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Remodeling with Tracy and Tony: Getting Started

remodeling a kitchen - before kitchen

Tracy and Tony's Kitchen: Before

Tracy and Tony are remodeling their 112-year-old Victorian home's kitchen. When they last remodeled in 1997, the couple and their two sons filled the kitchen with busy activity. Now that their kids are leaving home, Tracy and Tony are ready to transition into their new lives as empty nesters with a kitchen that better fits their needs. In this three-part series, Remodeling with Tracy and Tony, we'll follow the family as they remodel. To get things started, Tracy fills us in on how they decided to remodel and their big plans for the new kitchen.


Back in my days of changing diapers and chasing two toddlers, the idea of becoming an empty nester seemed as remote as getting a full night's sleep. So can someone please tell me where the last 22 years went?

In six months, our youngest son will be leaving for college. It's a bittersweet transition, but I'd be lying if I didn't say my husband and I are also excited to start this new chapter in our lives. We remodeled our 112-year-old Victorian on Chicago's north side in 1997, and it's been a wonderful place to raise our two sons. But now we feel compelled to mark the emotional transition in our life by changing our physical surroundings as well. To re-feather our nest, if you will.

As empty nesters, some things in our lives won't change. We'll both still be working. And we'll always want the kids to have a comfortable place to boomerang home to. But our kitchen needs an update.


A separate breakfast nook went unused in the old kitchen.

A separate breakfast nook went unused in the old kitchen.


Without the boys around, we'll travel and eat out more. When we are home, mealtimes will be super casual, and we certainly won't need the three separate eating spaces we have now…counter, kitchen table, and dining room. 

We'll entertain more, too. (I don't know about your kitchen, but ours has the irresistible gravitational pull of a black hole. Whether we have six people over or 60, they all want to hang out right in front of the kitchen sink.) So we need to open up the room a bit.

And since our first remodel, our tastes have become even more contemporary. Think "minimalist, urban loft." This is no small design challenge when your house was built in 1899!

So it's time to remodel our kitchen, and this time, I'm determined to do it right. In 1997, we didn't use a kitchen designer, which I sorely regret. For example, a designer would have warned me that my deep, rollout pantry shelves would quickly become a disorganized mess. How messy? Well, I just tossed out some dusty old packets of Alfredo sauce that expired in 2003.

Tracy and Tony's old kitchen never got a backsplash.

 Tracy and Tony's old kitchen never got a backsplash.


The electrical outlets in the backsplash that chopped up the wall so much I never figured out what kind of tile to install? A kitchen designer would have advised me to install the outlets in a strip hidden under the cabinetry to create a smooth, contiguous surface for tile. 

The halogen lights positioned so close to the wine cubbies that they made all the reds go rancid? You get my drift.

lights make wine hot in wine storage

Hot wine? No, thank you.


For kitchen number two, I'm calling in a pro, Dayna Waldman at Smartrooms, and she's going to be on board from day one. Together with the terrific architect/design team at Greene & Proppe Design, we're going to get it right this time.

Am I a little wistful about my last one leaving the nest? Sure. But a kitchen that fits our "new" life is going to ease the sting. So stay tuned as we roll up our sleeves and get going!







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