Continuous Improvement

The subject of today’s blog is along the theme of ‘continuous improvement’. It’s a term we regularly use at work in a quality / lean process sort of a way, to signify the journey towards being world class in something. Never stopping with being satisfied with what you did today, and always striving to do better. It seemed like the perfect title for the design journey I’ve been on over the past few years.

The entrance hallway in our house is the perfect example of how skills evolve, and admitting that sometimes you don’t get it right the first time.

This is our hallway when we first moved into our 1969-built Prairie Style Minnesotan home. It was very beige, and very dated.

Hallway when we moved in (circa 1969)

I set about renovating it to make it feel more like a modern cabin (as we live in the woods.) I tried to make it feel rustic with the use of the aged wood wall partition that we made, and the antler chandelier. To give it a modern twist, I added faux taxidermy in white only on the gallery wall.

Hallway after reno No.1

To give it more of a British hunting lodge / country feel, I opted for flagstone style flooring, and added things like the antique umbrella stand and horse bit artwork. We gave the wall a gold paint effect finish to add some richness and the traditional feel.

But it felt dark…


After living in the house for 4 years now, I’ve come to realize that living in the middle of the woods, with such heavy tree coverage, that the only time the house is ever bright inside is during the winter when there are no leaves on the trees. So the decoration inside has to account for this lack of natural light.

The other thing I’ve noticed whilst living in the US, is the growing trend for light, bright and airy spaces. Practically every new-build and renovated home has white-painted trim. The spaces are made bright from large white windows and white or light grey walls. Any wood is generally kept natural, such as natural white oak.

After living here for a while now, my tastes have evolved to the more contemporary side, so we set about with renovation No.2 to our hallway…

Hallway today (after lessons learnt)

We removed the aged-wood partition wall we made, as we felt it made the space darker, and the dark wood made it feel a little dated. We opted instead for a more open half wall, which we painted in white and grey to match the new open-plan kitchen / dining room. And changed all the floors for natural white oak.

The biggest change was to the feature wall. Now when you enter the house, you’re met with a wall of white split-face marble, which adds depth and texture to the room, whilst still being bright, and yet at the same time, rustic.


I had to keep the antler chandelier, it’s the little nod to the modern hunting lodge theme we were originally trying to achieve. I think now we’ve actually managed to achieve it. By keeping the colors light and limited, and introducing interest through texture, and pops of natural wood colors.

I’m the first to admit that my first attempt at ‘modern cabin’ was not that successful. But with a few more years of experience of both living in this house, in the US and having completed many more renovation projects, I can gladly say my skills have improved for the better.

To quote Lloyd Dobyns:

“Continual improvement is an unending journey.”

Thanks for reading, until next time.

Jo (aka Britflipper and continuous improvement seeker)

Kitchen Reveal

The time has finally come to reveal our kitchen make-over. What started out as a 6 week project turned into the 7 month project from hell! Anything that could’ve gone wrong, went wrong. Even after months of pre-planning, Gannt charts and double checking everything. We had cabinets that didn’t fit; doors that were warped; fridges, microwaves and vent hoods that didn’t fit; walls that undulated; ovens that didn’t work… I’m glad to say that this nightmare project has now come to an end, and boy was it worth the wait!

Here’s a reminder of what it used to look like…


And here’s the new kitchen…

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Full list of products used:

  • Cabinets: Austin cabinets in Urban Stone by Cliqstudios
  • Countertop and backsplash: Calacatta Gold by Silestone
  • Flooring: Vintage French Oak by Lumber Liquidators
  • Cabinet hardware: Knobs by Emtek style 86152US3NL, pulls by Emtek style 86123US14 both in polished nickel
  • Window: 400 Series by Andersen Windows & Doors
  • Paint: White Veil by Behr
  • Kitchen chandelier: Halo by Gallery
  • Dining room chandeliers: Rosalias modern cage light by Warehouse of Tiffany
  • Oven: Slide-in gas range by Samsung (model:NX58H9500WS)
  • Refrigerator: Counter-depth refrigerator by Samsung (model: RF23M8070SR)
  • Faucet / tap: Alea pull-down faucet in polished nickel by Pfister
  • Instant hot water faucet / tap: Insinkerator in polished nickel
  • Sink: Apron front sink by IPT Sink Company
  • Stools: Gelsomina counter stool by Joss & Main
  • Upholstered dining chairs: Kenleigh tufted side chair by Wayfair with upholstery nails added
  • Dining table: Emma dining table by Hom Furniture
  • Cane dining chairs: Bought from a friend

