Kitchen design diary: The big reveal

Just the other day, I noticed a woman starring into my house as she was walking past. Normally, I’d think it a little bit rude but in this instance I was delighted. I may have actually grinned at her. Unless she was looking at the state of my front weed-strewn garden (next project), what may have caught her attention is that instead of a yellow monstrosity I now have a gorgeous new kitchen!

After months of dust, disaster and delays, my project is finally finished. Without any further ado, please join my neighbours in viewing the new design.
There’s still some snagging and a few cosmetic touches to add but it’s almost exactly as I imagined it. For reference, let’s have a look back at the original kitchen:

Perhaps what’s most apparent is how the space feels much bigger now, even though it hasn’t been extended. This is mainly down to omitting wall cupboards and a lighter floor and colour palette.

It’s been a long project but ultimately worth the upheaval and hassle. Plus, there’s plenty of scope for repainting the cabinetry years down the line. It’s my first, and probably my last, kitchen project, and I’m rather pleased it’s over.

Finally, it’d be remiss of me not to thanks my amazing, ever-patient and accommodating builders, South Anston.

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Kitchen design diary: No progress

Regular readers have been quick to notice the absence of a post about the progress of the kitchen, so I thought it was time I made amends.

Without wanting to delve into the minutiae, the project has hit a snafu (a word I’ve used a lot in the past few weeks), which has entailed it grinding to a halt. While it’s been frustrating and exasperating, it’s taught me a lesson I’d like to pass on.

And it’s this: it doesn’t matter how well you plan a project, how organised you are or how much you know about what you’re doing, there’s a lot you can’t anticipate.

That means ducting kits for extractors that have to be imported, electricians who turn up without the right screwdrivers, plumbers who fail to read the fitting instructions for pipework, so just leave out the bit they don’t recognise (true) and a hundred million other things that make you want to opt for a Primus stove and a toasting fork instead of a new kitchen.

Look, it also comes in blue!

In light of the lack of developments, I’ve been putting my energy into selecting pretty things that will get to live in the new room and I’d like to share those instead.

Crockery is the first thing on the list as we have very few pieces of china that don’t come with chips and cracks. I’m currently obsessed with Cath Kidston‘s Large Spray range, which I feel has the right mix of everyday practicality but would also be great for entertaining.

New wine glasses are also a must as their lifespan tends to be short. I’ve already bought these from Houseology and am itching to get them out of the box.

Finally, I always need a clock in a kitchen. As I’m originally from Sheffield, I’ve chosen the S2 by local firm, Psalt Design. I really love that it’s all made in the UK and has an elegant yet chunky feel.

More regular updates soon!

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Kitchen design diary: Slow progress

Good things come to those who wait. By that rationale, my kitchen will be amazing. Because it’s week 8 of the refit and I’ve had almost as many delays as I’ve had bland microwave dinners. Since my last post, here’s how the kitchen has been progressing…

Once the units were in place, all the appliances could be fitted, except the hob and extractor, which need to be installed when the worktop is in.

kitchen fittingHowever, it was only when the fridge freezer doors were installed that we realised they were the wrong size for the appliance. Meaning that every time I wanted to access the freezer I’d have to open them both. So new doors had to be made.

fridge freezerFinally, we got to a stage where the Dekton worktops could go in. First, they were templated – this means that the installers came with sheets of plastic to mark up where the worktops should cover and where cut-outs for the hob, sink and extractor needed to be. A couple of weeks later, they came to install. Unfortunately, one of the worktops was cut too short so needed to be replaced, adding three weeks to my schedule. Here’s a close up of the correct one in-situ:

Dekton worktopWhile all these delays have been happening (from snow in Spain holding up my worktops to a ducting kit flown in from Italy for my extractor and a faulty LED strip), I’ve been playing with Dulux tester pots of colour on spare bits of kitchen. When my Armac Martin handles arrived, I was able to see just how they’d look. I think these colours are my final choices. Probably. Maybe.

dulux paintsThe handles are now fixed to the cabinets (hurrah for no more opening doors at the edges) so it’s possible to get a better idea of how the final scheme will look:

handles in placeMy new tap from Perrin & Rowe has now also put in an appearance, so should be fitted soon. The replacement worktop is the next step, closely followed by painting. So a finished kitchen could potentially be only weeks away.

