Creating a Traditional Kitchen with Contemporary Flair

When you’re renovating an older or historic home and replacing what needs replaced, there’s a balance to be struck — embrace the traditional, vintage, classic, historical style of the home, or bring in more modern and contemporary touches to update the space? Laurel from SoPo Cottage and her team are so good at making it work, and she’s here again today to share another lovely update, this time with a 1928 duplex kitchen:

Lovely updated (duplex) kitchen, marrying traditional with contemporary for a beautiful finish!

 Laurel has shared more beautiful kitchens with us in the past: check them out by clicking the photos!

sopo updated kitchenupdated new englander dining room with pendant light, SoPo Cottage featured on Remodelaholic

Creating a Traditional Kitchen with Contemporary Flair
by Laurel of SoPo Cottage

Hi, I’m Laurel from SoPo Cottage and I’d like to share my recent project with you.  I buy tired old houses and update them to meet today’s lifestyle – while trying to maintain their antique charm.   These houses aren’t for the faint of heart!  They’re typically 70 to 120 years old and have often been ‘remuddled’, foreclosed or generally neglected over the years.  My team and I come in and upgrade systems, add new spaces, rip out walls and make them beautiful.  Click here to see the last house we did.  I’d love to hear what you think of our latest project!

Creating an open traditional contemporary kitchen - SoPo Cottage on @Remodelaholic

When we started renovating this 1928 duplex, we didn’t think it needed a lot of work.  The layout was typical for an old house – lots of separate rooms, with the kitchen sequestered in the back of the house.  In this case it was a long room, approached by a dark hallway (or maybe it just seemed that way, because this was a foreclosure and we didn’t have any electricity for awhile!).  Both kitchens had an identical footprint when we started, but we had a plan for creating a more open concept while updating all the infrastructure.

This is the kitchen that’s in the larger duplex unit.  When we started the project, we fully intended to keep the maple cabinets that were already there.  They looked nice and were in good shape.  But as we tried to figure out how to add a dishwasher, we realized that there were some challenges ahead.  So we started thinking that it might make more sense to update the whole space.

updated traditional contemporary kitchen in duplex with tile backsplash and creamy white cabinets open shelving before and after - SoPo Cottage on @Remodelaholic

And then one day, the guys started jacking up the floors in the other unit to make them level and suddenly we had plaster cracking everywhere!  So we ended up tearing out the cabinets and walls and starting from scratch.  Good thing – the plumbing vent wasn’t up to code, the electrical needed to be redone and the old 2×3 studs weren’t big enough for all our modern day needs.   See that ceiling fan?  The only way to turn it on was to wander through the kitchen in the dark until you found the pull chain.  Obviously we wanted to meet electrical code and have switches at all the entrances to the room.


updated traditional contemporary kitchen in duplex with tile backsplash and creamy white cabinets open shelving glass front cabinets before and after - SoPo Cottage on @Remodelaholic

We had a wonderful surprise, when we were gutting the kitchen.  Original red birch flooring was underneath all that old vinyl flooring!  That’s rare in a kitchen – usually the floor has been hacked up over the years, or has giant water stains all over it.  I found 3 different kinds of flooring (including plywood) in a kitchen we did last year.

While we were at it, we wanted to open up the wall to the dining room.  We wanted to bring more light into the space and have an open space concept.  So we added a new load bearing beam and suddenly the room seems twice as big!

duplex kitchen updated with wall taken out creamy white cabinets tile backsplash before and after - SoPo Cottage on @Remodelaholic

The new design has a traditional style, but with some contemporary touches.  We used cream colored cabinets – great in traditional New England – and topped them with a beautiful quartz material.  We used undermount stainless steel sinks and installed a professional style faucet.  For the backsplash, we used white subway tile – with a contemporary glass and marble inset to give it a little more interest.

two tone tile and open shelving in updated duplex kitchen - SoPo Cottage on @Remodelaholic

And we had a design challenge next to the windows.  The space is only 8” deep, so we would need custom cabinets (a pricey option!) to fit the space.  So, after thinking about it for awhile, I decided to try open shelving which creates additional storage and display space for special things.

updated duplex kitchen with traditional contemporary style open shelving creamy white cabinets stainless steel before and after - SoPo Cottage on @Remodelaholic

But my favorite feature is the spherical light fixture.  I found it on clearance at a high end furniture store – and just love the look with its slightly rusted finish.

modern orb chandelier in renovated kitchen - SoPo Cottage on @Remodelaholic

You can still enter the kitchen from the original hallway.  That allowed us to keep the antique hutch that was built into the wall.  But now there is so much natural light flowing into the space, it has a whole new look.

kitchen hallway before and after update and renovation - SoPo Cottage on @Remodelaholic


Now that we’re done, I’m thrilled with the space.  It seems to have a nice balance of old and new, in a light filled space.

Curious about the kitchen on the other side of the duplex?  Check it out here – while they started with the same footprint, they ended up looking quite different!


  • Cabinets – Martha Stewart Cabinetry, Home Depot
  • Countertops – Solar Canyon, Viatera, Home Depot
  • Pendant Light – Simply Home
  • Metal Shelf Brackets – Rubbermaid
  • Appliances – LG
  • Cabinet Hardware – Summer Street Home Grayson
  • Faucet – Giagni Fresco Pull Down Faucet


Laurel, thank you so much for sharing with us! Another lovely renovation!

See more beautiful homes that Laurel has worked her magic on over at The SoPo Cottage — from curb appeal to unique stair railings, it’s all amazing! 

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Lorene has been behind the scenes here at Remodelaholic for more than a decade! She believes that planning projects and actually completing them are two different hobbies, but that doesn't stop her from planning at least a dozen projects at any given time. She spends her free time creating memories with her husband and 5 kids, traveling as far as she can afford, and partaking of books in any form available.

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