Fall ’23 One Room Challenge | French Bistro Inspired Kitchen | Week Eight

It’s here – Week EIGHT of the Fall ’23 One Room Challenge! All of our hard work for the past two months has finally paid off, and our dreams for beautiful spaces have come to fruition!! In case you’re new here, my name is Justine Dennen, and I’m the owner of Blue Leopard Interiors, a boutique residential interior design firm in Great Falls, VA. And if  you haven’t heard of the One Room Challenge, it’s an eight week online event which happens every spring and fall, where interior decorators and home bloggers, undertake redesigning or designing from scratch a room of their choosing, while sharing the progress along the way. It’s not a competition, as there is no winner, just a supportive group of like-minded design enthusiasts challenging themselves to complete a room in eight weeks. This is the third time I’ve participated in the ORC. Last fall, I made over my Dining Room and Butler’s Pantry, and this past spring I zhuzzed up my front sitting room – or Whimsical Parlor – as I like to call it! But for this fall ORC, I decided to tackle my biggest challenge so far – and makeover my tired, dated, early 2000’s kitchen to the French Bistro-Inspired Kitchen of my dreams!! And today, I am revealing the finished product -eeeeeeekkk! I’m so excited!! But first, let’s take a little walk down memory lane to see where this kitchen started…



The Kitchen Before


When we bought this house last year, I knew from the start that we would need to remodel the kitchen. The house was in great condition, and the kitchen was immaculately clean, but it was just so dated and dreary. We moved in in July, and by the time our boxes were unpacked, it was time for the kids to start school, and I knew it was important to live in the kitchen for awhile before tearing it all out. And that is my biggest tip for remodeling a kitchen – live in it first to see how it functions! I think so many people worry that they won’t be able to live through remodeling their kitchen while living there, but as long as you are organized, have all of your finishes, fixtures, and appliances chosen and ordered in advance, as well as a great contractor lined up, you can get it done in less than two months. In the grand scheme of things, that’s just a blip of time that you’ll be living with dust and eating takeout, and so worth it in the end! By living in our kitchen for several months before I started the plans, I knew exactly where the pain points were, and how to fix them. I also knew all the big things that needed to change, like moving the cooktop OFF the island, freeing up a ton of wall space by eliminating the built-in desk and corner pantry, as well as all the other little details, like adding more lighting since the kitchen only gets afternoon sun.


The kitchen BEFORE – looking from Breakfast Nook towards Butler’s Pantry. Note the large walk-in pantry in the corner taking up lots of space, and the huge refrigerator sticking out several inches from the cabinets and wall.




The kitchen BEFORE looking towards the sink and window – with a lovely view of the cooktop – where I caught my daughter’s pencil case on fire one night while she was sitting there doing homework while I cooked dinner! That was the night the cooktop was voted OFF the island by the Dennen Family!!



The kitchen BEFORE looking toward the pantry, wall ovens, and built-in desk – all of which I knew also had to go!




Kitchen Before looking from Butler’s Pantry toward Family Room – with my three kids and hubby looking at it for the first time last summer 🙂



The Breakfast Nook BEFORE. Notice the wall on the left which we shortened to make a little extra space for the cabinets, and to allow more of that gorgeous natural light from the window and skylights into the kitchen. Also keep in mind that this space looks deeper because real estate photos are always taken with a wide-angle lens to make every room look much bigger than it actually is.



So there you have it – that’s where this kitchen started. Not terrible by any means, and since the cabinets were solid maple, I might have kept them and just painted them and taken them to the ceiling if we didn’t do so much reconfiguring of the layout and appliances. But as I mentioned in this post from Week Five, we were luckily able to donate almost all of them to Habitat for Humanity, and hopefully they’re enjoying a new life in another home now 🙂  Now, before I show you the AFTER photos, I want to remind you what the inspiration was for my new kitchen!