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Kitchen design diary: Fitting begins

My last post ended with me glaring at the wet plaster walls in my kitchen and using everything from Jedi mind tricks to wishful thinking to make them dry faster. Something worked because eventually they were ready to paint and we could start the process for laying the floor. Before the LVT could be laid, the fitter had to pour a self-levelling screed across the floor and let it dry.

dsc_0395The main concern at this point was our cats. As we’ve removed the kitchen door altogether, the liquid screed was ripe for the kitties to make their mark Hollywood Walk of Fame-style. One moggy-sized barrier later and the floor was safe from feline interference. Here’s the finished floor, complete with slim grey grout strips:

lvt floorFloor in place, the units could start to be fitted. As it’s not a big room, some had to live in the garage while the kitchen itself resembled a sliding puzzle of blocks and panels waiting to be put in the right order. Here’s what the room currently looks like, with most of the major furniture in place and firmly attached to a batten.

kitchen fittingOf course, while this all looks like it’s going swimmingly, there have been a few hiccups. Sourcing a ducting kit for the extractor is proving tricky, while the date for worktop templating has had to be pushed back until later this week. And in an ironic twist, everything has been delivered – but the kitchen sink.

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Kitchen design diary: Rebuild and restore

One piece of advice that I’ve previously imparted to those about to do a large home renovation project is try not to do it in winter. There’s a couple of reasons for this. Tradespeople coming and going is chilly. The other is that outside areas are much less available for dining, storage etc than they are in summer. I’d like to add a third reason – plaster is reluctant to dry.

I’ve found this out the hard way. My newly plastered walls have so far taken five days for the moisture to evaporate, even with a dehumidifier whirring away and open windows. I like to think of this as my own version of Dryanuary.

plastered kitchen walls

However, as you can see from above, even while wet, they’re a great improvement on what was there before. The hatch is now blocked up and covered over and the walls are fantastically smooth. It’s starting to look like a room again.

In the meantime, the builders have been doing a few other jobs – cutting the floorboards to shape around the new ducting for the downdraft extractor, laying plywood sheet as a base for the LVT floor and filling a hole in my hallway, as a chunk of wall had fallen out when the light socket was removed on the other side.

extractor ducting

drying plaster walls

Once the walls are dry, the next job will be to give them a priming coat of emulsion before proper painting begins. Another update soon!

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Kitchen design diary: Stripping out

Most of you probably spent New Year’s Day making resolutions but I spent it clearing out my kitchen cabinets. After years of complaining that I barely had any space for everything, I found that actually I’d managed to stuff a fair amount into the units and in every spare corner. As well as finding no less than five frying pans, I tried to declutter as I went and four boxes of kitchenware in a reasonable state went off to the charity shop and rather more went in the bin.

The following day, the strip out began. Here’s my empty kitchen:

Decluttered kitchen

And here it is minus some of those units:

dsc_0375

The first job was rehoming the washing machine, which has now been plumbed into a Saniflo macerator beneath my stairs. The next was moving the gas supply from one side of the kitchen to the other, then getting rid of some pipework you can see on the right that was left over from an old radiator.

In any project, you make discoveries and so far I’ve made two. One was what my builders described as ‘meaty’ thick floor joists, so the house seems reassuringly well built. The other was a hole that had been blocked up with a blue and white ladies’ woollen jacket. The builders asked if I would like to keep it. The jacket, like the units, went into the skip and the kitchen currently looks like this:

Stripped out kitchen

Here, the strip light has been removed, spurs for sockets, lighting and appliances have been added and the boards have been sanded to create an even surface for the flooring. There’s dust everywhere from the sanding but already I’m starting to feel the design taking shape and it’s incredibly exciting.

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Kitchen design diary: Preparation

You never quite know what you’ve got til it’s gone. In this case, it’s less about lost love and more about the revamp of my kitchen. And of course, how you cope without a kitchen, which will be my status in the New Year.

The screaming reality of being kitchenless has made an impact on my consciousness. On the plus side, I’ve been transformed into a slovenly cook, happily disregarding splashes of grease on worktops and walls, knowing I won’t have to clean it up.

Not quite but you get the idea... image from Architectureimg.com

Not quite but you get the idea… source: Architectureimg.com

On the downside, I’m trying to prepare myself for a month of no real cooking, bare minimum washing up and of course, not being able to do the myriad other things we do in our kitchens but forget about.

While plenty of people opt for washing up in the bath or a constant diet of takeaways, I’m choosing my own blend of low-maintenance living. For a month or so, I’ll be surviving on my beloved orange Whirlpool microwave and Philips Airfryer, which provides a good repertoire of dinners, and a lot of paper plates and cups. I appreciate that they’re no friend of the environment but it’s better than flirting with bacteria by cleaning crockery in a dirty, dusty room.

Finally, I’ve invested in some sturdy plastic boxes to pack everything up on New Year’s Day and have ordered my gorgeous new flooring, Luna LVT (luxury vinyl tiles) by Karndean. It’ll look a little like this:

Kardean Luna LVT in a kitchen

Kardean Luna vinyl tiles in a kitchen

I’ll be taking photos of the work as it develops so watch this space…

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Kitchen design diary: Choosing appliances

Everyone has things that they’re so good at that they wish they could put them on their CV. For me, it’s shopping. Or at least, spending. Buying stuff? Nailed it.

