White and gray modern kitchen remodel with high gloss white cabinets by Jillian Lare Des Moines Interior Designer

A Dramatic White and Gray Modern Kitchen Remodel

Today I’m very excited to share the before and after photos from a dramatic makeover that transformed almost the entire main level of this traditional West Des Moines home. The result is a stunning white and gray modern kitchen design and bold new look for their fireplace wall.

My client and her husband built this home for their family twenty years ago, and their taste and style had evolved in a different direction. They loved more contemporary design, and they wanted to lighten up the house while giving it a fresh and modern feel.

The scope of the project included their living room fireplace, kitchen, back entryway, and laundry room, as well as converting their deck into a covered porch.

Kitchen Before

When we first met, they were considering giving their kitchen a face lift instead of a full remodel. After I listened to their wish list and evaluated the space, I knew they would be much happier if they truly went for it. Painting or refacing the cabinetry would have brightened up the space, but it would have still felt cramped and crowded.

Kitchen before

The layout of the kitchen was functional but it felt small for the size of the home. As we worked through the conceptual design phase, we realized we could make the kitchen feel much larger by stealing room from the back entry, which is behind the angled wall with the fridge and ovens.

Kitchen before

The two photos below show the entry from the garage into the mudroom. In addition to the lockers, there was a small coat closet behind the entry door. When my clients originally added these cabinets, they had a young family and needed lots of storage. Now that the clients are practically empty nesters, they don’t need as much space for coats and shoes, and they were happy to have that space incorporated into the kitchen.

Living Room Before

The living room is open to the kitchen and eating area and defined by arched headers and paneled columns on two sides. Before I first met with the clients, they had already decided to makeover the fireplace. They wanted to create a contemporary look by using solid marble slabs for the surround, but they were unsure how to handle the built-ins.

Living room fireplace before

So many – in fact, almost all – of my clients are telling me they want less stuff and less clutter, so they don’t need or want built-ins that need to be filled up and styled with objects and books. We knew we wanted to keep the design of the fireplace wall as simple and streamlined as possible.


The Plan

The clients had engaged K & V Homes, whom we worked with previously on our Winston Circle project, as the general contractor for their remodel. We developed a conceptual plan for the kitchen layout, back entry, and laundry room based on the client’s needs and wishes for the remodel. With a few tweaks to certain walls in each area, we knew we could optimize the space and make it feel much more open.

By removing the mudroom built-ins, we were able to shift the kitchen wall towards the garage door, creating one straight run of cabinetry with the cooktop, ovens, and refrigerator.

We eliminated the small closet in the mudroom and moved all of the coat and shoe storage into the laundry room. This allowed us to create a drop zone for mail, keys and cell phones right inside the door.

In the laundry, we borrowed space from the garage, which allowed us to push back the washer and dryer and add a new pocket door. Once our general plan was set, the contractor verified that it was feasible from a structural perspective.

Kitchen Classics in Urbandale provided the original cabinetry for the home, and we partnered with them again for this makeover. They took over from this point, further refining and tweaking the details to the cabinetry design.

We explored several ideas for the living room fireplace wall, but ultimately settled on the design concept shown above. We designed the marble surround with an inset fireplace, 11′ tall. On either side, we framed out drywall niches and designed floating inset cabinets, custom built by Waukee CabinetWorks, painted to match the trim color with marble tops.


Kitchen Before & After

Drag the arrows to compare the before and after of the kitchen.

White and gray modern kitchen remodel with high gloss white cabinets by Jillian Lare Des Moines Interior Designer

I can’t believe the difference between the before photos and the afters. It’s like a completely different house. Once the project was demoed, we decided to open the kitchen to the back entry even more and completely removed the header between the two spaces.

White and Gray Modern Kitchen Remodel with high gloss white cabinets by Jillian Lare Des Moines Interior Designer

For our finishes, we selected high gloss, slab front frameless cabinetry and paired it with Caesarstone’s Calacatta Nuvo in a honed finish. The backsplash is a pale gray beveled ceramic subway tile that we chose to install stacked rather than offset for a more contemporary look.

White and gray modern kitchen remodel with high gloss white cabinets by Jillian Lare Des Moines Interior Designer
White and Gray Modern Kitchen with high gloss white cabinets by Jillian Lare Des Moines Interior Designer

The floors are a huge design element throughout the entire first floor. Rather than replace the existing red birch, we worked with Barnum floors to develop this beautiful finish that is lighter and more neutral than the original color.

White and Gray Modern Kitchen with stainless steel farmhouse sink by Jillian Lare Des Moines Interior Designer

At the same time this remodel took place, K & V was also building a new covered porch off the back of the house. We took advantage of this opportunity to enlarge the kitchen window substantially. Now it lets in so much more light. 

