I’ve been promising to write this post since the day we moved in to our house, nearly two years now, so to make up for the wait I’m going to make this long and detailed! Are you ready?
As many of you will know our contractor renovated the vast majority of our house, which included: taking the entire house back to brick, re-wiring, re-plumbing, knocking down two walls to combine the kitchen, dining and living space into one open plan room, knocking the separate loo and bathroom into one room and installing a brand new bathroom, sanding and oiling the floorboards, re-plastering and painting the whole house, as well as adding new skirting, architraves and picture rails throughout. However, the kitchen was the one area that we had to make big compromises on for two main reasons: 1) We didn’t have the budget for a new kitchen 2) We had half an eye on the fact that we would like to extend the back of the house in the future so we didn’t want to spend a lot on what could effectively be a temporary kitchen.
Therefore, we made the decision not only to fit the kitchen ourselves but also salvage as much of the existing kitchen as possible. We set ourselves a rough budget of £1000 and as soon as the builders had left we gave ourselves a week to get it done as we were DESPERATE to move in by that point (we stayed with my sister during the renovation, which was a total of five months as we had to wait for two months for our builders to become available and the renovation itself took three months).
First and foremost, this is what the kitchen looked like when we bought the house…
The house was never going to work for us if we kept the 2m wide kitchen as it was. Mimi was just starting to walk and was in to EVERYTHING and I had to have eyes on her 24/7 so being locked away in a tiny kitchen would have been a logistical nightmare. It also wouldn’t have worked well when we have friends over. It was cramped, claustrophobic, dark and I hated everything about it! The right hand side of the kitchen units and worktop were half the standard depth as there was so little width to the room. One of the worst things about the room was that the door opened outwards into the hallway and when that door was open it completely blocked the door to the dining room (see the floor plan). It was a case of constantly banging doors. Therefore, the decision to knock down the walls downstairs was an instant one for me and a total deal breaker – it had to happen for us to consider buying the house. A quick check on Rightmove showed me that many of the houses on our road (it’s a super long road so there really are a lot of examples to look at) had already done what we wanted to do so we were happy to make an offer. As soon as the right hand side of the kitchen was ripped out I could already see the potential and light flowing into the space and that was all I really wanted.
The actual design for the kitchen was dictated by budget. In lots of the other houses on our streets that have been renovated and made open plan, the kitchen has been made into a horseshoe shape by blocking up the doorway from the hallway and the garden door. We had a couple of problems with that. Firstly, we just simply didn’t want to/couldn’t spend the amount it would cost for that amount of fitted kitchen. Secondly, I’m not mad keen on this design as I feel like I would have my back to the dining/living space a lot of the time and it feels closed in. Thirdly, we really wanted to keep two points of access to the kitchen/living space as sometimes we don’t want Otto coming through the sitting room when he’s really muddy etc. The added benefit of keeping the kitchen door was that we could have really easy access to the larder cupboard under the stairs so we could spend even less on the kitchen in terms of cupboard space. Finally, I just LOVE the original glazed kitchen door and I couldn’t bear getting rid of it!
Having a very small budget actually makes designing a kitchen pretty simple as options are so restricted and our builder James from J A Whitney Building Contractors helped us with the layout and measurements. We decided that we could salvage the existing hob, tap, hood and oven as well as the unit that holds the oven with a drawer below.
We decided against having the fridge freezer on the left hand side and instead planned to fit two under counter kitchen cupboards there instead. That would enable us to have a worktop that spanned the back wall so we could have space for a coffee machine and toaster on the left of the oven. As we were keeping the garden door and not replacing it with a window our only real option was to have another worktop running parallel with the back wall. We would essentially recreate the original galley kitchen but in an open plan space. This is what we had to work with when the builders left and we had one week until move in day!
