Design Doctor: Two Designers Write a Prescription for a "Slightly Sad" Kitchen

Design Doctor: Two Designers Write a Prescription for a "Slightly Sad" Kitchen

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Tess Wilson
Oct 20, 2017

Welcome to Design Doctors, a new series in which designers offer expert prescriptions to readers who need help with a room in their home. These are not full renovations being suggested, but rather approachable, generally affordable changes that can be made by laypeople.

Up first, we have this sweet cottage-like kitchen that the owner describes as, "slightly sad and currently depressing." Check out the super smart suggestions, as well as the gorgeous renderings of the designers' visions for this kitchen. The design doctors are in!

One of our readers writes:

"My partner and I just bought a new house. We moved from a small suburban town into a popular area. We couldn't afford too much, but got an older 1960s split level house that needs a few upgrades. The most challenging room would be the kitchen. While we don't have the funds to do a complete overhaul of the space, we'd like an affordable solution in the meantime, or at least until we get some money saved up for more renovations. Any solutions or ideas come to mind when looking at our slightly sad and currently depressing kitchen? We need help!"

Design Doctor #1: Carol Estes

Carol Estes is an interior designer whose very own home was featured on Apartment Therapy earlier this year. She has generously taken the time to offer the following suggestions on how to make the most of this kitchen, with the least amount of money. Take it away, Carol!

I would suggest the following cosmetic improvements for this kitchen. These relatively inexpensive and doable changes will give it a fresh appearance and create better use of the space:
  1. Remove upper cabinets except the ones over the range and refrigerator, if your budget allows. If not, keep all uppers but remove the doors on the ones flanking the sink and paint the insides the same as #2 below.
  2. If uppers were removed, add two rows of shelves (I like IKEA's EKBY ÖSTEN shelf) in all areas where there were uppers. Install the first 15 inches above the counter, and the second 10 inches above the first.
  3. Paint remaining cabinets with a semi gloss quality paint color matched to Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace. It's a lovely almost pure white but not stark. (Don't forget to prime cabinets first!)
  4. Swap existing pulls with new hardware. IKEA has some very reasonably priced options—I recommend their long bars in polished nickel or chrome.
  5. Swap ceiling fan with a feature chandelier. I'm partial to using Cedar & Moss's Alto Compass 6" to inject a bit of modernity to this classic space.
  6. There seems to be plenty of space to fit in a table. As I don't know the dimensions of the space, I would suggest a small farmhouse-style table 36"x60" in a natural pine wood, ideally. Add Eames-style chairs in white with wood legs. These will add a modern and simple contrast to the country table.
  7. To warm up the kitchen and show less tile, I'd recommend adding a rug under the new table. Something vintage, faded with age in muted neutral tones would work well. If the homeowner liked color, however, I'd suggest select one with some red in it.
  8. Paint all walls with either Benjamin Moore Elmira White for a bit of neutral contrast or Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace to match cabinets and give a brighter, more crisp feel.

Should the homeowner follow Carol's suggestions, here's an illustration of what those might look like:

(Image credit: Kath Nash)

Thanks, Carol!


Design Doctor #2: Peti Lau

Next up, we have Peti Lau, an international interior designer based in New York. Her House Tour was also featured on Apartment Therapy recently, and in her work around the world, she "developed a signature style she coined AristoFreak." Fabulous! Peti, what do you recommend?

  1. To keep things budget friendly, I'd suggest keeping the cabinets as-is (though clean them up where needed to make them look pristine).
  2. Paint walls Benjamin Moore Light Pewter.
  3. Paint cabinet trim, ceiling and chair moldings, and baseboards Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace.
  4. Put down Allure Canadian Hewn Oak Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring. At $1.79 a square foot, these are a great temporary solution if you're saving up to do a more extensive renovation.
  5. There doesn't seem to be a full backsplash. To add a punch of pattern, I'd use Cement Tile Shop's Austin tile.
  6. Replace drawer and cabinet pulls with CB2 Amp Silver Handles or CB2 Marble Black Handles.
  7. Hang Loom Decor Flat Roman Shade over the window above the kitchen sink.
  8. Replace the ceiling fan with the Tri-Lago Brushed Steel Fan from Lamps Plus.
  9. The new stretch of vinyl flooring is crying out for a bold rug, like the Zenith Rug from CB2.
  10. A great trick for making an older space like this kitchen look bright and a little more contemporary is to add lighting under the cabinets. Try Commercial Electric's Indoor/Outdoor Tape Light Kit.
  11. No space is complete without a touch of greenery. I'd recommend a bonsai begonia (I get mine from FromYouFlowers).

Now, let's see what all that looks like, shall we?

(Image credit: Kath Nash)

Thanks, Peti!

We think these designers did an amazing job reimagining this existing kitchen. Which plan do you like? What ideas do you have to help this "slightly sad" kitchen.

Check out Carol Estes' amazing design work on Instagram and Peti Lau's incredible portfolio!

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