Beveled gray subway tile backsplash, Jeffrey Court subway tile

We reused the existing Haefel drawer pulls on the lower cabinets and added minimal tab pulls on the upper cabinets to keep the overall look very clean and uncluttered.

White and Gray Modern Kitchen Remodel, Contemporary kitchen remodel, high gloss white cabinets
White and Gray Modern Kitchen Remodel with high gloss white cabinets by Jillian Lare Des Moines Interior Designer
Bay window dining nook, Sherwin Williams SW9165 Gossamer Veil

Laundry Room Before & After

We really wanted to carry the look and feel of the new kitchen into the laundry room so that they would feel connected. We also wanted to make the laundry feel less cramped. We achieved both goals even though we made the room slightly smaller.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any before photos of the sink side. The sink stayed in the same location, but we added shoe and coat storage on one side and made room for a kennel under the countertop. The finishes are all similar to those in the kitchen yet slightly more budget friendly.

Modern white laundry room, gray subway tile backsplash
Modern white laundry room, gray subway tile backsplash

Living Room Before & After

Drag the arrows to compare the before and after of the fireplace.

Modern marble fireplace with built ins on each side, linear fireplace with Samsung Frame TV by Jillian Lare Des Moines Interior Designer

The minimalist design of the fireplace surround really allows the beauty of this natural marble to shine. Of course, we needed to upgrade their television to the Samsung Frame so that it didn’t detract from the gorgeous stone.

Modern marble slab fireplace, linear fireplace with Samsung Frame TV by Jillian Lare Des Moines Interior Designer
Modern fireplace makeover by Jillian Lare Des Moines Interior Designer

I love how the design for the built-in nooks turned out. The marble tops still provide an opportunity for styling without giving way to clutter. We had the silver leaf mirrors custom made.


I hope you enjoyed this tour of a contemporary makeover for a fairly traditional home. Let me know what you think in the comments!

Bay window dining nook, Sherwin Williams SW9165 Gossamer Veil

The Best Light Gray Paint Colors for Walls

This post was originally published in March 2015. It was updated in June 2019 to reflect my new favorite light gray paint colors for a fresh and updated interior.

The gray paint trend is still going strong, and I am often asked about my favorite light gray paint colors for walls. In this post, I’ve rounded up some of my top choices from both Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams.

It’s very important to read through the descriptions so that you can understand the undertone of each color and how it might work in your home. The other day I did a consult with a client to select paint colors for her open living room / dining room / kitchen. The home had been a builder spec home in a new development, and the client had re-painted when they moved in but felt the color, which was a very cool blue-gray, wasn’t quite right.

Her instincts were right, and I could definitely see how she’d had trouble selecting the right paint color. The builder had used a pretty stone on the fireplace with warm gray undertones, tan carpeting, medium dark wood floors (not too red, which was good), espresso colored cabinets, and then granite countertops that were mostly gold with flecks of burgundy. The fixed finishes were all over the place, and the gray they’d picked was too cool to coordinate with any of them.

I brought my Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore paint decks along with loose swatches of some of my favorite colors. I also brought drafting tape and a piece of white foam core. I like to tape the loose swatches to the foam core and then move the foam core around the room. Plus, the white of the foam keeps the existing wall color from distorting the color of the swatches.

We eventually settled on three options for the living area that were all warm grays and then three options for blue-greens in the kitchen and dining area. We discussed painting the cabinets ivory to better coordinate with the cottage style the client prefers.

These are my go-to, warm, light gray paint colors and my starting point in just about any room where I know I’m not doing a color or a beige.

Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray SW7029

Agreeable Gray by Sherwin Williams is definitely one of my top favorite colors for walls. It’s a warm stony color right in between true gray and beige. The undertone of the color leans more towards yellow-orange than toward green.

Patterned tile floor, master bathroom walk-in shower, Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray
Bathroom design by Jillian Lare

Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter HC-172

I know that everyone (on Pinterest) is loving Revere Pewter these days and with good reason. It has a little more pigment in it than the Sherwin-Williams light grays (second swatch down on the strip) and has a more yellow-green undertone

Light stacked stone fireplace with Samsung Frame TV
Living room design by Jillian Lare

I used Revere Pewter on the board and batten wainscot in my modern farmhouse bathroom remodel and paired it with Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist on the drywall above.

corner bathroom vanity with wall cabinet asymmetrical vanity caesarstone vanilla noir
Bathroom remodel in progress by Jillian Lare

Sherwin Williams Worldly Gray SW7043

Worldly Gray is cooler than Agreeable Gray with more green in the undertone. It’s a beautiful color that looks lovely with natural wood.

