Thursday, October 15, 2020

A Magical Kitchen Makeover

Quick note: We support trans rights here, and I completely understand if you've chosen to remove yourself from the Harry Potter fandom as a result of its author's beliefs. I also understand those like me who've chosen to celebrate the work apart from its creator. Wherever you stand, please remember to love each other, and be kind.


Our friend Dana is a HUGE Harry Potter fan, so much that his entire house is Potter'd out year-round. His foyer is a mini portrait gallery:

...there are floating candles in his living room (which turn on automatically at night):

...and his bedroom is the Gryffindor Common Room, complete with a giant wooden 4-poster bed and wall tapestries: 

And it is all absolutely magical.

Dana is also a wand maker, and handcrafts beautiful styles with gemstones and jewelry findings. (Remember when John and I built a framed wall display for him?) So really, this style reflects a lot of who Dana is.

That's a long lead-in to say the one room in Dana's house that stood out like a sore (but brightly-lit) thumb was his kitchen. Let's get right to the "before" shots and our list of design challenges for the space:

Challenge #1: Lighting

The vaulted ceiling has a blinding fluorescent light on it, which gives a slight blue/green tinge to everything, yech. Even with only 2 of the 4 bulbs installed, this light makes it operating-room bright in here, while the rest of the house has soft warm accent lighting. (The living room through the pass-through looks pitch dark by contrast.) There's also an extra light fixture hanging on the left, which is badly spaced and hasn't worked for years.

Challenge #2: The Cabinets

The cabinets have been painted at least 4 times, so there's a lot of brush stroke texture that makes them look handpainted, which is never good. The bases and doors are different colors, which adds to the dated look, and the white doors look stark and plain against the white walls. The hardware is old and the hinges are failing; 2 of the doors don't even close properly.

You can also just see the extra space above the fridge here: an odd gap that looks unfinished.

Challenge #3: The Water Cooler

Dana uses this every day, so it has to stay here. ACK.

Problem #4: Decor

There are only a few decorative touches, and a lot of what is here doesn't really fit Dana's style. Dana loves to decorate and has amazing taste, but this space is so unpleasant to be in that he hasn't been very motivated to add to it.

The dining room table and chairs are lovely, but a little big for the room, and have turned into a work space/daily catch-all. The clock - which Dana loves - is hung where you can only see it from the fridge. And finally the contrast of the white wall with the tan wall is a little too severe, and abruptly chops the space in half.

Our goal is to address all 4 issues and give the space a dose of "witchy cottage kitchen" charm. Think  Molly Weasley's kitchen, The Leaky Cauldron, and Dumbledore's study all mashed together. So unlike most makeovers, we actually want to darken the room and add warmth, texture, and age.

We also want to do it for as little money as possible. In fact, we're aiming to spend less than $100. Because John and I are both determined and wildly optimistic. 

Think we can do it?


First John and I tackled something we could do from home: the solution for the water cooler. I'm pretty excited about this because it was my idea, and it turned out almost as well as I hoped:

Several people thought we were making a giant baby Groot when I posted this picture - and I see it now. :D

See where we're going with this?

Note to Future Jen: If you ever made a foam barrel again, leave the bands for last. They made painting the wood grain much harder, and I ended up re-doing the whole thing.

I used cheap craft paint, which you can see looks faded and almost chalky here. That's because my craft paint is all flat. Once I added a coat of satin Mod Podge, all the colors darkened and looked much better:

John cut a stencil on our Cricut so I could add the "Butterbeer" label. I went too bright with the yellow, but later I used a sanding sponge to take it down and give it some age, which I think helped.

My last step was to paint the bands silver and add some "rust" spots with watered down paint.

The original wooden stand for the water cooler was too clean and modern, so John spray-primed it black and sanded through the edges to give it a more rustic look.

And here it is all together!

Our foam barrel slips right over the water jug. We're still debating what - if anything - we should add to the white ceramic base. Any suggestions?

That's also a sneak peek at the new walls. Just, uh, pretend you didn't see that yet. 

Next up, lighting.

We decided a chandelier with fake candles would be ideal, so the three of us started watching FB Marketplace and Craig's List for cheap options. John was the winner with this one:


The shades alone are worth twice that - and since we're not using them, those will keep for a future job.

I'm actually amazed how well this turned out. Originally I thought I'd need to faux it to look like aged wrought iron, but the black looks so pretty we left it like this.

A slightly better pic:

We didn't tell Dana we'd found the light; we decided to surprise him by installing it while he was at work. Normally I'd never do this, but Dana has been *incredibly* trusting of our design decisions - and hey, the light cost $5. If he didn't like it, we weren't out much, ha.

