Have you ever been to a viewing, and instantly as you entered the kitchen, you were hit with a feeling of excitement? Not because you’re looking at the most perfect kitchen you have ever seen, but because you’ve just discovered a little gem you can polish up and make shine? Thus far, this has happened to me in a lot, if not most, of the houses or flats I have ever viewed. Even when it’s a rental and I would probably not be able to make all the changes I wanted, you would still find me hanging around the kitchen for just a moment longer, while I let my imagination wander, basically for as long as the estate agent doesn’t think it’s weird and ushers me out ... How about swapping the top cupboards for shelves? The cupboard doors would look so much better once updated. Doing something with the splashback may give it a lift. Oh, the worktop, I could definitely do something lovely with that … You see, I could be there a long time, and nothing different happened when I viewed my current abode just before moving back to the lovely North East of England.
The kitchen looked to have been made to last, installed en masse, I suppose, when the apartment blocks were built. But then this was around 20 years ago now and since then the cupboards and worktop space seem to have been modified, resulting in a space that is not as comfortable to cook in than probably originally intended. Additionally, though the look was pretty neutral and one you would expect from a development of that era, things have moved on since the turn of the millennium. Thus, I could instantly see the potential to make this space look more current and make it certainly more comfortable to use.
So, going back to my viewing ... While I was just quietly standing there and taking it all in, ideas were whizzing around in my head. I knew the feeling of the whole flat would be instantly lifted by giving the kitchen a little makeover. There are so many different ways in which you can update a kitchen, even without ripping everything out, and I was definitely up for the challenge and making my mark on the space at hand.
As soon as I moved in, and brought some kind of order to the seemingly endless pile of boxes of course, I sat down and put together my mood board. The starting point was Hilton Carter’s fantastic book ‘Wild Interiors’, which I received for Christmas from a very thoughtful friend. It’s a book I could absolutely not put down, and still grab on various occasions for inspiration. I realised, given that my new flat had no direct access to a garden, it was clear that it would benefit from bringing in the greenery; and so the scheme was born for this makeover. Have a closer look at it, as well as the detailed plans, by going to my previous post.
Right then, let’s have a look at the five changes I made to bring this budget transformation to life, and see if I managed to achieve my primary goal to make anyone coming into this space feel like they want to spend time here and cook up a storm.
Updating the cupboards
The first ingredient considered in any budget renovation is paint. It is indisputably the cheapest and simplest way to change any space or interior item. So naturally using paint to spruce up the cupboards was also my very first consideration.
To bring the outside in, using green was a non-negotiable and Farrow & Ball’s Calke Green seemed perfect for the job. It’s certainly my favourite shade of green, as it’s got just the right amount of richness, without feeling too dark or too bright, evoking a feeling of calmness as well as a groundedness. I knew using green on all the cupboards would have felt overwhelming in the relatively small space, so I applied it on the bottom units only. The top cupboards would benefit much more from a lighter and far more neutral colour. I chose Flint by Little Greene due to its warm, off-white tone, which at the same time doesn’t give this south facing kitchen a yellow tinge, but makes it look rather fresh and clean.
As a result, the chosen colour combination draws the eye to the lower part of the room, grounding the lower units within the space. While the top cupboards blend into the walls, painted in the same off-white. This also helps to tone down the less linear structure of the top units, which did look quite busy while they were having a contrasting colour to the walls.
Revamping the tiled splashback
Following on from the cupboards, the transformational power of paint would of course not stop there. I also decided to use it to update the tiled splashback, rather than replacing it. However, using just one even colour on the tiles didn’t seem sufficient to add that much needed interest this space was craving. So I made use of my second favourite budget revamp trick - a stencil.
The subtle pattern I’ve chosen, the Madrid Tile from Dizzy Ducks Designs, painted in Rubine Ashes by Little Greene, seemed perfect for this scheme. The light grey hue would ensure just enough contrast from the off-white background, also Flint by Little Greene, while not feeling overpowering and not completely drawing your eye away from the bottom units, which were destined to be the star of this show.
Additionally, trying to tone down the unevenness of the top cupboards even more, I have not taken the pattern up to the extractor hood deliberately, but applied it in one linear flow.