Sherwin Williams Worldly Gray Jillian Lare Des Moines Interior Designer
Kitchen remodel by Jillian Lare

Sherwin Williams Gossamer Veil SW9165

Without a doubt, Sherwin Williams Gossamer Veil is my new favorite go-to light gray paint color. I feel like it’s a well-kept secret, and I have been shamelessly using it on repeat for the last several months.

I love this particular shade of gray with slightly creamy white trim for creating a fresh and light space that isn’t all white. It has no strong undertone that I can perceive, but is probably a green gray. It’s stunning with natural wood tones.

Modern marble fireplace with built ins on each side, linear fireplace with Samsung Frame TV by Jillian Lare Des Moines Interior Designer
Living room design by Jillian Lare

Benjamin Moore Classic Gray 1548

Classic Gray has become another staple of mine lately. It’s lighter than Revere Pewter and doesn’t tend to go as green. It’s a warmer light gray with a touch more pigment in it than Gossamer Veil.

interior designer des moines south of grand bathroom remodel
Bathroom remodel by Jillian Lare

Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray HC-173

Edgecomb Gray is right below Revere Pewter in the Benjamin Moore paint deck, but Edgecomb Gray has more yellow in it than Revere Pewter and less pigment. It’s a wonderful alternative to beige and much more versatile.

Sherwin Williams Useful Gray SW7050

Useful Gray has a yellow-green undertone to it and also looks great with natural wood. It’s light and fresh feeling.

Sherwin Williams Repose Gray SW7050

Repose Gray is another versatile gray that is slightly deeper than some of the other grays on this list. It has a warm stoney undertone to it, and I particularly love it for bedrooms.

Sherwin Williams Drift of Mist SW9166

Drift of Mist is another new favorite of mine. It’s on the same strip as Gossamer Veil in the Sherwin Williams paint deck, but the two colors are not variations on the same hue. Drift of Mist is ever so slightly cooler.

All of these grays work really well for rooms with lighter hardwood floors and for rooms with wood trim. If you prefer darker colored walls or just a little more pigment than these light grays, you can always use the third swatch down on the Sherwin-Williams paint strip or the fourth or fifth swatch on the Benjamin Moore strip (for the non HC colors). I like to use the lightest color on the strip for the ceiling instead of stark white.

If you’d like a free printable PDF download with all of the paint colors I shared in this post with their respective numbers, click the button below. It’s a handy reference to take with you the next time you are headed to the paint store.

Master Bathroom Remodel - Photo by Cassandra Monroe

The Worst Bathroom Remodeling Mistakes You Can Possibly Make

I’m currently in the midst of designing several bathroom remodels and multiple bathrooms in new build homes, so I have bathroom design constantly on my mind lately. Bathrooms are one of my specialties and really how I got my start in Interior Design (along with kitchen design), so I’ve been collecting bathroom inspirations photos for years now.

Check on my Bathroom Design Inspiration board on Pinterest…

After studying thousands of bathroom photos and designing dozens over the past ten years, I’ve learned that not all bathroom design is created equal.

As a former engineer, my clients quickly learn that I’m a pragmatist. Form has to follow function, especially in a bathroom or kitchen. I don’t care how pretty it is or how cool it looks if it doesn’t work!

I’ll be honest, in my early days as a designer, I probably made all of the mistakes listed below. But, every job teaches me something new, and I never repeat those missteps again. If you’re getting ready to remodel or design a bathroom, make sure that you or your designer avoids these critical bathroom remodeling mistakes.

# 1 You Have to Get Wet to Turn on the Shower

This list isn’t necessarily ranked in order; however, positioning the shower so you have no choice but to get drenched in freezing cold water every morning has to be the worst bathroom design mistake you can make.

For some reason, people became convinced that the shower controls – the on/off and temperature valves – need to be located directly under the shower head. But, often the shower head is at the far end of the shower from the door, meaning you can’t reach the controls unless you step into the shower.

I have seen showers where the client keeps the shower head pointed towards the wall while they turn on the water. This doesn’t really seem like an optimal user experience for someone’s dream bathroom.

The worst shower layout is one in which you have to get into the shower and also close the door to turn on the shower so there’s no escape. Terrible! I’ve definitely encountered this setup in hotels, and it totally sucks.

So, how do you avoid this happening to you? Look at the plans for your bathroom and picture yourself opening the door and reaching for the controls. Can you easily access them without stepping into the shower and under the shower head?

Remember, most shower doors swing both ways so as long as you can open it one way and reach your controls, it works.