To learn about how the kitchen was planned read my blog ‘Goodbye 1987’. To learn how to overcome common kitchen renovation problems read my other blog post ‘Kitchen update: How to avoid delays’.

As always, thanks for reading!

Jo (aka Britflipper)


Goodbye 1987

The time has finally come to say goodbye to 1987.

Current kitchen – installed in 1987


It has served us well over the past 3 years that we’ve lived at our house, and I’m sure it served the previous owners for the 29 before that. It’s a quality kitchen with all the mod-cons for a glamorous 80’s lifestyle, complete with warming drawer and even a wall mounted toaster! Which I can honestly say I’ve never seen before, and will probably never see again. It has certainly stood the test of time, being in immaculate condition, and as good as the day it was installed.

But as most things in life, all good things come to an end, and in 2019 this house makes way for a new type of luxury – a modern kitchen.

Grey Family Kitchen traditional-kitchen

This kitchen by Tom Howley is probably as close to a perfect kitchen as they come. It’s fresh, contemporary yet traditional, and just oozes quality. I love the color of the cabinets and the light flooring, and the warmth added by the wood. With a little bit of glam added by the sparkling polished nickel hardware. It’s everything I love – it’s a little rustic with the wood, it’s definitely country with the traditional inset door cabinets, and it’s very chic. There’s just one problem, Tom Howley kitchens are based in Manchester, UK, and our house is in Minnesota, USA, just a few 1000 miles away. So I began the hunt for a similar style…

White Painted Inset Cabinets kitchen-cabinetry

That’s when I found Cliqstudios. I actually happened upon them via a Facebook ad in my feed, and when I had a look at their site I found that they did in fact have the inset door style that I liked. After searching quite a few online kitchen retailers and big box stores, I found that Cliqstudios had a niche in their offering of the inset door style. So I ordered a sample and was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the door. They’re 3/4″ solid wood with 2 1/4″ mortise & tenon joints, and the paint is thick and lustrous. Funnily enough they’re actually based in Edina, MN but are purely an online retailer with the cabinets being made in Indiana and because they’re sold factory direct and online they’re 40% cheaper than most similar cabinets you can buy on the high street. And the best bit? We ordered ours today!

I have to say I was a little nervous about ordering cabinets online. But we had a great designer who we called and emailed frequently to get us to our final layout. He also had the patience of a saint, having started the original enquiry about 2 years prior to actually ordering the cabinets, and going through many, many revisions. But we’ve arrived at the best layout for our needs now and we’re really excited about seeing them in situ in a few weeks time.

Kitchen Moodboard
Mock-up of the new kitchen

If you can ignore the terrible PowerPoint skills to make this mock-up, you can get a feel for what the end result is going to look like. We’ve chosen light grey inset cabinet doors with exposed hinges to get that old English handmade cabinet feel. We’ve added touches of warmth with a French Oak engineered hardwood floor, and a light oak distressed beam. And the glam is provided by the polished nickel hardware, faucet and show stopping crystal halo chandelier.

Kitchen Moodboard 3
Mock-up of new kitchen

Here’s the moodboard:

Kitchen Moodboard 2

And a close up of the samples:


We’re using Eternal Calacatta Gold quartz by Silestone, and Austin Urban Stone painted doors in the kitchen, Carbon in the bar area, with polished nickel solid brass hardware by Emtek and Baldwin. The floor is Vintage French Oak by Lumber Liquidators.

Stay tuned for the gradual reveal as we go through 6 weeks of chaos to get to the end result.

Thanks for reading, until next time,