The kitchen… the heart of the home.
Kitchens are where a lot of cooking magic happens & conversations take place over coffee and fresh baked goodies. The kitchen is a hard working space in a house- so they need to function well of course – but we also like to have them be pretty which means- kitchen renovations big and small are always popular in home improvement. Something I am asked often is how do you get that vintage charm if you don’t live in a vintage home? Or maybe you have a home that needs a bit of renovating and aren’t sure where to start to add that look? I hear you. And I remember wondering where to start with our kitchen. Do you remember what it looked like BEFORE?
If you have been reading my blog for awhile- you know where my kitchen started. You know that it didn’t come with that wood island, marble countertops, wood planked ceiling or the chandeliers lighting the room. It did not look like that photo above. Back.in.the.day- our house was an old vandalized and literally rotting away home in the country.
And the kitchen… well, it left a lot to be desired.
The Kitchen Before
It had an old linoleum floor, tile counters, dark orange wood walls, windows held in by bent nails to keep them from falling -an unfinished sheetrock ceiling that was literally dropping (we gained about 6″ in height when we pushed it up and secured it) and then there was the piece de resistance…
the ceiling fan with a beer bottle dangling from the pull.
Oh it was a beauty let me tell you.
And that first day when I walked into the kitchen- I saw alllll of those things. And I also saw elements that I could work with to create the kitchen I envisioned that first day. Yes, this is a vintage house built in 1940. And thankfully when someone had started to renovate a few things likely in the 1980’s – they left a lot of the vintage charm untouched- so I had some great vintage elements to work with.
And in case you are wondering- yes, we kept those original 1940’s cupboards.
But those elements aside- when planning a renovation big or small- on a kitchen old or new- what are some of the elements to consider adding for that vintage charm? Today it is all about just that. Side note: Some of these recommendations are geared more towards renovating-but some are simple and easy DIY jobs or jobs you can hire a handyman to do. And even with hiring a pro to do make these changes- they are not as expensive as putting in a whole new kitchen- but will give you more of the look you are after.
#1. Paint Kitchen cupboards
Vintage kitchens brings to mind painted cupboards- in all shades and colors. I have seen bold and beautiful blues, greens, black and red cupboards- as well as those beautiful shades of white and creams.
#2. Add Open Shelves
Open shelves are quite popular at the moment but they are not a new thing. Many vintage kitchens have open shelf areas- we have an original shelf above our sink. And while the look and finishes of those shelves have changed- the look is the same. Create an area where you can stack farmhouse bowls, coffee cups and plates- along with old oil paintings, a succulent or small container of flowers.
These open shelf areas were added to the kitchen and is where the range used to be. We also created open shelf areas in our kitchen in the original cupboards by removing the end cupboard doors. It wasn’t an original plan- it was because one of the doors was broken. I took it off to repair it- and loved the open look it had. So I removed the end door at the other end of the cupboard for symmetry. A note: our cupboards are built right into the wall and as such- have wood wall back and sides. Newer cupboard are usually self contained – meaning they are a box that is put on the wall rather than built in place. You can achieve an open cupboard look with those as well by adding beaded board or wood planks to the inside and painting them.
#3. Add plank walls
This sounds quite involved- and depending on how many outlets, switches and other bits you would need to cut around- it might be. But if you have a simple straight forward blank wall with nothing – adding those planks is a straightforward way to get a vintage look. You can find packages of tongue and groove planks at Home Depot & Lowe’s – add a fresh coat of paint and those planks instantly add that old world style charm.
You can also use wallpaper that looks like wood planks. There are quite a few that look realistic and if hiring someone to plank the walls with wood isn’t in the budget or in your DIY comfort zone- that is an inexpensive way to get the look. Read more about Why I love wood plank walls Here
#4. A vintage style Kitchen island
Our kitchen didn’t have an island originally- there was no room for it really. Though our kitchen is quite long- at the end where our range is now- it had the hallway to the bedrooms and back of the house. When we changed the flow of the house to go next to the kitchen instead of through it- we closed that old hallway off and it created the layout we have now and an opportunity to add an island for more work space.
Replacing that clunky island with something open- like a farmhouse style table will instantly add charm. You can also use pieces like a vintage sideboard as an island or even have something custom built with vintage wood to get the look with the functionality you would like. For an authentic ‘collected over time feeling’ – keep the island a different finish than the rest of the kitchen- a different color paint or a natural wood for example.
#5. Update Kitchen Lighting
I remember the day I found a vintage chandelier in a second hand shop that I instantly fell in love with. It was covered in crystals. It was detailed and charming and it was only $20 which was in the budget. I brought it home and showed my husband and told him I wanted to put it in the kitchen. He proceeded to tell me I might be crazy and that our kitchen was not the style kitchen that would have something like an elegant chandelier with crystals. I asked him to humor me.
After it was installed – he turned the chandelier on and then stood back and stared before finally admitting that the chandelier was the perfect jewelry in our old kitchen and somehow it worked. One wasn’t enough light for the long space- so I knew it would stay only until I found the right size light- but when I found a matching chandelier- we added the second one and called it good.
So many times those kitchen light fixtures in newer kitchens are those big boxes on the ceiling with florescent lights. ( you know what I am talking about) So changing that (again) clunky fixture instantly changes the whole look of the space.
