See how an antiques dealer mixes it up with style in her DIY kitchen, and get her tips on hot collectibles for yours.
By Barbara Schuetz
Jennifer Grey is a super sleuth when it comes to tracking down one-of-a-kind and vintage objects. Equal parts antique dealer, decorator and personal shopper, Jennifer is often out the door by dawn, doing her detective work at flea markets and antique shops.
“Clients like my eye,” she says. “I’m known for pulling things together.” She calls it “layering” or “merchandising,” and her bright, cozy kitchen shows off her finesse.
But five years ago, when Jennifer and her husband, Adam, bought their home in Newbury Park, California, that kitchen wasn’t even a germ of an idea.
“The house was an absolute wreck, but we were desperate,” she says. After being outbid on seven homes, the couple settled for “Cottage 8,” as she calls it, because it fit their budget. “I didn’t love the house, but at that point I would have taken an old shoe.”
Despite her knack for design and her love of antiques, Jennifer says she had “no vision” for their 1,200-square-foot home: “So I took baby steps. I let the house speak to me and, little by little, I conquered the nightmares.”
The kitchen was one of them. “It would’ve made your toes curl,” Jennifer recalls. So they took a sledgehammer to it—literally. The couple gutted the room from the ceiling down. And with zero experience, she and Adam handled all the demolition and rebuilding. Her brother-in-law helped with the plumbing and electrical work.
Jennifer likes to start with a neutral foundation and build on it, so she chose white and taupe for the walls and store-bought cabinets from Ikea. Then they outfitted the room with classics: a farmhouse sink, butcher-block countertops, wood-grain-look flooring and white subway tile.
Jennifer installed the backsplash tile after watching how-to videos on YouTube. “It cost us $250,” she says, compared to a professional tiler’s quote of $1,500. Adam, meanwhile, installed the waterproof vinyl flooring in the kitchen, dining area and living room for under $1,000. In fact, the entire six-month project came in under $3,000.
She bought a budget-friendly island at JCPenney and made do with a hand-me-down refrigerator she’d doctored up years before. “It’s from the ’70s and has held up all these years,” she says. “I literally hot-glued bead-board to the front of it and added barn hinges.”
As the kitchen started to jell, so did Jennifer’s vision. She hung pendant lighting over the sink and island and even put in a swinging door, inspired by I Love Lucy reruns. And then there were all those vintage touches she does so well: a square wooden floor joist used as a riser on top of the island, an old European fry basket filled with glass water bottles, a pair of industrial-style stools, and a metal plate rack that once displayed combs and brushes in a barbershop.
The kitchen decor, she says, “is a revolving door. It changes every week. I’m always buying and selling.” Currently she’s looking for a way to give some character to the island, and she’s into yellow, as evidenced by the vintage glass jar of lemons on the counter.
Clients often say they want their house to look just like hers, but she encourages them to think of things that inspire them and make their decor a reflection of their own personalities. Then Jennifer takes over, hunting down those curious, elegant and unique finds.
“I hit the ground running each morning,” she says, “and I love every minute of it.”
See more of Jennifer’s charming kitchen at her blog.
To add vintage charm to your kitchen, Jennifer suggests keeping an eye out for these collectibles:
- Old cutting boards. “Beautiful old European wood cutting boards have so much character.” Jennifer suggests stacking them and setting a vase of flowers or a jar of silverware on top.
- Ironstone. This dense, heavy white pottery was often called “poor man’s china” because it was durable and didn’t break like fragile, expensive china, Jennifer says. Stack the plates, add greens to a pitcher, or group various pieces together.
- Baskets. Jennifer finds these multipurpose organizers great for gathering up items. “I found my mom a basket and put it next to her stove, filling it with her oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.”
Photography by Jennifer Grey