Updating A Generic New-Built Kitchen

How to make a few simple and cost-effective updates to a generic, new-built kitchen in an open plan living room that doesn't fit the rest of your interior aesthetic.

When my husband and I bought our new built apartment 3 years ago, the kitchen was actually a major selling factor. While it wasn't up to my aesthetic taste, it had high quality cabinets with brand new appliances, was highly functional and most importantly to me, unobtrusive in its design with its white (albeit glossy) cabinets and white Cesar stone countertop. However, as we began decorating our open plan living room, a 25 sqm room comprising our kitchen, dining and lounge space, the kitchen increasingly became a sore spot in my overall scheme. Any major changes seemed unreasonable, given that it was new and of high quality. In this article, I will present some of the simple changes we made to make the kitchen fit aesthetically into the rest of the space. This is what we were working with before:

The first step we took was probably the most controversial: we decided to take down (and sell) two of the top cabinets and replace them with open shelving. Needless to say, this greatly reduced the storage space in our kitchen, but it was very effective in making the kitchen feel less overpowering in the small room.

As we were replacing the cabinets with open shelving we invested in beautiful crockery that we were happy to put on display. Apart from the stying, I wanted the shelves themselves to make a statement and draw on other elements of the rest of the room, so I opted for a floating option with a wavy trim that I DIYed myself (keep an eye out for my Instagram Stories highlight "Kitchen" for a mini-tutorial).

The second change we made to the kitchen was to install a tiled backsplash. This was both for functional (tiles are easier to keep clean) as well as for aesthetic purposes. We chose a neutral colour as we didn't want the kitchen to draw too much attention in the open living space and we wanted to leave our options open to change the decor of the rest of the room with time. Instead, the Moroccan Zellige tiles add texture and reflect the light throughout the room, while further breaking up and adding warmth to the previously very overpowering glossy white of the cabinets and countertop.

Next, the glossy finish of the cabinets was really working against our attempts to create a cozy atmosphere for the whole room. We considered painting them but opted for vinyl covering instead. The material and process are essentially the same as those used to vinyl cars. This was much more affordable and we are very happy with the finish. However, we did not know that the person we hired sanded the cabinets before putting the vinyl on. This step can help with adhesion and longevity, but if you want the option of returning the cabinets to their original state, you may want to ask them to skip this step.

Finally, we installed doorknobs. Probably the oldest trick in town when it comes to updating a kitchen. My tip here is to think outside the box when it comes to knobs. The aesthetic of our room is quite sculptural and a little quirky, so instead of buying doorknobs I went with coat hooks from Muuto in two different sizes.

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