Before & After: Inside the Finleys’ 1940s Full Home Remodel

I am still floating on cloud 9 after our recent 10-page spread in HGTV Magazine, where I took the world inside my family’s recently renovated Oakland home. It’s always a little personal letting people you don’t know in your front door (stranger danger!), but I’d say it’s for a noble cause. 

Everything about my home supports our lifestyle, represents us, and helps us live more fully and joyfully. That’s our mission at Joy Street Design, and why shouldn’t I lead the charge right in my own home?? I know you can, too.

You may have already browsed our HGTV Magazine feature (or picked up 15 copies from your local Target like somebody I know…), but what wasn’t included in the feature? 

Hideous, jaw-dropping, cringe-worthy “before” photos. 

YUP. If you’re looking for ugly photos that will make you feel better about your own home — and inspire your full confidence that there IS hope for your space — that’s exactly what we’re doing today.

So come on over to my house, pour yourself a drink, and walk with me through this transformation...

Backstory: 1940s Oakmore Home

Our house is located in the Oakmore area of Oakland, which is very family-friendly and about 5 minutes from my office and my husband’s hospital. It’s a great location with good schools and lots of young kids around. 

The house was built in 1949 and had only been owned by one family when we bought it. Over the years, they had made improvements, but after their death, their children did not take good care of it. When we found it, it had been sitting empty for months and needed to be completely gutted. 

Shield your eyes!

before 1940s full home remodel oakland

The home itself has two levels. Downstairs (you can see the stairs in the photo on the left), we have our private bedrooms, bathrooms, laundry room and living room. I’ll save these for my next blog post.

Upstairs is where we planned to receive guests. It originally had a kitchen, dining room, living room, 3 bedrooms, and 2 bathrooms. The spaces were dark and closed off, so we decided to remove 3 walls, vault the ceiling, add 3 skylights, add a large deck (who doesn’t want a deck?!), and create an open floor plan.

Living Room Design

living room design before and after 1940s full home remodel oakland

Mmm… parquet floors, dated drapery, low ceilings… no thanks. I added vaulted ceilings for spaciousness and character, installed new white oak flooring, and gave the walls a light, neutral grey so everything else would pop. You can also see this great deck we added on with a gathering-worthy, 16-foot opening. Goodbye, yesteryear. Hello, fresh design!

Turn 180 degrees from this space, and you’ll see my favorite feature of the room….the fireplace. When we started to reface the fireplace, it crumbled to pieces. 

1940s full home remodel oakland before crumbling brick fireplace

Literally, crumbled. I said, “Let’s start from scratch,” and it quickly became one of the best decisions in our home. It allowed us to create a recessed TV nook for above the fireplace, including a track that this painting moves along to hide the TV when we don’t want to see it. Genius!

1940s full home remodel oakland after white fireplace art on track bulit-in bookcase

This whole project technically started in the living room with this multicolored painting I brought back from my travels years ago. Actually, I guess you could say this project started in Brazil! I fell in love with the bright red, blue, and yellow tones of this abstract painting, which became the inspiration piece for our whole home — the yellow rug, the multi-colored drapery, the blue velvet sofa, even the accessories we have around.

We wanted this room to be nice, but not too serious, so there’s also a hanging chair to the left of this view. Here is a photo of the first iteration of the room but it’s gotten even better, so peep the one in the HGTV Magazine feature here

1940s full home remodel oakland wooden swing geometric pillows

Zoe loves it! No surprises there.

New Addition: Deck & Fire Pit

1940s full home remodel oakland outdoor deck cedar firepit black painted walls

We used cedar on the deck to match the white oak floors inside. This creates a seamless transition from the indoors to the outdoors, making both spaces feel like one. I added some outdoor furniture from West Elm, two heated chairs from Galanter & Jones, and of course, a fire pit for fun nights all year ‘round. 

Okay, let’s head back inside and make a sharp right turn...

