Be you own Interior Designer – Kitchen Renovations Part 3

How to avoid Kitchen laboratory syndrome.

Hi people,

Apologies in advance for any spelling and grammatical errors I may make, I’m struggling a bit to keep up with my blogging schedule this week and I am having to write this late into the evening, which is never a great time for me to try and concentrate since I am an early to rise, early to bed type. So awake at 5.30am, up by 6 am and fading fast by 7 pm is pretty much the weekday norm, but needs must and I’m nothing if not reliable and I hate having to back track on commitments.

It’s been full on getting Brigitte prepared since the weekend and I’m quite ‘painted out’ Its only a little 6 square metre caravan but the painting seems to be taking me longer than the largest room in my house and I’ve still a way to go! ENOUGH, let’s get on with it, I’m intending to update you on Brigitte’s progress next post, I may even try a VLOG, yeek!

Theres nothing I hate more than a brand spanking new cold lifeless kitchen, usually white or some such neutral, rows of matching cupboards and zero character and warmth, ‘laboratory syndrome’ is what I call it. You know what I mean right? those kitchens you often see in ads with prices splashed all over them, can’t think why they would imagine anyone would be enticed to buy whatever the price, or the ones in the estate agents details that the builder has just put up for sale. You know, the one that’s ‘neutral’ so you can put your own stamp on it but of course it’s too late for you to put your own stamp on it as it’s already in and a posh coffee machine on the side just isn’t going to cut it!

Sorry to be a bit scathing about it but I honestly do hate it when I see perfectly good homes, particularly period homes, that have been ‘renovated’ by builders who basically rip the heart out of a house and put in sterile bathrooms and kitchens. I want to shout, “bring back the skip, rip up the laminate and paint the floor boards!” I could go on about this but I think it’s best that I move on..

I think you have to be really careful that you don’t get dragged into ‘Lab Syn’ when you are designing your own kitchen and I think it’s an easy trap to fall into especially since there are so many options and it’s a big investment so it’s natural to want to play it safe. Chances are the kitchen designer may also head you down the ‘standard’ route, partly because they also want to play it safe with your liking it and also because they are churning these plans out and probably repeating layouts and designs over and over.

So what can you do to ensure that your kitchen is the heart and soul of your home. After all these days the kitchen is rarely just a practical room to cook in, it’s also our dining and main living area. Where we gather with friends and family to work, eat, drink, chat and be merry so it needs to tick all the boxes.  Practicality for sure but also stylish, homely and comfortable and maybe even a little glam if that’s your thing.

Find some inspiration..

The inspiration for my country kitchen was the lovely working but homely kitchens and below stairs rooms on the Downton Abbey set. I loved the gorgeous greeny grey colour and the copper pans, the dimly lit cosy space and the old wood furniture, it oozed home didn’t it? all that baking and drama! I mean I loved some of the glamorous upstairs sets too, but this looked the most relaxed. I actually googled the colours for the set and found they had used two greys from the Myland paint range, this is a truly fabulous paint range if you haven’t tried it by the way. I didn’t actually use their greys in the end, but that’s another story, however the point I am trying to make is that I wanted the feel of that living space and this became my inspiration. What you don’t want to really do is find an image of a kitchen and copy it. Sure take note of features in it that you like, but it won’t translate as very personal if you don’t put your stamp on it. If you’ve done your pre-planning, as suggested in part 1,  you will have found some inspiration before you start and have it all mapped out on your mood board.

Colour and texture

You will have guessed from my earlier comments that personally I’m not a great fan of white kitchens, she says whilst in the middle of painting her retro caravan kitchen F&B ‘All White’ oops! well this is not a proper kitchen but a mere kitchenette and there is more cooker than cabinet, you will see what I mean soon. I don’t really dislike them if they look something like the images above which have added texture and other neutral colours. If you don’t add different textures and colours though they can look, well, cold and sterile like a lab! The use in these designs of natural textures like wood and brick have really brought these spaces to life and added warmth and as for this image below, texture and colour OMG, tick !

