Real home: a colourful, characterful kitchen renovation

Using bold colour and recycled and vintage finds, Dawn Bradford has created a unique and characterful kitchen

Colourful kitchen
(Image credit: Brent Darby)

White kitchens have their place, but not in the home of someone who loves colour as much as Dawn Bradford. As soon as she spotted a bright yellow glazed cabinet at Newark Antiques Fair, the days of her fitted units were numbered.

Read on to find out be inspired by her colourful creation, then browse more real home transformations. For more kitchen ideas, hop to our hub page.

Colourful kitchen

Dawn had the farmhouse table made to fit the space by CS Godney. The base is painted in Farrow & Ball’s Green Blue. The four Indian chairs were a £50 auction buy – two still had their original velvet patchwork seats, heavily embroidered in gold. Dawn made seats for the others using fabric from her stash. She keeps
her cookbooks in the wall-mounted vintage Quaker Oats box, bought at

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Owners  Dawn Bradford, a social worker, lives here with
her husband Phil

Property  Four-bedroom Edwardian maisonette flat in Harrogate

What they did  Exposed original brickwork, redesigned the space, fitted new sink, appliances,  worktops, and cabinets made from salvaged woods, and redecorated

‘Before we had even started thinking about how we would change the house, I came home one day and my husband Phil had hacked off half the plaster, down to the bricks,’ she says. ‘He said: “What do you think of this?” I liked it, luckily, and that just inspired us more.’ 

They were debating what to do with the new rustic backdrop, when she spotted a photograph of a kitchen made from scrap materials. ‘I thought it was amazing!’ she says. ‘I don’t like matching things - on me or in my house. I like lots of random things put together. I knew then I wanted it to be upcycled and reclaimed, but we had to find it all.

‘It was challenging trying to find the right wood and the right colours. I did have a joiner to do one of the cupboards and he did a fantastic job, but it was expensive and I realised I couldn’t afford to have the whole kitchen done. So it was down to my husband, my daughter Hayley and me to do the rest of it gradually over time.’

Colourful kitchen

Dawn’s eye was instantly drawn to the bold yellow glazed cabinet, also from Newark Antiques Fair. ‘I had to ring my son Zak to measure the space,’ she says. ‘It fits exactly.’ A former lodger tipped her off about the Tube map tiles. ‘They were £10 each at the time and have been in my kitchen for 15 years,’ she says. ‘I love them – I would never change them.’ London Underground ceramic tiles by Love Maps On are similar

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

‘I don’t know where my love of colour comes from,’ she says. ‘It might be because my parents were in the RAF and everything always had to be magnolia – that’s all we were ever allowed – so maybe I was just ready for it.’

She stripped out the top cupboards, but held onto the carcasses of the lower units to keep costs down, replacing most of the doors with scavenged pallet or floorboard wood. ‘I left on any paint or marks to give a distressed look,’ she says. ‘Zak found a “Caution Road Up” sign in a skip and brought it home, knowing I would like it. I had initially hoped to use it over two doors or drawer fronts. The size of the sign didn’t really work there, but it did as the end of the sink panel.’

Colourful kitchen

The cabinets are made from a mix of salvaged boards and pallet scraps. Dawn’s son Zak sourced vintage handles, and the kickplates are made from old pallets. Pulses and spices are kept on a set of old office shelves picked up at Ripley Home & Salvage Show

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

‘The worktops are lovely but they took some sourcing,’ she says. ‘We had to work really hard to find something different from browns and blacks. Eventually I found this one in a little place, tucked up a cobbled street in Leeds, with lots of really interesting stuff. I came home with all sorts of samples and this one was perfect.’ 

Colourful kitchen

Dawn Bradford has filled her home with bright colours to put her own characterful stamp on her home

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

(Image credit: Period Living)

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Dawn went through a whole series of test pots before she found the perfect saturated pink for the walls. The vibrancy continues with a bright orange fridge-freezer, although an element of restraint crept in when Dawn chose a burgundy-coloured range cooker. 

‘The dark red was a compromise,’ she admits, ‘a more sensible colour because those expensive items have to last for ever.’ 

A quirky collection of chalkboard signs proved the ideal finishing touch. ‘They were 50p for a whole boxful from a local jumble sale,’ she says. ‘There were some that just said “Tea and Coffee” and as soon as I saw them I knew where they were going, with that hot pink paint as a background.’

The result is uplifting and full of character, but it’s not finished yet. ‘I continue to be on the lookout for interesting things,’ says Dawn. 

‘I don’t know what yet but when I do find them I may replace the painted door on the units. I love my kitchen, it’s my favourite room in the house. Friends love to visit – they tell me there is always something to look at here.’