How to tackle a kitchen re-design (or any renovation)

I just want to say a huge thank you for all of your lovely comments and best wishes on Bea’s birth. It has been heartwarming to read them all from our new family bubble. We are still all doing well and enjoying time together but I have some prescheduled posts running for the next few weeks, so keep stopping by, (including some pregnancy/birth and beyond updates.) And of course I’ll be keeping an eye on things and commenting/replying here and on twitter or Facebook when I can. X

I got asked on twitter recently if I had any tips for a kitchen/living area re-design and realised there’s a whole post on that and it’s certainly longer than 140 characters. I’m by no means an expert and this was my first kitchen project so I’m sure any professional kitchen fitter would have better advice, but we have learnt a ton by planning it ourselves and I definitely have advice to pass on. I’ve interspersed this post with Instagram snaps of the progress of our kitchen work and a timeline is at the end.

Before you even start find out if you need planning permission and an architect or just drawings (your builder may do this, ours didn’t) and structural calculations. We started off with an architect who was slow, didn’t listen to us and basically just drew a set of plans that didn’t even have measurements on them and we were £1300 worse off for it. In retrospect we just needed structural calculations doing for the steel and builders drawings.


Our old kitchen layout

Consider what you use the space for (or want to use the space for if it’s not functioning as you would wish at present,) and what you can realistically do with it. We wanted a huge kitchen diner/living area. However we weren’t able to do that with the space available and the fact that we couldn’t extend. As we found this out at the purchase stage, we had to consider if the house was worth completing on, or were we going to have to try too hard to change it. No house is perfect but you also have to consider if what you are going to do to it is worth it in terms of increased value – will you out-spend what it can eventually be worth?


The old windows being taken out and made into new full length slim openings

Figure out your budget and marry that up with your expectations and what things really cost.
How much can you spend (or save) and how much do you want to spend? Some people couldn’t consider spending more than £10k on a kitchen, and others will do what it takes to get the kitchen of their dreams – this very much depends on personal income and the stage of homeownership you are at – there’s no point putting your dream kitchen in a 5 year house for example.
An example of what we wanted versus what we got would be our bifold windows – we originally planned to have floor to ceiling frameless glass including the corner of the kitchen, but for a variety of reasons, structural and cost related we ended up with window panels and bifolds. They cost about ⅓ of the first glass quote we had! I also thought as our kitchen wasn’t that big that we could look at more expensive brands and custom kitchens but quickly realised they are still VERY expensive and we compromised with the ex-display one we have now (which wasn’t much of a compromise but about a 50% saving.) Lastly, I wanted parquet look herringbone vinyl floor. Amtico do correctly sized tiles for that purpose, but were top of the range and priced to match. We compromised with a less expensive brand and range (Karndean) and had the planks cut in half – the result was a large scale herringbone but I love it and again it saved us about £1000.


The old chimney breast just before we knocked it out – sadly we had already planned the kitchen and couldn’t incorporate the old brickwork.

Work out your style and go for it. (Ie spend a lot of time on Pinterest!)
You can’t choose a kitchen without knowing what you want and it’s such a huge decision that I recommend doing this over a long period. I had this board on Pinterest for probably over a year before we even started looked or moved and I was able to look back over the evolution of the board and my tastes, and pick the consistencies out to help me see what I wanted and could live with longer term. Some of the things I liked (for example open shelving,) but wouldn’t be able to live with whereas others were key and consistent for me – I was desperate for marble despite the impracticalities. Also, use the Ikea website for kitchen design – there’s a great tool which can help you plan layouts as I found kitchen designers (at the lower end of the budget range) useless and lacking in imagination in this area.


Long window panels done (more were later put in where these two doors are) and the structural supports before the steel went in.

Work out the luxuries you want – You won’t be doing it again quickly so get it right
We wanted a hidden bin, to be able to hide small appliances and I wouldn’t compromise on a double sink, and 2 ovens. Our bin situation hasn’t fully been resolved and it is annoying not to have to that final detail nailed down.


Looking out of our new long windows from the building site!

To compromise or not to compromise?
Think about where you are willing to compromise. For me it was not on marble, but yes to the floor. Don’t compromise because you are tired or fed up of making decisions. Wait another day, or remind yourself it is worth getting right. It’s much better to delay work or finishing touches than regret things you’re stuck with later or rip them out in a few years for more money and hassle.