If you can’t, then another revision is definitely in order. You can usually fix the issue by moving either the controls or the door.

# 2 Poor or Bad Vanity Lighting

Vanity lighting design definitely deserves its own post, and I am planning to publish one soon. My biggest pet peeve with many Insta-famous or HGTV-trendy bathrooms is the lighting design at the vanities.

If you have a smaller vanity (42″ or less), then often (but not always) your only solution is to place the vanity light over the mirror. However, for larger vanities, I think it’s a mistake to sacrifice optimal lighting for a cool look or fancy decorative mirror.

Spacing vanity lighting so that it feels balanced and proportional with the mirrors and the cabinetry is a fine art. I agonize over it on every single bathroom project I design. My priority is always to provide a sconce on each side of the mirror with the bulb height between 60″ and 66″. When combined with a recessed can over the sink, the three light sources diffuse hard shadows.

If you’ve ever looked at yourself in a bathroom mirror and thought you aged 10 years, look up. I bet the light source is a downward facing sconce centered over the mirror.

#3 Not Planning Storage Appropriately

So often I see photos of beautiful bathrooms with absolutely terrible storage, especially in master bathrooms. The furniture style vanities can look really pretty but are they totally practical?

It’s so important to seriously consider everything you need to store in your bathroom both for the things you use every day in your beauty and hygiene routine as well as linens and other supplies like toilet paper. Once you understand everything you use on a daily basis, then think about the best way to store it. Do you have serums, moisturizers, makeup, etc. that needs to remain vertical? How tall are the products you use? How long and wide are your hair brushes?

I like to incorporate a variety of drawer depths whenever possible as well as cabinets with doors. The sink cabinet can be a great place for hiding the wastebasket. I also keep tall products like hairspray on a lazy susan from Container Store under my sink.

interior designer des moines south of grand bathroom remodel

This Polished Nickel Medicine Cabinet From Restoration Hardware Adds Tons of Storage

I know medicine cabinets aren’t as sexy as a gorgeous decorative mirror, but they are ridiculously practical in smaller bathrooms. In the vintage style bathroom above, we only had room for a single 48″ freestanding vanity, so we maxed out storage for small toiletries by adding this polished nickel medicine cabinet from Restoration Hardware. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve used this exact medicine cabinet because it’s very handsome, generously sized, and comes with an integrated light and electrical outlet. No more razor or electric toothbrush sitting on the counter!

#4 Not Including a Hand Shower

Gray wood-look tile shower with polished nickel plumbing fixtures.

Masculine Modern Farmhouse Bathroom: Walk-In Shower with Polished Nickel Fixtures

Maybe you do your own cleaning and maybe you don’t. Either way, someone is going to be cleaning your gargantuan walk-shower at least every couple weeks. If you don’t include a hand-shower, then the only way they’ll be able to rinse down the shower walls is with a bucket. And, that’s really just mean.

I love my hand shower for both cleaning and for rinsing my hair. If you set it up correctly, you can run your main showerhead and your hand shower at the same time. It’s a more affordable version of body jets, especially if you mount the hand shower on an adjustable wall bar, which I highly recommend.

#5 Trying to Cheap Out on Plumbing Fixtures

During my very first interior design related job – at the Great Indoors in Chandler, Arizona, 14 years ago – a very nice plumbing salesman educated me on the evils of cheap plumbing. He told me that cheap plumbing fixtures from big box stores or discount outlets are often made with cheap plastic parts that break instead of metal.

Mirabelle Pendleton Tub Filler in Polished Nickel

Masculine Modern Farmhouse Bathroom: The Mirabelle Pendleton Tub Filler in Polished Nickel Specified through Ferguson

Fast forward ten years. I was freshening up the hall bathroom in our last house and bought an inexpensive version of a name brand faucet at a big box hardware store even though I warn my clients against this very thing. When we couldn’t figure out how to install it ourselves, we had to call a plumber. After two hours, he informed me he needed to go out and buy all new parts for the inside of the faucet because it was “cheap plastic junk.” So that $90 faucet ended up costing over $300.

I specify all plumbing for my projects through my sales representative at the local plumbing supply companies. They know their product inside out. They know all the parts and pieces that need to be included like valves, and wall elbows, and escutcheon for hand showers. And, they stand behind the product and help you when something goes wrong or needs replacing. They are completely invaluable members of my team.


