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Anja van der Spuy

February 20, 2023

How I upcycled my kitchen on a budget

I recently read this article which says that millennials are buying homes for their dogs, not for their children or marriages. That is pretty much how we ended up buying our first home. Okay, that and the fact that it was a better investment than paying someone else’s bond – but it was mainly so we could get a dog.

We started the search for our new home all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. We soon, however, discovered that it would be nearly impossible to find a home that ticked every single box. I think this is something that every first-time buyer has to come to terms with. There will unfortunately always be a compromise.

When we finally found the home for us, it ticked 70% of the boxes – wooden floors, double glazed windows, high ceilings and a little courtyard for our furry friend. The compromise? Our kitchen and bathroom.

The house is an old Victorian and I think the previous owners were faced with the same issue as us because they decided to slap white paint over the kitchen tiles and cupboards. The tiles used to be green, so I guess I should thank them.

The white paint had significant wear by the time we bought the house and together with the concrete floor, it had quite a clinical feeling. We were torn between leaving it like this until we could afford a proper renovation or doing a quick patch-up job. I started following a lot of home decoration accounts on Instagram, which inspired me to upcycle my kitchen. Here’s how I did it!

Painting the cupboards

The first step was to decide on a colour for the cupboards. I fell in love with Bovine by Plascon, which is a gorgeous charcoal.

That was the easy part.

Did I mention how long it takes to paint cupboards? We painted them after work for a week. We did three coats on the outside and two on the inside. It took SO long! It was 100% worth it in the end.

Tip: Look out for eco-friendly paints, which are specially designed to have lower levels of volatile organic chemicals.

Finding a solution to our storage issue

Our kitchen doesn’t have a lot of storage space, so we found an old bookcase and painted it the same shade as our cupboards. It now houses our plates, cups and wine. If I decide to use it as a bookshelf again, I will just change the colour.

Tip: Keep an eye on the Facebook Marketplace for bargain bookcases. There’s nothing a bit of paint can’t fix!

Fixing the floors

Remember when I said that we painted our cupboards after work? That was probably not the best idea. Our lighting wasn’t great, so we didn’t notice that we were spilling paint on our floor. When we eventually realised what we had done, it was too late to remove the paint without scraping away the concrete with it. I’d seen quite a few kitchens on home decor blogs with rugs, but they always seemed so impractical to me. What happens when you spill tomato paste on it?

I did some research and found a polypropylene rug, which is made of recycled plastic. Now I can spill tomato paste to my heart’s content because I can use a mop on my rug. The rug was an accidental addition to my kitchen, but it is now one of my favourite parts. People always ask about it on social media!

Tip: Buy proper drop sheets. There are canvas alternatives to plastic. You can also use old newspapers.

Finding a kitchen table

We needed extra counter space, so we brought in a table from my grandma’s home. What makes this table so special is that it used to be a sewing machine! My grandparents upcycled it by putting a marble countertop on it. It’s an unconventional table for a kitchen but I love the story behind it – and we now have extra space to prep food.

The finishing touches

I hunted for gold doorknobs for ages, but most of them were quite costly. I eventually found ones at Builder’s Warehouse for R15 each - bargain! I love the contrast between the gold and the charcoal. I also put vinyl tiles behind our oven, which look so real that most people can’t even tell that they’re stickers. Side note: in my excitement at finding affordable alternatives to tiles, it didn’t even occur to me that I was bringing more plastic into my home. I guess this is why they call it a sustainability journey.

I am so proud of how everything came together in the end. This project has taught me that you can renovate your home sustainably, creatively and on a budget. Now it’s my bathroom’s turn…

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