Keep it Light! 5 Elevated & Approachable Kitchen Renovation Ideas

An interior designer shares her secrets. 

This timeless kitchen design featuring cabinets painted in the paint color No Filter by Clare is both elevated and approachable

When Shelby Girard first moved into her century-old home in Norwalk, Connecticut, she knew the kitchen was due for an upgrade. “The size of the kitchen was great, and we loved its location in the home and the general layout, but functionally and aesthetically, it needed an update,” says the VP of Creative and Design at Havenly. “The finishes and appliances were dated, and while the room was really large, there was no island.” 


kitchen renovation before


kitchen renovation after

After enlisting some professional help for the electrical, drywall, and countertop installation, Girard decided to take on the rest of the reno DIY-style. “It was the first room we demo'd after we got the keys to the house, and we immediately tore it down to the studs," she explains. “We replaced the tile floor with wood to match the rest of the main floor, installed new  lighting, reconfigured the wall where the oven is, tore down some upper cabinets, and added a free-standing island to center the room.”

Curious how you can create an equally elevated, earth-toned kitchen without calling a contractor? From cabinet painting tips to easy hardware swaps, Girard walks us through her swoon-worthy kitchen renovation ideas. 

1. Create Contrast with Cabinet Paint.

kitchen renovation ideas

To add some warmth to the white-walled space, Shelby painted the kitchen cabinets in No Filter, a light beige with warm undertones that created a subtle contrast. “I love how Clare has a curated selection, because it feels like the work of distinguishing between tiny nuances in tone was done for me,” she explains. “I tested the sample of No Filter in a few locations in the kitchen and was quickly sold—it’s the perfect balance between warm and cool and doesn't lean too yellow or too blue.”

2. Use Paint to Accent Hero Finishes.

kitchen renovation ideas

kitchen renovation

Along with providing visual interest and a sense of contrast, Shelby says the No Filter-clad kitchen cabinets also helped highlight the newly installed marble countertops. “We wanted a color that would work well with the counters, so once we landed on Imperial Danby marble (which has a mix of warmer and cooler veins), we sampled it against No Filter and loved how the paint color played off the warm veins in the marble,” she explains.

3. Add Brass-Finished Fixtures for an Unfussy Look. 

kitchen renovation

For an easy but impactful DIY-friendly upgrade, Shelby replaced all of the builder-grade kitchen cabinet hardware with antiqued brass-finished knobs and pulls, and installed an unlacquered brass sink faucet. “I wanted something that looked aged to add more character to the kitchen so it didn't look too fresh and new,” she explains. “I love when a space feels used and lived in and not too precious, and think the imperfect faucet finish helps to achieve that feel.”

4. Integrate Organic Materials For a Laid-Back Feel.

kitchen renovation ideas

To ensure the kitchen renovation felt warm, comfortable, and welcoming, Shelby incorporated natural decor elements throughout the space. “I love to add organic materials to every room, and went with a jute rug, wicker pendant lamps, and wooden cutting boards in this space,” she explains. “I also mixed in some vintage decor and artwork to further add to the sense of wear and warmth in the space.”  

5. Aim for a Kitchen Renovation that Balances Form & Function. 

kitchen renovation

To ensure the space is every bit as practical as it is aesthetically-pleasing, Shelby replaced some of the upper kitchen cabinets with on-counter cabinetry, and added a free-standing island to the scene. “Adding an island was key,” she explains. "It’s wood instead of marble, so we worry less about stains and  — it's where we chop and prep all of our meals."

Related: Upgrade Your Kitchen with These Cabinet Color Ideas


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