mill (only) to make your flourless gravy. And I’m a VEGAN! LOL Beautiful job on the house, BTW. But you can see I’m obsessed with cookbooks. Don’t ask what happened to my collection when I had a flood on the second floor and the drywall dripped down all over my book case.

    OH here’s another gorgeous and ICONIC one: Mary Emmerling’s American Country Cooking: Recipes and Menus from Family and Friends Across America. I have two of these, too. Get the hardback! So pretty and all the recipes work.

    #3 The Frog Commissary (Phila restaurant now defunct).Fantastic recipes. Best carrot cake ever.

    But my true #1 And irreplaceable is: White Trash Cooking by Ernest Matthew Mickler. OMG so poignant, sweet, great composed photos and just hilarious stories told by the subjects about how the recipes came to be. The author is so reverential and respectful of his people he grew up with in North Florida. For example “White Trash is always capitalized because manners and pride separate us from common white trash.”

    Truly a book a cookbook lover should NOT be without! Again of course, no Kindle can do it justice.

    Now SHOP and add to that bookcase!


Leave a Comment

We're Honored to be featured By: