Want to do a kitchen renovation without pissing off your landlord?
You don’t need to gut all the kitchen countertops for a total style makeover. In fact, you can do an entire renter-friendly kitchen renovation that won’t break the bank with a few key choices.
Consider these kitchen design ideas from style pros plus a plethora of affordable products to choose from.
1. Go white on white
This idea is for you if your kitchen walls and other finishes are white (and you don’t want to change them), or you’re craving a clean slate. The benefits of going with a mostly white colour palette? It can quickly brighten up a small space. On top of that, accessorising in shades of white can make a room look larger than it is. Nina Beale, an interior stylist and owner of Bungalow 55, points out, “Colour or pattern can get dated, and doesn’t grow with you as your tastes change.”
Not only can your countertops be white, go all out with the theme with white kitchen accessories like the matching The Laundress Kitchen Soap Bar ($19) and Dish Detergent ($29), or decorative piece like Bungalow 55’s Textured Embossed Vase ($110). And of course, the enduring design of IKEA’s INGOLF bar stool with backrest ($90) means the kitchen chairs won’t go out of style soon.
Alternatively, white countertop appliances look less bulky against a
white background. That said, you may want to show off this statuesque Shopee- exclusive KitchenAid Tilt-Head Stand Mixer ($950)!
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2. Let’s be clear
“I have used Twinings’ English Breakfast teabags in glass jars in my kitchen – it’s a cost-effective way to decorate without over-cluttering,” shares Bungalow 55’s Nina. In a white-hued kitchen like Nina’s own (shown here), clear containers can display both food staples and a little flair.
Tan Mui Jin, owner of kids’ play space Kaboodle and who also works as a professional organiser, agrees that – once you declutter – it’s best to keep things on the countertops in clear view. But, she notes, “Every essential item that is on display should ideally look good.” Even inside cabinets, Jin advises, you use transparent boxes, baskets and other containers so you can see their contents. “Labelled boxes that are empty act as a reminder to replenish those items.”
Short on storage space? These sleek, stackable Airtight Food Storage Containers ($3.85 to $24.95) will keep your dried goods organised while in plain sight. Or level up – and leave out – your salt and pepper mills with the Cole & Mason acrylic mill ($60.90) from ToTT. Or check out this Acrylic “C” Style Cart ($540) with wheels which can either be a mobile bar cart to store your bottles o’booze, or a portable table so you can dine in style – even in a studio apartment.
3. Shine a light on things
For a true kitchen renovation, lighting is key. “Lights influence mood and even appetite,” explains interior designer Maran Wartooth, whose design studio LiveEasy is an expert in making over small spaces like the HDB galley kitchen featured above. However, he adds, “You don’t want to notice the lights – you want to feel them instead.”
If you want to change your kitchen’s overhead lights, it’s not that difficult to do so with the help of an electrician or handyman, if you’re not equipped to DIY. Maran suggests, “Embrace the versatility of track lights that do not cast shadows onto areas that matter.” Or, he says, “Pendant lights add a different dimension to the areas they grace.”
Nina of Bungalow 55 concurs but also cautions, “You have to be mindful that you need to clean them due to cooking smoke, so they have to be practical.”
Check out these unique light options: Firstly, handcrafted by skilled artisans, Bungalow 55’s Chandelier Azure ($1,515) boasts a nickel finish and bevelled glass. Made out of oak and aluminium alloy, U Lighting’s Solid Wood Rail LED Lighting Track ($9.98 to $15.30) is a beautiful blend of functionality and fabulousness. Lastly, use this MELODI pendant lamp ($9.90 for 28cm and $19.90 for 38cm) to diffuse light over a kitchen island or table, or use more than one above a bar area or long dining tables.
4. Glow on
If switching out overhead lighting feels like too much of a commitment, don’t stress. You can make it more pleasant to spend time in your kitchen and do tasks after dark just by simply mounting lights under wall cabinets. Alternatively, stylist Nina recommends placing oversized hurricanes – holding flameless candles on timers – on a countertop, to make an open layout come to life.
For example, check out this Laser Circle Hurricane Lantern Set ($250) which includes five different sized, laser-etched candle holders that will cast lovely patterns all around. Or Crate and Barrel’s Ellery Hurricane Oak Candleholder ($69.95) is stylish but sturdy. Choose from two sizes, depending on how much surface space you have to work with.
For an affordable under the cabinet lighting, opt for Amazon’s 6-Pack LED Under Cabinet Lighting ($24.99) which comes with a remote control and promises to shed a warm white glow.
5. Add some colour
“One of the more cost-effective facelifts for a space is via a fresh coat of paint,” says LiveEasy’s Maran. But how do you choose the right shade? “There is a general preference to adopt brighter tones to make smaller spaces look bigger, but an alternative thought process is to choose colours that really brighten your mood.” After all, he says, “The kitchen is a space in which many conversations take place and memories are made.”
Still think it’s too much hassle to paint your short-term digs? Try this instead: If you have old chairs or a kitchen island or table (or you may want to pick up some second-hand pieces), consider painting them a new hue. Barring that, a few well-placed pops of colour, like the suggestions here, can rapidly brighten a room.
Paint isn’t the only pop of colour you can add. A bowl of fruit can do just the trick. “In Singapore, it is a little hard to decorate with real fruit,” shares style pro Nina. “But faux fruits in oversized jars or fun bowls are great ways to add colour.” Feel free to buy Bungalow 55’s Faux Fruit ($10 each) in bulk.
You know that one blank wall in your kitchen? It will look a lot better if adorned with an attractive, easy-clean piece of art. May we suggest the vibrant “Singapore Shophouse” print (from $440) by Louise Hill Design?
6. Put the fun in functional
Kitchen design ideas don’t have to be extravagant changes. Everyday tools in cheery hues – whether it’s a candy-coloured dish sponge or bright cutting board – can bring a smile to your face. When it comes to selecting kitchen textiles, go with ones that will be easy to wash. But, says designer Maran, “Don’t be afraid of colour-fade. Every fade tells a story attached to a memory.”
The subtly textured sets of three Now Designs Floursack Kitchen Towels ($19.97) come in more than 15 different trios of colours and patterns. Or add a pop of colour with your kitchen appliances like the De’Longhi Icona Vintage Green ($149).
By Sara Bow, for The Finder Issue 306, February 2021