Now let me show you the image that inspired the ‘look’ I wanted for the kitchen…
I was led to this deVOL kitchen as I had decided on a dark blue kitchen because I wanted to tie in with the dark blue in the living room rug (remember, it is an open plan room so I had to consider the whole space quite carefully when designing the kitchen), as well as providing some contrast with all the white in the room. The dark blue also helps define the kitchen space from the dining and living spaces. I had bought Railings paint for the front door and stairs (I still haven’t painted them!) and so I tested that and it worked perfectly with the Light Blue in the rest of the room as well as the Inchyra Blue in the hallway. I was really keen to create a sense of continuity in this house as it’s so small and that helps to make it feel bigger so I’m pleased that the kitchen ties in with colours in the hallway. We painted very large pieces of cardboard boxes with Railings Modern Eggshell and stuck them to the kitchen units to help us visualise what the kitchen would look like.
I was very keen to keep a period feel in the house so it was easy for me to decide on a shaker style kitchen and James suggested buying a Howdens kitchen as he works with them on a regular basis. I chose the Burford paintable units (I’ve had a look online and I’m not sure if they are available anymore but there are lots of similar styles) that we could paint ourselves. This brought cost down and enabled us to have exactly the colour we wanted. Ordinarily it would be A LOT of extra work to paint a kitchen but because we only bought four cupboards – two on the left of the oven with a drawer, one under the sink and one under the ‘island’ for the bin – it wasn’t too hectic! Also, because the house was completely empty there was enough room to lay everything out and it was late summer so everything dried nice and quickly too. The cost of the carcasses, four door fronts, one drawer, end and dividing panels and kick boards was £816. Therefore, we needed to find door handles, worktops and a sink for as little as possible.
I really liked the idea of mixing the worktop finishes like the deVOL kitchen as I definitely wanted a wooden worktop for the island but I didn’t want too much wood because we were going to have floorboards and a wooden dining table and big wooden wall cabinet. I knew I could get away with a cheap white laminate worktop quite easily on the back wall as so much of it would be covered by the sink and oven. I’m not very keen on laminate worktops but I can honestly say the white one I chose from Worktop Express for £80 is really great and very easy to keep clean.
The wooden worktop for the island is birch from IKEA and cost £100, which took us up to our budget of £1000. We were left with a black sink from the existing kitchen and that was a big no from me so we stretched the budget to buy a new white resin sink from B&Q for £94. This is by no means my ideal sink but for the price and the ease of fitting it works well as well as looking ok.
At this point we moved into the house and it was pretty tricky as we still didn’t have any storage. We actually went away with family for a week to Rye almost as soon as we moved in and whilst we were there I found a £5 shelf in an antiques shop and I won an eBay bid on a wall cabinet for £40 so when we got home they immediately got put up.
The shelf in the kitchen quickly became a priority as we had no where for crockery and we recycled old lengths of MDF and brackets from shelves in our flat so they cost us nothing.
We didn’t tile the splash back for ages but we now have left over white metro tiles from when we tiled our kitchen in our old flat. We also had leftover grout and adhesive from the bathroom, so again that cost us nothing.
Very quickly I could tell that the kitchen was going to work really, really well and as soon as we fitted shelves into the larder, which is under the stairs, everything had a home. The larder is accessed through the kitchen door and actually it’s one of the best things about the kitchen. It makes storing food so easy as I can see everything and nothing gets lost at the back of a cupboard.
This is how the kitchen looks today…
Things I would change…
- I would have removed the cooker hood altogether as it no longer works (we salvaged it from the old kitchen) and we so rarely fry food so we really don’t need one.
- I wish we had lowered the shelf and added another on top of it to give us more storage space.
- We still haven’t oiled the floorboards after it was sanded just in the kitchen section. As a result they are now filthy and I’m furious about it every single day(!)
- I wish we hadn’t bothered with spotlights in the kitchen as I never ever put them on and have instead added a clip on lamp to the shelf and have a big standard lamp next to the island. I would have preferred wall lights above the shelves and a pendant or two above the island.
I told you it was going to be a long post! Well done if you managed to get to the end but if there are still any questions I haven’t answered please do leave a comment or send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.