Ok so this one is a pretty amazing space but what a combo of texture and colour, not to mention the oversized lights! It’s still a do-able combo any where though. The exposed brick wall is a current favourite and can add instant interest and texture, plus now you don’t actually have to have a real exposed brick wall with either some of the brilliant brick effect wallpaper such as Mr Perswall available from Rockett St George or faux Brick panels.

Theres a bit of a green theme going on here, but there’s that combo again, different shade of green than before but again with wood, black, brick, white and metallic they are looking fabulously thrown together don’t you think? Nothing flat pack about these babies! Also loving that gold hanging rail and the old random cabinet. Cool lived-in luxe with bags of personality and individuality, absolutely no white coats here!

Then of course there’s just TEXTURE or just COLOUR..


Using vintage and antiques


Being clever by adding the odd piece of vintage or antique furniture to an otherwise modern space can really add personality, the really clever use of this table with modern stools and a backdrop of geometric tiles is perfect and you saw above how  an old cabinet sat perfectly among more modern furniture. The key here is to use the pieces in neutral colours or woods which themselves should be considered neutral. I would tend to keep the same tone of woods to keep a cohesive look as the designer Jessica Helgerson has done here.

Black magic

Black is BIG in kitchens at the moment, it’s dramatic and glamorous

Or adds some lux to rustic

certainly no lab coats in here!

Shelve the cupboards

What you will note in most of the images so far is that rows of wall units are not a feature. Open shelving, which can also be great interspersed with units are a great way to add interest. These can be full on ..

Or a bit more restrained if you think you are the kind of family that will keep this casual look looking a bit more casual than you would like!

Even white kitchens can look good with open shelving!

And hang your pans

and for those who say “but my kitchen is only diddy”

small on size big on personality

And finally….accessorise

“The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize”

So says Clairee Belcher, Steel Magnolias, 1989 and so true (one of my fave all time movies, watch it you won’t be sorry)

Accessorise in your kitchen as you do in all other areas of your home, forget that old idea of keeping things clear and clinical, we’re ditching that idea ok?

Stuffed animals, dripping chandeliers..

Art and whatever else you fancy.

So then, a few ideas for you to consider. Which ones are your favourites? If anyone is doing or about to do a kitchen renovation would love to hear from you on any tips you would like to share with us or maybe you would to share your kitchen pics of before and after? It’s a huge subject and I certainly haven’t covered everything but let me know if there’s something you would like me to post about. Use the comments below to share or feel free to email me at


6 thoughts on “Be you own Interior Designer – Kitchen Renovations Part 3

  1. Hi Jane, Avoid a kitchen laboratory is a subject that I am investigating too, since we spend more time in the kitchen than ever before and many homes leave out a formal dining room all together. I can see decorated kitchens and designed kitchens in the collection of pictures here. Cleaning all the stuff that’s on open shelving as well as picture frames or chandeliers (and don’t forget the fluffy rug) is time consuming. Those decorated kitchens will be ok only for some homeowners. However the designed kitchens with (strong) texture and colour can be considered by anyone. Pre-planning is the ultimate tool for such a design, I totally agree and endless inspiration comes next! Great article!

    1. Thanks so much Beatrice. I’m glad you can see the two different methods here of injecting interest and avoiding a sterile look. I know what you mean about the cleaning of accessories 😦 ,certainly not a ‘practical’ choice and they are probably a bit too much for most people but these are inspirational images and out of most peoples comfort zone. However I think a bit of both would work well and taking some of the accessory ideas on board will definitely help in avoiding ‘lab syn’ and creating a personal space, after all beauty is pain, though I suspect that it there is probably a cleaner involved in these homes 🙂

  2. Hear, hear! Couldn’t agree more. I’m always planning my dream kitchen in my head, even though it’s probably ten years away, and there isn’t a white cabinet in sight. X

    1. Haha, good for you Bianca, I could become a ‘white lab’ target but who cares, there’re too many white kitchens, somethings got to be done about it, live dangerously I say😜

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