Buh-bye, fluorescent lighting!

We didn't know what to expect under the light, but happily there were only 2 large bolt holes for us to patch. Thanks to the popcorn texture, you can't see them at all.

(John brought the old fluorescent light home to install in our garage workspace, too, so nothing's gone to waste.)

We may try to save that chandelier for a future job. ::skeptical look:: Maybe.

Just this made a night-and-day different in the space, y'all. SO MUCH BETTER.

We're still adding some finishing design touches, so stay tuned for part 2, when I'll show you what we did to the cabinets and the walls! Here's a sneak peek to tide you over, though:

And here's a peek at another fun Potter-y touch we're adding:

Last thing: just for fun, tell me what your dream Harry Potter kitchen would have in it. I'm still looking for things we can add, especially on the countertops. (Right now I'm thinking a giant Trevor-the-toad in a birdcage, although I don't know if Dana will go for that, ha.)


If you're looking for more fun before-and-after shots, check out our whole house renovation from 2018, or you can always browse my HomeRenovation tag here on the blog. (I scrolled waaay back and found our bedroom makeover post, back when I changed out the tented ceiling and bright orange walls! Ahh, memories. :D)


  1. Uh, can one obtain a Molly Weasley to do the cooking? My husband's *very* good at it, but I'd like to borrow a Molly to give him a day off once in a while.

    ...I guess that's not decorating, though...

    A friend of mine makes nerdy things, so we currently have House oven mitts. So, I recommend House kitchen linens - dish towels and oven mitts and such!

    1. Oooh, I love the idea of House kitchen linens!

  2. I’d like a House Elf for my permanently messy kitchen, a free Elf of course. Or maybe at least a little House Elf sized door as a cabinet door with a label "House Elf dormitory". For a bathroom: I put a sign with an arrow above my toilet: "Ministry of Magic: this way"

    1. I laughed out loud abou tthe elf door...I hope they do that!

  3. Jenn,

    Ideas for the water cooler - If you could somehow make the white ceramic part look like wood that would help and add a bar pour handle instead of the tab. Absolutely no idea how to do either maybe a veneer that could be glued? Also the lighting is awesome! You guys did an excellent job. Trevor in a bird cage now that's a great idea but if Dana doesn't like it on the counter how about in the shelving above the cabinets. Get Trevor to hang onto the cage bars looking woeful? If not Trevor then definitely an owl.
    You and John are the best. So glad you have this blog and take the time to make it awesome.


    P.S. It was great to see you in Pittsburg!

  4. Excited to see how this turns out. I think you should do some sort of patina on the white ceramic of the watercooler - it just sticks out among all the aged components.

    On the subject of She Who Shall Not Be Named: We are an all-trans household: I think its fine for people to enjoy HP as long as they ensure their money doesn't go to JKR - that means supporting fan creators and helping them pay their rent, while avoiding any official merch. My wife disagrees, and thinks that supporting even independent content creates an environment where the property remains part of the cultural zeitgeist, thereby indirectly lining her pockets. We both can see the merits of each others' arguments and can agree to disagree on the nuances of the issue. Everyone has to decide for themselves and as long as everyone is respectful and genuinely open to listening to the other side, that's whats important.

    So thank you for acknowledging the issue. I think its important to have that visibility of support, and for fans to have open conversations about the real-world implications of the things they love.

  5. Nothing additional on the counter! Most kitchens don't have enough counter space, and it looks to be especially lacking in this one. Hang things on the walls, do something interesting and washable with the backsplash area, but leave the counter open. Now that pass-through space over the sink, that could do with a toad in a cage hanging there.

  6. Oh! Old books that say Recipes or Everyday Potions with lots of notes sticking out. And a tiny cauldron for single serving sized potions. And flour/sugar/tea canisters, but with potion ingredients on them!

  7. Ahhh, this is amazing already! I especially love the faux brick on the soffit - I've always loved the look of exposed brick inside.

    My primary desire for a magical kitchen would definitely be self-washing dishes, but as far as things that are actually possible outside the wizarding world, maybe a stack of cauldrons on a corner somewhere, similar to the cauldron shop at Universal? (Also, that menu board gave me a desperate craving for a meal in the park - I can't wait until it's possible to meet up with you guys again there!)

