If you're a renter, chances are you're familiar with the sight: yellowed oak cabinets, bad linoleum countertops, cheap hardware. It's your standard-issue bleh rental kitchen—and one designer Anthony Gianacakos encountered in his last apartment. But as a designer (his company, Anthony George Home, designs interiors as well as textiles) and a fearless DIYer, he wasn't inclined to live with such a situation. So, he turned to two tools: painter's tape and chalk paint.
"The first thing I did when I got in was just paint the walls black," Gianacakos recalls of his immediate desire to switch up the look. But as a maximalist at heart, he knew he wanted to do something beyond a dramatic monotone. As a renter, wallpaper would be tough, but he realized, "I could really transform the space with paint—it doesn't have to be wallpaper." Soon after, he came across chalk paint, the waxy-finished treatment invented by Annie Sloan and beloved by designers and restorers alike for its depth of finish. Gianacakos decided he'd cover his entire kitchen in it.
"The starting point was Lisbon," the designer recalls of his inspiration. All of his textile lines are similarly inspired by cities around the world. He decided to focus on three distinct traits of the Portuguese city: the color, the tile, and the graffiti.
Gianacakos removed his cabinet fronts and painted them and their frames a deep blue, reminiscent of the ocean and much of the bright color throughout the city. "It was a very time- and labor-intensive project," the designer laughs. "But in the end I think it was worth it."
On the walls, he married an abstracted brick pattern on the bottom half with a graffiti-inspired design on top. "All I did was tape off the design, painted, and peeled the tape and it had this really beautiful tile look to it," Gianacakos explains of the geometric pattern, which he drew out on paper but then partially improvised while taping out on the wall for a more random look. "Then I hand painted the kind of squiggles."
"I wanted it to feel fun and modern kind of have a graffiti and gritty vibe to it," he says. The process for chalk paint involves two coats of paint followed by a wax topcoat when they're dry, so Gianacakos completed the project over the course of several days.
Once the cabinets were reinstalled and the paint dry, he swapped in black hardware from Nes Studio for a more modern look, then painted the countertops to match.
With the DIY complete, it was time to furnish the space. In a breakfast nook, the designer fudged a banquette with a simple bench (a block shape like that is much cheaper to have upholstered than a built-in) and a cushion hanging on the wall behind it as a back rest. The brass hooks he found at a flea market in Barcelona, while the artwork above is a loving ode to his French bulldog, Daphne. "I love to travel and I really feel like my finds from around the world and my inspiration are really how this whole kitchen came to be," Gianacakos says.
His one bit of advice for anyone looking to undertake a similar project of their own? If you want to avoid a hefty cut from your security deposit, "Check with your landlord before painting the cabinets."
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