Upgrading the hardware
While sourcing hardware for this renovation, I kept seeing the same shape of bar handles and knobs over and over again. It seemed almost impossible to find suitable contrasting designs, and trying to spot the slightly unusual, while still affordable, pieces felt like looking for a needle in a haystack. Patience did pay off in the end however, and Etsy delivered the goods.
As soon as I saw the bar handles with their subtle semi-circle on both ends, I was sold. This seemingly unimportant detail, as well as the full-circle shape of the knobs, is what ties in perfectly with the semi-circle patterned splashback and the other countless items in the kitchen with rounded edges, such as the tap, the washing machine, or even the toaster, just to name a few.
In terms of colour, matt black helped adding that pop of contrast to the cupboards and references the colour of the floating shelves as well as the worktop nicely.
Adding storage and worktop space
Any kitchen can never have enough storage or worktop space, and both were certainly at a premium in my relatively small space. Researching the history of the flat, I realised that the kitchen has been modified over the years to accommodate a tall fridge instead of an under counter model. This added more fresh food storage, but removed precious cupboard as well as worktop space.
To reverse that, while still having the luxury of a bigger fridge, the first thing I did, before even starting the proper revamp, was install shelves on the wall above the heater. This space was completely underutilised and given the shelves were going spare after I removed them from the living room, I was glad I could kill two birds with one stone and create some space for my glassware while reusing the shelves.
Then to resolve the issue of simply not having enough worktop space to cook a proper meal, I decided to add some on that same wall. Not really wanting a heavy worktop to overpower the kitchen design, I started looking at table tops instead, which would have a much lighter profile, while still being durable enough to withstand everyday kitchen tasks. I ended up purchasing IKEA’s ÖVRARYD table top, primarily due to its round edges. They again match the rounded shapes flowing throughout the design, but also eliminate any possibility of painfully bumping into harsh pointy edges. Given I wanted to keep the butcher’s block, which I inherited with the flat, to maximise on storage even further and keep some of that warmth wood gives to a space, the natural bamboo of the chosen table top fitted perfectly in this respect too.
Paying attention to the little, seemingly unimportant features
Now, having done all the major jobs of a renovation, it’s always so tempting to just call it a day in order to finally start enjoying the space. But I strongly believe, paying attention to the smaller details, as much as to the major changes, will make the overall result that tad more enjoyable and beautiful. So these are the few finer and seemingly unimportant details I decided to pay attention to in this project:
Create a new boiler cover: I would have loved to keep the lovely curved boiler cover that was already there, because, well, the curves fitting the scheme. However, it was simply not big enough to cover the ugly pipes. The cover must have fitted the preceding boiler like a glove, so a new one was needed.
Cover the gap above the fridge: As mentioned, the cupboard above the fridge seemed to have been cut down to make space for a taller model. Unfortunately, as fridges don’t come in one standard height, the current one left an unusable gap underneath the cupboard, collecting dust. It needed covering to create a much neater finish on one hand, and on the other, to further minimise the busy look of the top cupboards, removing another unnecessary empty space for the eye to rest on.
Pay attention to the appliances: Inspecting the kitchen closer after moving in, I instantly realised the hob needed some attention, as the coating of the trim was flaking away. Given the hob itself was in perfect working order and matched the oven, replacing it was not an option. I sanded any loose paint off and gave the trim a fresh coat of rust proof metal paint.
Renew the silicone seal: Silicone in the kitchen, which usually fills the small gap between the worktop and the walls, can seem like such an insignificant improvement. However, dirty and old looking silicone makes the rest of the space feel grubby too. Additionally, if it shows signs of wear, it may also no longer fulfil its primary purpose of waterproofing. Given I was updating the tiles anyway, I also needed to apply new silicone. However, even if I’d left the splashback, this would still have been one of the smaller jobs high on my list. Little effort for high impact.
And this is it. 5 weeks of slowly chipping away at this makeover while sticking to my modest budget, feels so worth it seeing the end result, and most importantly cooking in it every day. I hope you think so too and if you have any questions regarding the project, feel free to ask away in the comments below.