  8. What you've shown so far is lovely! For the water cooler - what if you made a second barrel for the bottom so it looked like a stack of two? Might be hard to get the shape right to work with the spigot though. Maybe there's a way to paint the bottom portion to darken it up a little or make it look more like its got a few decades of butterbeer spilled on it (and blend into the shadows more so its not so noticeable)?

  9. The rest of the house is gorgeous. I have zero decorating ability, so I will just be here, awestruck, admiring. Thank you for sharing what you do, and thanks to Dana for allowing us a glimpse into what he has created.

    1. It looks SO good! For my daughter's HP birthday party a few years ago I made the Potions Room decor by relabeling a bunch of jars and bottles from my kitchen with HP ingredient or potions labels found on line. We still have many of them mixed among our regular ingredients because I refill them when they are empty. It is so fun to grab hot peppers with "pepperup potion" on the jar. Anytime I get to use one of the potions it makes cooking more magical.

  10. I can't wait to see how you did the rest! I really like the brick (and the brick you have in your house). I keep trying to find a place to use your brick tutorial in my house. Someday, maybe.

  11. I was so excited about the brick, I forgot to make my suggestion for the crock. Google examples of Amish, German or Pennsylvania Dutch crocks. You might find a patina you like for Dana's crock. I have no idea how you get that patina, though. Also, the crocks can have stencils on them and that might help Dana's also. This is what I'm thinking of -- the cream colored crock with the blue stencil.

  12. For the water crock, how about painting it to look speckly, I think it can be called 'dust glaze' look? There's even 'fairy dust glaze', I bet you guys could make it look like that (any colour!):

  13. You need a cauldron and a toad house on the counter to hide the scones in.
    I give the author a pass on her unforunate choice of words...perhaps she can amend them.
    But I LOVE Dana's kitchen!

  14. "Why do we even HAVE that ____?!?" is a great go-to, and unexpectedly seeing it today made my smile even bigger.

  15. wizard recipe books, a self-stirring caldron, potion ingredients on a little shelf. I like the house elf idea, but make sure they are wearing clothes-you know-a paid, free-elf :)
    I'd love to see fake candle wax drips on the chandelier

  16. Owl utensil holder? Potion labels on oil bottles? Frog sink sponge/scrubby holder 🤔 Maybe some Halloween stuff to age/paint for above the cabinets. It’s looking fabulous and we can’t wait to see the end result!!!

  17. Regarding the watercooler white ceramic crock - what about stenciling a mesh or baskety pattern on with metallic paint?

  18. Piggybacking on "never enough counter space", could you maybe do a utensil hanger of some sort on an under-cabinet wall but disguise the hang points with/as broom ends (so that the utensils look like brooms when hanging)? Not sure if I'm describing that well enough, but that was my thought. :)

  19. I so wish you all could come to NYC and help with my Ravenclaw library decor.

    1. A Ravenclaw library sounds amazing!

  20. For the water cooler, I would give the ceramic a "crock" pottery finish. You could also make it look like a cauldron. If you make the countertops look like wood, PLEASE POST ALL THE STEPS!!! Because I really want wood countertops and can't talk hubby into it. :D I think the shelf area above the cabinets need some apothecary/potions containers. All good witches and wizards need potion making supplies. Love the menu and what you have done so far.

  21. If there's a windowsill, you could have a small herb garden labeled "Herbology Supplies". They could be real plants, if your friend's the kind who would like that, or fake, with a baby mandrake and and tiny huffleplant like you made for your party and so on. Or a mix of the two. Either way, it would need tiny bowtruckles and garden gnomes and maybe a pixie or two, all pint sized.

    I'd also be tempted to put silly labels *inside* the cabinets, where they aren't cluttering up the overall look when the doors are shut, but when you opened them you'd see "Cauldrons" on the shelf by the pots and "Chalices" by the glasses, as well as "Potion Supplies" on the spice cabinet etc.

    I agree that the white part of the water cooler would look nice painted like a second, smaller barrel, even if it's shape isn't exactly right. Alternatively, you could cover it with "advertisement" stickers for the Three Broomsticks and the Hog's Head or any other Potter-verse location (think Diagon Alley style ads). Or put it in a foam cauldron with a hole for the spigot.

    I think I've seen utensil holders and towel bars that look like brooms, those could be cute too. So could a few potion recipes hanging on the refrigerator.

    No matter what you choose in the end, I'm sure it's going to be amazing. =-)

  22. I was thinking the cabinets would look great painted with potions and various hp tchotchkes (snitches, rememberalls, spell books, etc.)

