Fall ‘23 One Room Challenge| French Bistro Inspired Kitchen| Week One

Welcome to Week One of the One Room Challenge AND welcome to the Blue Leopard Interiors Blog! I’m so glad you’re 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.  I am super excited to be participating in my third One Room Challenge! In case 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. Huge thanks to Linda Weinstein, the creator and director of the One Room Challenge!

In Fall ‘22, I participated in the ORC for the first time, making over my Dining Room and Butler’s Pantry , and this past Spring, I transformed the formal living room of my house into a Whimsical Parlor. Participating in these challenges has been nerve wracking yet invigorating and inspiring, so I’m back this fall to share the journey of completely renovating my kitchen!

When we bought this house in July of 2022, we knew we would need to renovate the kitchen, but we also knew from past experience that living in the house, and using the kitchen for awhile would give us a really good idea of exactly how we wanted to redesign it. Our house was built in 2000, and as far as I know, this was the original kitchen installed by the builder. Yellow-ish stained maple cabinets, green and back granite, taupe “Tuscan” backsplash tiles, and an overly long island with the cooktop built in. Add to that, the drab gray blue wall color, and not much morning light, this kitchen was less than inspiring.


The Before Photos


Kitchen BEFORE looking towards Walk-In Pantry, Wall Ovens, and Desk
Kitchen BEFORE looking from Breakfast Nook towards Butler’s Pantry, along the loooong island!


Kitchen BEFORE looking from Butler’s Pantry toward Breakfast Nook and Family Room


Kitchen BEFORE looking toward Breakfast Nook and Family Room


The Kitchen BEFORE, looking towards sink and window
The Breakfast Nook BEFORE, with Kitchen to left, and Family Room to right


As you can see, there was a whole lotta orangey/yellowy wood tones, outdated countertops, and an awkward layout. So it wasn’t long after we moved in that I started plans for how I would rework the floor plan and update everything. I’m a big proponent of keeping things that might just need a coat of paint and new hardware, but although these cabinets are solid wood, the quality is lacking, and since the layout of the kitchen needed to change, saving them was not an option. It only took living in our new house for about two weeks before we knew that the cooktop in the island had to move, and that the huge, non-counter depth fridge was poorly situated. In our family, we dish up our dinner plates at the stove (rather than serving family style at the table – less dishes to wash!), and with my husband and I and our two teenagers (and adult daughter when she’s home) all trying to plate our food and fill our water glasses from the fridge, we had a big traffic jam in that spot every evening at dinner time. Very silly when the kitchen is actually quite big! And the final straw for knowing for sure I had to move the cooktop, was when my daughter was doing her homework at the island, and I was cooing dinner. Her pencil case got a little too close to the burner, and next thing we knew it had caught on fire! We put it out quickly, but still another sign that islands are not the place for cooktops – at least not in our family!

I had been collecting ideas for my dream kitchen for a long time, so I knew I wanted European inspired inset cabinets which went all the way to the ceiling, touches of brass, unique lighting, and of course, color. I have always loved French Bistros and Brasseries, so I also knew I wanted to bring their iconic, slightly Art Deco, chic, yet classic vibe to our new kitchen. Below are some of the images that gave me the most inspiration :


The Inspiration Photos


La Fontaine de Belleville, Paris via My Chic Obsession


The Hoxton, Paris


Le Brebant, Paris, via My Chic Obsession

Last but not least, here are a couple of spaces – both designed by one of my all-time favorite designers – Martyn Lawrence Bullard. Neither are Parisian Bistros, but they are definitely fabulous, and really inspired my vision!


The L.A. home of RuPaul, via Architectural Digest


So as you can see from the above before photos, what we’re starting with is a long way off from what the inspiration is – but that’s what makes it so much fun!! And since I’ve been plotting, planning, and dreaming about this kitchen for so long, I’ve had plenty of time to clarify my vision, and prepare as much as possible for such a big project. As with all of my projects, one of the first steps is to gather all of my samples, materials, and any other items that help create the feeling I want to create into a 3-D mood board, and here it is for this French Bistro Inspired Kitchen:


The 3-D Mood Board


French Bistro Inspired Kitchen 3-D Mood Board


I hope you’ll follow along with me over the next eight weeks as I totally transform my drab and dated kitchen into a chic, colorful Kitchen. It will be so much fun to have you along for the ride, and I can’t wait to get started!


In the meantime, be sure to check out all of the other Fall One Room Challenge participants here!


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