So fresh and so clean

Creating a beautiful kitchen doesn’t have to cost a lot – in fact, the results can be better when you’re forced to think laterally.

Planning and executing your own renovations is not for the faint  hearted. Over the last few months of renovations, strict budget-keeping and long nights on the end of a paintbrush have brought a new respect for the humble tradesmen. To all the painters and plumbers, the builders and the tilers, I salute you.

Our plan for the kitchen was to do something cost effective, with a classic and fresh aesthetic. A new benchtop was in order, as was a coat of paint, lighting, shelves and restoring the beautiful floorboards that were inexplicably covered in faux floorboard vinyl. The budget, as with the rest of our house, was tight – I’m not talking thousands tight, but hundreds. And the time frame was pretty snug as well. Not up for camp-stove-cooked baked beans for weeks on end, we wanted to be up and running in our new kitchen in a week. So began the plan of attack.

We opted for plywood for the benchtop as, after tossing up the cost of laminate and wood and the time issues of concrete, it emerged as our best option. We spoke to a Resene paint expert who suggested using a coat of paint, and sealing it with Resene’s handy Uracryl GraffitiShield. Keeping to our strict budget, we sourced a ‘new’ sink from our local demo yard and a gooseneck tap from TradeMe. Creating a splashback not only helps with clean up, but adds another texture to a neutral zone. We chose cheaper tiles in a brick pattern with a classic white grout. We then began the painstaking task of prepping and re-painting the entire kitchen, along with all the cupboards.

Storage can be more practical than pretty – unless you think laterally.  You can find all kinds of goodies lurking in op shops and garage sales – and relatives’ cupboards. The vintage bread bin one belonged to my grandmother, then my mother’s and now mine. It’s been around, gotten a bit beaten up, but still stands strong.

If you are looking at installing a simple splashback in your kitchen, chances are you may be able to give it a go yourself. Talk to the staff at your local hardware store or ask around friends that may be able to help. Tiling comes down to precision – measure, measure and measure again.


Open shelving is a great way to add interest to your blank canvas. Stack your recipe books, vases or jars filled with everyday items. Brackets and shelves can be found at hardware and homeware stores. Ours were fashioned out of benchtop remnants and leftover paint.

Handles make all the difference to a kitchen and I often struggle to find any that I truly love. So once again I decided to make my own. With a strip of leather from Lapco and a few screws I was on my way. For more details visit

Although I would have loved an array of new whiteware, the budget said no, so a refresh was in order instead. After we attacked the fridge and dishwasher with wet-and-dry sandpaper I applied two generous coats of  Resene blackboard paint. Done.

Get the look
Industrial shades $99, Leather, POA, Tea towels, $25, Resene Double Alabaster paint, Coffee machine, $249.95,

Paint, $178. Tile splashback, $150. Benchtop, $140. Hardware, $12. Tapware, $70. Sink, $60. Lighting, $300. Extras, $70. Total: $980.

Follow Gem’s renovation at

Words & photography Gem Adams

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