So what if the cabinets are old and the appliances aren’t stainless steel? Hopefully you bought the place for its age and charm. Even worn-out kitchens can be transformed into appealing spaces that are more than functional for the days or months you will be in residence for far less than a typical kitchen renovation that costs tens of thousands of dollars.
Turn Outdated Elements into Vintage Charm
Let’s begin with the obvious: Keep the charm that won you over in the first place. Beadboard walls, original wood floors, molded door and window casings, even grungy existing cabinets can be spruced up or repurposed in ways that make your getaway your own.
Designer Jane Coslick is famous for turning derelict wood-frame cottages in Tybee Island, Georgia, into colorful beach getaways. In one example shown here, Jane kept as many original elements as she could, from the heart-pine floor to the beadboard walls. When she needed more beadboard to complete the kitchen sitting room, she scavenged it from a similar building that was being torn down. She not only kept the feel of the original cottage, but also saved thousands of dollars.
In a cold-weather getaway, an AGA stove that’s always on might be an investment to consider, as is orienting the kitchen to a source of heat, such as a fireplace or wood-burning stove. A summer house, on the other hand, might not even need true walls—the exposed beams and studs epitomize getaway rustic (and make it easier to run wiring).
Avoid over-fitting the kitchen
Do you really need expansive banks of upper and lower cabinets? Fewer cabinets mean less stuff. And so much of the charm of a cottage comes from using freestanding cabinets and open shelving. There’s no need for countertops measured in acres, either. Smaller surfaces allow you to adapt inexpensive scrap pieces of such high-end materials as marble, granite, slate, or copper for work surfaces or breakfast bars.
This isn’t the place for a commercial stove and a Sub-Zero fridge. Put the money into an efficient gas grille if you’ll be cooking outdoors. If you find the old appliances unattractive, choose a kitchen color scheme to help them blend in. White appliances all but disappear in a white kitchen.
It’s even possible to come up with a complementary color scheme for an avocado green stove. (Try white, with the green picked up in patterns on tea towels or slip-covers. Bolder renovators might choose a color on the opposite side of the color wheel—in this case, orange!)
Shopping for something to match that avocado stove? Check out our Buyer's Guide to Vintage Appliances.
Experiment with color
For a simple dwelling, keep the palette clean. One of the signatures of Jane Coslick’s Tybee Island cottages is her use of bright pops of color on a white palette. A getaway house kitchen can benefit from the use of bold, unusual, or whimsical colors, especially when there’s only enough money in the budget to paint the cabinets, not replace them.
Personalize with hardware
Speaking of money, put dollops of cash into accents like lighting and hardware. A fresh coat of paint and new, period-appropriate cabinet and bin pulls can transform cabinets. Choose reproduction pendants and scon-ces to illuminate work areas. Personalize the space as you outfit it with dishes, utensils, and pots and pans.
Add character with vintage collectibles
A second home is the perfect place to trot out all those collectibles you found on eBay and have been storing since the late 1990s, or vintage pieces found locally that tie your house to its history.
Remember that less is more when it comes to pots and pans—and utensils, if drawer space is tight or nonexistent. Edit tools and equipment, keeping in mind must-haves, like lobster pots in coastal Maine, or marshmallow skewers for mountain retreats with fire pits.
If you are planning a major overhaul or addition, open the kitchen to the living space, indoors and out. Even small galley-sized kitchens live large when they open into a gathering room.
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