#6. Kitchen Farmhouse sink
Adding a farmhouse sink is another way to add instant vintage appeal. They are beautiful and you can get them with one basin or two – and they are ideal for those flowers in the sink moments. More about our farmhouse sink here.
#7. Add Plate Racks
So simple to add to open shelf areas and they have such a sweet look. Learn all about this $8 plate rack idea Here
#8. Use baskets for drawers
We removed three drawers and placed baskets for vegetables in their place. Baskets bring an instant softness and charm.
#9. Don’t forget the ceiling
Details on the ceiling are another vintage kitchen look. From a different color of paint, to planked wood and beams or beaded board to those metal ceiling tiles. Whatever your favorite look is- adding that detail is sure to bring a bit of charm.
While planked wood and beams are a bigger job for the professionals (hello- you don’t want any heavy beams landing on anyone haha) You can paint the ceiling yourself or use a wallpaper to get the look of the ceiling tiles. I used embossed wallpaper on the ceiling in my office and it worked beautifully.
#10. Tile or beaded board backsplash
A backsplash is a perfect place to add your pop of pattern or keep it simple. My favorite looks are marble subway tile for a clean elegant feeling- and classic white subway tile- which is also quite inexpensive. Or go with beaded board in panels or small planks for a vintage look.
#11. Kitchen Countertops
Think butcher block or marble for an authentic vintage look. We love our marble countertops and they definitely added the look and feeling we wanted. They do require a professional to cut and install- but are well worth the cost when renovating. Butcher block counters are also quite popular in vintage farmhouse style kitchens if that natural wood is more your look.
If choosing marble- make sure you seal it. You can read all about the great blackberry and marble counters debacle here
#12. Update Knobs and Pulls
An extra for the road – Changing the hardware on your cupboards is an easy and inexpensive way to instantly update your kitchen and add vintage charm.. You can choose whatever style, finish and look is your favorite. Bin pulls and knobs seem to feel a bit more vintage than traditional drawer pulls to me. We used small round knobs on cupboard doors and bin pulls on the drawers for a vintage collected feeling mix and mingle.
Shop the Look
Sharing a few get the look options- including a crystal chandelier that is under $150 with the extra coupon saving currently.
Whether you are doing a big overhaul on your kitchen or a small refresh- these are just a few things to consider doing that can change the look and feel without changing the footprint or doing a complete remodel. Up next- will share a few inexpensive things you can do in just a few minutes to give your kitchen a style boost.
Happy Tuesday all.
*some affiliate links
Swati Banerjee says
So beautiful. What is the paint color for your kitchen cabinets. Love that shade of white
are your cabinets
also where did you get the bedding with roses ? and do use white sheets with it.btw i love your style
Yes, Simply white is all through the house and the bedding is by Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic- it mixes with white sheets beautifully.
Where did you get your kitchen island? It's beautiful.
Good evening: would love to know where you purchase your bulbs and plants
Please share the paint color for these white cabinets. Thanks.
Hi! I mostly use Benjamin Moore Simply White in the house
Patti Lapola says
Love The journey! Seeing the old kitchen was great. I love HOW BEAUTIFUL everY thing you create is. Your spaces are what my dreams ae made of!
Im from johannesburg south africa living in a 1938 heritage house. Im so inspired by your ideas of rEWorking old kitchens rather than replacing. Thank you for your inspiration.
Loving your blog. My Chemo. Flys by. I reread your blogs. Hoping someday to have your book.
thanks for sharing how you made your kitchen so charming and warm in your home.As an aside, when you shared about the plate rack, I remembered I have a wire up tucked away in the attic! I needto get that baby down!
Courtney I love this kitchen, you did a fabulous job. Thank you for sharing this with us. It is very helpful. Can you tell us where you got your kitchen island with the marble top? I can not find a wooden based one with marble top. I know you are so busy but if you ever read this, I will keep checking for an answer. Thanks so much. I want to do this to my kitchen and I have a child in wheelchair that I was hoping could eat at this type of island as it is higher than a typical table which would be better for her wheelchair height.
Ana Maria says
I have an almost identical table. I bought it at a garage sale down the street for $40. I used it as an island in the mIddle Of the kitchen and My familY, including baby highchairs ate dinner at it nightly for tWenty years. Recently, i REMOVED the top and installed a custom quartz top. It looks great, kept the antique vibe but looks much brighter in my whIte and blue kitchen.
the transportation is spectacular! can’t wait to see what’s up next. I’m hoping there’s a sunroof in the mix.
Carol Karl says
What a dramatic before and after! Your kitchen is so beautiful I love the copper – i used copper accents in my kitchen too.
franki Parde says
That is the heart BEAT you feel looking at this kitchen…del3ctable!!! franki
PHYLLIS STIER says
I love your kitchen ideas! I have a new house & need to add some “charm”. It’s very inspiring & beautiful!
Carole LyNn says
Hi Just wanted to agree so important not to neglect ceiling and lighting. Beautiful kitchen. Love it!
Absolutely love your kitchen❣️
Mary Anne Russo says
Just love your kitchen! Thanks for all the great tips!
Aussie Jo says
Looking oh so good