Before & After: A “Cramped, Dark” Kitchen Now Looks Twice as Big (for Under $3,000!)

published Mar 12, 2024
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Kitchen with gray cabinets before renovation.
Credit: Klaire Walmsley

When a kitchen’s square footage is tight, cooking can be tough. Not only are you limited in the number of sous chefs you can have helping you with any given meal, but you might also be lacking places to store the ingredients with which to make it. All this might not matter much if your home isn’t intended for more than one or two people, but for a family, it can be a real pain point.

Credit: Klaire Walmsley

UK-based homeowner Klaire Walmsley (@midcenturymam) faced such a dilemma with the kitchen in her home, which wasn’t cutting it for her family of three. There wasn’t enough storage space, the area was too tight to maneuver around others, and the back door only opened up to about a 45 degree angle before it hit a countertop. All that to say: it was a tight squeeze.

“The family that lived there before had lived there for close to 68 years but their children hadn’t lived at home for a long time so adapting the space to fit our growing family was a priority,” Klaire says.

Credit: Klaire Walmsley

The kitchen was adjacent to a carpeted dining room, but a wall closed off the two spaces. Klaire and her partner, Richard, decided that removing that wall was the best way to expand the kitchen’s footprint and make it more usable for everyone.

Credit: Klaire Walmsley

Klaire and Richard brought in pros to install a new support beam that would allow the couple to safely eliminate the load-bearing walls, then they pulled out all the old carpet, cabinets, and plaster.

Credit: Klaire Walmsley
Credit: Klaire Walmsley

Instead of installing another white kitchen, Klaire decided to go bold with serious vintage flair. She bought a vintage 1950s Hygena kitchen on eBay for just £100 (about $127 USD) which her father-in-law, Stephen, helped her modify to fit the room. The newly remade cabinets fit a washing machine and sink, and a pair are installed back-to-back from the ceiling to create a floating cabinet effect that feels very mid-century. Klaire chose a sunny new yellow paint (Valspar’s Pursuit of Happiness) for a jolt of color.

Credit: Klaire Walmsley

Klaire bought other vintage items to fill out the kitchen, too. The breakfast bar, for example, is a 10-foot piece of teak she got on Facebook Marketplace for just £5 (about $6).

Credit: Klaire Walmsley

The wood panels in the dining room were free from FB Marketplace, too. “They were someone’s ‘40s flooring that had been ripped out,” Klaire says. “We sanded down each piece, stained them, and fit them to the wall.” Also vintage? The tiles, which Klaire installed herself.

Credit: Klaire Walmsley

“I’m really proud that 95 percent of the items in our kitchen are thrifted or things we already owned,” Klaire says. “The cabinets, tiles, floor tiles, curtains, wood cladding, furniture, appliances (like the kettle and coffee maker) are all secondhand.” All that smart shopping helped keep the total cost low — just £2500, or about $3,180 USD.

The retro-new kitchen is packed with personality now, and even better? It actually works. “We can open the back door fully, we don’t bump into each other, and we’ve got worktop space. We’ve got enough cupboard space and an adapted pantry now,” Klaire says. “It’s such a nice space to be in — there’s so much to look at and it’s such a bright happy yellow.”

Inspired? Submit your own project here.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Before and After: A Cramped White Kitchen Goes Bigger and Bolder for Under $3,200