The bifold opening knocked through

Be prepared to make every single decision yourself.
I was totally overwhelmed at one point as our builder was amazingly hardworking and great but NOT a project manager and that basically fell to us. Trying to catch up and make daily decisions on top of a full time job was exhausting. Tiny thinks like the sockets and electric locations, plumbing, light fittings, types of socket cover, appliances, sink, worktops, wall colour, height and width of windows, door styles all impact on each other so need thinking through. Even our bifolds involved multiple minor decisions – the seal colour, frame colour, handle type, track colour, sills or no sills… and there is a lot of responsibility when measuring for things yourself, or for example making sure you order the bifolds at the right height so the frame was level with the floor that was being installed afterwards, and had to allow 11mm thickness to make it level inside and out.


The new windows finally in and the house sealed!

Make a time line of contractors and where they all interplay with each other.
You may not be able to do this until work has started and if you’re not bothered about rushing you may not need to, but (if you are lucky) in general no-one will come from when you ask them to for about 2 weeks which if you don’t plan ahead means multiple delays through the build/renovation process. On the other hand if you do it like we did, it means chasing everyone to finish daily so the next person can start when you asked them to.


Decorating – sealing the new plaster

Think about the outside – In our case this meant a deck or we would have stepped out from our beautiful new bifolds and kitchen to a 1m drop and a building site, so we moved straight from the kitchen work onto the outside. We also planned outside lighting when the electrics were replaced in the kitchen so it didn’t disturb the plaster and had the alarm company in throughout the build to remove and then later replace the sensors.


Admiring the new floor

Don’t forget to budget for furniture. Do you need a new kitchen table, or bar stools for the island, or a statement piece of lighting? You might well be prepared to live with old ones for a while but it’s worth thinking ahead on those things to get a really lovely finished result if you can afford it. (We still have our old bar stools!)


First breakfast in the new kitchen – still unfinished but usable!

Our building work started when we ripped out the old kitchen on April 21st and the kitchen, sink and cooker were plumbed in as the last things that made it useable (not complete) on June 20th. The outside was finished and our builder finally left on the 10th of July, although we did get some work done in one of the attic bedrooms in between that, that took about a week away from the kitchen/outdoors space. That’s pretty swift I reckon and only felt like it took so long because we were without the kitchen for all that time, whereas if you can have the kitchen taken out later for a like for like swap, it would be a lot quicker.

This is a timeline of the progress for us…

  • Start work 21st April – took old kitchen out.
  • 28th April Kitchen door to the house boarded up – only access was through the garden for the builders!
  • Windows were taken out and the holes elongated and partially bricked up to make the long openings.
  • Support structures were put in place, then the steel in for the bifolds.
  • Exterior walls were taken out so the bifold openings could be measured and ordered (10d turn around time)
  • Chimney breast taken out and steel inserted to support chimney breast above.
  • Steel boarded in with plasterboard and first fit electrics were done.
  • New door way to the hall was put in and the old tiled floor taken up.
  • Windows were fitted (24th May) but the wall had to be reinforced below the bifolds so they were delayed.
  • Replastering was done around the new windows.
  • Kitchen was fitted 29th May over 4 days and the bifolds done during that week sealing the exterior of the house. The fridge/freezer went in at this point.
  • More plastering was done to finish the last bit of windows and the hallway brick work around the door and where the old door was.
  • The second fit electrics came later (to actually put fronts on the wiring for sockets, plugs, fit under cabinet lighting and pendants.)
  • The floor had to go in after the cabinets as we weren’t flooring underneath them, but the Range had to go in after the floor as that is freestanding and needed to be floored underneath.
  • Appliances – the hob went in after the kitchen but before the oven. Dishwasher was plumbed in witht the sink which was done after the worktops went in.
  • We finally did the decorating ourselves
  • The marble was one of the last things to go in on June 18th as they had to take a template (one week before) once the kitchen was fitted and I then had to choose the slab which delayed us a little – more on that later.
  • Lastly the kitchen units were repainted (some were originally brown as part of the ex-display and we rejigged them as part of the new layout.) This was after the worktops in case there were any knocks or scratches during the other stages after fitting.

