A cramped 1980s kitchen gets a $14,000 makeover

With an interior designer and an architect in the family, plus plenty of friends to lend a hand, this charming kitchen renovation was a breeze


A cramped 1980s kitchen gets a $14,000 makeover

Who lived here?
Lisa Fairbairn, part-time interior designer at Haven Design and dance teacher, Daniel Fairbairn, business development manager, Lachie, 3, plus cats Bootie and Shadow. They have since sold the house and moved into a bigger place.

Where is the home?
Paraparaumu on the Kapiti Coast, a 10-15 minute walk from the beach.

The project
Newly qualified interior designer Lisa enlisted the help of husband Daniel, who has an architectural background, to renovate the kitchen and other areas of their home, with the goal of maximising space.



Why did you want to renovate?
When we moved into the house, the 1980s kitchen was in great condition and, as the colour palette was light grey and dark blue, it was fine to live with for a while. However, the makeover was inevitable as I am passionate about interior design and Daniel has spent a few years designing high-end kitchens. We just had to wait for our budget to catch up.

The layout of the existing kitchen did not use the space efficiently. We knew we could make a simple change that would add space to our living area and make the kitchen a lot more functional.


Design details 

What were the issues you wanted to fix with your new kitchen?
The cooktop had no ventilation and the layout was a very odd L-shape which wasted a lot of space. There was an unnecessary half-height partition wall between the kitchen and living space. This area was used for storage and benchtop space but it was bulky and cut off the flow between the kitchen and living room.

We knew that removing this cabinetry and wall would create an opportunity to put in a kitchen island. Doing this would not only open up the whole area but allow us to add another seating zone (around the island) and provide more functional space in our living area.


What look did you go for?
We decided on a modern traditional look with country-style handles and rustic light fittings. We wanted a timeless colour scheme of fresh white with black contrasting features to make the space feel light and give a hint of cottage character. Chatswood Kitchens in Paraparaumu were brilliant at bringing our design to life using a matte silk white Formica cabinetry finish.

The renovation 

Did you use tradesmen or do the work yourselves?
We used tradies to install most of the kitchen and for the plumbing and benchtop, but Daniel installed part of the kitchen himself. He also tiled the splashback, fitted the toe kicks and finished bits and pieces on the cabinetry.


What was your budget?
Our budget was $14,000, but, given that Daniel has done a lot of kitchen design work, we were able to call in a few favours and get amazing high-end products and services. Thankfully we stayed right on budget even though the actual cost of the products and services would have been around $20,000. It definitely pays to do as much as you can yourself, plus have amazing friends who are happy to help.

What did you splurge on?
The Caesarstone benchtops and black tapware were worth every cent. Plus the pendant lighting, which added to the modern cottage feel. These pendant lights were the stars of the show; I loved them.


The result 

How did the new space work for your family?
The new kitchen was amazing. The island became a whole new seating area for the family to gather around. The layout was so functional and enjoyable to cook in. I was so sad to leave when we sold the house as it was a dream kitchen for me. We hope to recreate a bigger version in our new house eventually.

How did you find the process of designing and working with your husband?
It was really exciting and fun; it’s funny how similar our tastes and opinions are when it comes to designing things for our home. We are a great team and have a real passion for improving the space we live in. We both believe your home should be your haven, where you can create family memories for years to come.


Best makeover moment 

When the cabinetry went in and we could see the transformation of the space. We could see how beautiful the end result was going to be and how the design would improve the entire living area, not just the kitchen. That was a truly exciting moment – as well as a relief because we knew then that we’d got the design just right.

Style inspiration 

Modern coastal cottage. This style fits the era of the house and its beach location. Also, because the house isn’t huge, it was important to maximise space and give it a fresh, airy feel. We achieved this with a coastal colour scheme of soft teals and greys with light timber flooring and white wooden blinds.

Total: $14,000

Words by: Fiona Ralph. Photography by: Nicola Edmonds.

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