8 Ways to Add Character to a Plain Kitchen
If your kitchen isn’t quite as cosy as you’d like, check out these ideas for giving the space some personality
Also in this series: 7 Ways to Add Character to a Plain Living Room
If you’re drawn to strong colour but not sure whether to go for it in your kitchen, take inspiration from this project. Architect couple Emily and Frederik Rissom of R2 Studio Architects chose this 1960s home for its light spaces and, even though it badly needed updating, were determined to retain the spirit of the era.
The yellow kitchen forms the heart of the home and reflects their love of bold colour. “We bought a green sofa 12 years ago and still love it as much as we did then,” Frederik says. “This gave us the confidence that we can live with a yellow kitchen. It’s complemented by more chromatic blues and natural wood surfaces. Life is too short to be beige!”
If you’re tempted by block colour, but still feel unsure about taking such a bold step, choose paintable doors, so you could change the colour relatively easily down the line.
Discover how Emily and Frederik sensitively brought their midcentury home up to date.
The owners of this kitchen wanted a light, Scandi look with plenty of white in the mix, but they were keen to add a striking feature for definition.
Designer Gemma Fabbri of Studio Fabbri used bright, bold encaustic tiles to introduce pattern on the splashback and base of the island (just seen behind the bar stools), adding character to the all-white room.
Tiles are an easy way to create a feature and can be relatively inexpensive if the area isn’t large. If, like these homeowners, you’re keen to retain the light feel of your room, though, take a tip from Gemma and choose just one design to showcase against an otherwise plain backdrop.
See how Gemma transformed this narrow room that wasn’t working.
Introducing vintage pieces, from lighting to artworks to furniture, is a great way to add character and give a room a focal point. The kitchen in this flat in Brighton is small and the owner was keen on a simple design, plumping for handleless cabinets in off-white.
The designers at OpenHaus Kitchens, however, have cleverly added warmth and character by recycling the vintage oak doors from the previous kitchen and using them to create a display unit. As the room is relatively dark, with a window that looks out onto a lightwell, they’ve also added interior lighting to the cabinet to provide gentle illumination.
Ready to renovate? Hire a reviewed kitchen designer through Houzz.
Wood is a sure-fire way to bring warmth into a white space, so if colour isn’t your thing, consider this idea, where timber and texture have transformed a plain scheme.
The kitchen, which is in a midcentury home, had bright white units and off-white worktops and walls. As well as resolving layout issues, the owners were after a style more in keeping with the era of the house.
“They wanted the kitchen to fit softly within its surrounds and not feel at odds with the period aspect of the home,” Nathan Wundersitz of Space Craft Joinery says. “That said, they were also open to something different, quirky and inviting.”
The team clad the island unit and cooker hood in oak slats, which add a strong textural element as well as warmth to the otherwise monochromatic palette. Curves further soften the square kitchen and help to highlight the flowing beauty of the slats.
Learn more about the transformation of this kitchen.
Even if you do nothing else to your plain room, interesting flooring can be transformative, as this simple but effective design shows.
The owner of this tiny studio flat wanted the kitchen to be fairly minimal, as it’s open to the living area, but the designers at Atelier Daaa laid cement tiles with a graphic feel for the floor and splashback to liven up the space a little and define the area without it dominating the wider room.
If you can’t stretch to tiles, there are plenty of designs in vinyl and linoleum to choose from, or create a ‘rug’ under an island or in front of units with a smaller selection of patterned tiles.
Tour the whole of this cleverly laid-out flat.
This is a hugely effective – and relatively easy – way to add warmth and texture to a plain space. The extension on this 1930s house, created by Mailen Design, is clean-lined and airy, but the owners were keen it shouldn’t be a characterless space.
As such, the wall behind the main run of units has been covered in brick slips, which are essentially tiles and relatively easy to install. The reclaimed-style bricks have added bags of character and warmth, and also boosted the indoor-outdoor connection.
Learn more about this inspiring extension.
More: How to Choose a Tiler
If you love the idea of a clean-lined, minimal kitchen, but want to include one standout feature to lift it out of the ordinary, pendant lights are your friends.
The design you choose will depend on the look you’re after. Reclaimed industrial? Natural rattan? Decorative crystal? Or a bold, bright colour, like these eye-catching yellow lights in a black-and-white kitchen by Watershed Architects. Think of them as jewellery adding a game-changing flourish.
More: 5 Ideas for Kitchen Island Pendants That Break the Mould
Here’s a super-simple idea, especially if you’re on a tight budget. The designers of this tiny kitchen have rotated standard white square tiles to create a diamond pattern and emphasised the look with grey grout that matches the microcement flooring. It’s a trick that’s both inexpensive and very effective.
Would you try any of these ideas in your kitchen? Share your thoughts in the Comments.