When we moved in to this house, the kitchen bothered me, always. It became one of those things that continued to bother me for the next two and a half years. The plan had always been that the KOD (kitchen-extension of dreams) would be coming. Initially we thought that would happen after two years, then that turned into three. KOD is still very much on the horizon, but then something happened that made me realise that I couldn’t just live with our sh*t kitchen (or “shitchen” as it has come to be affectionately known) for a moment longer. I was approached by a magazine who wanted to photograph our house; brilliant I know, but my first reaction? “My kitchen is sh*t.” Ok, maybe not those exact words when I wrote back to them, but you get the idea. So it was time to come clean, show the world the kitchen we had been living with and actually use this as the much-needed kick up the arse to actually do something about it!
What I learned when I shared my shitchen on Instagram, is that there are hundreds of us, maybe even thousands, who are putting up with our sh*t kitchens, thinking it will cost us the earth to make them look even fractionally better; when the truth is we just don’t have to. I ended up feeling like I had inadvertantly started a support network for shitchen owners everywhere. Confiding in me about their jazzy tile arrangements and white plastic worktops. That’s why I decided to blog about our make-over; to show just how easily it can be transformed (even temporarily like ours) all at a reasonable cost.
Before we started I made a “hit list” of things that had to go and things I could live with. I think we all know that the pineapple tile was at the top of said list. The kitchen cupboards were all bearable, but the tall countertop one had a hideous leaded glass door, and the one above the cooker was a sort of pull up arrangement. I asked my husband to remove both of these and just leave the cupboards with the standard cupboard doors. The work tops were white; these weren’t even up for discussion, in my mind they were already gone. We bought replacement wood effect tops from Wickes, which we got on offer at 20% off, this made a huge saving. My husband fitted these himself; he removed the old work surfaces and then cut and fitted the new ones in their place.
We had planned to try and keep most of the tiles and just remove the pineapple of doom. I was planning to either use tile paint or stickers to disguise them. However, when we came to take the worktops off, many of the tiles that had been placed just above them came away. This meant we had to remove them all and start again; so we bought basic, plain white, square tiles from Homebase to re-tile over the areas that needed it. We chose not to tile as much and left a lot more of the walls exposed to just be painted. We also removed a corner wall mounted cupboard that was adjacent to the sink, and replaced the shelving space with a new (well new to us!) shelf that ran along the length of the wall and was mounted above the kitchen windows. This was made up of antique brackets and a reclaimed board that my husband cut to the right length.
The sink was one of the shitchen’s only saving graces. I have a feeling it might have been a recent addition made by the previous owners who had only been here for eighteen months. I can only imagine that the previous sink had been more in keeping with the hideous nineties monstrosity that was the remainder of the room. So the sink was staying, it did need a new tap; which I sourced from eBay. You can get similar here.
I knew we could completely change the look of the cupboards by painting them. I also wanted to add new handles to give them an updated look, and I found these online at Fittings Co. They were really reasonably priced and meant I could get knobs for the cupboards and switch to cup handles for the drawers. We painted the lower cupboards in Farrow and Ball “Cornforth White”; this was essentially because my husband told me I needed to complete the project on the tightest budget and I happened to have almost an entire can of this colour in Interior wood and metal paint already. I also used some left over “Hardwick White” to paint the window frames the same colour as the backdoor. I used primer on all of the woodwork first and the cupboards. Painting the frames a different colour suddenly gave them more depth and made the room feel wider.
The top cupboards needed a lot more attention. They were looking rather sorry for themselves where I had made the decision to remove two of the doors. We needed to do something dramatic with them. So I came up with the idea of using MDF tongue and groove panelling in the backs and sides of them to create a more country look. We got this from Wickes (we actually had some left over in our shed too from a previous project!) and we fixed it inside the shell of the cupboards. We painted the entire unit in Farrow & Ball “Hague Blue”. When I tried a tester patch on the cupboard I thought I was going to regret the decision desperately; but I will be the first to admit that I love it. The panelling in the back looks classic and really impactful painted in that shade, and I am so glad that we decided to be brave and make a statement. My husband then used some wood we had in the shed to make new shelves for inside the taller unit (where I keep my extensive mug collection!) and we chose to keep these with a natural wood finish as it gives a great contrast against the Hague Blue and looks (I think) quite Scandinavian inspired. The dark blue also looks great against the exposed brick original fireplace and wall that we have in this room (ok, I lied when I said the sink was the saving grace, the brick wall is also pretty good), and the copper handles work really well with the shade too.
Once we had completed the re-tiling of the walls where we had decided to, we painted the remainder of the walls in Farrow & Ball “Wimborne White”; a classic and restful white that worked really well against the rest of the colour scheme in the room. Before we painted we had to scrape, sand and re-paint the walls with a thick, crack-filling primer paint to ensure we were painting onto a smooth surface, and so the damage that had been left from the previous wall tiles and wall cupboard was completely gone. With the cracks covered and the walls smoothed, the paint went on brilliantly and you would never know the tiles had been there!
I have finished the room with a couple of new kitchen prints from Desenio. I really wanted a wine guide to put above the wine store in the fireplace. We have plans to build in some wine storage to fill the entire space as the wine rack that is in there for now isn’t quite big enough. I also need to find a sign to put on the wall in the space above the cooker as this still looks a little blank to me. I have something in mind, but I need to get to another antiques market to try and track it down. I might also try and sneak in a stool at the end of the counter top in front of the fireplace as I spent so much time in there cooking and baking, that it would be nice to have somewhere to perch (and scroll through my Instagram) as I do so.
All in all the project cost us just under £300, a real bargain; but the biggest thing is that it’s made such a huge difference. I feel completely different about that room now, I actually had no idea how much I hated it until we changed it. I suppose the only thing I am mad at myself about now is that I lived with a shitchen for so long……..
P.S.- This post is dedicated to the pineapple tile. RIP old friend, and may we never meet again, in this lifetime or the next.