I hope you enjoyed this post and found it useful or at least interesting. This was a huge learning curve for us and if it helps anyone else think think through problems before they happen it will be worthwhile. Obviously the kitchen is still not quite finished – we’re waiting for a few pictures and the central light fitting is missing some bulbs but as soon as it is I’ll take pics and show it off!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS I haven’t named all suppliers but will do another post on the finished kitchen with all of them in there. In the mean time, here are a few of the key ones involved in this stage. They are all people I would personally recommend.

Previous Kitchen posts:

Isn’t she lovely…

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Beatrice Evelyn Norris arrived yesterday at 11.14am and weighed 6lbs 5oz!

She is super cute, feeding like a pro and we are all totally blissed out. And I’m doing fine post c-section.

We will be spending some time as a family this week but look out for some sporadic posts from next Monday and an update if you’re lucky. ;) Oh and keep an eye on my Instagram for lots of updates!

Love,
Rebecca, Pete & Bea
xo

Capturing the bump…

I never planned to do a ‘bump shoot’, thinking I would have lots of selfie style bump shots to suffice and Pete would have taken plenty too. Whilst the former is true, the latter hasn’t been – we have been far to busy in the house to be anywhere worthy of dressing up and taking photos of late. Maybe it’s also the looming end to my pregnancy that has made me cherish it more, I will certainly miss this bump and shifting baby inside, but I hope the reality in my arms will be infinitely better. :)

I had planned to have a newborn shoot, when baby is fresh and still scrunched up and small, to capture that newborn bubble the three of us will hopefully be in (read: chaotic, sleep derived blur,) and so at the last minute last week I decided to ask our good friends Laura and Peter Lawson to do a bump shoot too. They made us feel so at ease in front of the camera and I knew they would ‘get’ how blessed out together we both are just now, as they had their little boy Albert only 7 months ago.

I’m so glad we did it now and Pete loves the results too. This was too special a time in our lives not to make some memories to treasure and now I just have to pick some for the wall!





Have a great weekend readers, see you next week!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Spotted: Baukjen Pre-Fall 2014

As I’m already thinking post-baby clothes I was pretty excited to be able to legitimately consider the new Baukjen pre-fall collection that landed in my inbox last week. I’m looking for comfortable yet stylish clothes that I can wear around the house and out for baby groups and lunches with friends (whenever that happens!) and more than anything ease of wear. There’s a lot to be said for a capsule collection (I’ve talked about restricting seasonal clothes to a specific colour palette before to make getting dressed super easy,) and this capsule collection is perfect for late summer and early autumn days. These are my picks from the collection and they also act as great casual outfit inspiration.

What do you think readers? You can see the whole collection here.

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Triple Temptation: Lounging around

One of the things I have been looking for lately to no avail has been a light cotton summer dressing gown for hospital and ease of feeding post baby. I’m not a dressing gown wearer and usually just opt for a vest and PJ bottoms when I’m up and lounging around out of bed, but I know the post natal wards will be hot and stuffy and I will want easy access so the hunt was on.


Pink bird print kimono, B by Ted Baker at Debenhams £23.70 // Good Morning Beautiful Rosalie long dressing gown £60 // Cyberjammies Bernidette print robe £21.60

I eventually found the Cyberjammies one online then a friend told me her wedding party’s getting ready dressing gowns were Sainsbury’s so I started casting the net a bit wider. There are a few out there, just not in the places I expected and it’s harder again to find one that’s not too short/see through/silky. There’s always Etsy too, but I left it a bit late for that sadly. You should definitely check out Good Morning Beautiful to champion a boutique British brand too.

I hope you like the selection!

Love
Rebecca
xo

PS Thank you so much for all of your positive and supportive comments on yesterdays post. I’m feeling much better about it and it means a lot to have all of your input. x

34 – 38 weeks…

I can’t quite believe that I am writing the conclusion post to my pregnancy diary. Back in November when we found out I was pregnant, the end of July seemed very far off indeed but it has completely flown past. I’m sure this is in part due to the non-stop pace we set ourselves on doing the house renovations. Since moving out of our bedroom in December, we have completed the bedroom, dressing room, kitchen, outside deck, ‘face lifted’ the dining room, one of our attic bedrooms and most recently, the nursery. It has been exhausting, but it has certainly kept my mind off being pregnant, which at the time didn’t bother me, but now I look back and feel I should have savoured it more – I certainly should have taken more time out to relax and spoil myself – I haven’t even had time to do pregnancy yoga but I’m making up for it now with full on baby-focus now I’m on maternity leave.

