Photography by Sharon Hornsby

Published on July 31, 2021

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Location: West Sussex, England

Budget: $45,000

Square feet: 470

Timeline: Two months

Top priority: Trick the eye into thinking a new kitchen is vintage.


In Renovator’s Notebook, homeowners open up about the nitty-gritty of their remodels: How long it really took; how much it actually cost; what went horribly wrong; and what went wonderfully, serendipitously, it’s-all-worth-it-in-the-end right. For more tips to nail your next project, follow @reno_notebook.

At first glance, you’d never know the cottagecore kitchen at the rear of Sharon and Jim Hornsby’s 1920 home in West Sussex, England, was less than a year old. And that’s exactly what Sharon, an interior stylist–slash–blogger by trade, was after. “I wanted the kitchen to feel like it had always been there,” she explains.

Achieving the sleight of hand wasn’t easy. Hornsby and her husband had to turn their tiny old kitchen into an office/utility room before building a new one from scratch where the sitting area—an ’80s relic with olive green carpet, a frilly chandelier, and wallpaper trim—once stood. (Who wouldn’t want to bake while basking in the sunniest spot in the house?) Below, Hornsby shows us exactly how she seamlessly folded the mint kitchen into her 101-year-old house on a $45,000 budget. 

Splurge: Keep Guests Guessing With a Mix of Finishes

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I didn’t want the brand-new kitchen to feel slick and sterile, so we spent nearly half of our budget on mismatched materials. Down below, a rich chocolatey stain helps the engineered oak floor look well trod—almost like it is original to the house. Joining it is butcher block that makes meal prep a cinch and quartz countertops with a subtle swirl. By flanking the stove in a slim contemporary slab and topping the island in a slightly thicker one, I created the illusion that the kitchen had gone through a couple renovations and had some history to it.

Save: Use Everyday Cookware as Decor

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I knew displaying my collection of vintage barware, dinged-up cutting boards, and worn copper pots would instantly give our space a lived-in look, so my husband and I tag-teamed a pair of DIYs to show them off. First, he glued some beadboard vertically to the main wall so its grooves would mirror the ribbing in the glass-front cabinets that bookend it, then I doused the boards in paint (Farrow & Ball’s Purbeck Stone). Over the top, I fashioned a pot rack out of brass electrical pipe and added some silver S-shaped hooks. All in, it cost only $200.

Splurge: Supersize the Kitchen Island

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In our last two homes, the kitchen island really brought our family together, so I went big this go-round and parked an extra-large 10-footer and a trio of mismatched barstools in the center of the room so our three kids can pony up to it for quick meals (and keep me company while I cook them). To make the $5,000 unit feel like it wasn’t installed at the same time as the greige cabinets and mid-century lighting, I brushed it with creamy yellow paint (Farrow & Ball’s Hay) and suspended ’30s-style milk glass pendant lights overhead.

Save: Work With What You’ve Got

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I made room for a pantry and a wider walkway by replacing the bulky (and boring) limestone fireplace with a slim $200 vintage mantel I found on eBay. The real magic is in the crumbling wall surrounding it, though. I plastered over the old fireplace, then just chipped away at sections of the new wall to reveal the original stone beneath. The kitchen feels aged to perfection—after just two months!

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