before and after

Before & After: A Small, Shabby London Kitchen Gets A Chic Update

by Maxwell Tielman


Phil Shakespeare is an upholster and refinisher of vintage furniture by trade, so he knows a think or two about restoring old things to their former glory. When he moved into his 1930s London flat, it was in desperate need of an update. The previous tenant, a stage actor who had been living in the flat since the 1960s, had a particularly funky sense of style—charming in its own retro-chic kind of way, but not quite in line with Phil’s own sensibilities. The kitchen, a cramped alcove space, featured decidedly outdated avocado cabinets, faux stone floors, and a dearth of usable storage space. After rolling up his sleeves and getting to work, Phil was able to remodel his kitchen in a way that made it more functional, spacious, and beautiful. I’ll admit, a part of me was sad to see those kitsch-tastic cabinets go, but the final result’s awesome-ness outweighs the kitchen’s previous iteration by a long shot—with fabulous butcher block countertops, loads more storage space, and some truly ingenious object re-apropriations (a pendant light made from a photo enlarger lamp, anyone??), this teensie kitchen packs quite the punch. Check out the rest of the photos and Phil’s design notes after the jump! —Max


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Above images: The kitchen before.


Above image: The kitchen after! “My dad and I did most of the work of stripping everything out and building all the units, tiling etc,” Phil writes. “The units and doors were from a big DIY store called B&Q and is their budget range. I ordered the Iroko counter tops and all the white goods online, which was a lot cheaper than going through B&Q.”

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Above image: The wall shelves are left over pieces of countertop affixed to the wall with cast iron brackets.


Above image: “The teapots,” Phil says, “are all 60s pieces from a British brand (which no longer exists) called ‘Midwinter,’ which was based in Stoke-on-Trent, where I grew up (the city is  known as ‘the Potteries’ as that is where Wedgewood, Doulton etc are from).”


Above image: The hanging light fixture is a rewired lamp from an old photo enlarger, purchased on eBay.

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  • Beautiful job Phil!

    Can I ask – where the sink and the brackets for the shelves are from?

    (Fellow Brit and owner of ‘bijou’ kitchen :-) )

  • What a beautiful job.

    Can I ask – where are the sink and the brackets for the shelves from?

    (Fellow Londoner and owner of bijou kitchen that needs renovating! :-))

  • Beautiful! I can’t believe the kitchen came from B&Q, you’ve given me something to consider for when we remodel…

  • Wow // I love this transformation! Living in a small apartment myself, I actually love cozy little spaces, and completely appreciate that while everything was updated and transformed, the kitchen kept its same footprint from before. Pinned a lot of these to keep in mind for my one day forever home! :)

  • I kind of like the vintage geekiness of the old avocado kitchen, but the new version looks great!

  • Yes I am familiar with that B&Q sore – its very stressful there. I jest on the typo’s. The kitchen is lovley and so bright – love the moka coffee pot – a true London coffee lover. Nice to see such a simple transformation make such a difference.

  • I’m loving the photos from this makeover… it’s so hard to get more than a couple good photos from a small space. I especially love the birds eye shot of the sink!

  • Amazing! What a great job you did. And such a lovely style! I think the sink is up there with my favourite things, as well as the shelves made from left over bench top. Thanks for sharing.

  • I kinda liked the 1970s “before”… would’ve worked especially well with those gorgeous teapots…

  • I preferred the before…

    ..nah just kidding. This is a fantastic transformation, not a single thing about it I don’t like, and while I’m not usually a big fan of black in kitchens I love it here and it looks great with the wood. Also it looks like you’ve managed to squeeze lots of storage and usable work area into a tiny space. Very impressed, and I’m bookmarking this as inspiration for my own kitchen renovation.

    Please tell me where you got that gorgeous orange moka pot.

  • Wow! I love it!!! I need that kitchen!! So small but pretty!!! And I know Stoke-On-Trent!! I used to go there every Summer as a teenager to study English!!!

  • Wow, this one is really a dramatic change and a huge improvement. I love the colour combination, it’s so clean but warm looking. And the mix of the high-gloss black lower cabinets with the matt white windowed upper cabinets and the wooden shelves gives it a real eclectic look, which I think is very difficult to do in a kitchen.
    I also love that when he replaced the window he kept the panes of the original, and the black looks terrific. All in all this is just beautifully done.

  • When I saw the before, I thought the green cupboards looked pretty cute, but boy am I in love with this transformation. The frosted glass, black & white tiles, butcher block counter, the sink, everything. This is pretty much exactly what I’d like my future kitchen to look like – black, white, and wood. Thank you so much for sharing. :)

  • Initially, I was a little sad about the removal of those sweet green cabinets, but wow, it turned out gorgeous. Using leftover countertop as shelving is ingenious.

  • This kitchen is elegant, cozy, and functional! I too didn’t want to see the avocado cabinets go, but the look he achieved without them is worth it. It must be such a joy to sip coffee in such a well appointed space.

  • Amazing! Brilliant colour choices for a small space and the removal of the washing machine was super smart. Lovely little place to tinker about in. Great job Phil!

  • Wow! Love the new black and white floor that plays so well with the cabinets. Nice touch with the wood shelves in the corner. They say what goes around comes around but I have trouble ever envisioning that avocado color ever coming back! This could be one of the most dramatic before and after projects I have yet to see here at DS!

  • Any chance you can tell me where the sink came from? I love it and have been trying to find something similar which doesn’t cost the earth. Thanks

  • I love everything about this transformation. One of my favorite things is the black bird sitting on the square clock, and the red cord running to that fantastic pendant light. Well done!

  • Thanks for the lovely comments! So, I still have a washing machine in there – it’s just now an integral washer-dryer which is concealed behind one of the doors.

    The sink and taps were from eBay – Reginox, i think the brand was – pretty cheap for a ceramic sink, and is good quality! And the cast iron brackets for the shelves were from eBay too.

    I did originally consider keeping the original units, but just wasn’t possible to work around them in the end – for various reasons! Oh…and the orange coffee pot is by a Spanish company called ‘San Ignacio’.

  • Love to see great small-space ideas – so much harder than big spaces. Such a nice window – a real feature now its in black – the wood, the tiles – fabulous

  • Hi, I was wondering where you got your Crittal Window replacements? I live in a similar period building in London and need to replace my windows, it would be great to have a recommendation

    Many thanks

  • wow love this, I sometimes despair of the Before and After section but this is great, and nice that it is all quite affordable, just done with a lot of style.