A big Kitchen renovation check-in! What’s happening and what’s to come!

June 29, 2021

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We’re a couple of homebodies, working to uncover the home our home wants to be. And we’re so happy to have you here. 




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The day we closed on our home (the first week of May), we met with contractors to discuss what we would have them do before we moved in. The floors were already on the list, but we also added removing the tray ceilings in the former dining room and primary bedroom. I’ve gotten a lot of questions about why I don’t prefer tray ceilings, and I think it’s just because I’d rather the ceiling be tall all around. Not just in the middle, but around the perimeter, too! In our case, it dropped more than a foot around the perimeter! While we were having this conversation, they started asking about the door between the dining room and kitchen–if we wanted it wider or what. They told us it wasn’t load bearing at all.

I loved the swinging door and the transom above it, but we realized pretty quickly the kitchen separating two eating areas on either side didn’t make a ton of sense for us. Both would hold the same amount of people and the same table size… just separately. At this point, the kitchen was open to a breakfast nook that was nearly the same size as the formal dining room and it was feeling so cut up and not functional. This coming from people who added a 20 person dining room to their last house!

(Above: First photo is the former formal dining room and below is the breakfast nook)

Not that it needs more of an explanation than “different houses and different seasons of life call for different things,” but we also no longer live by the 45 other members of Chris’s immediate family and my entire family is also no longer in the same spot so we feel okay about downsizing the dining space a little. But I can totally see a large outdoor dining table in our future and several stools along an island. More on that in a minute!

To cut to the chase, in 30 minutes time, we decided to demo the entire kitchen, including the wall that separated the formal dining room and kitchen and expand the kitchen toward the front of the house.

Those two photos are the same angle and it feels so spacious and so much lighter and brighter and exciting. I think part of the reason this decision was easy for us to make was we were planning on doing a kitchen renovation at this exact time in our last house. So mentally and financially we were ready!

Here’s another angle:

The new kitchen is about 28’x15′. Which feels luxuriously roomy–we’re hoping to include a casual sitting area by the windows, too! But before that, there are a few things to figure out, including how to work around the staircase that runs through what will be our pantry wall and how to make it all look flush although some areas recess and some don’t.

We want this to be our dream kitchen. I think it was kismet that we never had the chance to properly do the kitchen in our last house, our dream kitchen, because it would have been even harder to leave, but here we’re going all out. I asked Chris (the cook around here) what would make this his dream kitchen and he made a list including multiple countertop surfaces, storage for his variety of knives and spices, a 60″ range, a place to store his cookbooks, a separate place to prepare drinks and plate meals. A large single bowl sink! He asked me what my dream kitchen would include and I said, “It would be designed by Jean Stoffer.” And he said, “Let’s try and make that happen!” And we did!

I’ve been a fan of Jean’s since discovering her work back in 2017–we shared her here as an account to follow–and I’m not the least bit surprised that she has grown so much since then. She is so talented! A dream kitchen is a lot of pressure and a lot of money and it only makes sense to hire someone that has literally designed THOUSANDS of kitchens (did you know that Jean started as a kitchen designer?), has their own customizable cabinetry line and is now a judge for an international designer’s kitchen competition after winning herself a handful of times. That’s who I want to help us get this right!

After a few exchanges, we were thrilled to have a Zoom meeting with Jean and an onboarding session with the Stoffer Cabinetry design team. They asked us everything from how many knives does Chris own to our dream appliance wish list. It was thorough and exciting. We sent over a rough sketch of a layout that we thought would be a good starting point but said we were open and excited to explore other options!

So now our kitchen is a blank canvas of sorts. The tray ceilings are out of the old dining room, the plumbers and hvac are on standby to run new hookups where we need it and we should get our first design ideas from the Stoffer team any day. (I know it’s cliche, but it honestly feels like Christmas is coming!)

As for what became of the breakfast nook that was open to the dining room, she’s a proper dining room now. We’re going to share more about that in this week’s newsletter (subscribe here!) because I need to get some proper photos, but here’s the before.



A lot of people wondered why we didn’t extend the kitchen to the back of the house and hopefully you can see here how the kitchen area and the breakfast nook didn’t exactly line up. The wall between the living room and breakfast nook (load bearing) made it impossible and awkward to extend the kitchen that way. Also, the ceiling of the breakfast nook, like the living room, is vaulted! So it is actually really nice to kind of make it its own space and we feel like it was meant to be.

More coming about floors and the new dining room and the office this week!! So many exciting things to share.

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What do you think?

  1. Ali says:

    What a terrific idea to take down the wall separating the formal dining and kitchen and include the original dining room into the foot print of the kitchen and make the original breakfast room less of a pass through room and now it’s a lovely large dining room! I am so impressed you were able to give yourself exactly what you needed a big chef family kitchen and a lovely dining room all within the same square footage! The kitchen designer you are working with has such a lovely aesthetic! So so happy for you all ! What a wonderful way to make this home your own by making your families most used room your own design right as you move in !! Thrilled for you and your family ! Ya’ll make such brilliant design decisions!!! ❤️🎉 Hope it all goes smoothly and quickly so you can start to fill settled in your new home sweet home! Thank goodness you have a small guest quarters with a kitchen during the transition !

  2. Dawn says:

    SO WEIRD – I was literally just browsing Pinterest and another blogger had pinned Jean Stoffer work – introducing her to me for the first time. And then I checked Bloglovin’ and saw you had a new post and its about Jean Stoffer. If a random comment from a person you’ve never met is a sign then here is your sign that your kitchen is going to be amazing. :)

  3. Laura says:

    Would be great if you could post before and after floor plans at some point. I’m still confused about how all the spaces connect. Best of luck with the renovation – looks exciting!