I could have gone on and on with more bathroom remodeling mistakes that I see people make all the time, so maybe I need to write a follow up post. What do you think are the biggest bathroom remodeling or bathroom design mistakes people make? Are there any bathroom trends you’ve been spotting that drive you nuts with their impracticality? Let me know in the comments.

budget friendly guest room tips

Twelve Ideas to Update Your Guest Room before the Holidays

budget friendly guest room tips

Twelve easy budget friendly ideas to update your guest room before the holidays. - Jillian Lare

It’s the last week of October, which means the holidays are right around the corner! If you’re expecting overnight guests this holiday season, now would be a great time to spruce up your guest bedroom to ensure that they experience a comfortable and cozy visit. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming or cost a lot of money to add those extra little touches that show your guests you care.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I may receive a small commission. This helps me to support my blog and allows me to continue to make free content. I only recommend products that I have used and loved or would purchase myself. Thank you so much for your support!

I like to think about my favorite hotels and how they create a standout experience. It rarely has anything to do with how expensive or luxurious the hotel is. Often, it’s those thoughtful little touches like a free bottle of water, a soft duvet cover, or a place to charge my phone by the bed that stick in my mind after we’ve gone home. So, here are twelve ideas for your guest bedroom that you can tackle over the next several weeks to create a memorable stay for your guests.

Upgrade your bedding

My goal for my guest bed is for it to be as comfortable (if not more so) than my guest’s bed at home. Comfy bedding does not have to break the bank. My favorite place to purchase sheets and blankets is actually Target. They are high quality and come in super cute patterns, which often go on sale.


The key to comfortable bedding is in the mix. Different people like different types of bedding. I start with a padded mattress cover and add super soft sheets and pillowcases. Then I layer on a light cotton blanket for summer. In winter, I might swap it out for a cozy fleece blanket. I add a light quilt to top it off and drape a folded duvet with cover to the end of the bed. If my guest gets hot, she can kick off the duvet, but she has plenty of options in case she gets cold.

Pull the bed away from the wall

Amber Interiors

This is not college, and your guest bed should not be pushed up against the wall unless there is literally no other option. It’s definitely not fun for the person who has to sleep along the wall (usually me), especially if the bed is only a full size. You need a scant 24″ between the bed and wall, but even 18″ would do in a pinch.

Once you’ve moved the bed, make sure to add a surface and a light on each side. This could be as simple as a wall-mount shelf paired with a sconce in a tight space. Ideally, each side of the bed should have a light source and a surface for a glass of water.

Add a chair or bench

Brady Tolbert Bedroom Makeover

Brady Tolbert via Emily Henderson

Consider adding a chair to a corner or bench at the foot of the bed if you have room. It’s the perfect spot to toss clothes at the end of the day, set down a purse or bag, or put on shoes. You can also place fresh towels or a welcome basket on the bench for your guests prior to their arrival.

Make space in the closet

I use my guest room closet for overflow storage too, but I like to keep a little room with empty hangers so my guests can hang up clothes that are easily wrinkled as well as their outerwear. Leave the closet door a little ajar before they arrive, so they can see you’ve thought ahead.

Clean out a dresser drawer

If your guests are going to be staying for longer than a couple days, it’s nice for them to have a place to unpack their clothes. I like to pull everything out of my suitcase and repack it with dirty clothes as I wear them.

Provide a charging station

Have you ever stayed in someone’s guest room and not been able to find a single outlet to charge your phone? Or forgotten your phone charger at home? Both situations are totally frustrating. Make sure an outlet is visible for your guests and pick up a couple of cheap charging cords – one for Apple products and one for Android. If the most convenient outlet by the bed is behind the bed, run an extension cord to each nightstand. They are incredibly inexpensive, and your guests will really appreciate this small gesture.

This Conway Electric extension cord with USB ports is a splurge that I’m considering for my bedroom, but its cool design means it can sit out on a table vs. being tucked under or behind furniture. Plus it comes in several fun color combos.

Hang blackout curtains

If your guest room currently lacks any sort of window treatment or the current shades are hard to operate or looking kind of sad, consider hanging some blackout draperies. IKEA sells inexpensive curtain rods and blackout panels that you can hem with the included ironing tape. This is a quick weekend project that will make a world of difference for your guests’ ability to sleep well. Install the rod so that there are about six inches on either side of the window for the curtains to stack back and at a height where the bottom of the curtains just kiss the ground.

I like Target and World Market for inexpensive curtain panels, but they don’t have a great selection of blackouts. If you have a little more room in the budget, West Elm makes great blackout curtains. Not a fan of curtains in general? You can purchase woven wood shades with a blackout liner at Lowe’s that can be cut to size. We used one in the guest room of our last house with a set of simple IKEA curtain panels. It looked great and was super functional for both privacy and light control.

