Alex Fulton’s tips for dark kitchens and cold homes

If you want to update a dark kitchen on a budget or if you’re looking for something with a bit of a wow factor to heat your home, Alex has the answers


Do you have any suggestions for a dark and old kitchen that don’t involve spending heaps of money?

Working out how you live and what you need to achieve your design goals is half the battle, and will set you in good stead for your future plans.

I asked Gem Adams from the Blackbird blog ( to help answer your question, as she has achieved beautiful results on a tight budget with a run-down weatherboard house. She is a goddess at transforming dull and dingy into fresh and bright without breaking the bank.

“A little elbow grease and a tin of paint is always a good option,” says Gem. “Most cupboard fronts will instantly be lifted with a good wash, sand, prime and paint.” Using a light hue will help create the illusion of more space and modernise the feel of the room.

“Accessories are a cheap and simple way to brighten and add freshness to a gloomy room,” she adds. “Handles are often an easy and affordable update, so try upcycling some finds from Trade Me.” Gem’s final piece of advice is to make sure to include indoor plants: “A little greenery goes a long way, so add a few potted herbs or plants to the space.”


It’s difficult to find a woodburner that stands out or looks good. Do you have any ideas regarding this or could you suggest some alternatives to the standard black boxes that are available?

Woodburners are the ultimate choice when it comes to warming your home and a good alternative to heat pumps as they don’t rely on electricity to run, so are less of a burden on your power bill. First and foremost, remember to check that whatever model you choose complies with council emission requirements and your family’s heating needs. Right, now for the fun part: I have three favourites that I recommend to clients, because they look good and are really effective home heaters.

Pyroclassic woodburner
I love the fact that these are produced in New Zealand (in Hawke’s Bay) and are available in over 100 colours. We recently installed an orange one in our home and we couldn’t be happier. My favourite feature is that I can use it to boil the jug.

Woodsman Flare-Box
A very good-looking burner with a slightly cheaper price tag than the Pyroclassic. The Woodsman is more limited in colour options (charcoal, mushroom and brick red) but the range is modern and Kiwi-made, and comes with the choice of legs or a wood box underneath. And what it lacks in colour choice, the Woodsman makes up for with heat output.

Bionic Fire
Nearly double the cost of a standard woodburner, this attractive model is efficient and sustainable. In fact, this high-performing beast is at the top of the range and cleaner than clean. Modern, with a big tick in the environmentally friendly box, as well as a unique double chamber design, a Bionic Fire is definitely the cool option.

Words by: Alex Fulton. Photography by: Brett Stevens/

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