How to give your kitchen a glow-up

If your kitchen is in need of some TLC but you don’t have the budget for a refit, here are some tips and tricks to give it a fresh new look. By Victoria Maw

2023-01-21T08:00:00.0000000Z

2023-01-21T08:00:00.0000000Z

Daily Telegraph

https://dailytelegraph.pressreader.com/article/281715503737512

INTERIORS

Our current home, a farmhouse in Shropshire, has many selling points, but the kitchen is not one of them. Each morning, as I clear the breakfast debris from the table and fashion a space to write next to the Rayburn – the warmest place in the house – I find it harder to ignore the worn kitchen cupboards, once nice but now warped by water damage and stained by small sticky fingers. We had thought about a kitchen extension, but both rising costs and the experience of having lived in the house for two years have made us reconsider our options. The kitchen has good bones and the space functions well. Could a facelift be an alternative route to go down, saving money, avoiding major building work and giving a tired old kitchen a new lease of life? The idea of a brand-new kitchen is, of course, a very beguiling one, and sceptics might wonder if simply refreshing your old one will still generate that “tada” moment at the end of the project. Such reincarnations can, however, provide plenty of wow factor, particularly if beautifully executed, as in the home of interior designer Sophie Rowell (@cotedefolk), who reinvented her existing kitchen with the help of a carpenter, some smart paint choices and an astute eye for style. When Rowell bought her house in 2016, it was a “wreck”, so the priority was to get it into a good state. “By the time it came to the kitchen,” she explains, “there was not much of a budget left. I knew I wanted to spend the majority of my money on the worktop, and get relatively cheap cabinets.” At the time, she chose to install a £4,000 Ikea kitchen including an island, the only high-end element being the quartz worktop, which she bought independently. The kitchen looked fine, but she had never intended it to stay exactly as it was forever. This year she radically changed it, keeping the six-year-old carcasses and worktop but engaging a carpenter to build new cabinet fronts and a new cupboard for her crockery and glasses. She installed a deVOL brass hanging rail above the stove; put in beautiful lighting, much of it sourced at antiques’ markets; and designed a tall cupboard, inspired by a Swedish antique piece, to hide her refrigerator. Her cupboard doors were spraypainted professionally to give them a really hardened, durable and beautiful high-gloss finish. The handles, some sourced from Beata Heuman (beataheuman.com) and others at Ardingly Antiques Fair, give the kitchen a bespoke feel, yet the budget for the whole project – £6,500 – is modest considering that a similar-looking kitchen, bought new, could cost tens of thousands of pounds. It is her colour choices that give the kitchen great warmth and an original feel: the two-tone cabinetry is painted in a combination of paints: a deep plummy brown on the base-level units and fridge cupboard – London Brown by Mylands (mylands.com) – and a lilac on the eye-level crockery cupboard (Lavender Garden, also by Mylands). The walls are a creamy magnolia, Mylands’ Lots Road, a colour Rowell describes as “good enough to eat”. The other major change Rowell effected was to get rid of her kitchen island, which allowed her to put a dining table in its place. At the other end of the room, where the table once was, there is now space for a cosy seating area with a sofa, a cocktail table and an armchair that she picked up at a market for £60. The reconfiguration has been a total game changer, she says. “I’ve gained a sitting room just by getting rid of a very small kitchen island.” She is now on a mission to get others to really think about whether they need a kitchen island: something, she believes, often ends up becoming a dumping ground or an object for kids to run around. “No one gravitates to the kitchen table any more and sits down comfortably and just chats,” she says. “There’s just this hovering around this big eyesore in the middle of the room.” Her kitchen has completely changed in functionality now. She has a quiet place to sit, away from the TV next door, and when friends come for dinner there is a nice transition from soft seating to table. Yet no major building work has taken place. “It doesn’t have to be a massive thing to create more space that works,” she says. For interior designer Laura Stephens (laurastephens.co.uk), a kitchen glow-up was also the route that she and her client decided upon when renovating a holiday cottage in the Cotswolds. Indeed, she says this approach is becoming increasingly popular, especially since times have become harder: “I’ve done a couple of projects where people have said, ‘The kitchen works, so what can we do to elevate it without ripping it out?’” She thinks it is sometimes for economic reasons, but also because of “a guilt around adding to landfill and getting rid of something that is actually perfectly