This part of my pregnancy has definitely been the hardest, physically, although it’s pretty much all self inflicted. I’m still well and not that uncomfortable although I have been feeling very ‘full’ particularly when I’m sitting down so finishing work at 37 weeks was a good decision. The bump certainly hasn’t ‘dropped’ (but more on that in a minute…) I had been debating up until a week or so before whether to keep going as I’m not really tired, but because I postponed everything until my mat leave, I was definitely in need of the baby time. My back has been my main pregnancy gripe and anything involving lifting or using my back much is giving me pretty bad pain and stiffness. All this lead to Pete reading me the riot act after moving some furniture myself last week and then having to stop about 6 times on a short walk of less than 10 minutes. I’ve been on strict R&R since and have felt so much better for it. I think I needed permission to slow down!

The last week hasn’t been without it’s stresses though. At my 36 week antenatal appointment they booked me for a presentation scan as there was some concern baby Norris was not playing ball and might be the wrong way up. Sure enough on scan day last Tuesday, the hard round lump I had been feeling in my ribs for weeks and weeks is in fact a head and baby is breech. Cue some soul searching and the choice whether to have an ECV (where they try to turn the baby,) or book an elective caesarean section. I won’t go into my reasons here as it’s a very personal choice and one I’m still not happy about, but I have chosen not to have an ECV and so now I’m booked for a Caesarean. (On an evidence based medical level though I will say, the chance of success would have been very poor, maybe 30%)

So, after all my thoughts on how to prepare for labour, (not that I had actually made much progress on doing the required reading,) and deciding I wanted a natural, hopefully drug-free delivery (although I’m not silly enough to say that without an open mind for when the time came, having never been in that position before,) I’m now getting the works; spinal anaesthetic, all the drugs and the bit I am most upset about, the recovery period afterwards. I was so looking forward to being active again and able to do things around the house. There are no guarantees in life so I’m just trying to remind myself that I could have had an ECV, then a horrible labour, wanted all the drugs and then ended up with a section after all, who knows, but I still feel upset about the way things are turning out. I know it’s silly but I feel like I have meddled with fate by choosing babies birthday, I feel a bit disappointed that I (and Pete) won’t have that birth experience and honestly I’m terrified of being a patient rather than the one performing the caesarean as I have in the past. It feels clinical and I can hardly believe that I will wake up one morning, go to hospital and have baby taken out of me, instead of doing it myself. And the poor baby is going to get the shock of it’s life going from where it is perfectly happy to being yanked out into the bright cold world without any warning. However, I know this is infinitely safer than a vaginal breech delivery (at least for a first baby,) so I am also reminding myself to be grateful that there is a safe way to delivery this baby for both of us, which is ultimately all that matters. And for whatever reason, this baby is very happy being one of the 3 in 100 babies that are breech at term as it has been in this position for a long time and has shown no signs of budging. I just wish I had known sooner.

So now I’ve also lost a week of my maternity leave and the last week has been spent flapping about like a headless chicken trying to get things done and bought. As a result it has been very productive but a bit panic inducing too. I feel like I would have felt more mentally prepared if I had had to go through the process of labour, instead of what feels like going to pick up the baby via click and collect. The reality of having a baby now has a date on it. Life changes then. All the old questions of ‘Am I ready’ and ‘How will we still make time for each other and our life,’ have resurfaced, but now I also find myself stroking this little head as it bobs with hiccups or shifts position and feeling increasingly maternal and protective towards this little thing we created.

I can’t wait to hold this baby, take it home and introduce it to our families. I can’t wait to see who he or she resembles, if baby has my dark hair or is blonde as Pete was as a child. But the finality of having a definite date is also terrifying.

So readers, have any of you had a caesarean? How did you find it? And did any of you get pre-baby jitters like me? Now more than ever, I’d love to hear your thoughts and advice.

