This Neutral Kitchen Goes from “Dated” to Adorably Retro (for $876!)

published May 18, 2024
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Wood dining table and chairs in turquoise room seen from gray kitchen with white cabinetry.

Modernizing a dated kitchen is a common design challenge for homeowners and renters alike — and that’s why some people opt for blending styles of the past with colorful, contemporary features and trends of today. It’s a clever way to inject the space with character that will outlast the latest style wave.

Brand photographer Jilly Noble, of JillyJilly Studio, fell into the latter category when reimagining her UK kitchen. “Our kitchen started out very neutral — it was perfectly functional but didn’t suit the rest of the house,” she explains. “We’re big fans of color and wanted this space to have more personality.” 

Not only did Jilly want to brighten the space with more color, but she also wanted to infuse it with “retro 1950s kitchen styles, full of pastels and kitsch decor.” She envisioned a room to house the vintage plate collection she sourced for her wedding. 

While she wanted to make her kitchen more playful, she didn’t think a full renovation was necessary. “It seemed too wasteful to rip it out and start over, so I wanted to make simple changes that would have the biggest impact,” she shares. 

The first step was to paint the cabinets using Autentíco’s Antique Rose, which instantly added a touch of joy to the room with its rich pink tone. Originally, she wanted to use patterned tiles for the backsplash, but found pastel tiles that better matched the 1950s theme. The walls were painted green using Wicke’s Sage green paint, which gave the space an earthy neutral backdrop, and then it was time to decorate.

When we moved in, we never had any wall units, so at first we installed a few basic shelves. As we made the other improvements, I had some new ones made to measure in lovely rustic wood. We then put these up using custom pink brackets,” Jilly explains. “We even switched the power sockets to pink ones! I feel that these small details make a big difference to the overall finish.”

The kitchen makeover is a testament to the fact that a retro 1950s style can be achieved without a hefty price tag. She spaced out the project over weekends and evenings and estimates that the painting, tiling, and shelving cost around £700, or around $876 (not including the appliances or dining area updates). This modest investment transformed the space into a cheerful, movie set-like kitchen. 

“When we were done, I was looking for a large art print for the wall by the cooker, and I realized the movie poster for The Grand Budapest Hotel went perfectly — which makes sense, as friends often say the kitchen has a Wes Anderson vibe,” she says. 

Not only has the kitchen makeover made the home flow more seamlessly, but it’s also been a boost for Jilly’s business. “I’m a brand photographer, so it’s been great to have clients ask me to photograph their products here,” shesays. “I recently had a pastel ceramics shoot, which was so fun to style in the kitchen rather than a studio setup.” It’s important she loves her new space — but it’s great to see that her clients love it, too.

This post originally appeared on The Kitchn. See it there: Before & After: Striking Pink Cabinets and 1950s Inspo Completely Transform a “Dated, Neutral” Kitchen