The French Bistro-Inspired Kitchen Moodboards

So in any new project, whether for myself or a client, I start out by gathering information and inspiration. My clients receive a comprehensive Design Questionnaire when we start working together, which asks lots of questions about how they live in the space, how they want their new space to feel, and styles, colors, and moods they like. We then start a shared Pinterest board where we can start gathering ideas and inspiration. Click here to see the Pinterest board for my French Bistro Kitchen. Once we’ve got a vision for the space, I start creating both 3-D and digital mood boards to present to my clients. Ever since taking French in High School, I’ve been enamored by French design, and although I’m not sure it’s even a real term, I’ve dubbed the overriding look for this house to be “French Moderne”. Our family loves to travel, and I have a particular passion for Restaurant and Hotel design, so the idea of feeling like I was in a French Bistro in my new kitchen was very appealing to me! French Bistros and Brasseries typically have classic cabinetry, beautiful stone countertops, and you’ll almost always find patterned tile – whether on the floor or walls. So with those images in mind, I gathered my materials for my mood boards

The 3-D mood board for the French Bistro-Inspired Kitchen includes the tile, the cabinet color samples, the countertop stone sample, hardware samples, counter stool cushion fabric sample, as well as some art and other items that help incorporate the feel of what I wanted to create.



Once the finishes were chosen for the French Bistro-Inspired Kitchen, guided by the physical mood board above, I could move on to choosing the larger items like the range and hood, cabinet profile, lighting, sink, and counter stools. Adding those to a digital mood board is useful in envisioning how all of those larger elements will work together in the whole scheme of things.




French Bistro-Inspired Kitchen Progress

Now that you can see where we started, and what my inspiration for this kitchen remodel was, I won’t keep you waiting too much longer for the big reveal by showing you the plans or the many weeks of progress, but if you’re just jumping in for the first time today, here’s a quick rundown of the process with links to each week:

Week One – I shared before shots of the kitchen, and shared my inspiration and 3-D Mood Board
Week Two – I shared the digital mood board above, as well as the plans for the kitchen

Week Three – I go in-depth on all of the appliances we chose for the kitchen

Week Four – I shared the Demo Process, as well as a plumbing problem that came up and how we solved it
Week Five – SO much progress made that week! The hardwood floors were repaired, the old cabinets were donated, and the new cabinets were delivered and installed!

Week Six – the countertops and patterned tile backsplash were installed

Week Seven – the hardwood floors were refinished – plus lots of other behind-the-scenes finishing touches were added that didn’t make it onto the blog 😉

And now, here we are at Week Eight and the moment we’ve all been waiting for…. the Big Reveal!!



The French Bistro-Inspired Kitchen FINAL REVEAL


The French Bistro-Inspired Kitchen AFTER – isn’t she gorgeous?!?! Perimeter Cabinets in Eggshell painted Maple, Island in Iron painted Maple both in the Durham profile by Mouser Cabinetry, sold through Elite Kitchen Design and Remodeling. Can you even SEE the built-in Bosch Panel-Ready Dishwasher?!? The walls are painted Snowbound by Sherwin-Williams




The French Bistro-Inspired Kitchen AFTER – seeing these pretty patterned tiles and the pink floral velvet cushions everyday makes me so happy! The tiles are Casablanca 5″ x 5″ Matte Ceramic Tile in Torres by Bedrosians. I prettied-up these rattan counter stools with custom cushions in Artemis Velvet in Blush by House of Hackney, made by MelEl Designs. In the corner is our new, built-in, Dacor Panel Ready Refrigerator. I LOVE the French-Door configuration with the fridge at the top (everything is at eye-level!), and drawer freezer on the bottom. And it has an internal water dispenser, (much easier for filling large water bottles than the kind in the door), and ice maker tray. I’m so happy that we chose this beautiful, very authentic marble-look quartz for our countertops, and had it made with a thick, mitered edge on the island. Granite Center did a fantastic job with the installation!



The mix of colors, patterns, and textures in the kitchen (as well as the Butler’s Pantry and Dining Room beyond) draws you in and tantalizes the senses, making you want to linger longer! The large pendants over the island are the Perkins Matte Black and Burnished Brass 24-Inch One-Light Pendants from Bellacor. The size and shape of them balance out the large island so well. When I saw this charming blackboard, it just screamed “French Bistro” to me, and I had to have it! Down at the far end of the island is our new Sharp Microwave Drawer. It’s so nice having it off of a countertop, but still super conveniently positioned near the fridge.