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Five on Friday…

As the end of my first week of maternity leave draws to a close I’m feeling a little more prepared for baby. I’ve checked off lots of must have items on my newborn list, plus a few of your suggestions, and the nursery is falling into place. It’s been a busy and stressful week however – more on that next week, so I’m ridiculously excited about he first bit of pregnancy related pampering I’m doing tomorrow, on a Spa Day with Jess. I’m going to be making the most of it and hopefully some decent weather. IN the meantime, here’s what I have enjoyed reading and spotting this week…

I’ve been reading more about what to expect post-delivery as I prepare for baby’s arrival and this post on new parents expectations really struck a chord. A must read for soon-to-be or new parents.

Still obsessed with the idea of making (and eating) donuts. Still haven’t made them. These look immense.

If you’re having your second child, this was an interesting read on how Jo tried to manage sibling rivalry

I’ve never learnt to ride a horse but I love Kevin Russ’s pictures of wild horses in the US to remind me of travels there and his incredible landscapes across a beautiful continent. (Image above.)

I finally found the perfect summer wide strap sandal, even better, in the sale!

Have a fab weekend readers,

Rebecca
xo

Bump Watch

It’s fair to say that I have always been fascinated with pregnancy, even when I wasn’t keen on having children myself yet. It is an amazing feat that the human body creates a whole tiny human from a single cell, supporting and growing it then expelling a baby into the world. Like so many other things these days, pregnancy has now become the object of cosmetic scrutiny too, from bump watch features of celebrities and their ‘baby bumps’ before even a decent 12 weeks has elapsed, to comments on their weight gain, it seems the pressure is on to not only grow a human, but look good whilst doing it.

On a personal level, I didn’t expect to gain tons of weight in pregnancy as that’s not my natural predisposition anyway but I also didn’t want to. This wasn’t from a vanity perspective, but a health one. Women who gain a lot of weight in pregnancy (in case you’re wondering, the normal range is about 1.5-2.5 stone) are at risk of gestational diabetes and at higher risk of complications in labour and postpartum. That’s not to mention the difficulty of losing it afterwards. Aside from these thoughts, it is a huge shift in your body image and whilst I have loved seeing my baby belly emerge and swell, I still catch sight of myself sideways in shop windows and am surprised at how different I look.


(A selection of bump shots from readers around 20 weeks)

Added to all of those things are the constant comments people feel inclined to make about your changing shape, that you may or may not feel so confident sporting. Anyone who is pregnant or has been will know that they range from the complimentary, ‘You are so neat!’ or ‘It’s all baby, you haven’t gained any weight!’ to the unintentionally panic inducing ‘Look at the size of you!’ and everything in between. I have tried to take them all in my stride – I want to grow a healthy baby, who is gaining weight normally and keep myself healthy enough to breast feed easily afterwards. Comparison is also the thief of joy – my best friend is 6 weeks less pregnant than me and although quite a way off when you compare a 20 and 26 week bump for example, she has also been carrying a completely different way to me, not popping out a bump until much later. At one point I felt like a house by comparison, but I know I was desperate for my bump to pop out and now at term, it all feels like par for the course as I realise I haven’t actually morphed into a baby elephant as it sometimes felt like I would!


(A selection of bump shots from readers around 28-31 weeks)

Lastly, there’s the power of the pregnant blogger (I don’t count myself among). I know before I was pregnant and during, I have looked at my favourite bloggers sporting a neat and fashionably dressed bump with no weight gain and then snapping back to shape almost instantaneously it seems on social media. Whilst I know the reality is not always presented, it’s hard to remember that when fashionable maternity clothes are few and far between and you just can’t stretch that non-maternity dress over your bump anymore!


(A selection of bump shots from readers around term – 37w+)

All this made me think, women carry so differently and look so different in pregnancy, why not make a montage of women, all at the same stage of pregnancy and here are the results. I want to thank each and every one of you that sent in your pictures – I’m so grateful and I loved looking at so many happy, proud, glowing faces. Funny snaps in the booze aisle at the supermarket, holiday pictures, excited dads getting in on the act, post waters breaking grins, and a generally fab time in your lives. This is the real shape of pregnancy, and every single picture is beautiful. Thank you so much!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Triple Temptation: Summer Skirts


Midi skirts, both Warehouse // Maxi, ASOS.

