Cost-savvy makeover: compact kitchen and living area

Toni and Sergio Caon admit that they can’t resist a sale; it’s a trait that’s served them well in giving their small apartment a playfully stylish personality

“We wanted to invest in quality furnishings without blowing our budget, so we decided to decorate our apartment over time rather than trying to do everything all at once,” say Toni and Sergio Caon, owners of Treviso Italian Deli & Café. “Updating our open-plan kitchen and living area was at the top of our ‘to do’ list.”

Living Room

The newlyweds thriftily painted their green melamine kitchen cabinets in a neutral shade, Earthcote’s Magic Mushroom from Jack’s Paint Blackheath, removing the old-fashioned mouldings and adding some floating shelves for a more contemporary look.

Dining room

To make room for their retro dining table, a sentimental piece made by Sergio’s late grandfather, they got rid of the overbearing T-shaped bar counter and fitted a new splashback and worktops. “We chose Formica in a flat, caffè latte colour to get a similar look to a mod composite counter, but at a fraction of the cost,” explains Toni.

Feature wall

The walls throughout were painted the same serene colour and polished porcelain tiles selected for the floors; these bounce light back into the space making it feel bigger and brighter. They invested in a chocolate, L-shaped leather sofa from Weylandts for the living area and dressed it up with printed scatters, which are just a few of the covetable designer furnishings they’ve snapped up at various sales.


As an oversized painting would be too expensive, they mounted gallery shelves above it to create a stylish feature wall. Among the pictures on display are a series of vintage gargoyle postcards the couple picked up in Paris and cleverly had framed to make cost-savvy, custom artworks. “These give our home character and are a fabulous reminder of our honeymoon,” smiles Toni.


  • Think quality not quantity. Rather save up for ‘wish list’ pieces than go the instant gratification route and try to furnish an entire room in one go.
  • Have a clear plan in mind for each space; this will enable you to act quickly when you spot a bargain on sale and help you avoid making impulse buys you’ll later regret. It’s also handy to keep a small measuring tape in your bag/car as well as a list with the dimensions of the furniture you’re looking for.
  • Include a mix of old and new; incorporating inherited pieces not only helps to keep costs in check, but also adds character to your home.
  • Don’t dismiss a piece of furniture which doesn’t tie into your colour scheme. If it’s the right size, shape and price, this can easily be remedied with an inexpensive lick of paint.

Before Kitchen Before