Before & After: White Cabinets and Playful Green Tiles Transform This “Lifeless” Kitchen

published Jan 21, 2024
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Kitchen before renovation.
Credit: Khadija Benis

Having a smaller kitchen isn’t always the biggest issue — but if you’re a passionate cook, it can be a hurdle keeping you from achieving recipe excellence. That’s why when Khadija, an architect specializing in sustainable design, and her husband, Bruno, a musician, producer and composer, saw the small, original kitchen in their cozy Lisbon apartment, they knew they wanted to make a change. 

“The kitchen’s footprint is rather small, so we wanted it to be functional, with a clean and decluttered modern look. We wanted the space to feel as bright and airy as possible,” Khadija says. “The choices we made were inspired by the combination of simplicity and minimalism with a warming touch — a combination that is so characteristic of Scandinavian kitchens.”

Credit: Khadija Benis

Not only did the original kitchen have a small floor plan, but it also had elements that made it feel smaller, like oak cabinets, minimal storage, beige tile floors (that were broken and slippery), a tiny sink, and appliances — like a dishwasher, fridge, and washing machine — that weren’t built into the cabinetry. 

Credit: Khadija Benis

The existing design wouldn’t work for the couple, who wanted simplicity and minimalism in their kitchen. So they ripped most of the kitchen out and started with a clean slate. “We wanted something fresher, with more storage, and with built-in appliances for a cleaner look,” Khadija says. “We love the contrast that results from adding contemporary touches to an old place.” 

To breathe life into the kitchen, Khadija and Bruno chose a “minimalist all-white kitchen because they’re elegant and timeless,” she says. The oak cabinets were replaced with IKEA VOXTORP cupboards, while fresh, light-wood countertops, a large porcelain sink, and faux concrete tiles with a matte finish (which isn’t slippery) contribute to a “neutral Nordic-inspired style.”

The one thing that remained from the original kitchen is the statement of the room: the green tiles on the backsplash. What makes them unique is that they’re bright green, hand-painted, and travel from the floor to halfway up the wall, adding a rich pop of color that brings your eye to the middle of the kitchen. 

“I don’t know how old [the green tiles] are; they don’t have any heritage value, but they were hand-painted,” Khadija shares. “I like the fact that they’re unique and how their ‘imperfections’ contrast with the all-white minimal modern kitchen.” 

The couple spent just shy of $11,000 on the renovation (which included purchasing the flooring and appliances), and say it was worth every cent for the final product. “I like that it’s an open kitchen-dining room layout with lots of light and a spacious feel, even though the kitchen is rather small. I like that we made it functional,” Khadija says. “Everything is within easy reach, there is no clutter, and it’s easy to clean. I love the large windows (with the river view!) and all the light that comes through them — even on gloomy winter days.”

Their kitchen is gorgeous and airy, and it’s a great representation of the rest of their home — to see more of Khadija and Bruno’s playful Lisbon apartment, visit the full home tour on Apartment Therapy