It’s fair to say that I am really getting to the stage of being truly fed up with maternity clothes. Dresses are fine and there are plenty of cute ones about, but when it comes to this warm weather I have been living in a pair of denim maternity shorts and vests. Comfy but I’m not feeling like much of a glowing mama. I’m also turning my thoughts to what I’m going to wear post partum, comfortable clothes that make me feel less of a wreck and allow me to wear something on top that is conducive to feeding. I decided a maxi skirt would be good and spied some in GAP (non maternity) with fold down waists that could go under bump now and over after baby, but they are not super inspiring. If you’re in the same boat as me, Seraphine also has a maternity split side maxi in the sale. However I did spot some gorgeous ones in the non-maternity sections (lucky for you guys!) and thought I’d share a couple here.

I’m going to do a feature on style for Breast Feeding soon, but if you have any tips, I’d love to hear them!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Call for posts – Be a part of Florence Finds!

If you’re a daily visitor round here and have been for some time, you’ll know that things have changed somewhat in the last year or so. When Florence Finds started I was working part time and blogged twice daily. As life changed in January 2013 I dropped to a single post a day and managed so much better. More recently, it’s been around 4 times a week. The change has been for a number of reasons… my work has become busier and busier, demanding later nights and making me jealously guard my none work time with Pete and friends or family. The thing is, when I started, I was used to working all day at work and then working all night blogging and I had more free time to write about what I was doing, out and about. Now I have an actual life too, the more I have, the more I want. Bottom line, Florence Finds is a sideline, a hobby and whilst I would never be without the fabulous community I have built here (I really don’t know what I would have done without your help and advice in recent weeks and months,) my real life has to come first. And I am so much happier for it.


Caroline’s Pigeon bedroom makeover

In the back of my mind has also been that life is going to change in a major way again very soon when this baby arrives and I have no idea how that will fit in with blogging. I am very aware that this blog has become very pregnancy and baby related and I can only apologise to those whom that doesn’t interest and are consequently sad – I know because I have been there with some of my previously favourite blogs. Although I was always interested for future reference. ;) All I can say is that the consistent feedback I get is that people want to know what I am doing, decorating, seeing, travelling and thinking so the blog has become more and more a reflection of my life. Hopefully that resonates with you at similar, or different stages of yours.


Amy’s trip of a lifetime to Hawaii

So, what is going to happen when baby arrives? Honestly, in the short term I don’t know. I want to take a few weeks off to just enjoy being with Pete and baby in our new little family and I know I will need time to adjust, get settled into feeding and some semblance of new normality and sleep! However I also know that I will want to update you guys, probably ask a whole heap of questions and of course to introduce you to baby. So I may pop in here and there. I may also pre-prepare some posts while in my mat leave and post them sporadically to keep you all going a couple of times a week until I can come back. It might be a long time before I can commit to a regular schedule but I hope you’ll all bear with me.


Pear and Caramel cake by Asma

If any of you want to help or get involved, I would love to have you. Florence Finds has always been about community and that’s why I maintain a roster of contributors who offer something different to my own experiences and interests. If you think you can write a short post that is similar to the kinds of things I post here, I would love to feature it, so I’m asking for your submissions. Here are a few guidelines and ideas: (I’ve linked to previous posts to give you some guidance of how I would tackle a similar post)


Victoria’s Chocolate walking tour of London

A note on images.
Everybody worries about images when submitting things to the blog. High quality images are one of the main factors in what makes a blog enjoyable to read but not everyone has a fancy camera. The main thing to do is make sure you have good natural lighting (easy in summer!) and take a mixture of zoomed in vignettes (close up detail shots) and wide angle full body/whole room type shots. For hotels, days out etc, you might want to include web links and I can often get images from websites or online. If you’re still worried, Instagram solves everything and I’m always happy to feature Instagram filtered shots to make things look a little more consistent! Above all have fun with it. I really enjoy taking photos for the blog (well, not the outfit ones perhaps!) and styling them to exercise some creative muscle!

So, if you think you can contribute, just email me your post and images or weblinks to hello@florencefinds.com and mark it submission – I will be eternally grateful!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS The pictures in the post are all from guest posts written for Florence Finds, but non-regular contributors, (with the exception of Victoria.)