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Need advice on updating Mediterranean kitchen

4 days ago

I've made a few minor updates to the kitchen including the following: (1) switched out bronze rope-style cabinet knobs and drawer pulls for brushed brass, (2) lighter paint on the walls, and (3) replaced traditional lighting with more modern (not sure I made the right decision here). There is quite a bit of natural light coming in, but the huge brown cabinets are a little overwhelming. Now I'm thinking I should've kept the more traditional lighting and painted the cabinets a lighter color (though I've heard Knotty Alder is difficult to paint?). I definitely want to update the ugly yellow granite counter tops and travertine back splash as well. I've added before and after photos of what I've done so far.

Any advice is appreciated! Thanks in advance!

Comments (54)

  • PRO
    Sina Sadeddin Architectural Design

    I'm with Jan. I think you've done all the simple cosmetic changes you can do without doing a full gut. The issue, that I think you're starting to realize, is that it snowballs. The more you swap out the Mediterranean elements the more the remaining ones feel out of place.

  • housegal200

    Whoa, I don't think you need to gut renovate. Can you remove the upper level cabinets (the level above the fridge) entirely and find storage elsewhere? Then finish off the tops as shown below. The cabinets are so ornate, but half of them would streamline and lighten so much of the kitchen. There's really no need for such tall cabinets.

    Light cream countertops on the

    island and the curved countertop would greatly lighten the room as well. Also consider a gorgeous rug in creams, browns, and an accent color to break up the expanse of flooring.

    rebeccabartlett thanked housegal200
  • tqtqtbw

    I would put the original light fixture back. It suited the house. i would also have the upper cabinets painted cream to make the space feel less oppressive.

    rebeccabartlett thanked tqtqtbw
  • rantontoo

    Plumbing...what is in there that needed plumbing?

    Does the kitchen go with the architecture in the rest of the house? I do not hate your cabs. The flooring change was a visually needed update.

    Are the heavy-looking corner pieces on all corners of the island? I would see what could be done to eliminate those...it is the most glaring over-the-top tuscan element to me.

  • suedonim75

    Whoa, I don't think you need to gut renovate. Can you remove the upper level cabinets (the level above the fridge) entirely and find storage elsewhere? Then finish off the tops as shown below.

    If you look close at her pictures, it appears the top row already has glass doors.

  • rebeccabartlett

    @rantonto We still haven't figured out why they would've put plumbing there. Maybe a third sink? I agree that the heavy corner pieces on the island need to go. I've added some (terrible quality) pictures taken from the kitchen of the rest of the main living area. Please excuse the large pop-a-shot basketball goal (it has been too cold to play outside). I want a more modern spanish/southwest look. I know this look is overdone, but I think it is one of the only looks that works with the house, which has a stucco exterior (besides old world/tuscan, which I don't want).

  • mark_rachel

    The new flooring looks nice, although I would have went lighter to offset the darkness of the cabinets. I agree with above that the crescent bar has to go. The lighter paint looks nice as well. I would go with a lighter countertop & new light backsplash. One option might be to do away with both "islands" and put in one large light colored island.

  • tqtqtbw

    It's a grand kitchen in a grand house. I could see you going more toward the Spanish/California look with more white/cream and a much lighter countertop.

  • celerygirl

    wow! Looks as medieval for me. I love this look! I would just add under cabinets lights.

  • damiarain

    I could see something like this working in your space - white cabinets would really make a difference (and maybe not such a high, towering bank of them?)

