You don’t need to start from scratch when remodeling. Hold on to those features that are in good condition and modernize the rest of your space

When it comes to remodeling, a question I am frequently asked is how do you know what to touch and what to leave alone?

My answer is always different. It obviously depends on your budget, but it really comes down to enhancing whatever is worth keeping, and updating the rest. This is what I’m going to illustrate.


Here’s the kitchen that last week I talked about designing in a modern style with traditional touches. It needed a complete overhaul, but the informal dining area needed a little more thought. The bar, niche and inset ceiling panels had whitewashed wood that is very much in vogue right now — just look at any Restoration Hardware catalog. These custom cabinets were still beautiful and in perfect condition. They juxtaposed nicely with the new dark cabinets in the kitchen, with the mix making the overall look of the adjoining spaces more interesting.

I decided to keep the lighter cabinets.

To tie in to the richness of the kitchen cabinets and add a more modern, eclectic feel, I simply swapped out their old hardware for some in oil-rubbed bronze.

The counter tops needed to be replaced. Remember I showed you how we chose granite for the kitchen island and a clean, creamy quartz for the rest of the counters? To make the kitchen and dining area relate to each other, I brought the same darker tone granite from the island into the niche and bar. The creamy quartz would have washed out the lighter cabinet.


Flooring is a big investment that should be carefully considered. In this case the solid oak floor was in great condition. Solid oak is timeless and it juxtaposes beautifully against the dark kitchen cabinets. So I kept it.

Which leads us to another point. Many people think all the wood in a space needs to match — if you have a cherry wood floor, you need cherry wood cabinets, and so on. That’s not the case. Look for ways to mix your woods, just as I’ve mixed my counters, hardware and lighting. Look for materials that enhance, set off and complement one another.

Lighting generally should be updated. So should drawer pulls. Window treatments are another feature I strongly recommend swapping out for a fresh look, color and texture.

If it’s a quality item or finish that just needs to be repainted, refinished or simply needs new drawer pulls, keep it. If you have an architectural element that is of good quality, even if it’s not in keeping with your preferred style, see if you can turn it into a feature or accent.

For example, you could be remodeling in a completely modern style, but your home has interesting crown moulding. Could you keep it as a statement that makes the space that much more unique? It’s these details, the addition of character, that make a space more interesting and inviting.


So before you decide to rip everything out, look for those hidden gems. What could potentially tie in with your new design could in the end give your space more character.

Cathy Lee is a home style expert, speaker, president and designer of Cathy Lee Style. Her work in redesigning residential and business spaces has been featured in local and national publications and on HGTV. Look for reStyle Hawaii, her new-concept furniture store re-opening at 420 Keawe St. in Kakaako this fall. To find out more, go to