10 ways to mix old and new in the kitchen

Bring personality and character to your kitchen with a blend of old and new finds

Retrouvius - The Old Rectory Kitchen with an Aga
Whether you live in an period property, or long to bring personality to a newer-build, a mixture of old and new finds in your kitchen is a sure-fire way to introduce personality to your home. From traditional range cookers and fridges, to creating covetable displays of antique china, here we take a fresh look at ways to mix old and new to practical and stylish effect in your kitchen…

Mix and match old and new elements

A sure way to a timeless kitchen is to mix new cabinets with recycled and vintage elements. Take your cue from the architecture – here, exposed brickwork signals an industrial aesthetic, picked up in reclaimed wood shelves and salvaged factory furniture. New cabinetry is plain and functional in style, but modern in performance. The tall cupboard provides plenty of storage, relieving the need for cabinets, which would detract from the room’s simplicity.

An industrial-style kitchen with and exposed brick wall
Kitchens supplied primed and ready to fit and paint, from around £8,000; individual cupboards, from £465, all British Standard.

Create displays of antique and vintage treasures

Some collections cry out for a kitchen setting. Copper saucepans, ceramic jelly moulds, Staffordshire dog figurines and wooden breadboards are obvious candidates, but in an open-plan kitchen where a more elegant look is required, blue and white ceramics are a classic choice. The colour combination has the freshness of a well-scrubbed dairy and the shapes are pleasing. Showcase your collections behind glass or choose objects in materials that are easy to keep clean.

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A classic white kitchen with an Aga and a display of blue and white ceramics
Bespoke Pilaster kitchen, from £50,000, Smallbone of Devizes 
Rustic birds & botanicals country kitchen

Layer up your lighting

In the kitchen, a layered lighting scheme is essential to provide general, task and mood lighting in just the right amounts. Hung above a table or in multiples over an island, industrial shades and enamelled pendants are attractive features but rarely sufficient to light the entire room. In most kitchens, recessed downlights provide discreet background lighting while hidden under-cabinet fittings illuminate the worktop. Here, LED lights have been recessed into the underside of the lowest oak wall shelf as well as the upper side of the top one to provide the extra light needed.

Complete kitchens from £40,000, Thomas & Thomas.
Complete kitchens from £40,000, Thomas & Thomas.

Choose a heritage sink design

Ceramic sinks are practical, durable and now come in a range of sizes and formats suitable for both kitchens and utility rooms. The example pictured was chosen by designer Pam Baker of Martin Moore for a client with a passion for flower arranging, in need of a sink and tap that would give enough clearance for tall vessels.

A beige kitchen with a ceramic sink and vases of fresh flowers
Pam Baker of Martin Moore chose this traditional Belfast sink for a client with a passion for flower arranging.

Opt for sympathetic flooring

Flooring options for kitchens are boundless. Marmoleum is a good choice for a mid-century kitchen, flagstones for a Georgian example and quarry tiles for an Edwardian space. In open-plan kitchens, antique or vintage rugs provide colour and texture and give a furnished look.

A contemporary white kitchen with an antique Persian rug on the floor

Choose a classic range cooker

A range cooker is first choice for the keen cook, who needs a large hob, high-capacity ovens and modern features. Professional, classic or country styles all suit a traditional kitchen, with either coloured or stainless-steel finish. Here’s our edit of the best range cookers available this year.

A pale blue countryside kitchen with an Everhot range
Everhot 110i in Cream, £8,925, Everhot.

Consider a retro-style fridge

In a traditional kitchen, you can choose an integrated fridge concealed behind cabinet doors, or a free-standing version designed to be seen – try an American-style fridge-freezer or, for impact, a 1950s-inspired rounded model in a bold shade.

An industrial-style kitchen with a blue Smeg fridge
FAB28 fridge in Pastel Blue, £1,199, Smeg.

Create a heritage-style tiled splashback

Cladding the wall between the worktop and cabinets with vintage tiles gives a traditional kitchen authentic style, but it’s rare to find enough to make an entire splashback. One solution is to create a panel or border of original tiles and surround them with plain ones in a complementary colour. Another is to choose new tiles in antique-inspired designs, mixing several patterns to form a patchwork. Vintage-style tiles can be bought in mixed sets designed specifically for this purpose, or individually, so you can make your own collection and achieve a unique result.

A dark grey contemporary kitchen with geometric wall tiles
 

Introduce textiles into your kitchen

From antique toile de Jouy to vintage embroidered tablecloths, fabric provides a soft counterpoint to hard kitchen surfaces. And curtains, seat cushions and other textile accessories make the room feel colourful and inviting. In a room where spills and splashes are a daily hazard, fabrics that are easily cleaned are essential and natural fibres like cotton and linen can be popped into the washing machine. If you’re a reasonably experienced seamstress, it’s easy to make your own soft furnishings, but check that the cloth you use is pre-shrunk. If you’re not sure, wash it before you begin.

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A dark blue kitchen with striped curtains and a table covered with a floral tablecloth

Work with the architecture in your home

Modern houses, with their square corners and regular room plans, may seem like a gift to kitchen designers but, along with the low windows, alcoves and architectural details in traditional homes comes that intangible quality – character. Chimney breasts are the natural home for a range cooker, alcoves are made to be filled with tall cupboards or shelves, and decorative plasterwork poses a delicate contrast to the practical cupboards and surfaces below. In this double-volume kitchen, the lofty ceiling could have resulted in a chilly, Spartan atmosphere, but dark, time-worn floorboards, grey cabinets, a cosy window seat and a few vintage pieces ground the scheme, creating a warm and homely environment.

A dark grey cottage kitchen with black quartz worktops

How to mix old and new in a small kitchen

Helen Parker, Creative Director at deVOL, shares her ideas for small-scale, traditional kitchens

Try to integrate your appliances, such as the washing machine, dishwasher and fridge, so just one colour is visible on a run of base cupboards. This looks much less cluttered and, in turn, gives a feeling of spaciousness.

If you need more storage, plain, long shelves that stretch across the full length of your kitchen wall will elongate the room, whereas smaller, bitty shelves and cupboards tend to highlight the lack of space. Try piling up crockery and glass in a similar shade on the longer shelves – this will provide a quirky, comforting, but still stylish feel to the room.

Try to keep the colour scheme simple. A lot of people would imagine that a darker wall colour is wrong in a small space, but, in fact, it can create a contemporary and homely ambience. Light or dark, keep it plain. Adding a mixture of colours and patterns can quite often make a space feel much too busy.

Lighting has the power to transform a space. Keep yours classic, stylish and uncomplicated, using dimmer controls to create atmosphere.