Smart Surface Updates Add Big Style to a Small Alabama Kitchen


It’s amazing what a coat of paint (or several) can do. Louise Plott learned this firsthand when she partnered with her designer friend, Lisa Flake, to update the small kitchen in her 1920s Tudor-style home in Birmingham, Alabama. The existing foor plan was functional, but the lackluster finishes and fixtures were a far cry from the light and bright style Louise craved. So Flake set to work refreshing the 9×16-foot space while honoring its petite proportions. “We chose a few things that make an impact,” she says. “But we avoided overdecorating.”

Small kitchen: update first impressions.
Painting the cabinetry and replacing the countertops, backsplash, and flooring refreshed this kitchen within its existing footprint.

First on her list of to-dos: painting the ’90s-era dull brown cabinets, which were in good shape despite their dated appearance. Selecting a neutral gray paint color allowed for more playful choices in other fixtures and accessories. “I’m a designer who likes to have one wow per room, and the backsplash we chose was this room’s wow,” Flake says of the gray, black, and white oval tiles – a modern take on traditional penny tile. “Focal points don’t have to be expensive, although small kitchens are the best place to use a backsplash that is above average in price.”

Small kitchen update: Modern-retro material for Roman shades.
“I love fabrics more than anything,” says homeowner Louise Plott, who chose this modern/retro material for Roman shades.

Roman shades in the kitchen and adjacent home ofce (formerly a laundry room) bring in more fresh color and pattern. “We loved that fabric because it had all of the colors we needed, and it added another fun element to the room without getting too whimsical,” Flake says.

Bookcases surrounding the pantry door only needed a new coat of paint. To hide the pantry contents, the glass panels were sandblasted.

Decorating kitchen bookshelves.
Doubling as display and storage, make sure your shelves look good while working hard.

Stainless-steel appliances, travertine-tile flooring, and marble countertops -sourced from an Alabama quarry – complete the classic-with-a-twist design. The peninsula’s rounded edge is both pretty and practical; its deep overhang allows Louise to tuck a pair of stools underneath. The stools are painted the same shade of gray as the cabinetry for a unified look.

The stainless-steeltopped breakfast table.
The stainless-steeltopped breakfast table was found at an antiques market in Atlanta.

A casual dining area just around the corner includes a banquette upholstered in dark gray faux leather to tie in with the kitchen’s classic color scheme. “Gray looks good with everything,” Flake says. This small but-mighty kitchen proves it.

Desk and storage cabinet.
Louise commissioned a local carpenter to create a desk and storage cabinet in a former laundry room.
Walking space in a kitchen.
The end of the peninsula hangs over just enough to accommodate a pair of stools.