Guest-Room-Ideas-Blackout-Curtains-West-Elm-01

West Elm Belgian Flax Linen Curtain

Add a mirror (or two)

Hang a full-length mirror on the back of the door or in an inconspicuous spot, so your guest can check her outfit without having to leave the room. It doesn’t need to be fancy. You should also add a wall mirror over the dresser or another surface so she can do her makeup without having to tie up the bathroom. This is critical if you only have one bathroom or your guests share a bathroom with your kids. Bonus points for adding an outlet or extension cord so she can dry her hair.

Update the lighting

If your guest room suffers from poor lighting or even no lighting, consider adding some additional lamps. For example, you could place a small lamp on the dresser or a floor lamp in a corner.

If the ceiling lighting is particularly harsh, it’s usually fairly easy to install a dimmer switch. Make sure all of the lightbulbs in the room are 2700 kelvins for a warm inviting glow (you can find the kelvins on the back of the box). The higher the kelvins the cooler the light, and cooler light is less flattering and more disruptive to sleep.

Install a row of hooks

It drives me nuts when my husband throws his clothes on the floor at night. Hooks are an easy storage solution especially in smaller rooms that might not have room for a dresser or lack a true closet. Install a Shaker style peg rack or a row of hooks so that your guests can easily hang up their clothes and jackets.

Provide those little extras

Nord Architecture

Finally, assemble a small box or basket of items that your guests may have forgotten like toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, q-tips, shaving cream, etc. This is a great way to make use of sample size products you’ve snagged from hotels or received as a gift with purchase. Include a couple of bottles of water in case they forget to bring a glass to bed with them. You might also add little packets of Tylenol and Tums in case everyone stayed up a little too late having cocktails. Place at least one box of tissues in the room and stash a small wastebasket somewhere. Print out a little card with the name of your wifi network and password for easy reference and place it on the dresser or nightstand.

Going Above and Beyond

  • Create a little coffee station with an inexpensive pod coffee maker and a pitcher of water. Or an electric kettle with an assortment of tea including decaf varieties.
  • Arrange fresh flowers in a pretty vase on the dresser before they arrive.
  • Stock a drawer or basket with a folder full of takeout brochures for local attractions. Include a copy of the free local magazine so they can read up on what’s happening in your city.
  • Print up a list of nearby conveniences like gas stations, Starbucks, the grocery store, etc. If your guests get up early and want a snack or a latté, they won’t have to wait around for you to wake up.

By following even some of these tips, you can upgrade your guest bedroom and provide your guests with a comfortable and relaxing space to retire or escape during their visit with you. The best part is that most of them are inexpensive fixes that you can tackle over time.

Do you have a favorite friend or family member that you love to visit because they have an awesome guest room? What is it about that room that makes it feel special? My guess is that it’s nothing fancy or expensive, but the considerate little touches that make you feel at home.

PS. You can use all of these ideas to upgrade your master bedroom as well!

Twelve easy budget friendly ideas to update your guest room before the holidays. - Jillian Lare
Grimes-Iowa-Kitchen-Remodel-01

Merging Styles – Clean Lined Meets Rustic in This Grimes, Iowa Remodel

Today I have a fun project reveal with before and after photos and floor plans to share with you. I was brought in on this first floor remodel in early 2018 by Des Moines remodeling contractor and home builder Dave Adickes of MCC Focused Building. The clients had moved into the home several years earlier and spent their initial efforts on updating the exterior. For their next major project, they wanted to remodel their very cramped and outdated kitchen and give their fireplace wall a makeover.

Design Priorities

I start every project by getting to know my clients and understanding how they live so we can determine the priorities for the project together. This house is located on a stunning rural property in Grimes, Iowa, which is a northwest suburb of Des Moines.  The clients are avid animal lovers and have dogs, horses, a saucy cat, and even a miniature donkey. I am a huge pushover for clients with pets, so I knew that this was going to be a great project right from the start. They love to cook, bake, and are members of a gourmet supper club that they host on a rotating basis. Aesthetically, the husband preferred a more rustic look while the wife likes clean lines and more transitional or even contemporary pieces. They have a wonderful original art collection.

Priority #1 – Create a well-organized cook’s kitchen with ample countertop space for prep and baking and incporate a beverage fridge for wine storage.

Priority #2 – Open up the first floor as much as possible to maximize natural light and views to the exterior.

Priority #3 – Create dining space for up to twelve.

Priority #4 – Incorporate rustic elements without going overboard on the farmhouse trend.

Priority #5 – Repurpose the unused formal living room.

Priority #6 – Redesign the laundry room and mudroom to create more hanging storage and a bench.

Priority #7 – Update the outdated powder bath.

So you can see we had a lot to accomplish in this one project. In addition, we decided to take on the stairway to the second floor while we had everything torn up.