1940s Kitchen Design

1940s full home remodel oakland kitchen before kitchen oakmore dated tile counters linoleum pink

This sight still leaves me a little speechless. But every sad, forgotten little kitchen deserves its Cinderella story. Removing the walls and moving the dining room allowed us to significantly increase the square footage in the kitchen. You can’t see it in this view, but we also took out one of the bathrooms and turned it into a much-needed pantry. 

Here it is now...

2021 Kitchen Design

joy street kitchen design matte black island gold pendants colorful chairs

SO. MUCH. BETTER. First stop: this massive island at 5’ x 8’ painted in matte black. It is so functional when it comes to meal prep, storage, hosting, and even getting Zoe do her homework. I love the look, too — it contrasts perfectly with this countertop in light quartz, warm brass pendants, and wraparound white oak cabinetry. 

The teal chair legs and colorful upholstery add a punch of color and some extra excitement. It also helps the kitchen feel cohesive with the other colorful zones in this open concept space.

calcutta gold marble herringbone backsplash black range oak cabinets
1940s kitchen remodel black range calcutta gold herringbone tile backsplash brass hardware sconces

I chose this stunning backsplash in Calcutta gold marble and had it laid in a herringbone pattern for some interest, warmth, and liveliness. It adds some movement, don’t you think? Paired with the white oak and brass, it looks (and feels!) so warm and inviting in here.

1940s kitchen remodel wet bar tile backsplash open shelving brass faucet

What kitchen or home is complete without a wet bar??? None! We installed this little gem for storing the good stuff and all the entertainment essentials… we probably should have started our tour here… ;)

Once we fill your glass with some bubbly, we’ll move on to…

The Dining Room

Before: The dining room was previously a small bedroom at the front of the house and was completely closed off from the rest of the house. 

before 1940s dining room oakland ca
before 1940s dining room oakmore small dark cramped


after dining room design oakmore brass chandelier geometric prism wallpaper ceiling

Sexy, right?? The dining room takes a touch of purple from the kitchen chairs and layers it into this luxurious yet conversational space. Abstract prism wallpaper on the ceiling creates an intriguing ambiance (and has proved to be a total conversation starter), while vibrant, abstract drapery keeps it feeling cohesive with the living spaces. 

brass chandelier prism wallpaper ceiling gold art leather chairs

You might notice that the dining room design mimics the design of the kitchen too, with warm woods, elements of brass in the chandelier, and touches of black, white, and gold in the framed art on the wall. Because this is an open concept space, every zone has to feel different yet work together.  It's an art.

And of course, a long day of laughter, food, and drinks leads us (one at a time) to our final space...

Bathroom Design

before and after 1940s bathroom remodel oakmore grasscloth carrara marble

You know I love color, but this flamingo pink shade really wasn’t doing it for me. We ripped out the pink fast and created this jewel box of a space for guests, with blue-green grasscloth wallpaper by Philip Jeffries. I love how the grasscloth adds texture to the walls, which contrasts beautifully with cool black marble flooring and Carrara marble on the sink and shower.

blue grasscloth sconce carrara marble vanity top black mirror bathoom design

Hopefully, your visit with us won’t end here. You’ll probably come back to the dining room for dessert, revisit the deck for post-dinner s’mores (Zoe-style), or join the adults for a nightcap in the living room. We know how to have a good time. ;)

And that's it for the upper level! Whew. If you feel tired just reading about all of those changes, imagine how much energy it took to make them! 10 months of hard work, to be exact, and worth every minute.

Next month, I’ll be sharing the other half of our home remodel — an equally shocking transformation of our bedrooms, bathrooms, and family room. Until then, be sure to sign up for our newsletter to get new blog posts, inspiration, and other exclusive news from our team. (Not to brag, but our newsletters are pretty awesome.) 

Or, if you’re ready to start your own joy-infused, luxurious, and totally livable project, let’s chat.

— Kelly

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