KItchen lessons (and living with Cararra marble worktops)

I promised I’d write a follow up to our kitchen reveal, talking about what I’d do differently and I should first of all say, I’m really happy with our kitchen overall. There are however always things that pop up with the benefit of hindsight and if you are using a space differently to the original layout, then things have changed again for us with the addition of a little one.


But lets get started…

The biggest thing I would change is the handles on the doors and drawers. They are actually a very fancy Italian brand but we just got them with the kitchen as they were the display handles. We could have changed them but I actually like the modern edge they give to what is a very traditional kitchen style. What isn’t good is that they are so long, occasionally when you pull one end, it puts the draw out of line instead of opening it and the drawer catches. They are also very shiny and get finger marks all the time, and lastly they have very sharp pointy corners, which kind of worries me a bit as Bea is now more mobile and pulling up around the kitchen.


The herringbone Karndean floor and long kitchen drawer handles

I also wish we had put a socket in on top of the upper cupboards so we could plug in a sound dock or speaker and keep it off the work surface.

You might have noticed we have no tiles… this isn’t necessarily something I would change, but it’s something I kind of consider unfinished. I don’t feel we need much behind the worktops, but behind the hob is inevitably messy, (we just wipe it with a cloth,) I just can’t decide what I want!

I also wish we had had a bit more flexibility and given a bit more thought to the configuration. Being an ex-display kitchen we were limited to what the cupboard set up was, but we didn’t give enough thought to waste and recycling storage and because we have a lot of drawers and only a few cupboards, which are glass fronted, we have nowhere to put chopping boards and nowhere to store bottles that are taller than a large jar – the hidden cupboards have three shallow shelves in them.


The beautiful veining and natural marking on the island slab.

Living with Marble worktops…
Before we chose marble work surfaces I did some serious research. What I found was a lot of bloggers who had fallen in love with marble and nothing else was going to do. All of them were warned off it by kitchen companies and the majority were still happy with their choice. You can read about the research I did and some of the blog posts I read here. For those of you who don’t know about marble, it’s a natural stone and as such has certain qualities and characteristics that you need to take into account before buying it. Marble can stain, chip, etch (marks to the surface of the stone that don’t change the colour but change the finish, making it matte when the light hits that area,) and stun (bright white dots that appear if it is banged with something heavy and pointed – for example a pan going down flat won’t ‘stun’ marble but the corner of a bottle will,) and scratch. Marble is NOT like granite.

When we got our worktops I was terrified of them. Not in a ‘didn’t want to use them‘ way, but in a ‘very expensive thing I wanted to keep nice‘ kind of way. We babied them, told everyone (read:family,) what not to do on them and tried to keep them perfect. They still etched. Then we had a baby and didn’t have time/the inclination to baby the worktops too and people were in the house ‘helping’ all the time. They etched some more. But they still look almost exactly as they did when we got them unless you get your nose down to the worktop level to inspect them.


Etching on the marble. As you can see, it required a certain viewpoint and particular settings on my camera to capture these. From the same place stood up normally, they aren’t visible.

My main concern with the worktops was staining. I didn’t want (essentially) white worktops with horrible yellow or orange stains on them. I didn’t need to worry at all, I’ve found coffee and blackcurrant cordial on them from goodness knows how many days previously and it simply wipes off with no residue. They have been sealed before and after installation and it works. What has happened a LOT as I said before, is the etching. You can be as careful as you like and etches will appear. They happen when anything acidic hits the worktop so fruit, cleaning products, some drinks and tomatoes to name but a few. It’s pretty instant too and you can even spread the etch by wiping the offending item along with the cloth. But, you can hardly see them. Our worktops are honed (so not shiny,) marble and the etches are still more matte, but less noticeable as a result. You really can’t see them unless light is bouncing off the work surface where the etch is. We have also had a few stun marks (where I keep banging the oil bottle or condiments into the up stand) and scratches have appeared. You can never figure out what caused them, but there they are.

The big question is would I get them again? And the answer is definitely yes. I like things with natural character and the veining in our worktops is stunning. (I actually went to the stone yard to choose the slab and am so glad I did – I thought it might be a bit OCD but the one that was ear marked for us was quite spotty and dotty and not very clean and white looking. I ended up choosing this one from 3 others and I’d recommend making sure you choose yours if you want marble. The variation is huge.) Our house is old, the skirting boards are bashed, the walls aren’t straight and stairs creak. On first glance you would think our house was pretty perfect but look harder and scrutinise the edges and you’ll see the signs of its age. The worktops fit in with that. I got them because I was completely obsessed with grey kitchens and marble worktops, but now I look back and I really can’t see any alternative still. There is nothing else that I wanted. And I should add, many of the issues I have mentioned above can and will happen with other work tops. I have friends with Corian worktops that have chipped and stained and granite that has scratched and has smears on it all the time. Marble does it easier, but I love it and I’m still happy with our decision. If you’re a bit OCD, like everything to look super modern and stay looking like that in your home, they will not be for you, but for me, nothing beats the cool feel of smooth marble and that beautiful, elegant look. They also were the least expensive option, saving us hundreds if not thousands on some other choices.


The secret cupboard as it was…

I should probably list the things I am really happy with too, while we’re at it!