Before Plan & Photos

This plan shows our starting point for the remodel, and the before photos will help make more sense of how dark and cramped the kitchen and dining area felt. When you enter the house from the front door, you walk right into the stairway and can see through the hall to the family room and kitchen.

A formal living room is on the left, and the dining room is on the right. The powder room and laundry room are accessible through the kitchen (or the garage) at the back of the house.

Kitchen Before

Grimes Iowa Remodel Kitchen Before

The shot above is looking into the kitchen from the family room. There was definitely a lot of wasted space on that wall with the refrigerator.

Grimes Iowa Remodel Kitchen Before

I’m standing in the same spot here but looking back towards the powder room and laundry room. On the floor plan, you can see how congested that area is with three doors all in the same spot with the pantry, powder room, and door from the garage.

Grimes Iowa Remodel Kitchen Before

This photo is looking into the kitchen towards the dining room at the front of the house. On the right, you can see the door under the stairway that leads to the basement. The wall cabinets were much too short for the almost 9′ ceilings, and the layout was completely dysfunctional.

Dining Room Before

Grimes Iowa Remodel Dining Room Before

The photo above is looking into the dining room from the kitchen, and in the photo below, I’m standing in the entryway looking at the kitchen. You can see the funny angled tray ceiling in both photos.

Family Room Fireplace Before

Grimes Iowa Remodel Fireplace Before

I would say that the fireplace in the family room was the design element most out of sync with how the clients wanted their home to feel. They wanted to keep the built-in cabinets along with the angled TV (really no other place to put it) but inject more rustic character into the design.

Formal Living Room & Entry Before

Grimes Iowa Remodel Entry Before

The finishes throughout the house, like the white tile in the entry and kitchen and the honey oak stairs, were dated and needed updating.

Grimes Iowa Remodel Entry Before

Here I was standing just inside the dining room looking through the entryway into the formal living room, and below, I was standing in the family room and looking into the formal living room. My clients rarely used their formal living room, and it was a gathering spot for furniture they had no other place to put. It felt cramped, dark, and purposeless.

Grimes Iowa Remodel Living Room Before

Another view looking towards the family room…

Grimes Iowa Remodel Living Room Before

Powder Bath Before

Grimes Iowa Remodel Powder Bath Before

The powder bath presented a challenge because it serves as a passthrough from the mudroom, but it was lower on our priority list. We planned to give it a small facelift.

Grimes Iowa Remodel Powder Bath Before

Floor Plan Ideas

When clients hire me for major remodels like this one, or even for bathroom remodels, I explain that I’ll generate as many options for the floor plan as possible. Sometimes I can come up with four, and sometimes there’s only one good option. For this project, I presented two options to the client that I felt addressed the majority of their priorities in the best way possible.

Option 1

In both versions of the proposed floor plan, I removed the wall between the family room and kitchen and opened up the wall between the entryway and dining room to improve the circulation, sight lines, and light throughout the right (North) side of the house.

I also assumed we would need some sort of beam for structural support where we removed the wall between the dining room and kitchen, but at this point, I had no idea how large it would need to be.

In both plans, I turned the formal living room into an entertaining space by adding a built-in dry bar along the shared wall with the stairway rather than force the desired beverage fridge into the kitchen.

Option 1 shows a small dining nook with a bistro table at the end of the long peninsula/island and turned the dining table. The other end of the island incorporated storage for dog food and the dog food and water bowls. I also removed the drywall pantry in favor of built-in cabinetry.

Option 2

In Option 2, I created a built-in bench for the dining table with the idea that more people could squeeze in along the continuous seating surface if necessary. I adjusted the end of the island to accommodate a fourth stool and kept the fridge in its original location.

The powder room stayed pretty much the same, and I designed a set of lockers with a bench in the laundry room, closed the existing door on the North side, and added a new door to the garage at the clients’ request.

Construction Issues and Final Floor Plan

I presented those two plans to my clients over Skype since I was still on maternity leave and incorporated their feedback into the final working version. I say it’s a working version at this point because there were a lot of variables we didn’t yet understand like the beam and locations of plumbing and ducts in the walls we were planning to remove.

We met with Dave on site to discuss logistics and structural issues of which there were several. First, we couldn’t remove the short wall to the left of the refrigerator, which affected the cabinet layout. Second, we discovered a pipe in the North wall very close to the wall we removed to open up the dining room to the kitchen. These were frustrating but not insurmountable obstacles, and I was pretty confident we’d find a good solution that didn’t compromise the design.

After demo, we had a long meeting on site with Dave, the electricians, HVAC guys, and Waukee CabinetWorks to figure out how to solve these layout issues. Together we brainstormed several possible solutions and ended up with this final plan. I love this kind of teamwork during the construction process because the end result is so much better than if one person rams through his/her own vision.

