Before and After: Nicole’s Kitchen Renovation

Melbourne based textile designer, Nicole James, had some challenges when renovating the kitchen of her 1894 Melbourne cottage. The main problem was the floor on one side of the room was almost 5 inches lower than the other! Nicole kindly shared all details and the photos of this project below the jump.

How would you define your style?
I would say my style is finding the balance between old and new. It’s colour on a blank canvas and, sometimes, using the unexpected to produce my own unique look and feel whilst producing a fully functional space. That said, I believe style is so often influenced by the history and surroundings of the space. The house we live in now was built in 1894 – starting life as a simple double-fronted, Victorian era workers cottage. It’s the second period home we’ve owned and renovated, and there is no doubt my style has been shaped by these old houses, their history and my desire to bring them back to life.

What is your inspiration for your kitchen?
When we bought this house, the kitchen was the second worst room (the bathroom was the worst, both were renovated in the early 80’s and were electric blue … aah the 80’s!). When planning and designing the kitchen, I knew I wanted an open, blank canvas. It had to be practical and spacious, whist also serving as a beautiful stage for some of my favourite things, an easy place to cook and a great entertaining space. With all of that in mind I drew upon two specific styles. The first being the clean style of French provincial, and the second being the old homey country farm kitchens of my childhood that were a menagerie of odds and ends, warm and inviting.

What is your favourite element of your kitchen?
I love the table and chairs at the center of the kitchen. This is now the place where family and friends always seem to congregate, whether it’s for a dinner party, or just simply as a place to read the paper with some wine and cheese on a cold winter’s afternoon. We had the table custom made using only recycled timbers, sourced from old decommissioned building sites around Melbourne, adding lovely commercial grade Thonet chairs. However, my personal favourite element of the kitchen is the corner that houses my beloved (and well used) red Kitchenaid mixer, an old set of enamel canisters from my husband’s grandmother, a French antique bread board, and one of my very first hand-printed Yardage Design tea towels framed. I think of everything in this kitchen, this corner represents my style to a tee!

What is the biggest challenge of your kitchen?
I knew I wanted to start with a clean blank canvas, choosing white cabinets, chocolate brown bench tops and stainless steel appliances. The challenge was then to apply my own style to the room to make it welcoming, and a lovely place to be. Starting with the walls, I resisted the trend for overhead cabinets. I wanted to fill my walls with art and interesting kitchenalia. Ample vertical storage stretching almost from floor to ceiling was clustered along one wall, meaning the other walls could be an open artistic space. We bought the two metal artworks in New Zealand a few years ago – they are made from copper salvaged from old hot water systems and then dyed before being soldered together like a quilt. I love the colours, and allowed them to form the basis of the colour palette for the rest of the kitchen. Finally, open shelving was used to display my favourite books, glassware and china collected over the years. It breaks the white, while housing practical items like the water filter and microwave.

What was is your proudest DIY?
Our proudest DIY when building this kitchen was the floor. Over 100 years of life meant there was a difference in height of 12cm (almost 5 inches) from one side of the room to the other …. everything rolled off the benches in the old kitchen! So we pulled up the old floorboards (which were sadly beyond being re-used), replaced all of the joists and laid wide spotted gum floorboards. We did it all ourselves – it was such a great moment to see the floor level and beautiful – I love the result.

Be sure to check out Nicole’s online store full of hand-printed homewares, Yardage Design, as well as her blog here. Thanks for sharing Nicole!