Why we chose to do what we did to update our retro kitchen
It’s been a while since I posted anything about our retro kitchen update. The truth is, we completed the bulk of the work two years ago, and then we lost momentum. We still have a couple of small projects to complete, and I’m hoping to get to finally post the room reveal in a month or two.
Today I’m giving a recap of all the projects we’ve completed thus far, with the reasons of why we did what we did to update our 1970’s kitchen. You sometimes see all the pretty makeovers, but we often don’t understand the logic behind the choice. I hope this helps you, therefore, to make the tough choices in your own design.
Paint your Kitchen Cabinets to Update the Colour
There was really no other reason for painting our kitchen cabinets. The colour was horrible and clashed with everything else. But even if you have an ok colour on your kitchen cabinets, you might find that updating it makes all the difference. Painting dark wood cabinets can open the space up, while painting light cabinets darker or painting your cabinets in contrasting colours creates a bit of drama and adds a lot of character to your room!
Our kitchen is dark and the bright yellow cabinets, though brightening up the room, made it feel rather busy. The new light grey helped lighten and calm the space.
Be sure to do your homework though and do the job correctly. Research the paint types and likewise, application methods and choose the best product for your situation to make sure it will last. We have baked enamel cabinets and had to use a particular primer. It has held up beautifully, with more than two years since we painted, we have zero scratches or chips on the cabinets! So do your product research thoroughly.
Update or Replace your Kitchen Counters to compliment the colour scheme
We replaced one counter, and I updated the others. Our Island counter was made of burnt-orange mosaic tiles, and the grimy grout freaked me out (It surrounded the stove, so there were about 40 years of grime in there). It was beyond cleaning or saving, and we decided rather to replace it with a solid timber counter. I love that counter, and it is a breeze to clean!
The other, I covered the remaining counter with marble-look contact paper. I love the look, but we do have a couple of problem spots. One spot is under the microwave, so I can fix it without being noticeable. The other, I will probably have to re-do an entire section. We are not spoilt for choice when it comes to contact paper in South Africa – we have one brand with patterned contact paper. What I can say is look at the different brands available and read reviews before you make a choice. It still is an easy and cost-effective way to update your kitchen counters.
If your existing countertops compliment the rest of the kitchen, you really do not have to do anything! But adding contact paper or even finishing them in concrete (if they clash) will help to compliment your new colour scheme.
Paint or update the Door Handles to Create Contrast
We had to update the handles for the cabinets too – the colour would not have suited the cabinet colour. They probably would have broken if we had tried removing them (40 + year-old brittle plastic) and as a result had to spraypaint them in place. We chose a dark colour to create contrast with the light cabinets.
Cabinet hardware and pulls is an easy way to create a bit of contrast in your kitchen update. Because it breaks the monotony and adds interest. It creates a rhythm – which makes your eye travel around the room.
Update your Kitchen Lights for a focal point
Adding a pendant lamp somewhere in your kitchen adds a focal point. You can add pendants above an island or in a breakfast nook. But do not add a pendant lamp if there are no other elements it can relate to. In other words, only add a pendant if there is furniture underneath it. It also creates vertical lines – I go into more depth about how to use line as an element in design in this post.
I envisioned a track light above our island counter to replace the old fluorescent light. We sourced all the parts and built the lamp ourselves. I am still so happy with the lamp and want to encourage you to think beyond what is available in the stores.
Paint the Wall Tiles/Backsplash to create a cohesive look and calm the mood
Do you know what made the most significant impact on our kitchen update? It was surprisingly not the painted cabinets. The cabinet colour screamed the loudest, but we did not realise how much orange the wall tiles were contributing to the room. The orange/brown floral pattern added so much colour to the room, and we only realised how much after we painted it! The moment it was painted, it was as if the kitchen started living again – it suddenly felt like our kitchen.
So if you are stuck with a busy backsplash that you do not like, paint it. It creates a calm mood in the kitchen and helps to tie all the other elements together.
Add a Rug if you can’t update the floor
Unfortunately, we can’t update our kitchen floor at the moment. I can’t even paint the grout white. White or any of the other grout pens available will clash with the tile colour. I cannot paint the entire floor as our kitchen floor gets too much traffic; it will never last. We do not have decent vinyl tiles in South Africa, and sheet vinyl will be too difficult to install with all the nooks and crannies in this room.
So I added a runner in front of the sink, and I’m happy to report that it has made a difference. The beige in the rug blends well with the tile colour and the black links up with all the other black accents in the kitchen. The pattern adds a fun element in the room and breaks up the monotonous floor.
Even if it is the only thing you can do with your kitchen floors, adding a rug or runner makes a big difference. And it helps that it is a lot less expensive than replacing the entire floor.
Add Décor Accessories to complete the look
This is the only step I still need to pay attention to in our kitchen update, and it should be done last. You can consider your accessories and styling elements from the start, but you will get a clear picture of what you need when the more significant projects are complete.
When choosing décor accessories for a kitchen, use functional elements. Chopping boards, trays to group smaller items, fresh herbs and fruit bowls are a couple of examples. Don’t clutter your counters with a lot of purely decorative items; you need that space. Wall art can be strictly decorative, though.
Use décor accessories to tie your colour scheme and elements together. We have a lot of black elements in the kitchen already, and I’ll continue this in the accessories as well. I want to mirror the caged pendants with a tray similar to this one I’m planning to make, and I’ve spray painted a couple of items in the same oil-rubbed bronze that we used for the cabinet handles. I’ll also add a couple of pops of colour for fun.
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Use purposeful design in your home design and especially in a kitchen update
Do you see that we have done all our projects with careful consideration and for a reason? Never copy inspiration pictures from Pinterest precisely as they are. It is a good starting point, but make sure that the application is relevant to your situation. Think about the purpose of painting your cabinets; what do you want to achieve? How will your choice contribute to the overall design? With purposeful design, you can accomplish a lot more and save yourself from a lot of costly mistakes.
I hope you’ve learned something in this post. And if you like tips on design like this, please tell me in the comments below!
I’ll be back next week with another Thrifty Thursday post, and I can’t wait to show you what I’ve been working on!
Take care, until next time!