See This “Tired” Kitchen Get a Cheery Yellow ‘70s Makeover (for $630!)

published Feb 21, 2024
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There are tons of fun and colorful retro kitchens out there, but often, it takes a bit of work to get those kitchens looking good. Over four years ago, designer and ’70s decor enthusiast Estelle Bilson set out to give her somewhat plain kitchen a makeover fit for her ‘70s-inspired U.K. home.

Even though Estelle, who loves interior design from decades past, wanted a retro kitchen, her older kitchen with brown cabinets wasn’t exactly what she had in mind. “The kitchen itself was in good shape,” she says. “The original units were made by KutchenHaus and were still structurally sound; it seemed silly to rip out a perfectly usable kitchen when we could update it with some paint, a snazzy countertop, and new handles,” Estelle says. And that’s exactly what she did.

Estelle embarked on an updating journey to transform her galley kitchen into a colorful, mod space — all without doing any major demo. Just over $600, a little imagination, and “lots of man hours” from Estelle helped to create gorgeous, colorful, durable, long-lasting changes. Here’s how she gave her kitchen a ‘70s-influenced makeover. 

Yellow and white chalk paints liven up the cabinetry.

Because Estelle was mostly making cosmetic updates, she decided to make changes in stages. (It took her around four weeks from start to finish). She started with the cabinets: She took down the cupboard doors and drawers one by one, and painted them with yellow (Annie Sloan’s Tilton) and white (Annie Sloan’s Old White). The retro-looking finish required three coats of the chalk paint plus two coats of a sealer.

“I’m the biggest fan of paint,” Estelle said in her Apartment Therapy house tour. “It completely transforms a space quickly, and it is budget-friendly, whether that is painting whole rooms, feature walls, or retro super graphic designs,” Bilson advises.

The countertops got a supergraphic treatment.

And speaking of supergraphic designs, the next area to update was the gray-black countertops, which Estelle wasn’t particularly fond of. “I really hated the slate gray countertop,” Estelle says. “It sapped any joy from the room.”

She went with something more maximalist — and much more her style — instead. “I did some research and found some flooring-quality contact vinyl, which I had printed in a retro design I commissioned, which we could apply ourselves,” she explains.

You’ll notice she also has a little swatch of the supergraphic framed, and she added the supergraphic on the wall across from the cabinetry, too!

Little details bring the retro kitchen together.

To finish the space, Estelle replaced the existing curved cabinet hardware with chrome handles “to be as close to the shapes used in the ’70s as possible” and added chrome light fixtures, too.  

“I am so pleased that I completed the job, as it really changed the way I felt about my kitchen,” Bilson says. “Before, it was a cold and dismal place to be; afterwards, it was happy and cheerful.” Even though Bilson admits that this isn’t her “perfect or forever kitchen,” it’s a great example of how temporary upgrades can have long-lasting and striking effects on a space. Her total redo cost about £500, or $630 USD.

“For a small sum of money, it prolonged the life of an existing kitchen for a few more years and it brings joy to me when I am using the space; it feels more … me,” Bilson says.

This post originally appeared on The Kitchn. See it there: Before & After: Yellow Cabinets and Retro Countertops Give This “Tired” Kitchen a Sunny ‘70s Makeover