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Smart, simple kitchen makeovers

By Nicola Monteath | June 08, 2014

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You don’t have to strip down your kitchen to give it a facelift. These clever updates will do the trick, without breaking the bank...

We know that the kitchen is the heart of the home, whether you’re using it for cooking while the kids do their homework, indulging in therapeutic baking, or preparing grocery lists over a cup of tea. Yet, the kitchen is probably the most overlooked when it comes to design updates. While it isn’t always possible to undergo massive renovations, particularly in a rented home or apartment, it only take a few small steps to make the kitchen a more stylish, comfortable and welcoming space. We asked kitchen design experts Tareq Skaik, Head of Design at kitchen and interior design company Algedra Interior Design Consultancy; Sophie Johnson, Interior design course tutor for Chelsea College of Arts Dubai; and Kirk Dmonte, Kitchen Specialist at Palmonade Kitchen Emporium, distributors of Ernestomeda Luxury Italian Kitchens, to share their tips for giving your kitchen a makeover with maximum impact and minimum fuss.

Make a splash
A backsplash can really lift the look of a kitchen. If you are after a more contemporary look, try toughened glass with the colour of your choice. “Playing with materials is a great and affordable way of personalising your space,” says Sophie. Marble or limestone are also great options for backsplashes, as they add texture and character to a kitchen. According to Kirk, backsplashes with gloss or matt finish are easier to maintain and clean as well.

A beautiful display

If you have too many wall units in the kitchen, take out the doors of a few of them and showcase your nice crockery and kitchenware for everyone to see. If you’d rather not take down the units or doors, Sophie suggests placing reclaimed wood shelves, one above the other, on an empty wall. Tareq adds that shelves with crockery or family heirlooms on display, gives the area an elegant look.

Island inspiration

A kitchen island is a great feature, especially if you want more storage space, or an additional table surface – if you have the room for it. Instead of buying a new kitchen island, Tareq suggests repurposing old furniture such as a dresser or cabinet with drawers. Add a marble slab on top to give it a more polished look, and make it suitable for kitchen use. You could also paint it to match your kitchen colour scheme.

Light up

“Always use warm white LED lights in the kitchen, as it gives a natural tone and helps reduce electricity costs as well,” says Tareq. You could also attach projector lights to the ceiling, and face it towards the kitchen island, so that the island becomes a focal point at night. To add a glamorous touch, you could also hang a glass, white, or black chandelier – whichever suits the kitchen colour scheme – over an area you want to highlight, such as a kitchen island. If you don’t already have under cupboard lighting, try to install at least two lights under each cupboard, to shed light on the kitchen counter. “Lighting doesn’t necessarily have to stop at spotlights or under cupboard lighting. You can also place large pillar candles in corners of the kitchen counter, to give it warmth,” says Tareq.

Wall fashion

As with most areas of a home, the best way to transform a space is by changing the colour of the walls. “A feature wall in a bold colour is a great way to make any space look more modern, and can bring a traditional kitchen to life,” says Sophie. Tareq recommends placing a large mirror on the wall adjacent to an open kitchen, to give the illusion of a larger space. Tiles also work great for feature walls and are durable, easy to clean and fantastic at reflecting light. Rather than using a single colour for tiling, cover the wall in mosaic tiles for a contemporary feel.

Cabinet solutions

An easier way to brighten up the kitchen is to simply wallpaper or paint over the cabinetry. “Always use contrasting colours in the kitchen. If you have light coloured appliances and accessories, try a dark-coloured paper or paint. Similarly if you have alot of dark fixtures, try a light shade for the cabinets,” says Tareq. You can also play around with textures. If you aren’t ready for a complete cabinet makeover just yet, modify the knobs and handles. “Swap old knobs and handles for coloured, textured or patterned ones, or add a coat of paint or spray to existing handles and knobs to give it a lacquered finish,” says Kirk.

Green touch

There’s nothing better than having your own herb garden in the kitchen. Place a few herb pots near a window sill or on the kitchen counter, not too far away from the stove, and snip off what you need while cooking. If natural plants aren’t an option, you can also try artificial plants. To give the kitchen an exotic feel, artificial creepers on a ceiling trellis placed over a kitchen island are an interesting option.

Fridge façade

The exterior of the fridge is often overlooked, but it shouldn’t be, as it’s a great space to personalise as well. “Stick fridge magnets with hooks or clips to keep appointment sheets or meeting reminders on it,” says Kirk. You could also turn your fridge into a mini photo gallery or place a weekly menu plan and grocery lists on it.

Stylish floors

Rugs and floor mats are not usually considered for a kitchen, but they can easily add colour, texture and warmth. “Whether you need a non-slip kitchen mat to place near the sink area or decorative accent rugs as a transition into the dining area, choose one that matches the colour scheme, and always make sure its corners don't turn up and become a tripping hazard,” says Kirk.