This final floor plan…

Grimes Iowa Remodel Floor Plan

Here’s the kitchen all opened up during demo…

Once we worked through all of the mechanical and structural issues on site, we were able to finalize the cabinetry plan. Again, this was a team effort with myself and Waukee Cabinetworks. Because of the pipe in our range wall, we had to create a soffit on the range wall, which is never ideal. We also had to figure out a creative way to hide the pipe in the cabinets. Definitely a huge challenge!

The moral of this story is that there are almost always issues that pop up during construction no one can foresee, but a combination of creativity, time, and money can usually win the day.

Enlarged Kitchen Plans

We had so many restraints on our space plan, and we were still able to create a 9’6″ long island with seating for four and tons of storage. My favorite part of the design is actually the pantry cabinet shown in yellow. There are actually two tall cabinets, one is only 12″ deep and faces out towards the room. The other is 24″ deep and faces the garage. The deeper cabinet has a shelf that hides the microwave and pull-out drawers. Waukee CabinetWorks trimmed out these cabinets so they look like one piece.Grimes Iowa Kitchen Remodel MCC Focused Building Waukee CabinetWorks Jillian Lare

This elevation of the range wall shows how we ended up accommodating the pipe with a soffit trimmed out with crown molding to look like part of the cabinetry.

Kitchen Before & After

Now for the fun part – before and after photos! Looking towards the powder room before…

Grimes Iowa Remodel Kitchen Before

And after…

Jillian Lare Interior Design - Grimes Iowa Kitchen Remodel white kitchen modern farmhouse kitchen soapstone

Here’s a closer view of the corner with the new pantry cabinet. It takes up less room than the old pantry and is so much more efficient!

white kitchen modern farmhouse kitchen soapstone pantry cabinet

Before…

Grimes Iowa Remodel Kitchen Before

And after…

white kitchen modern farmhouse kitchen stainless hood soapstone

The refrigerator is in the same spot but everything else has moved. This photo clearly shows how we used the soffit to unify the cabinetry on this elevation while hiding the plumbing. The wall cabinet on the right is actually shallow to conceal the plumbing stack as is the drawer bank below it.

Before…

Grimes Iowa Remodel Kitchen Before

And after…

white kitchen modern farmhouse kitchen soapstone lantern pendant

The whole house feels so much more open, light, bright and welcoming once we removed the walls between the dining room and kitchen and kitchen and living room.

Dining Before & After

The dining room before…

Grimes Iowa Remodel Dining Room Before

And after (looking in from the entryway)…

white kitchen modern farmhouse kitchen dining table trestle table dining bench

We added a trestle style table and long dining bench so they could squeeze as many people in as possible. The bench is also now a favorite spot for the homeowner to work from home.

Entry Before & After

Looking into the entry from the dining room before…

Grimes Iowa Remodel Entry Before

And after…

Jillian Lare Interior Design - modern farmhouse entryway hickory floors

Installing one type of flooring throughout most of the first level played a huge role in improving the visual flow. This hand-scraped dark hickory is just stunning.

Here’s a detail shot of the stairs. We stained the new handrail, treads, and risers to match the floor.

Jillian Lare Interior Design - Detail of stairway makeover with carpet runner

Formal Living Room Before and After

The formal living room before…

Grimes Iowa Remodel Living Room Before

And after…

wine fridge floating shelves home bar - Jillian Lare Interior Design, Grimes Iowa

The new wine bar is perfect for storing liquor, wine, and all of their glassware. When they’re hosting, they can easily put everything out on the soapstone counters and guests can help themselves.

Fireplace Before & After

This was the fireplace before…

Grimes Iowa Remodel Fireplace Before

And after…

Jillian Lare Interior Design - Stone fireplace with rustic wood mantel

We completely transformed the fireplace with stacked stone, a new gas insert, limestone hearth, and a reclaimed wood-look mantel accented with iron straps. The painter finished the beam in the kitchen to match the mantel, which helps to tie the two rooms together.

Powder Room Before & After

We gave the powder room a little face lift that made a huge impact. Here’s what it looked like before…

Grimes Iowa Remodel Powder Bath Before

And after…

Jillian Lare Interior Design - Farmhouse powder room soapstone countertops

This was a simple update in that everything stayed in the same spot. We installed a new vanity to match the kitchen with coordinating soapstone countertops, new ceramic tile, lighting, and accessories.


So that wraps up this little tour of my recent Grimes remodel. I hope you enjoyed it. Which area do you think underwent the most dramatic transformation?