kitchens of distinction

We’ve got a new kitchen!

We haven’t bought a new kitchen. We’ve upcycled what we had.

We renovated one worktop and installed one new worktop which we needed in order to fit the dishwasher. Then we had the cupboard doors painted and added new handles.

The kitchen is from Ikea, I believe. A bit of detective work shows up Ikea stickers here and there and I recognised the handles. So it’s not going to last forever. I think Ikea is brilliant at getting you a well-furnished, good-looking home on a tight budget. Most of their cheaper stuff doesn’t last and the more substantial stuff fails on the surfaces. Things tarnish and scuff easily. At least, that’s my experience. This kitchen is sturdy enough. The soft-close mechanisms have failed. The paint finish has worn or cracked in a number of places. What looks like steam damage had made the cabinet above the cooker swell. One of the drawers looked to have swollen in a similar way, making the edge all wavy.

So, we sanded off the swollen bits, took off the very boring handles and polyfilla-ed the resulting holes. There’s a small cabinet without a door where the microwave sits, so we filled in the spare holes there, too. It looks much neater.

Then Mr joiner-painter came and did the painting. The original colour was a light cream, and the top cabinets have been repainted in a warm white. That needed one coat of primer and two top coats. The bottom cupboards were painted dark grey so that took two coats of primer and two top coats.


Top cabinets are painted in Farrow and Ball Wimborne White.
Lower cabinets are painted in Farrow and Ball Down Pipe.
Cupboard handles are large ceramic knobs in Lime Zest from


We could have had new doors made fairly cheaply, so was it worth it to do it this way?
Paint. There’s still plenty of primer and paint left over, and it will get used on other projects. It’s already earmarked and was planned in advance to keep costs down. But still, it was £74 for the two cans of primer and two cans of paint.
Mr joiner-painter charged us £140 for a day and a half of work.
The new handles cost £33 (we needed 11).
The new worktop, joinery and oil all together came to £220.
So, not quite a new kitchen but it certainly looks like it, and all for under £470.


The colour of the lower cabinets is just stunning. On the website the paint colour looks like a darkish, dull grey. In real life it’s a beautiful, rich colour. It changes depending on the light — I’m finding this is a speciality of F&B paints — from a greenish grey to a deep bluish grey to almost black. The top cabinets are a warm white colour. They don’t change as much as the lower cupboards, but the overall effect is a clean, bright not-quite-white.

This is the kitchen on the day we moved in.

Day 0: kitchen

Day 0: kitchen

This is the kitchen this morning (I was going to wait until the kitchen was clean and tidy, and the shelf next to the microwave needs putting back…. but you might never get a photo if I wait until it’s perfect.)


You’d think we’d had a new kitchen fitted.

Close up of the drawers with their new shiny handles.

drawers smoothed, painted and sporting their new handles

drawers smoothed, painted and sporting their new handles

down and out in Paris and Colchester

We’ve become plongeurs. With no dishwasher for the first time in oh-so-many years we’re taking turns with the Marigolds to manage the pile of dirty dishes I magic out of thin air each day.

I love cooking for us, but it’s tempting to choose freezer-to-oven-to-table dishes so that we don’t have piles of utensils, pans and bulky casserole dishes to clean afterwards.

Light, though, at the end of the shift. Today we had a dishwasher installed. Since we’re making do with the kitchen as-is we also have to make do with a freestanding dishwasher. So I bought a black one, perhaps this can be Darth Maul (slender, matt) to accompany our Darth Vader (broad, shiny) fridge-freezer. A local plumber has a handy joiner-painter dad and between the two of them they moved the sink, pulled out one of the cupboards and plumbed in the dishwasher.

dark and moody dishwasher

dark and moody dishwasher

We swapped the stupid tap, too low to rinse a casserole dish under, for a super tall one. Shiny.

tall and shiny

tall and shiny

Next, Mr Joiner-Painter is going to paint the kitchen cupboards for us. This will help mask the bodged cupboard that’s become dishwasher space, and the unorthodox black appliances will blend in, too, since the lower cupboards are going to be dark grey.

Onwards and upwards.

Dishwasher is a slimline Beko DSFS1531B in black. I bought it from Next Domestic Appliances. They’d sold out of the one I wanted in John Lewis… I wouldn’t normally use anyone buy John Lewis for a substantial purchase but buying from Next turned out to be fine. Customer service and delivery process was easy and helpful.
Tap is a Ringskär in chrome finish, £80 from Ikea.
Fitting by Hughes Heating/Hughes Home Improvements, who are super friendly and helpful.

pick a colour, any colour

I have tested a million colours so far. OK, I’ve tested, um, 9 colours. Which is probably 5 too many.

I wanted to keep a common thread through all of the downstairs, so it flows from one room to the next. It’s a small house (have I mentioned that yet?) so I think keeping everything the same main colour would link the rooms rather than making it feel like a run of very small rooms.

I’m really into grey. I’ve seen beautiful images of softest, powdery greys looking cosy and welcoming. Dark, moody bluey-greys looking dramatic and setting off any object you put near it.

So I tried  pale, soft greys. Easy to live with, they’re acceptable in every room, from living room to bathroom. But the living room is dark and feels poky. Even a pale colour isn’t going to make it feel light and airy. There’s only one window and it gets very little direct light. Upstairs the same size room but with two windows feels airy and spacious, so we know it’s a problem of light, not physical size. So, working on the premise that you should go with what you’ve got, I decided to go ‘cosy’ in the living room, and stick to my pale greys everywhere else. I went back to those dark and dramatic colour schemes I remembered from Houzz and Pinterest. And then I convinced booyaa it would work.

When I tried what I thought would be the perfect warm, multi-tonal  grey I was so disappointed. It looked drab and flat. I tried a dusty purple which I thought might be like our bedroom and look grey with purple undertones. Nope. Mid-tone rather than dark grey? Muddy. Eventually I tried some darker ‘clean’ greys. I thought a grey with a warm tone would work better than a bluish grey in our cold, dark living room. But that was my mistake. The dark, moody, steely grey looks beautiful. Very chic, not the least note of muddy. And bold, I’ll wager, once it’s on a full wall. It could also shrink the room even more, which will be, um, challenging. Oh the antici….pation.

Then there was the conundrum of the woodwork and how to move from one room to another. Can I get away with bringing the skirting board colour right through the downstairs as a way of keeping a link? But what do you do in the hallway, where two rooms come together. You can’t stop painting halfway through an architrave. GAH. How do people cope with this? It feels like I’m playing KerPlunk. One false move and it all falls apart.

It’ll be a few weeks before we get painted but I’ll post pics as soon as it’s all done. (I should have put the video here, right?)