At one point, early in the process, I considered replacing this window with a larger one, in order to get more natural light into the kitchen. But I’m so glad I didn’t.The lighter cabinets and countertops, plus the extra natural light from knocking out part of the wall next to the Breakfast Nook brightened up the kitchen considerably, and this way I had space to add in the open shelving. The shelves were made out of the same quartz as the countertops, and mounted on these super sturdy brass brackets. The Kinzie Pre-Rinse Single Handle Spring Spout Kitchen Faucet is STUNNING and matches the smaller Kinzie Pull-Down Bar Faucet on the Blanco Rondo prep sink in the island.  The main sink is completely fabulous in black with it’s fluted front from Deer Valley and is big enough to bathe my Shih-Poo mix doggo in, cut the stems on a big bunch of Trader Joe’s sunflowers, as well as hold all the big pots and pans, plates and cups used after a family meal!



The open shelves now hold a cherished collection of tea pots and mugs, as well as other pretty, yet functional bits and bobs. I’ve been a fan and collector of Mackenzie-Childs items for years, and I love how the floral pattern on these Floral Market Canisters in Black plays so well with the tiles. I was lucky to find two medium, and one small canister on Ebay for a great price! The cabinet hardware is from Top Knobs, and I used the Kara Knobs and Pulls in Honey Bronze, and ordered them through The Home Specialty Store, a wonderful, locally-owned, true mom and pop shop (shout out to Lynn and Wayne!) that specializes in hardware (their showroom assortment is VAST!), lighting, and home decor. all of the Brass Switch plate and Outlet Covers are from Rejuvenation. They aren’t cheap, but the quality is beautiful, and they’re one of those small details which makes so much difference.


View from the Butler’s Pantry of the stunning new range and hood. You can see the rest of my Butler’s Pantry in my Fall ’22 One Room Challenge reveal, and of course, everything in this kitchen was chosen to work with the evocative Cranes wallpaper in Midori from Milton & King!. One of my favorite new kitchen accessories is this Tiffany-Style Stained Glass Tulip Lamp. I searched high and low in thrift stores, on Facebook Marketplace, Etsy and E-bay for a vintage lamp that would work here, but nothing fit the bill in size, shape, colors and style like this one. My husband and teenage daughter aren’t fans, but I love the warm, soft glow it casts over this corner of the kitchen at night. The pitcher holding the sunflowers is particularly authentic though – I carried it all the way back from a trip to Provence in my carry-on in 1992!!


I can’t believe I get to cook on this induction beauty every day! This 40″ Ilve Majestic Induction Range in Matte Graphite is truly a dream come true! I was a little worried about the induction being tricky to work on, but so far, the whole family loves both the induction top and electric oven with convection – zero regrets on this splurge! I worked with Range Hood Masters to create this Angled Stainless Steel Custom Kitchen Hood with Brass Straps. They customized it for me in Black Stainless Steel with Polished Brass Straps and Rivets. I also ordered the vent insert from them, and so far it’s keeping our kitchen free of cooking smells, steam, and smoke, while also lighting up the cooktop beautifully. I found the Unlacquered Brass Pot Rail from HRL Brass on Etsy, and it was a last minute addition, so luckily it shipped quickly, and is great quality. I not only love how it looks, but having my most-used utensils (got these cuties and these cuties from Target) within arms reach is super practical. I’ve owned this Mackenzie-Childs Courtly Check Enamel Utensil Holder for years, but it’s never looked better than it does in my new kitchen! The Mini Always Pan in Sage, and the Perfect Pot in Spice are both from Our Place. I’ve owned them for a few years, and have always loved that they’re enamel coated non-stick (i.e. much safer than teflon), and come in such pretty colors! I was super happy when I discovered that they were also induction-friendly! They now make them in cast iron, so I might need to ask Santa for one or two of those for Christmas 😉 As soon as I saw the Ellis Aged Brass Black LED 7-Inch Wall Sconces by Mitzi, I fell in love, and knew they were perfect for either side of the range hood! Last but not least (Details COUNT!!), is this vintage Turkish Kilim Runner that I found from this seller on Etsy. The colors and size are perfect, it shipped super fast, and looks exactly like the photos.


