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  • Writer's pictureTimber & Salt Team

Our Six Favorite Upgrades for a Small Kitchen

We did this thing where we rented our house for years before we bought it, which meant that we had to live in our space without being able to change much for a good long time. While that was frustrating at times when we were ready to jump into bigger renovation projects like taking down walls and a big kitchen remodel, we knew exactly what we wanted to change.

Here are our favorite upgrades that made our Cottage Kitchen both more beautiful and more functional:

More storage and seating

The original kitchen design had no seating or storage built-into the design (outside of kitchen cabinets). The first thing we did was turn the one unoccupied wall in the kitchen into a built-in with open shelving surrounding a window and a big bench with storage underneath. This got us some much-needed options for storing bigger kitchen items like pots and pans and some casual seating and throw-away storage space.

Another crucial element was adding a kitchen island that provided both seating and more storage and workspace. Our island is on wheels which is important since our kitchen is so small and a major thruway for our house. This way we have the seating and the worktop but also the ability to move it out of the way if we need to. We painted the island drawers and bottom to match our bottom cabinets and then designed a thick butcher block top for it in black walnut with a strip of contrasting sugar maple. It's a great spot for our kids to eat breakfast, for casual dinners, a workspace during the day for mom and dad and our preferred spot for cookie baking endeavors during the holidays.

A big ole' sink

We knew we wanted our sink to be a feature of the kitchen but also to be more functional for our family of four. We’d been living with a small inset stainless-steel sink for a while and knew that an apron sink would work much better. We spent a long time checking out different versions of the classic white porcelain farmhouse sinks but never quite found one that worked for us. That’s when we stumbled on a copper version of an apron front, farmhouse sink and fell in love. We could write an entire post on the copper sink alone (and maybe we will!) but it worked for us for a few reasons: It’s really light and easy to install, it takes a beating without showing much wear (ours is already dimpled so no dropped pans causing dents for us!) and its super easy to spiff up. A little Bar Keepers Friend goes a long way to bring back its shine if we’re feeling like it, but honestly, the patina of a worn copper sink is pretty nice. Copper sinks can be pricey, but we found ours for a great deal since it was a discontinued model and had a slight imperfection (that is completely unnoticeable).

A gas range

The range we inherited from the previous owners was a low-end electric that eventually caught on fire in its electrical panel. While we know there are tons of great induction options out there, we went with an old-school gas range and couldn’t be happier. We love our Bertazzoni range – it’s super high quality, it’s way more fun cooking on gas than electric (in our humble opinions) and when we lose power (which is pretty often) we can still use our stove and oven going old school with a match. Win – win – win.

Tile backsplash

Our old kitchen didn’t have any type of backsplash and let me tell you – it’s shocking just how much crud gets stuck to the walls in a kitchen and just how hard it is to clean. We were going to stick with a classic subway tile but we had left over hexagonal white tiles from our bathroom reno and decided that instead of buying more, we’d repurpose. Funny how those decisions to be frugal or go with the flow can be some of the best – the tile backsplash in our kitchen pulled the entire space together, is infinitely easier to clean and with a white grout the hexagonal shapes add some interest and texture to the walls that sort of blends in without being overwhelming.

Fresh paint on the cabinets

We had a real conundrum on our hands when it came to our cabinets. On the one hand, they were in really good shape and had a lot of life left in them. On the other hand, they were completely not our style (think shiny cherry stain and stainless steel handles). We couldn’t bring ourselves to tear something out that was perfectly functional so we opted to paint them – at first we did a classic white/blue with white uppers and Blue Danube from Benjamin Moore on the bottom cabinets. We also updated the drawer pulls and handles to an aged bronze. After living with that combination for a few years we realized that while we really loved the blue, it made the space feel small and crowded, so we changed it over the summer to Stone Hearth and it feels much better. The shades of neutral open up the space and let the copper and walnut accents shine.

A mix of countertops

Without a ton of counter space to work with we knew we wanted something light and stone (or stone like) for the bulk of it and then to add some more functional butcher block counter space as well. We went with a quartz and got (another!) deal by choosing remnants of a bigger countertop job at a local company. The white and gray in the quartz brightens up the space and then the contrasting walnut countertops provide more warmth and depth (and a place for coffee and wine without worrying about stain remover!)

These are our favorite upgrades to our eclectic cottage kitchen – we’d love to hear more about your favorite parts of your kitchens (or what you dream most about changing!)

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