Space of the Week: A Designer Gutted Her Kitchen—Then Made It Feel Like an English Cottage

One brilliant IKEA hack introduces tons of charm.

Cottagecore kitchen with sage green cabinets and hanging pendant lamps over farmhouse sink
Photo: Valeria Jacobs

Designer Valeria Jacobs thinks big, which is why the original kitchen in her California home wouldn't do. It had its charms, of course. A black-and-white checkered floor coordinated with shiplap on the walls and starburst lighting details on the ceiling, but it had one big problem: It was small. "Our previous kitchen was half the size of the current one," she says.

Kitchen with white cabinets and checkerboard floor
The kitchen before its space-expanding makeover. Valeria Jacobs

The room was contained to one corner of her family home's ground floor, and a peninsula cut the small space in two. "It's a long room but not too wide, so it was tricky to design a new layout without doing something traditional like an L-shape or a galley," Jacobs says. "I wanted to use the whole space without making any big structural changes." That's because her life is as big as her design plans. Jacobs has been with her husband Paul since they met in high school, and when he's not working as an engineer, he helps craft her latest designs. They're raising three young children and also care for two dogs. So as they considered fitting everything and everyone into a new kitchen, they felt that the only way to make it work was to start over.

"We did a complete gut job," Jacobs says. "I admire the English design style, especially English cottages, and the mix of eclectic and timeless features are my favorite. I wanted the kitchen to feel lived in and full of character."

The old drop ceiling was removed, a new gas line was put in, and the sink was centered under a window before Jacobs later wrapped the lower half of the wall with IKEA cabinets covered in custom fronts. After, they built a custom hood, reframed the walkway to the dining room so that it flowed under an arch, and installed herringbone wood floors. Jacobs also constructed an island and hung new pendant lights. But if all of that doesn't sound like enough, it's because it wasn't. She also envisioned a vintage cabinet to bookend the room.

Floral wallpaper inside kitchen cabinet
Valeria Jacobs

"After looking for [a cabinet] for over six months, I couldn't find anything that had the right dimensions for that wall," she says. "So I decided to use an IKEA Havsta cabinet and made it look like a vintage one. I created a custom molding box that mimics the molding on our vent hood to give it more height." She painted it in the same sage shade as the surrounding cabinets and added peel-and-stick wallpaper in a classic William Morris print to finish it off. With that, her kitchen lived up to her big plans and was mostly completed in a little less than a year.

"I am so proud of the kitchen we were able to create," she says. "We didn't rush any decisions, and made progress little by little as ideas came to mind. It turned out so much better than I imagined."

Get the Look

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An IKEA Hack Cabinet

Glass Front IKEA Havsta Cabinet

To transform this glass-front IKEA cabinet into an English-cottage-inspired stunner, Jacobs painted it sage green to match the lower cabinets, lined the top with decorative molding, and added floral wallpaper to the interior. Placing a cabinet on top of pre-existing counters is an easy way to introduce more closed storage in a kitchen—just be sure to secure the cabinet to the wall.

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On-Trend Sage Green

Sage Green Light, Sherwin-Williams paint color deep sage green

A complex shade of sage green is both trendy and sophisticated. When paired with the white walls above, the sage green kitchen cabinets lend depth to the space without making the room look dark.

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Timeless Botanical Wallpaper

Williams Morris Floral Wallpaper in Blues and Greens

William Morris-designed wallpaper patterns have stood the test of time. But when reimagined in peel-and-stick form, they're an inexpensive design element you can switch out whenever you like.

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Elegant Pendant Lights

Glass and Brass Pendant Light

A trio of glass-and-brass pendant lights floats above the farmhouse sink. This classic style comes in several different finishes, so you can select the metal that coordinates with the rest of your kitchen.

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