  4. Nicolette says:

    Jean Stoffer’s work is a dream! This is my dream collab, I feel like I’m waiting for Christmas myself to see the end result! I have a feeling whatever the result is will be the next iconic kitchen people look to for design ideas.

  5. Emh says:

    You’ve always been very vocal about how you like to live in a space before making really big changes. What made this so different? How are you sure you’re making all the “right” decisions when you’ve literally never even lived there?

    • Nicolette says:

      Not to speak for them but this kitchen was made for someone in a wheelchair and the sink and range were a very low height for people of average height. Chris and Julia both are tall people so living with the kitchen as is wouldn’t have been very comfortable for day to day. I believe she somewhat explained this on her Instagram stories at one point though.

  6. Vicki Williams says:

    Julia, I think you are amazing! Mama-wise, design-wise et al. For this particular comment I’m referring to your health and physicality. You really only mention it without too much detail usually, (as you should as you wish). You do so much, just the IG and blog alone would wipe out most of us. This isn’t sympathy or pity by any means and I hope my words come across as I mean them. I’m so impressed with your relationship to your husband and children. It’s obvious Chris is a great partner. I just want to give you both huge kudos for all that you do and am grateful for this life that you share with us. Wishing you great health, good fortune and continued blessings in this new adventure!

  7. Carrie P says:

    I love the idea of having the kitchen at the front of the house and the dining/living space at the back of the house. And it’s all noise-based. haha! I live down the street from a park and there is a lot of foot traffic and noise. It makes relaxing in my living room a little difficult (my barking dogs also play a part in this. Little stalkers lay and wait to yell at the people walking by.). If the kitchen was in the front of the house, I’d be working and enjoy watching the kids race their bikes to the park, and would have a buffer between the noise and my chill space. I’m really excited about this layout for you guys! It going to be a glorious kitchen!

  8. Alison says:

    Can’t wait to see it all come together! Can Chris do an IG story of his favorite cookbooks? I am an avid hoarder (and cook) 😄

  9. Diane says:

    I have one recommendation after living In a few kitchens now: put a couch in your kitchen (maybe in that sitting area in the front of the house?) It’s a great place for kids or guests to chill while the cook(s) work. And you have enough room for an island and a sitting area. Looking forward to what you and Jean come up with!

  10. Carly says:

    I really enjoy watching it all come together. And it’s like the timeline didn’t have to stop because you were about to head into a kitchen renovation. You still are, just in a different house. I know you’ll miss your family – but you will have a few of them and a team there. I hope the decisions are keeping you distracted. It’s a process to move that far and start over. You have a large crowd cheering you on.

  11. Christina says:

    I’m starting to catch the vision now! Will you still have the laundry room right off the dining room?

  12. erin says:

    Jean Stoffer?!? Merry Christmas, Marcum family! Your saved image from Zulasboardinghouse ig popped up in my pinterest feed and I squealed with joy-this is my kitchen! Same cabinet color, surfaces, faucets, pendants and IDENTICAL hood range. Nothing yet installed but purchased and in process and I had just been hoping that years of planning would ensure my kitchen would be just right-to see it all together as a Jean Stoffer design was absolute confirmation. Thanks, Julia for sharing that photo. I can’t wait to see what you guys do with Stoffer’s team.

  13. Jeannine Fay says:

    As an avid kitchen design fan I’m thrilled that you’re doing the best part of this house first. It’s like getting to eat dessert first! And of course with the master Ms. Stoffer on board it will be truly a treat to watch.

  14. Linda says:

    A family of five, who love to entertain, and who have a trained chef in the house, should absolutely prioritize the kitchen and dining areas! Go big all the way! 😂

  15. Maya says:

    You are so good at making houses what it seems like they were supposed to be all along!! I am excited to see this happen!

  16. Paula says:

    We opened our kitchen to the front of the house and I love it! I have the prettiest street view out my windows.
    Everything sounds beautiful and I can’t wait to see how it turns out. Thank you for sharing!

  17. Lindsey says:

    So excited to see your kitchen unfold!! :) I would love to hear more about the costs of hiring a designer, how you make sure your personal style / vision is still heard and how to make the argument to your partner that it’s worth it.

  18. Courtney says:

    I was sitting here enjoying a quiet cup of coffee before the kids wake up and I accidentally cheered aloud when I saw the picture of Jean Stoffer on Zoom! I discovered her through you back in 2017 and I just can’t get over how talented she is. I am SO excited to see what she does with your kitchen!!!

  19. Alesha Thompson says:

    I cannot WAIT to see this process unfold! I love the decision y’all made!

    And to all the people criticizing the decision to move the kitchen towards the front of the house, y’all just need to hush. It’s going to be stunning.

  20. Kristen says:

    I love Jean Stoffer’s work (discovered her from your account) as well as yours. I’m so excited to see what the two of you dream up!!!

  21. Tuonca says:

    Curious how you feel about the kitchen being visible as soon as you walk in (not really in line with the colonial concept) and losing the easy visibility to the back yard? Exciting project!

    • Julia says:

      We lost no visibility to the backyard and as for seeing the kitchen, it’s going to be so show stopping, I’m excited! We, and all of our family and friends, always entered through the side door at our last house right into the kitchen.

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