Instagram star Pandora Maxton on her kitchen makeover and top design tips

Revamping her old kitchen involved both budget and investment buys for Instagram influencer Pandora Maxton

The worktop was cut from marble from Knaresborough-based Lapicida
The worktop was cut from marble from Knaresborough-based Lapicida

Making sure her home looks good is almost a full-time job for Instagram influencer Pandora Maxton. Photographs of her house in Dunnington, near York, attracts thousands of hits on the picture-led social media site, so when her kitchen began showing signs of age, she sprang into action with a plan to upgrade it.

“I designed my old kitchen with a lovely local cabinet maker about 17 years ago and got deep set, Shaker-style cabinet doors, oak worktops, a red Aga, black and white tiles and open shelving. Farmhouse kitchen was the look I was going for and it served us well over the years and was always well received on Instagram with it’s cosy, colourful style.

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“But, like anything, as the years went by it began to look tired. The wood started rotting near the sink and it was looking shabby. Fresh licks of paint kept the kitchen looking okay but it was time for a bigger change,” says Pandora, who has over 68,000 followers on Instagram and who won the 2019 York edition of BBC1’s Best House in Town.

Pandora’s kitchen is now a brighter, less cluttered space thanks to painting the cupboards in white and adding a white marble worktop plus open shelves

Budget was a consideration as was the environment so ripping out the existing handmade cabinets and sending them to landfill was off the agenda. Instead, she painted the deep blue, floor-standing cabinets in a lovely warm white eggshell – “Up Up Away” from eco-friendly Earthborn Paints to give them a fresh, bright look. New door handles from the Handmade Handle Company were also added.

A built-in wall cupboard just above the worktop was taken out, along with a large hood over the Aga that was purely decorative. The checked tiles also bit the dust. “That gave me more space on the worktop and made the kitchen feel more light,” says Pandora, who bought a gold kitchen tap from B&Q and salvaged the best of her old oak worktops by getting local builder Mike Grey to turn them into shelves.

Thrifty ideas like this are part of the reason for her success on Instagram. She loves upcycling furniture and making “something out of nothing”. A video of her making a sofa by arranging, stacking and tying together wood pallets then topping them with cushions was a huge hit. Her shelves and desk made from scaffold boards also inspired awe from her fans.

While style on a budget is her forte, she will invest in quality, show-stopping pieces like the fabulous marble worktops in the new-look kitchen, which are practical with guaranteed longevity.

Pandora kept the red Aga that is the heart of the kitchen

The marble in her new-look kitchen is from renowned Knaresborough-based stone and tile specialists Lapicida, which also stocks less expensive marble-effect porcelain. “I went to the showroom and was blown away by it.

When I saw the San Marino marble with its gorgeous tones and detailed veining, I was beyond excited about using it as a worktop and also as a windowsill and a splashback for the cooker,” she says. The marble cut, prepared and treated by craftsmen at the Lapicida workshop was delivered ready to be shaped by a local templater and commissioned by Pandora.

Before starting any project, she creates a mood board. “It helps with ideas and to see what works together and what doesn’t.” Her collection of green glasses were part of that process and won pride of place on one of the shelves. They were sourced from a variety of places, including Garden Trading, Asda and Rinkit. The most precious belonged to her great grandfather, Herbert Ellwell, who ran a glassware business supplying Fortnum and Mason, among others. On the shelf by the window, her Sophie Conran for Portmeirion crockery, which was a wedding present, is the star.

Her love of handmade items is also apparent and her latest buys include plant pots and bowls from local potter Caroline Turner who trades as Kokepotmama. There are scores of plants all over the house and the kitchen is no exception. Many are from Fields Garden Centre in Sherburn-in-Elmet and they are regularly moved around the home – a no-no in many horticulturalists eyes but they survive and thrive on the change of scene.

Pandora in the dining area. The table was made by a friend from scaffold boards and hairpin legs.

“Altogether, the kitchen transformation took a month to do and we are so happy with it. It is now a beautifully bright space and we have gained so much more work space, which was the objective,” says Pandora.

Pandora’s kitchen design tips

1. Lighting/dimmer switches. Always fit as much lighting as you can and put it on dimmer switches so you can create a more relaxed setting when you aren’t working in the kitchen. Lamps also look great in a kitchen. I have one in all three corners of mine.

2. Surfaces. Declutter, put up shelves and keep those worktops as clear as you can.

The units were repainted in “Up Up Away” by Earthborn Paints

3. Show it off. Make your kitchen interesting as well as functional. Don’t be afraid to hang art. Show off your lovely things like pottery, jugs and glasses. It is such a shame to hide all these away. Open shelving is a great way to do this.

4. Plants. You can never have enough real plants, though don’t be afraid to throw the odd faux one in either. When you mix and match, people rarely notice. Plants are a great way to hide edges and corners in a kitchen. Hanging plants work well in corners, hung from the ceiling and trailing from shelves. They also create a welcoming and relaxed feeling and improve air quality.

5. Warm bulbs. If you don’t want your kitchen to look like a dental surgery always choose warm lighting. I made this mistake recently when buying a convector fan with built-in light that turned out to be bright and blue. I had to cover it with a warm coloured gel.

Find Pandora on Instagram @pandora.maxton. www.pandoralifestyling.wordpress.com.

Marble worktops from Lapicida, tile and stone specialists, Knaresborough, www.lapicida.com

The San Marino marble use for the worktops, splashback and windowsill is from Lapicida

Kokepotmama pottery, near York, is on Instagram @kokepotmama with work available to buy from www.folksy.com

Indoor botanics plants from Fields Garden Centre, Sherburn-in-Elmet, www.fieldsgardencentre.co.uk

Earthborn Paints, www.earthbornpaints.co.uk

The Handmade Handle Company, www.thehandmadehandlecompany.co.uk

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A collection of glasses, including the ones on the right that belonged to Pandora’s great grandfather

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