I love my hidden cupboard. Someone commented on the last post that I either didn’t have a kettle or it was tidied away. We did plan to get a boiling water tap but cut it from the budget so I do indeed have a kettle, and a toaster and a coffee machine, none of which are on show, and thats not blogger behaviour styling the room! This is how it always looks (with the exception of a few stray papers and toys cluttering things up,) because they are hidden in my secret cupboard. 😉


…and as it is now – the toaster broke and we changed the coffee machine!

We love the floor – it was a great option, is wearing really well, (actually people told us Karndean was bullet proof and it hasn’t bean at all, it scratched really quickly but they seem to have disappeared!) and look so good in the parquet style.

I’m glad we kept the old tap – it actually looks great and saved us loads of money! I’m also glad I pushed for a 1.5 bowl sink, its so useful. The only think I didn’t anticipate with the sink was that the square shape means the edges get a bit dirty, which I hadn’t anticipated.


The square edged sink

And thats it I think. I’d love to hear your thoughts on anything you wish you had done differently if you have recently re-done a kitchen (or other room) and if you have any questions about the marble, feel free to ask!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS Our marble was sourced from Manchester Marble, honed at the stone merchants and templates and installed by Manchester Marble.

My house: Kitchen reveal

This post has been a very long time coming… I think we were back in the kitchen and using it about a month before Bea was born in July last year, but its taken me a considerable amount of time to take decent photos in good light, then I was thwarted by a camera malfunction (which is why some of the photos show different items in them!) but it’s finally ready to share. (Want a recap on what we started out with? Theres a few more pictures in our new house tour.)

I’ve shared various planning posts about the kitchen before which I have linked at the end of the article. If you read any of these posts before, you might know that we bought an ex-display kitchen that was about to be dismantled from a shop that was being refitted. It was a massive saving and whilst it was still not a small amount, it saved us I reckon about 50% on similar inframe solid wood kitchens. I absolutely love the style and the quality is also amazing. The smaller drawers have wooden dividers and felt lining inside, everything is soft close and has a heavy feel of quality about it which I’m really happy with. The units were originally a mix of dark brown and this soft grey (Farrow and Ball’s Dove Tale) so the whole thing was repainted to match. The handles were part of the deal and I’m so glad I didn’t have to choose any myself as I think it might have sent me over the edge! We chose Great White (also F&B) for the walls as it has a hint of pink which I felt the room needed as it’s west and north facing so can appear cold. It goes beautifully with the kitchen units I’m pleased to say!

We chose all SMEG appliances, mainly after searching for a range style oven. There were two reasons we went for a range instead of sleek inbuilt overns… firstly the kitchen aesthetic suited a range and secondly, we actually couldn’t configure the layout to work with a wall mounted oven set up anyway. Once we found the right range (we wanted one with clean lines and so many are covered in twidly buttons or have vintage design details,) we then looked at the rest of the SMEG range and found them to be competitive with other brands of comparative quality so we bought a 60/40 fridge freezer and our dishwasher from SMEG too. So far, we’re very happy with all of the appliances, particularly the oven. 🙂

The sink (as un-sexy as it is to talk about) was a big deal for me. In the old kitchen there had been a single sink and I can’t tell you how much it irritated me that there was no second or half sink to empty things into for rinse into. I wanted a sleek modern square one and it took me ages to find one that was reasonably priced but I finally did in B&Q, from their Cooke and Lewis range. I know not everyone likes stainless steel but it worked with the stainless steel range and hood and I like the finish personally. For the taps I searched high and low, but we ended up reusing the tap from the old kitchen when I realised all the ones I liked were exactly the same!

The biggest thing for me was the work tops and we finally went with Carrara marble. I LOVED the look of marble but nobody has anything good to say about it in a kitchen. All the stories are true – marble chips, scratches, stuns and etches with abandon, leading to a ‘patina’ of wear which doesn’t bother me at all. The one thing I was terrified of was staining but I’ve found coffee, juice and fruit spots on the marble and all have simply wiped off (although it had been sealed prior to and after installation.) The marble was actually cheaper than any other stone work surface and I’m really glad we went for it still.

The floor was another huge decision – I wanted real wood and although again, people don’t recommend it, I didn’t see any reason why not to go for it – although a kitchen floor does get wet, you don’t leave it wet do you?! We ened up however going for Kardean and its another decision we are really happy with. It looks fab – I wanted a parquet herringbone effect but only the top of the range was available in parquet style tiles. I was very particular about the colour and finish of the wood effect which was only available in the (fortunately) cheapest range, so we chopped the tiles in half and ended up with this oversized herringbone effect. It actually works to make the space look bigger and I love it.

Lastly, the light was the result of a bit of trial and error. I originally wanted 2 pendants over the island and bought some copper fisherman style ones from M&S, but unfortunately they only reached 80cm long from the ceiling. As our house is old with over 3m high ceilings they kind of hung half mast and looked insignificant. The same night they we installed (and removed swiftly) I spotted this statement pendant and made a snap decision to buy it. The electricians weren’t very pleased with me but I’m happy with the touch of glamour it adds to the space.

The stools are the old ones we bought as a temporary measure for the island we used in the kitchen before it was re-done. I haven’t found the right thing to replace them and I actually quite like the pop of colour!

I’ll leave it there for now although I do have a couple of other posts to share on the kitchen including what we would do differently in retrospect and how the things we have chosen have worn, which might be useful for some of you planning future projects. In the mean time, I hope you like it! 🙂

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Suppliers/Sources:

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