But when it came to choosing appliances for the new kitchen, my usual skillset failed me. I found it incredibly hard to make a decision on one appliance over another. Trying to balance the useful features with energy efficiency and not let costs spiral out of control had me waking up at 5am wondering out aloud, “But if I choose the cheaper dishwasher that uses more water, won’t I just end up spending my saving? What about the energy rating?”. And so on.

After weeks of agonising, I solved my dilemma by focusing on one thing for each appliance that I had to have and decided to hang the rest. And it worked. I could make decisions without being paralysed by fear that I was choosing the wrong thing because at least one feature would be exactly right.

I’m keeping my current oven and hob as they’re fairly new, but here’s the rest of what I’ve plumped for and why:

Best Lift downdraft extractor hood

I chose this because I didn’t want an extractor over my hob and it’s super quiet.

AEG SCN51810S0 integrated fridge freezer

AEG fridge freezerMy deciding factor on this one was energy rating, seeing as the hard-working fridge freezer is the only appliance that’s on all the time.

Neff integrated S51M66X0GB

Neff dishwasher

I’d love to say that it was the energy efficiency that swung this decision but it was actually its TimeLight feature, which projects the remaining wash time on the floor without having to open the door. The heart wants what it wants.

AEG MCD2664E-M compact microwave

AEG microwaveFinally, I needed a built-in microwave so I didn’t have a freestanding one hogging my workspace. Brand was the deciding factor here, to match my AEG oven.

With my appliances all settled on, I’m now at the stage where my cabinetry can start to be made in the Harvey Jones workshop in Cambridgeshire. Check out how they make their kitchens in this fascinating video:

 

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Kitchen design diary: Initial design draft

For about 10 years, my ideal kitchen has only existed in my mind. Sure, I’ve tried to describe it to other people, waving my arms madly as I imagine cabinetry that soars its way to my ceiling, giving me the sort of Narnia-like storage space that lies behind the wardrobe.

I would have neat, organised cupboards and drawers. I wouldn’t have pans that I had mentally written off because they had become unreachable in a corner. Perhaps most importantly, I would have at least one clear run of worktop.

Now I’ve taken my first step towards that kitchen becoming real with a first draft of the design. Ta dah!

First draft kitchenOK, so it may not look like much at first but this is a vast improvement on the current layout, I promise.

For starters, it’s a U-shaped layout, as opposed to the facing L-shaped runs of cabinetry I have now. This does two things – first, it means I now have an extra corner to conquer, but it also includes that floor-to-ceiling bank of cabinetry I mentioned before, along the wall labelled Elevation B.

In each of those corners you’ll see twin magic corners, topped with a tambour unit – these are what will give me Narnia.

Magic corners are wire racks that live inside a cabinet, swinging out when needed and making available the storage inside a corner cabinet that’s usually inaccessible.

Tambour units, on the other hand, have roll-up doors, a bit like a garage. This means that not only do you not have to make sure there’s room in front to open them, like you would a door, but you can also roll them down to hide clutter. Double win.

There’s also a few other significant things going on. One is that I haven’t included my washing machine. At the moment I’m considering the feasibility of rehoming it under the stairs but it’s definitely being evicted to free up storage space.

The other is the world’s teeniest breakfast bar, which you’ll see on the plan where it says ‘void’. There’s only space for one person but that the designer managed to work it in is pretty amazing.

Here’s what it might look like, which is a big change from my current kitchen. What do you think? I’d love to hear, so please leave me a comment below.

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Kitchen design diary: Planning

One of the most common questions I get asked when people find out that I write about kitchens, is, ‘What’s your kitchen like?’ The answer is awkward, given that I’ve lived in my house for a decade without ripping out the lemon yellow monstrosity that had been fitted as a kitchen.

The problem was that it was serviceable enough. However, at the first sign of a wonky door, I decided it was time to send it to the great showroom in the sky and replace it with something that would solve its design problems, such as the cabinet knob that’s perfectly placed to switch off the light when the door is opened.

Given that I’ve written so much about the kitchen planning journey, I hope that taking it myself not only allows me to put what I think I know into action but also that I’ll learn lots along the way.

Here’s my starting point, my consistently cluttered kitchen. I don’t think Instagram makes a filter that can tackle this:

Rachel's old kitchen

I’m starting my planning process by visiting Harvey Jones. I’ve chosen its Linear range as my favourite but as yet, all other decisions are yet to be made, except that it won’t be lemon yellow. Wish me luck!

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