Dressed in Blue: A Historic Kitchen Remodel in Holly Hills, MO

One large island with a brass foot rail that provided enough seating for the family, classic white subway tile, and a bold color choice transform a once-cramped and dark kitchen.

Project Summary

Location: Holly Hills, MO

Holly Hills is a beautiful St. Louis neighborhood filled with broad tree-lined boulevards, the third largest park in the city, and an abundance of historic homes dating to the 1920s. From Tudor and Colonial Revival to brick mansions and comfortable bungalows, the district is rich in architectural styles.

As is often the case with older homes, the young family that purchased this Holly Hills home knew they would need to remodel the kitchen before moving in. While the owners wanted the new space to reflect their personal taste, it was important to them that the design stay true to the original architectural style.

The Challenge

Most of the challenges were due to the age of the house. The electrical and plumbing were both 100 years old!

The original knob and tube were in place but over the years six open boxes that had never been capped (and had hot wires) were hidden in plastered walls. It took the team 3 extra days to complete the electrical, which included fishing wires through an old concrete porch that half of the existing kitchen had been built over. The plumbing, too, had been added on to over the years. We also discovered there was no sewer vent for the kitchen plumbing which called for some rerouting.

The final challenge: containing the large amount of dust that comes with chiseling masonry and removing brick. The family had a new baby – and a very friendly but curious dog – so we used a lot of dust protection and plastic walls to keep the rest of the house as dust-free as possible. The products used to refinish the flooring and strip the built-in hutch required constant ventilation, even though the job was done in the dead of winter.

The Vision

The new owners wanted a kitchen that would be family ready on moving-in day. The tasked us with making the room more spacious and while giving it an updated look. Gaining space for an island the family could gather around by removing the bulky center support column that split the room in two was the main request.

The Transformation

To give the homeowners the open room they envisioned, we removed a masonry column and installed new steel beams to support the load of the floor above. This increased the usable space by about 30% and made way for a large island with seating in the center of the room.

The masonry walls on the back half of the kitchen made it impossible to install electrical switches or outlets, so they were installed in another column and an existing outlet location. And what we thought were furred out walls ended up being plaster over masonry, so we had to take out the electrical and plumbing there as was required by code. We ended up furring out a 2x4 foot wall in front of that, which design-wise, changed the cabinet layout slightly.

The original hardwood floors throughout were still intact but with large spots that showed signs of heavy wear. The kitchen floors were sanded and stained to match the other floors and refinished. Since the refinishing was limited to the kitchen, we installed wood flush transition strips to create an enclosed perimeter.

All the wood trims and casings, including the built-in ironing board door, were cleaned up and repaired where necessary to keep them as close to original as possible.

Additional Touches

High on the client’s wish list was a bar foot-rail on the center island, so we installed a brushed brass finish one that matched the hardware on the cabinets and drop station. The island’s panels give it a furniture look and the same navy blue color as the center island breaks up the solid look of the dark painted cabinets. The piece houses a pull-out trash can, pull-out shelves, and a microwave alcove, which the children can easily access.

The New Space

All the materials used in this kitchen are rectilinear in style but have such soft textures that the space is incredibly welcoming. Wellborn maple cabinets were used, and we utilized panels and extended rails to give the room a built-in look that matches the quality level of the rest of the home. Custom-sized panels were used to create the shape of the islands and make it feel more like a permanent piece of furniture rather than the standard floating island we usually see.

From the Owner

A high level of communication about what is really important to the client is what keeps all kitchen remodeling projects on track. It’s particularly vital in making sure a historic remodel goes well, and our project manager did an excellent job of keeping the clients informed. Not once during this project did I get a phone call from them about what was going on. A pragmatic approach not only kept the clients up-to-date but reassured them all the challenges would be met and overcome.

Josh McDermott


Client Testimonial

We are thrilled with the final project and grateful to have had trustworthy professionals like our designer and on-site lead contractor guide us through the entire process. Both were accessible, easy to talk to and offered solutions to the requests we had.

Our designer created a digital mock-up that allowed us to visualize the final product, sourced my ideas, and offered suggestions that stayed true to the house and our personal tastes. Our project manager skillfully juggled the sub-contractors’ schedules and main construction tasks. Open communication and respect for our family while living through the renovation made for a wonderful remodeling experience.

The peace of mind that came with working with JT McDermott was worth every penny! We would not hesitate to recommend them!

Angie R.

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