How to Update a Tired Kitchen

We are delighted to welcome a new guest contributor to our blog, interior stylist and design writer, Tiffany Grant-Riley of Curate & Display who offers great, first-hand advice if you are wanting to update a tired kitchen before taking on a major kitchen renovation.

“Our kitchens are experiencing a shift in the way that we use them. Though always considered the metaphorical heart of the home, we now want them to become fully liveable spaces. No longer dividing our time between living room, dining room and kitchen in the way that we used to, families are carving out new spaces from their kitchens into a room where we can all be together to cook, lounge and eat within the one room. That said, not all of us have the means to commit to a full scale kitchen renovation project. 18 months ago we bought a barely touched, early Edwardian terrace. With no plans for an extension in our immediate future, but not wanting to ignore the kitchen in the meantime, we decided to give it a contemporary, Nordic inspired update. As with most old houses which come with a long list of more pressing tasks to get done than renovating the kitchen, we took the approach of working with what we had to highlight the best features in the room.

Despite spending 60% of my time in this room, I hated it, it was tired and it lacked…everything. Does this sound like you too? Don't despair. There IS a way to use what you have and make it a thousand percent better with some (significant) cosmetic changes. If you’re prepared to put in the time, it’s a pretty fair trade when you're left with a space you love without any major upheaval.

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Why not consider these tips to steer your kitchen transform from drab to something with real personality?

Plan Your Space, Define Your Style.

Before jumping straight into the decorating, it’s important to take a good look at the space. What isn’t working for you? Do you spend a lot of time cooking and don’t have what you need to hand? How are you using your storage at the moment? Could you shift things around for convenience? Do you have enough worktop space? Perhaps you want to entertain more and want to carve out a space for a table? At the same time, what works well in your kitchen and what do you want to keep? Next is the fun part - defining your style. I work with a mix of good old analogue mood boarding, pulling together a tangible sense of what I like, from paint swatches, fabrics (this can include wood stains and flooring) to images I’m drawn to, torn from magazines. I also love using Pinterest which is a great tool to have to hand when I’m sourcing accessories online that I can pin directly to a board, or if I spot a room I like styled in a certain way from a design blog. Once you’ve gathered your thoughts and inspiration, you should see a clear thread running through your scheme. Is there a pattern emerging - perhaps you’re drawn to light colours, or dark floors, open shelving or contemporary shapes?

Upgrade Your Appliances

Aside from the overall look of the room, upgrading your appliances will elevate the whole experience and make it feel like a fully functioning kitchen. Miele run excellent Taste for Design days at their experience centres meaning you can spend the day watching a meal expertly cooked using their appliances by their team of professional chefs. Which you then get to eat. Ask any questions you like about any of the appliances and get one to one advice, as I did when I tried out the Just Imagine afternoon. We didn’t have space for a steam oven or induction hob but as our fifteen year old fridge freezer was on its last legs, we chose a stainless steel upgrade instead. The new model has been a complete gamer changer, with doors the kids can’t slam or leave open (a small alarm will go off to alert you) huge pull-out drawers and a brilliant pro-fresh feature which keeps fruit and veg fresh for longer. Light up shelving makes everything easy to find and there’s a charcoal odour control at the back to stop overpowering smells.

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We also decided to work in a coffee making station into our new kitchen as it’s an important part of our day. We take our coffee pretty seriously in our house. We still love to use our little stove top maker but our sleek, black countertop coffee machine does everything in one go with speed. It grinds the beans, has a one-touch feature for two cups and heats and froths milk through an additional flask. Choose from espresso, cafe late, cappuccino and macchiato. It even tells us when and how to clean it when it needs to be done.

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Declutter and Organise

Sounds boring but if you haven’t given your cupboards a good audit in a while you’ll benefit from doing this before you get started on decorating. You might find a few things you don’t use or need any more which can be donated or recycled to make space. If you have open shelving, store dried foods in glass or ceramic containers to give everything a cohesive look. If worktop space is at a premium, are there any small appliances you can store in a cupboard whilst not being used?

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Here’s where you bring out your kitchen’s personality. It’s an exciting time for kitchen customisation, with several companies offering bespoke fronts designed to work with certain types of off the shelf units. Look at the areas you touch on a daily basis - think cupboard handles, sockets and switches. You’d never know how exciting it can be to fall down a rabbit hole on the quest for bespoke handles and hardware until you do. Brass, plywood, marble, ceramic. You name it. I hated the basic taps we had, so we installed a contemporary bridge mixer tap instead, designed for sinks with two tap holes. An inexpensive upgrade with a more bespoke feel.


If it’s been a while since you refreshed your kitchen walls, now is the time to do it. Make sure that the paint you choose is hard wearing and can stand up to cleaning, particularly if you have little ones. Consider painting your units if you can’t find the right colour off the shelf, or you already like your cupboard doors. If you can hire a professional to paint them, even better, but if not, be prepared to fully prep your units first, then use several thin coats with a soft brush, laying them flat to avoid drips. I used a flat oil eggshell on ours which is hard wearing with a matt finish.


Sometimes that means giving everything a really good clean. Perhaps not the most enjoyable task but you’ll notice such a difference. Stainless steel sinks get watermarked very easily, so picking up some specialist cleaner to buff it up will give it an instant, like new lift. In our case, the orange varnished wood floors were making what was already a dark room feel even more so. By sanding them back to their original state and then staining them with a white wax, we made the room feel lighter and tied it in with the Nordic look we love. With a little food for thought, I hope these tips will help towards elevating your kitchen upgrade without the need for that extension. At least, for now.

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About the Author

Tiffany Grant-Riley is a freelance interior stylist and design writer. Her blog, Curate and Display, explores minimal interiors, Nordic design and the slow living lifestyle. Tiffany is currently renovating her Edwardian home in historic Chatham, Kent.

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