fine”. The existing kitchen of her Cotswolds project, a later addition to the historic cottage, was in a good state, but Stephens says it felt a bit cold and had less character than the rest of the house. The layout also worked well – and this is a crucial point to consider if you want to go down the glow-up route: “If the layout is wrong then obviously repainting it isn’t going to change the functionality of it,” Stephens points out. In this case, she added a new porcelain floor and smart new handles from Armac Martin (armacmartin.co.uk). She also replaced the wall tiles with tongueand-groove panelling “for warmth and character”, created a little display shelf along the top of one wall, and had the wooden worktop re-oiled and restained. But it was the colour, Stephens says, that made the biggest difference: she had all the existing units painted an inviting brownish red, Arras by Little Greene (littlegreene.com). Small details that improve the room further include another brass pot rail from deVOL, a collection of vintage enamelware on the shelf, and a table lamp on the countertop, which gives a soft glow as an alternative to the brighter overhead spotlights in the evenings. This was not a small project and cost the owner about £8,000. “It is still a substantial cost,” says Stephens. “You have to be prepared, if you do want a new look, to put some money into it.” But it is a massive saving on the cost of a new kitchen, and pleasing both from an environmental and an aesthetic perspective. “You can get a lovely new look and also feel smug that you haven’t spent lots of money or put a kitchen into landfill,” she says. Both Stephens and Rowell agree that good worktops are vital for a high-end look. If you do need a new worktop, bear in mind that while a wooden one could cost less than £1,000, more luxurious surfaces will cost a lot more. For example, Caesarstone’s quartz and porcelain worktops start at about £3,000 (including installation) for a medium-sized kitchen – an investment, but one that could increase the appeal of your home if you plan to sell (Caesarstone worktops are often flagged up in sales particulars). If your existing cupboard fronts are beyond the help of paint, there are now a huge number of companies offering ready-painted fronts for existing carcasses. However, there are many different options online, which makes the process difficult to navigate, and the idea of working it all out a little intimidating. The key is to be very methodical about it, says Jayne Everett, design director of Norfolk-based Naked Doors (nakeddoors.com), which makes madeto-measure door fronts in a range of styles, to fit onto existing carcasses. If you want to change all the fronts, Everett advises first checking the quality of the cabinetry you are dealing with (empty out the cupboards and give them all a good tap with your knuckle). If the carcasses feel solid, she suggests sticking a Post-it note on every panel you want to change and noting down its measurements in millimetres: “You need to be quite organised. Measure carefully, and mark where you want the handle to go. That will give you a list of what you need.” Each panel is priced separately, so then it is a case of choosing a style and colour. There are also options for introducing drawers or buying additional standalone pieces – larder cupboards are especially popular. And the cost of just purchasing fronts? For an average-sized kitchen, you are looking at about £5,000 at Naked Doors, which Everett says is about a third of the cost of one of their brand-new kitchens. She points out that ripping out an old kitchen prior to installing a brand-new one could also create significant additional costs in terms of plumbing, electrics, flooring and making good. But what if your budget is far less and you still really want to change the look and feel of your kitchen? Hanna Bertram (@ourhebehome) transformed the kitchen in her London home (the sales pictures of which had initially put her off viewing it) on a tiny budget: “The colour palette was eclectic and not at all to our taste,” says Bertram. “I just wanted to neutralise it, but give it character and warmth, and a look that wouldn’t date quickly.” The colourful tiles were her main issue, but without a large budget, removing them was not an option. She and her husband decided to paint them instead. “Both sets of parents tried to talk us out of it as they were concerned it wouldn’t work and we’d be cutting corners, but we thought there wasn’t any harm in giving it a go,” she says. They sanded and prepped the tiles first, before painting them in Ronseal One Coat Tile Paint in white high gloss. They also painted the cabinets, and sourced new hardware from Homebase and John Lewis. Their spend, all in, was less than £200. “If you are on a tight budget, up for a challenge and already have a decent working kitchen to start with, the glow-up route is definitely worth considering,” says Bertram. “There are so many options out there that are not going to break the bank and still provide that refreshed look.”

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