    Though could be an opportunity to have a ladder in the kitchen =D

  • tqtqtbw

    I'll take all the storage I can get! This kitchen has such tall ceilings that the stacked uppers make sense. Love the color . ^^^

  • felizlady
    This kitchen is too tall (requires an extension ladder to reach uppermost cabinets), too dark and heavy from the beams to the cabinets to the flooring, too ornate, more “dungeon” than kitchen. If I was cooking there I would be making goulash for prisoners (goulash may be delicious, but the word sounds right in this kitchen...maybe if spelled “ghoulash”).
    I rarely say “gut”, but I can’t think of many kitchens I have seen that are this overpowering. The funny thing is, I’ll bet that the house that includes this kitchen is a beautiful large Mediterranean estate on five acres.
    Gut...I use that word gently, but I mean it.
  • rebeccabartlett

    @celerygirl @felizlady "Medieval" and "dungeon" both came to my mind when I first saw the kitchen (especially with the original light fixture), but since I can't have Tyrion Lannister over for a goblet of wine, I definitely want to lighten the place up...

  • Mrs. S

    Rarely do I disagree with a general consensus like this. But here goes. It does not look medieval to me. It just looks dark. The photo of your hallway, with the contrast between dark and white, is beautiful. Maybe because of the area I live in, so many homes have huge high ceilings like this, and are very grand (not mine!). Not all are McMansions, they are just grand estates.

    I'd paint the cabinets ivory/light cream, as suggested by damiarain (borrow the color from the stonework), and yes, I agree to get rid of the 2nd curved island.

    The floors are nice. No gut renovation. And I bet those are nice cabinets, too. If you can afford a REALLY good paint job, that's what I would do.

  • rantontoo

    I do not think you have to do a gut remodel. You have a lovely home with a kitchen that fits your home. I like the dark floors in the rest of the house; but with all the dark, tall cabs in the kitchen, a really dark floor was too much.

    I would invest in a roll of butcher paper (white towels, folded white sheets), cover all the counters with it, and then see what you think. If it is still not visually lighterned enough for you, new lighter counters will not be the solution.

    Only then would I paint the cabs and replace the backsplash to help reflect light instead of what looks like the stone you currently have.

    However, there is a right and wrong way to go about painting cabs if you want a quality finish that will be as chip free as possible. Please research this route...there are soooooo many after-the-fact professional painted botch jobs that are posted here. Take off as much of the tuscan ornamentation as you can during the prep/sanding steps so any damage, screw holes, etc. can be filled and sanded.

  • chispa

    For this size house and with that height ceilings, your lighting is very minimal. My kitchen is a bit smaller with a lower vaulted ceiling and I have more recessed lights than you.

    I would contact a lighting designer and come up with a plan to add/update lighting in the kitchen and other rooms.

    I have a Spanish style house and added dark cabinets because it went well with the house and the existing wood beams. I used Taj Mahal quartzite for my counters and a tile with similar colors, which really brightened up the space. I also added lights above the cabinets and below the cabinets. Dark cabinets don't have to equal dungeon!

    How about taking out some cabinets on the sink wall and adding a bigger window?

  • Jas Webber

    I have to agree with everyone who's saying "no gut." @Mrs S made good points-its not medieval, just dark but it goes with the look of the rest of the house so focus on updates.

    Your new floors are nice and altho I don't think the new lighting fits, at least you took a first step and now know what WON'T work.

    I like the pic from @tqtqtbw - seems like it would serve as a nice inspiration pic for you to work from. That pic certainly flows with the design of your home. @damiarains pic as well.

    Crescent island could be removed and extend the main island, to which you could add room for seating. Hang in there - work piece by piece and the answers will come:)

  • tqtqtbw

    I wonder if the crescent is meant for a bartender during parties?

  • Chris & Donna Barton
    beautiful space!!!
  • Chris & Donna Barton
    I wonder if just painting your main island cabinetry an antique white would be enough to change the whole look? using an oil based cabinet paint, would be no trouble covering any type wood.
  • everdebz

    To each his/her own. To me I think of the cooks in Downton Abbey... a kitchen for hard work. Is there anything besides looks that you want changed? I don't mind caramel/root beer colors at all, and it's ok if you don't. Deep colors but not too dark - stools of heathered burgundy/ wine....

