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:

Previous Kitchen posts:

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:

Kitchen Update…

If my house update posts have seemed a bit thin on the ground, that’s pretty much for two reasons. Firstly, the whole thing has been so exhausting and frustrating so far that I really haven’t had the mental energy to write about it here as well as collecting quotes and co-ordinating the work. And secondly, well, there hasn’t been that much ‘progress’.


Our Kitchen, on display in the showroom

Last time I talked about the kitchen I talked about choosing the actual units and style. Plus I have mentioned the issues that prevented us from extending. We initially got involved with an architect when we wanted to see if there was a way around the pipe and there was, but it was expensive. That and I don’t know how realistic his plans were. We have continued to work with the architect and that has been one of the massive delaying factors. The drawings took longer than they should have, trying to get quotes took longer and now we are chasing engineers calculations on modified drawings. Why the modification I hear you ask? Well, because the grand designs the architect drew up were completely unfeasible. I thought that architects not only planned creative solutions but that they worked within the limitations of the structural requirements. Clearly our experience hasn’t been great, but I don’t want to generalise and I’m sure there are lots of great architects out there, ours just hasn’t been. In fact, all we needed was a builder and it’s a shame we hadn’t met the builder who did the work on our bedroom by then, because he has taken on the kitchen job and been a lot more helpful. Hopefully we’re starting work in a week or two, so we can actually see things come together.


Although I’m talking about an ‘Island’ here, we are actually having a peninsula than comes from the exterior wall but you can walk around on three sides, separating the working side of the kitchen from the social side :) so it will look something like this… Image via.

In the meantime, the interior plans have been ticking along. When we found our kitchen it was on display in the shop and miraculously the layout could be slightly rejigged to fit our plans. We had to buy an additional couple of units to finish it off but it meant we could afford a kitchen that was otherwise way out of our budget. As the display was being removed we had the option to buy the worktops and sink too. The worktop is a veined black granite but very unusual, because it has a matt ‘honed’ finish, like the graining on a soft leather handbag. (I posted a picture on instagram showing the finish this morning.) I really deliberated about this decision. It was a good price, but I really wanted marble. Not just for the look but for the pale colour to bounce more light around.


How honed granite looks in situ via Pinterest

On our kitchen research trips I asked lots of people about marble as a work surface and was met with a variety of reactions, from derision to outright patronisation. I was told marble was for show kitchens in the kitchens of the rich, that it would stain and I would regret it. Of course I already knew that, having extensively researched the pro’s and con’s. For those of you who don’t know much about worktops, one of the pro’s for granite is that it’s tough. Marble on the other hand is soft and porous. It can scratch, dent, crack or ‘etch’, which is the correct term for the marks that are left on the surface from acidic foods coming into contact with it. Lemons and tomatoes all have this effect and anything dark can be absorbed leaving stains that can’t be wiped off or cleaned with usual cleaning products because they are sucked in to the stone itself. Pretty terrifying stuff, right? The problem was, I still couldn’t stop myself from wanting it, so I decided to do a little experiment.

The majority of the nay sayers amongst kitchen salespeople simply didn’t want to sell us the marble and be responsible for us then telling them it had marked or stained etc and demanding our money back. Tracy, our kitchen designer basically dared me to try some red wine on it. As much as I told her I would look after it she convinced me that after a party one night or when we had family visiting, someone wouldn’t take care of the marble like I did and it might get ruined. So I put red wine o the bottom of a glass, left it on a marble sample I had and promptly forgot about it until a couple of days later. It left a hideous stain which of course didn’t come out. After a bit of google research I read somewhere that in Latin countries where marble is used all the time for worktops they simply clean it with bleach. And what do you know, out it came. It removed balsamic vinegar too. The etching was still there from the vinegar but that is really only visible when the light shines across the marble and highlights the difference in texture between the polished finish and the matt etched areas. If you go for a ‘honed’ (matt) marble finish, this is less obvious again.


Images via Pinterest 1 // 2

So, decision time. Right now, (although I’m having a last minute wobble with the anticipation of a toddler throwing spaghetti bolognese all over it!) the plan is a compromise. We are going to reuse the granite from the display along the back wall’s run of units, either side of the cooker and in the cabinet where the coffee machine etc will go. This will be harder wearing and give a fuss free prep area. On the island, (where the sink will be) we’re going with honed marble for the look I love. Fingers crossed it works!


Hopefully this is pretty close to how our kitchen will look from one end, looking pack towards the house. Image via.

Because of our limited space there isn’t going to be the option for a dining table but the island will have bar stools for feeding kids (and adults!) at on a daily basis. The Back wall run of units will be drawers all the way along for a sleek look and the sink area you see above will be rejigged to make one side of the island with dishwasher etc. My only gripe now is that the handles that came with the kitchen are chrome finish and I really wanted brass, along with brass taps. Now I’ve just got to decided on tiles, flooring and lighting. It feels never ending but I can’t wait to get it all done and finished. Preferably before Baby arrives!

So that’s it for now readers, I hope I haven’t bored you but it has been a long process. And we haven’t even started yet. Tell me it will be ok?! (Or if I’m making a huge mistake with something!!!)

