Dale and Amy's Key West Reno: The Kitchen, Living and Dining Room

Following the front-exterior restoration, Amy Earnhardt has big plans for an open floor plan for the renovated ground floor. When extensive wood rot and termite damage present unexpected challenges, Amy and Dale Jr. (aka "Rookie Ralph") dig in to make necessary repairs. In the end, they create bright and breathable living spaces with a relaxed vibe that's ideally suited to island living — Key West style.

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Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Rocky Gonet/ AP Images

Photo By: Rocky Gonet/ AP Images

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

From the Ground Up

Dale Jr. and Amy Earnhardt get deep into the restoration of their 150-year-old home in the historic Old Town neighborhood of Key West. It's a big undertaking ;that came with some substantial and unexpected challenges — including scorpions, bees, termites, rats, feral cats — and one really big hurricane.

Down to the Studs

Wood rot and termite damage, particularly at the rear of the house, were far more extensive than originally thought. (Amy actually fell through a portion of the rotted floor at one point. Fortunately, no injuries.) By the time all the damage was removed, just the skeleton of the walls remained and the renovation would essentially amount to re-building much of the support structure and interior elements.

Bare Bones, Blank Slate

The first interior transformation was the conversion of two downstairs to create a new bedroom, bath and laundry room. The next phase is to determine the layout of the new main living space and kitchen. The plan called for the removal of two existing interior walls and building an addition off he back of the house, making room for a spacious living area and kitchen with an open flow.

Pit Crew

Amy and Dale work on repairs to the foundation and floor joists as part of the first-floor renovation.

Pit Crew

Amy and Dale work on repairs to the foundation and floor joists as part of the first-floor renovation.

Team Earnhardt

Team Earnhardt

Not His Day Job...

One of Dale's tasks was cutting planks to length for use in the new dining room.

...But He's Getting the Hang of It

 And precision is key. 'Measure twice, cut once', as the saying goes.

Who's "Rookie Ralph"?

Fun fact: Dale's full name is Ralph Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Amy began using "Ralph" as a nickname of sorts — which (especially over the course of this renovation) merged with the phrase "rookie mistake" and eventually evolved into "Rookie Ralph".

Dining Room, Before

This rickety tool shed off the original kitchen was in dismal shape with a sagging roof and a rotting floor. Initially Dale was in favor of simply tearing the dilapidated add-on down, but Amy had something very different in mind. 

Dining Room, Before

In the new floor plan, this space would be transformed into the new formal dining room.

Dining Room, In Progress

With the old siding removed, tall glass doors are added that will open to the backyard and pool area. Shiplap walls, seen here partially complete, were installed by Dale under Amy's creative guidance.

Dining Room, After

The original wood ceiling from the old tool shed was carefully salvaged, restored and reinstalled back in its original location — in what is now the new dining room. "That ceiling," said Dale, "is one of the coolest parts of the original house." The weathered green paint, some of which is still visible on the preserved beams, provided inspiration for the color themes used elsewhere throughout the home.

Dining Room, After

The new dining room is one of Amy's favorite spaces and helps solidify the home's distinctive indoor-outdoor feel. "This is the space we wanted to tear down and do away with," says Dale, "but it became such a critical component to making the entire house flow into the backyard."

Dining Room, Detail

A striking spherical chandelier provides a dramatic complement to the rustic look of the salvaged wood ceiling.

In Progress

 In the demolition phase, the wall separating the main space from the tool shed was removed, creating a flow between the two areas.

After

Amy was especially proud of the dining room transformation, which she considers the most dramatic one in the renovation.

Before

Temporary walls were installed during initial phases of the renovation to support the second floor during the construction process until the new main support beams could get installed.

In Progress

With the upper support structure in place, and temporary walls removed, the once compartmentalized living space is now unified and open. With subflooring and drywall installed, the kitchen and living space begins to take shape. 

After

The open kitchen, with large center island, flows freely into the main living space and dining room, both with large windows and glass doors that provide lots of natural light and accentuate the tropical island feel.

Before

Before we started the renovation, this part of the house was really cramped and confined, dark, dirty. We extended this first addition and just opened up this whole area.
—Dale

After

This space is really quite ideal for entertaining. The kitchen flows to the living room. Everyone gravitates in the kitchen.
—Amy

After

Amy went with simple, casual furnishings with natural and beachy accessories. The upholstered living-room chairs seen here are swivel mounted for easy TV viewing or conversation.

Kitchen, Detail

The new kitchen features a large floating island with counter-height seating. Vintage wood beams, salvaged from the original framing of the house, are used as structural support columns and provide a rustic decorative accent.

Kitchen, Detail

Twin pendant lights with large copper shades illuminate the island and create a dramatic visual focal point.

Kitchen, Detail

For the backsplash, Amy went with the dimensional mosaic tile which has a non-conventional geometric look and works well with the white countertops and the light finish of the wood flooring.

Living Room, After

Amy went with a tastefully neutral palette with rich white and off-white fabrics and lots of natural wood. "Everything's all earthy and natural," she says, "in keeping with that light, airy, beachy theme. Everything's livable and comfortable."

Living Room, Detail

The breakfast nook and adjacent space just off the living room was not part of the original footprint of the house but was added on to contribute to the more open feel. In addition, it provides a second, less formal dining space that's ideal for brunch and morning coffee.

Ground-Floor Transformation

With the kitchen, living and dining spaces complete, along with the newly added downstairs bedroom and bath, the first floor is thoroughly transformed but retains elements referencing the home's history. "I love the design choices," says Dale Jr. "We completely changed this part of the house, and I'm so happy with how it turned out." 

Behind the Scenes

Dale and Amy go over the new floor plan with general contractor Steve Krieger.

Behind the Scenes

Dale and Amy go over the new floor plan with general contractor Steve Krieger.

Behind the Scenes

The Renovation Realities crew captures Dale as he "phones a friend" — consulting with Amy on design details for the dining room.

Behind the Scenes

Meanwhile Amy heads to the local tile store to pick out kitchen tile.

Behind the Scenes

Amy consults with Steve on kitchen tile selection. "I want to keep it light, bright, edgy and beachy," said Amy, "but also work in some more funky and edgy things, just to keep it modern and fun."

Behind the Scenes

Amy consults with general contractor Krieger on tile selection.

Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes

Dale works tirelessly on cutting and installing the wide-plank shiplap for the feature wall in the new dining room.

Behind the Scenes

We're Not Done Yet!

The ground floor is complete, but there's still lots of adventure ahead. Still to come: the upstairs master and guest suites, plus Dale's favorite part of the renovation. Check back here for more galleries and exclusive video.

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