  • everdebz

    I happen to agree about the hallway - there's similar in San Diego's Balboa Park with your previous style chandelier in it... that might be a place for that type, smaller...

    not sure I understand the mantel not full width... would that look better chalked/ distressed to blend in. Same with upper wood.

  • everdebz

    And why change the not typical shape of island?

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  • everdebz

    Can you post photos facing the cabinets? I can't tell how ornate they are...

    what about idea of lightening just the ceiling beams? are they wrong for a medium stain?

  • abb_ann
    I agree, this kitchen is nice. I like the idea of updating the lighting, however the new piece is too contemporary. Stick with transitional that is clean lined. I would change both the island counter tops.
  • tartanmeup

    This kitchen has a lot of style and I think you're on the right track with your changes. Of course, if it bears absolutely no resemblance to your dream kitchen, it's a gut job. If it were mine, I'd have opted for a brighter, clearer wall colour (on my monitor, the wall colour is skewing a bit too dirty grey), change the barstools to something with a bit of shine and brightness and look into lighter countertops and painting the islands. Perhaps change the glass inserts to something "cleaner and simpler"? I'd get rid of the crescent-shaped island if it weren't functional. I can't clearly see what's on the stove wall (sconces? statue?) but that space might benefit from lighter, brighter elements. And yes, make sure you optimize your lighting first. It'll brighten your space regardless of the decor choices you make. Whatever accessories I'd add on the counter would add shine, texture and colour to the space. Thinking brass, glass, gloss...

  • Daniela Marino
    I think that a cream os off white big island replacing both that you have will help a lot:
  • Daniela Marino
    I would also paint or wallpaper inside the upper window row of cabinets in the same color of island, in order to lighten the massive block of cabinets.
    Another move could be replacing the mantel and perhaps stone with a big steel (or, again, cream) hood:
  • Daniela Marino
    If you plan on a big reno, see the other photos in the steel hood publication
  • everdebz

    A new day -- though island's top seems a darker version of the floor, it doesn't seem to 'add' but detract .... [I prefer the lighter caramel counter]… ??

  • PRO

    I avoided the word dungeon. Glad someone else used it. At some point, you have to ask how much $$$$$$ pecking you want to throw at it.

    It'e interior sapce,

    The ceiling height is absurd, relative to mouse hole sized doorways

    The cabinet paint job, would exceed that of brand new cabinetry

    If you like the appliances, call a PRO KD in there. Save money and get something closer to your dream. Arched doors, do not a castle make. Nor a Mediterranean in all cases. This was just design overkill. You need a 10k lighting budget : )

  • daneejela

    I think your kitchen is one of those spaces that you'll hardly make to look like everybody else's.

    But, why should you? I think that this kitchen has potential if you are wiling to step out of the current trend box.

    There seams to be much cabinet space in the kitchen, would you consider taking out some of the upper cabinets and replace it with the open shelves (or nothing)?

    Here are is example how kitchen with dark cabinets can feel very light:

  • everdebz

    I picture this type - very simple seems old world too.... I like tartanmeup's bright shining 1st stool.

    You might as well keep the initial chandelier you posted - what about a very slight change in its finish?

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  • J Williams

    Wow. That is one interesting kitchen. I’d get rid of the curved counter, looks so out of place. Could you put a more modern table there, maybe a white or cream one? Would it be possible, maybe, to light the glass cabinet at the top? I kind of like how you brought in a modern light, maybe you can move the kitchen to a more ecclectic/industrial look. I wonder if it would make sense to enlarge the doorways, get rid of the curve maybe.

    rebeccabartlett thanked J Williams
  • rebeccabartlett

    I found some more photos of the kitchen and surrounding areas on my phone (please disregard the kids and mess) for an idea of scale and style of the home. I think the ceilings are about 16 feet throughout the kitchen and living room, but the dining room has very low ceilings. All of the doors and archways are 9 ft. I'm really regretting the kitchen chandelier and sconces (and the dining room chandelier) that I added. I'm in over my head will definitely need to hire a designer. Thank you all so much for the advice and pictures!!! I've gotten some really great ideas.