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS. If you happen to be interested in Marble, then here are some of the articles I researched from people actually living with Marble worktops:
Georgica Pond
For the love of a house
I also emailed Courtney Adamo for Advice who has this beautiful honed marble worktop.

#JanuaryJoy: Plan a room

Right now my life is consumed by decor plans but they are in the main completely abstract, because one room keeps getting in the way – the kitchen. After our extension issues (around the monster sewer pipe,) we have now decided to stick to the original foot print of the house and make the space from within, i.e. by removing the chimney breast and nib that sticks out from the small kitchen at the back in to the room. Although the living room and hall are driving me NUTS looking at them, we have to do this first and financially, it’s a huge drain on our expendable cash that keeps growing. We need to pay for the kitchen itself, the appliances, worktops, flooring, lighting and then the building work which involves installing a lot of glass, more £££. So the room I’ve been planning is, not surprisingly the kitchen.

We decided to skip to the fun bit and figure out the kitchen itself first. It might seem shortsighted, but that was the most important bit to me, and therefore we decided to let it influence the design. I was really unsure as to whether we would extend the kitchen as our architect put forward an idea to cantilever out over the sewer pipe, but clearly that wasn’t going to be cheap and I wanted to know if the right kitchen could make better use of the existing space.

I knew what I wanted, grey cupboards, light worktops (preferably marble) and an island unit. So off we went.


Image via

The first place we looked was Ikea. The new Lidingo grey kitchen is a dark grey traditional looking door style and most importantly we knew it would be Cheap with a capital C. I actually really like it and I know people with Ikea kitchens that look great, I was just worried about longevity and if the quality would hold out. We actually costed it up using the online planner and it came to less than £3000 for the cupboards, then we would have added in appliances, taps, sink, and the marble tops ontop of that.

Next we happened to see a grey kitchen in B&Q (Carisbrooke Taupe, part of their Cooke and Lewis range) that was an ‘in-frame’ kitchen – a style I had fallen in love with but you don’t see that often and tends to be more expensive than average. We thought we would book a design consultation and see what they could come up with and the cost (again excluding appliances etc) was about £5,500, although we were told at the time that the sale was coming and we would get 20% upwards off it then. We didn’t warm to the kitchen designer at all – he didn’t offer any design input other than asking us what we wanted, which is what we were there for, to see if he had any ideas about our awkward space.

Next on the list for investigation was a tip off from a reader when I wrote about kitchens, British Standard. An off shoot of Plain English Kitchens, which are handmade and retail at 45-50K, British Standard are supposed to offer handmade, British joinery for a budget price – you have to design it yourself and work out all your sizes etc and fit it, not to mention the small matter of picking it up and finishing it in whatever paint you want too. I love these, but it seemed like quite a daunting task and although they don’t come up anywhere near their sister company’s prices, they still are not cheap – the website states ‘£7000 for a modest sized kitchen including worktops’.

I should also give special mention to John Lewis who I am still completely disgusted with. They also do an in-frame, grey kitchen as part of their classic collection and each display has a kitchen design leaflet of what a small kitchen with the units corresponding to the drawing will cost. It wasn’t dissimilar to what we needed in terms of space and units so I asked the sales person to help us and was basically told that it would cost twice that, everybody gets carried away and completely patronised. I got the distinct impression that he felt we couldn’t afford it and he seemed to be doing his best to put us off. Needless to say, I left.

Lastly, Michelle convinced me to contact a colleague of hers at TruKitchen and get some serious design advice. I really hesitated because I didn’t think they would have what we wanted and if they did that it wouldn’t be at a price we could afford. But then I found out they do sell some in-frame handmade kitchens, and it turned out the designers advice was what made us realise we didn’t need to extend at all – completely invaluable. In a final twist of fate, Tracey thought that they might actually have something that would fit our space perfectly and that was already on display instore. One of their brands Hamilton Drake produces bespoke handmade kitchens and I fell in love.


Our kitchen, in the showroom at TruKitchen

So we decided to bite the bullet. It’s more than we planned to pay, but it will hopefully last and instead of that being daunting (I was always put off by people who said ‘this kitchen will last you 25 years’, because I thought, I might not like it in 25 years!) I know that I can have it repainted if I go off grey and that it is beautifully made.

Now we’re just narrowing down the appliances and we have decide on a range cooker as it fits the space better and I love the look of them. What I can’t decide on and need advice on is what kind of top to get- gas or induction? I was 100% for gas, for the function and aesthetic, but having cleaned my own gas top twice on New Years Day I had a sudden change of heart and thought life is too short, lets get induction. I’ve since seen a couple of induction tops that I like (this, this and this,) but I can’t decide if it will look right. I’ll talk more about the design of the kitchen itself next time, but one of the things that put me off was the contrast of the black induction top against the white marble, but we’re now having black granite along that back panel so it will blend in… So I need your advice readers, induction or gas?!

Have you got a room planned to tackle this year? Do tell! I’d love to hear about something other than my kitchen!

Love,
Rebecca
xo