A Minimal, Modern Custom Kitchen That Looks More Expensive Than It Actually Was
There is lots to love about Aine and Eloise’s East London home. The way the floor-to-ceiling doors open up fully, connecting the home to the outdoors. The soothing neutral color palette punctuated with colorful accessories and word art. But of all the elements to drool over in their house, the kitchen deserves the biggest spotlight. It’s not only stunning in its simple beauty, it was completely designed by the couple — and the renovation’s final cost is shockingly affordable.
The current kitchen is actually where the dining room used to be, and vice versa. So essentially, the couple gutted the whole area and started from scratch (making the amount they spent even more impressive). But even if you’re not starting from the studs like Aine and Eloise, you can still steal some of their smart design ideas for your own minimal, modern kitchen.
Start with an affordable base
Aine and Eloise used what they called cabinet “carcasses” from B&Q, a UK hardware and home retail shop/warehouse. If you don’t have access to a B&Q, you can still use the idea — go with something sturdy and well-made that’s not particularly fancy looking for your cabinet base. (May I suggest IKEA, perhaps?)
Use affordable materials wisely
On top of those B&Q cabinet carcasses, they decided on a surprisingly simple, affordable material: birch plywood.
“We wanted a modern, fresh look in this part of the house. We looked at other wood veneers, but I love the pale colour of the birch and the simple grain pattern,” says Eloise.
This kitchen doesn’t look “unfinished” even though the bulk of the visible material is what you might call “budget.” How do they pull it off? Well, for one, the plywood’s grain is uniform — not highly contrasted like pine plywood, for example.
And what surrounds the plywood here helps, too. The birch is partnered with crisp white walls and Corian countertop material in Designer White — elevating everything with simplicity. The matte gray painted wood floor serves as a dark anchor to the room, making it “pop.” And lastly, the details, like the lack of physical door and drawer hardware, make this room feel more expensive than it is:
“I looked at handles and cut-outs but liked the routed line across the whole door/drawer look because it seemed the least fussy and just looked like a line in the design.”
Here, finger pulls were routed along the top edge of doors and drawers. It’s seamless and streamlined, and is a way to get a custom look for not a lot of money. Another small but impactful detail is the spacer sheets of wood between the cabinets and the shelf cubbies — they were left showing the plywood cross section to add interest.
Use a simple and subtle protective finish
“I finished it in three coats of Oxmo POLYX-Oil in a clear satin finish.” And bonus, it’s easy to clean: “The Oxmo gives a lovely durable finish that’s easy to clean.”
Buy second hand and build yourself:
The Smeg oven was a second-hand find from eBay: “It had some scratches on the side, which didn’t matter to us, but was half the price!” confesses Eloise.
Total cost: Approximately $4,550 (£3,500)
Appliances — $1,560
Cupboard carcasses — $234
Countertop — $1,300
Plywood and carpentry — $1,456
So would the couple do anything differently, if they were to do this remodel again?
“I wouldn’t have a white worktop — it shows every drip of coffee!” admits Eloise. “We did look at cast concrete but thought white would be brighter. I would opt for concrete if we did it again.”