  • rebeccabartlett

    more pics

  • Susan

    Remove curved island. Replace countertop of sink island with lighter top and overhang for seating, or paint the sink island and keep existing top. Add cabinet lighting to the top cabinets as well as under the cabinets. The sink island is really sucking up light. I think addressing that would solve most of the issues with the dark feeling of the kitchen.

    rebeccabartlett thanked Susan
  • tartanmeup

    I think hiring a designer is a good idea. Options should be plentiful, depending on budget and style. It's not coming across dungeon-like to me so I'm not thinking "gut". But I'm looking at pictures, not living in the space. Perhaps there is a huge disconnect between the kitchen and the rest of the house. A designer should be able to offer you a few scenarios to meet your needs. Good luck! Hope you keep us posted. :)

  • apple_pie_order

    What do you really want? If you have photos of your dream kitchen, that'd be helpful. Also, do you have a budget range in mind or are you at the gathering ideas stage?

  • Susan

    If possible you could even consider removing the top bit of cabinets. What works in your other spaces is having the white dark balance. That is not in the same proportions in the kitchen. So exposing more wall could help if you can sacrifice the cabinet space.

  • Caroline
    I think your house is beautiful! I like the changes you’ve made. I’d change the countertops to something lighter and remove crescent shape counter altogether. If you don’t want to remove island due to floors then at least change shape to a rectangle. Maybe a colorful modern southwest runner to add color.
  • calidesign

    It's a Mediterranean home so don't try to change it into something it's not. You've done a good job with lightening the paint color and changing the flooring. I would put the original light fixture back, remove the curved island top and replace it with a light colored rectangular top. If you have the budget to replace all the countertops with a light color it would look even better.

    rebeccabartlett thanked calidesign
  • PRO
    Filipe Custom Woodwork

    I think the house is beautiful. Many houses built today lack character and interest and they look like every other house. Your house is unique. I would add glass doors and interior lighting on the top cabinetry to brighten/harmonize the area.

    I would remove the 2 islands completely and add new cabinetry to create a single large island in a different finish altogether. I would also consider changing the counters. Maybe a Taj Mahal, new backsplash, and underneath cabinet lighting.

    The type of island shape and size I am thinking. Very close to what you have but reversed. The counters are Taj Mahal.

    I would also change the island lighting to two smaller chandelier/lighting appropriate to the time period. Change the stools to say a nailhead stool in a beautiful red leather like

    everdebz suggested in the first picture.

  • Jas Webber

    I realize the style of these pics aren't Mediterranean, but here's a visual of the doors with glass.

  • Rita / Bring Back Sophie 4 Real

    I don't have anything of value to add about what to do with the kitchen. It's a matter of budget, nothing else for me. If I could afford to gut that kitchen, I would. If I couldn't, then I think you did a great job tweaking it. I would not waste any more money on tweaks though. You have reached the point of diminishing returns here.

    I am writing specifically in support of your gorgeous branch light fixture. I love the contrast of the modern with the whatever you want to call the look of the kitchen. I think it was an inspired choice, as was changing the floor.

  • Linda Renzulli
    We bought a faux Tuscan villa with a very dark kitchen and dark distressed wood throughout every room in the house. Apparently this style of architecture was all the rage in Boise, Idaho in 2005. I've always hated the outside of the house and the inside even more. Fortunately the house ticked all the boxes for us, most importantly an in law suite so I could care for my husband's elderly parents. We have spent 9 years changing the appearance of the house and ended up totally gutting that kitchen. There were no windows in the kitchen and now the sun greets me in the morning!
  • nosoccermom

    I'd add some color and better lighting (BTW, I love that Lindsey Adler fixture).

    Right now, it is all various shades of brown and off white.

  • damiarain

    Obviously this is a completely different look than your kitchen - but I love how the transom windows really light up the space and draw your eye upward

    (def don't love that they have their range in front of a window! =D)

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