  23. I hesitate to suggest this, because the barrel looks AMAZING, but if you had a larger/longer barrel, it could slide over the whole thing, and the spigot would then be the tap. You might have to add some thin little supports to the wood frame to hold up the edge of the barrel inconspicuously, and the barrel would need a split below the spigot so it could be worked on and off.

  24. Last year after Halloween I bought something like this for a Harry Potter decoration at either 80% or 90% off. He's pretty big! Definitely check out the post-halloween sales! Hit some of those Spirit Halloween stores when they clearance the leftovers, too.

  25. I love it!

    A few ideas:
    - Weasley clock with thrifted spoons as the dials
    - Thrifted canisters/crockery/jars for the counter. Anything hefty will have that country kitchen look
    - Hang things on the brick above the cabinets. I'm thinking pie tins, cast iron (could be faux), cutting boards (woodburned with fun slogans?), weird-looking utensils. Sort of a mashup between country/grandma kitchen style but with Potter-themed details.
    - cooking oil cruets, salt/pepper grinders, utensil holder, paper towel holder. All things that typically live on counters and could be made-over.
    - lots of candlesticks?

    1. Oo I like the Weasley clock idea. And it could be a faux clock where you could move the dials yourself. It would be handy if you live with someone or want to let someone know you are "out". Or just for fun for yourself, I guess, you can move it from "work" to "home", then on to "bed" as your end of day ritual.

  26. The bottom of that water cooler could be made to look like the Butterbeer barrel is stacked on some other vicariously, almost impossibly, balanced barrels or an old wooden post that has a rusted pipe coming from the ground that's fastened to the front of the faux wooden post?
    That spigot is a bit of a challenge to change because of sanitary reasons...but I don't doubt you'll figure something out.

  27. Also....
    Dana is SO freaking kind and one of the nicest people ever.

    But that kitchen...

    You're both heroes.

  28. I the only one who noticed this is the first post with a "Project:EPBOT" tag? Guess that's the name you chose, eh? :D

    (I have nothing else to contribute to help out with the kitchen, but I like a lot of the ideas, especially pertaining to the water cooler.)

    --Yet Another Jen

  29. No decorating sense whatsoever, and this suggestion may create more chaos than necessary but - along the lines of the person suggesting fun labels for cabinets, making the spice storage system, whatever it is, look like potion ingredients, and (if it makes sense) little glass jars with an old-fashioned appearance.

  30. Have you considered using resin to make the countertops look like stone slabs? There are several products just for counters, or I've painted the counter and then poured clear resin over it.

    1. I was thinking about this. There are some old Trading Spaces on TLC episodes where Frank did some interesting things with painting the countertops. And I recently saw something on another HGTV show where they used these plastic sticker things called "counter wraps" to make them look like marble.

  31. I can't wait to see how this turns out! You guys are so ingenious in your crafting and decorating, it's brilliant.

    I love the idea of dimming down the lighting and warming up the room, but what are you planning for actual work lighting? Like, under-cabinet or spotlights or something? I love me a warmly-lit room in general, but need light during those few times I'm actually cooking. Just a thought.

    Otherwise, keep it up! This looks awesome!

  32. Wow, that kitchen is looking amazing and I cannot wait to see the end result! Well done.

  33. I can see a pot of vines sitting on the base of the water cooler and winding up to and over the keg.

  34. This is amazing! I look forward to seeing the final product!

    Maybe you could make faux covers for any cookbooks Dana has. Like those mentioned in Chamber of Secrets- 'Gilderoy Lockharts Guide to Household Pests', 'Charm Your Own Cheese', 'Enchantment in Baking' and 'One Minute Feasts - It's Magic!'etc.

  35. A faux stone finish on the white base of the water cooler?

  36. That's amazing! It looks so much better already. I'm assuming you're going to have a collection of appropriately-labeled drink bottles and potion bottles? If you want a few plants as well, definitely sneak a mandrake in there.

  37. How about making a small barrel to hide the bottom of the water cooler. Label it "Fire Whiskey"

  38. I keep looking at the white base of the water bottle unit and I wonder if it could become the foam at the top of a giant glass of butterbeer - with the lower half painted the color of the butterbeer itself and a sheet of thin plastic wrapped around it to imitate the glass itself. The spout even lines up with about where the handle would connect on the glass. But it would either end up just being the cut off top section or if you continued it down proportionally, it would end up floating unless it was a really tall glass. Hmm...

  39. I would suggest you leave the white ceramic as-is. If it actually functions as a water cooler (cooling the water below room temperature), then the magic is in evaporation and the unglazed pottery. Painting the ceramic or insulating it with another barrel could break the "cold water" spell.


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