Oh, you lavish royals! Across the pond, the British press has raked the Duchess of Cambridge, aka Kate Middleton, over the coals (or perhaps more accurately, over the AGA cooker) for recent excesses in renovations.
According to reports, the refurbishment of the Cambridges’ 21-room “flat” in Kensington Palace originally cost $1.6 million. Now it has been revealed that subsequent enhancements have rung up bills totaling anywhere from $4.5 million to $7.2 million, depending who you read.
What did they spend the extra millions on? We’re so glad you asked. One of the main expenses was the installation of a second kitchen at a cost of $300,000. This would be a “family” place suitable for Kate and Wills to pop into to fix a bowl of cereal or a late-night bacon butty. Because who wants to alert the servants every time you get a hankering for some crisps and dip? We all know how awkward it is for everyone when Her Royal Highness enters the kitchen, right? Yeah, we’ve seen Downton Abbey.
Then there was the news about Anmer Hall, the 200-year old palatial estate that sits on the Queen’s private property and was a gift from Her Majesty to the Cambridges. We all need a weekend country place, no? The couple’s renovations here have so far rung in at $2.6 million, for such things as re-tiling the roof, adding new fireplaces, changing the landscaping, and installing a nanny suite and security quarters. But the real public outcry came over the kitchen renovation.
Before the Cambridges moved in, the estate had been rented out to a wealthy couple who just happened to be in the business of kitchen design. A few years ago, they designed and built their ideal kitchen at Anmer Hall, as a $65,000 showpiece to market their work. You can even see it on their website. Despite the kitchen’s posh-country appeal, Kate and William ordered the entire kitchen to be replaced. Off with the fridge!
Save or spend?
While annoyed taxpaying Britons have dubbed the Duchess, “Two Kitchens Kate” (though Anmer makes three and a rumored nursery kitchenette would make four…but who’s counting?), we’d like to think that a woman known to shop at the Gap might have skimped a bit to make her kitchen makeovers slightly less costly than they could have been. And also (because we love to dish), we’re thinking about where she might have splurged…
Where to splurge (and save) on your kitchen – like Kate!
Spend: The investment appliance. According to the Daily Mail, who spoke with one of Kate’s university buddies, “When she shared a cottage with Wills in St. Andrews, she was really excited it had an AGA.” The luxury AGA may be out of your price range, but the stove/oven you choose should be one you’re excited about – after all, you will be using it most days. You want your oven to be reliable and let’s just say, supportive of your cooking efforts rather than undermining them with uneven or inaccurate heating. On the other hand, if your oven is mainly used to store your office files, perhaps a wonderfully silent dishwasher, a refrigerator that makes brilliant crushed ice, or a fabulously efficient espresso-maker will be your splurge of choice.
Save: Don’t judge a cupboard by its door. Perhaps it’s a bit much to imagine Kate shopped IKEA for kitchen cupboards, but we know people whose IKEA kitchens look like a million bucks. The secret? Using generic IKEA cabinet shells and adding custom-made doors. No one will ever know what lies behind those doors and you can save thousands in the process. On the other hand, we’ve seen many a fine-looking kitchen using IKEA cupboard doors too.
Spend: Go au naturel. Good lighting can transform any room from a gloomy place into an inviting space. The more natural light, the more cheerful your kitchen will be, so you might consider an investment to broaden an existing window or install a skylight. Kate’s new dining room off the kitchen at Anmer Hall was fitted with a glass ceiling to give it a conservatory feel, but even if your window faces the brick wall of the house next door, it can still provide some welcome daylight. Augment natural light with strategic placement of inexpensive overhead and under-the-counter task lighting fixtures.
Save: Shop online. We’re not just talking about blow-out sales at discount retailers’ websites, although that is a great way to score bargains too. For serious savings on everything including the kitchen sink, turn to Craigslist and Kijiji. You’ll find super deals on brand new appliances and fixtures that professional contractors bought at wholesale prices for jobs and ended up not using; special-order items that homeowners bought, changed their minds on and couldn’t return; or unique items like vintage butcher blocks. We doubt Kate uses Craigslist, but we do know she regularly visits second-hand antique shops and scours the Queen’s storage rooms for royally-used furnishings.
Spend: Details, details. “God is in the details,” said famous architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and who are we to argue with either Mies or God? Once you’ve taken care of the cabinets and appliances, splash out on a mosaic tiled backsplash or other selective features that will give your kitchen character and make you smile every time you enter the room. A high-end faucet, colorful knobs or drawer pulls, an oversize cutting board, or even some splurge-worthy tea towels will make the most basic kitchen look special. We’re betting Kate’s using Royal Wedding commemorative towels in her family kitchen, because, heck, why not?
Heart of the home
Whether you’ve got one kitchen, two, or even three, it’s fairly common for the kitchen to be the heart of every home – the place where every party ends and the room everyone gravitates to when they arrive home from work or school. So we don’t blame Kate for wanting to get her kitchens right. We’d do the same if we were in her shoes (those trusty nude L.K. Bennett pumps, of course).
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