When we first laid eyes on this kitchen, it was in rough shape. Built in 1976, you could definitely still feel the ‘70s vibes…and they weren’t so groovy.

The mustard-yellow walls and ceiling, peeling laminate countertops, and faux brick backsplash (yes, faux brick) created a room that was dark, dated, and that felt like it was closing in on itself. We needed to do a major update that introduced light and tricked the eye into experiencing this small room as much larger.

In fact, the entire house was small, so we didn’t have room to expand the kitchen. As a result, our goal was to make it as open-feeling and special as we could in the space we had.

Our palette was light and bright, focusing on soft grays and whites. The ceiling and walls were covered in a brilliant white paint that reflects the light well, and we swapped out the worn laminate floors for wood ones.

The old cabinets were exchanged for simple Shaker-style ones. The lower ones came from our cabinet maker’s supply in this beautiful light gray color, and we painted the uppers white. You may notice, however, that we kept the original pantry doors. This is an older house, so while it did need an update, we wanted to maintain character where we could. These doors were in good condition, and with a good cleaning and new hardware, they provide the warmth and visual interest we would have missed if we’d swapped them out for new. Clean-lined gold cabinet pulls add shine and a reflective quality to the room.

We used a gorgeous white tile in a picket shape with light gray grout for the backsplash to create texture and light. Above the sink, we took the tile straight to the ceiling, visually drawing the eye up and creating a sense of height.

This stunning Hinkley Lighting pendant light is the real star of this room, though. The gorgeous lines of the gold trim surrounding the soft-white globe makes it a true showstopper. We absolutely love it.

While we didn’t add one extra inch to this space, you’d never know it by looking at the before and after pictures. The colors and carefully chosen design elements create a sense of light and openness, delivering serious style in a small space.

Photography: Natalia Robert