The new “Family Command Center” now stands where a blank wall used to be. And it is SO functional! Besides housing mailing envelopes, stationery, and homework essentials in the upper left cupboard, the upper right cabinet stores all of our vitamins, first aid, and other meds. The bottom cabinets store large platters and vases, and the two very roomy drawers are super useful. I have hanging files in the bottom drawer, and try to keep the top one fairly empty so that when company is coming, all the mail, charging cords, and bags that tend to stack up on the counter can just be quickly swept away into that drawer! The Dark Green Ribbed Glass Jug Vase is also from Target, and the large cutting board and wood pedestal bowl are from HomeGoods.


Close-up of the “FCC”. I decided to add these DIY brass gallery rails (made from lamp parts – thanks for the tutorial Joannie from HambelsGetReal blog!), and I adore the way they bring some vintage elegance to this cabinet. I also chose cup pulls and latches from Top Knobs (ordered via The Home Specialty Store if you’re local to the DMV) so it would look like a separate piece of furniture from the rest of the cabinets. The cookbook on display was recently published by a dear friend’s nephew, Jon Kung. Check out his Instagram and YouTube for some amazing food inspo, tips, and recipes! The Bistro Tile Side Plates are Anthropologie, as are the sweet little brass candlesticks. I found the old silver-plated platter and old brass box from some of my fellow vendors at Krop’s Vintage Market



One of my favorite places to sit in the house – the Breakfast Nook. I already had my future French Bistro-Inspired Kitchen in mind when I purchased and reupholstered the vintage Thonet chairs (but you can find similar ones here), and the table is just an oval 80’s oak farm table that I had refinished by my friend Grace Frye at Re-Fryed Furniture to give it an updated feel. The gorgeous Regina Andrew Provence Café Pendant light is new, and the café curtains were also a last-minute addition (because what French Bistro doesn’t have charming café curtains in the windows?!?). I purchased these inexpensive linen-blend striped curtains, and added this vintage tapestry trim from Etsy. The Atwell stackable Highball Glasses in Moss Green, Merlot Red, and Orange are from Crate & Barrel, and the Seagrass Black Border Chargers are from Target again! I took inspiration from our favorite local French Restaurant, Jacques’ Brasserie at L’Auberge Chez François, and hung a set of Spode Creatures of Curiosity Dessert Plates above the window. I found the Vintage Ridgway Staffordshire Platter on Ebay, but this one is identical. I hung all of them with these easy-to-use plate hangers. The sweet little Bistro Garden Tile Salt & Pepper Shakers are from Anthropologie, and the stack of salad plates are Vintage Franciscan Ware Desert Rose, but you can find them here.


I feel incredibly fortunate that I have had the privilege of renovating this kitchen. It really is a dream come true, and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my husband and kids who cheerfully lived through the dust and inconvenience for several weeks. I also want to give shout-outs to: my best friend Tracy who came to visit right after we started Demo; the talented lead kitchen designer at Elite Kitchens, Olcay; our talented and flexible plumber/electrician/handyman, John Fennell, who reconfigured and installed all of the plumbing and electrical; our master carpenter Duy Nguyen and his team who installed the cabinets; CJ and the team of installers at Granite Center who fabricated the countertops; Larry Morris and his team for the repairs and beautiful refinishing job on our hardwood floors, our friendly, and capable painters Victory Renovation Services, my amazingly talented photographer Mary Pat Collins; another dear friend Illse who came to visit at the end and helped with the photo shoot; and last but certainly not least – my housekeeper Raquel Salas- who kept a positive attitude and dusted the surfaces countless times during the renovation!! And thanks to everyone who reads this blog, follows me and supports me on instagram and facebook- I couldn’t have done it without you!!


Now, I’m going to take a well-deserved break over Thanksgiving, sit in my pretty kitchen with a cup of cappuccino, and catch up on all the other Fall ’23 One Room Challenge Reveals!!


Cheers to Fab Interiors,




Here is my ORC progress

Week 1  ||  Week 2  ||  Week 3  ||  Week 4  ||  Week 5  ||  Week 6 ||  Week 7  ||  Week 8