Thursday, 21 December 2017


Yes, I KNOW this all happened ages ago, and I KNOW I've been saying for months that I'm going to blog about it, but life's escaped me a bit! (And the whole thing of having your kitchen totally ripped out and replaced turns out to be a bit traumatic and it MIGHT have taken me until recently to even consider looking back at the whole thing, too...)

So, having debated for several years about exactly how to tackle to kitchen, the eventual decision was to strip it back to bare bones and basically start again - without question the right decision, but somewhat daunting as you might imagine. We got completely stuck on the design first off - and how to "improve" on what we already had, until someone pointed out that we first needed to question whether we were actually unhappy with the layout as it was, or not. Once we realised what things we wanted different, it became much easier - so more storage, more ability to use ALL the space (avoiding the issue we'd had previously with an unusable space in a corner) easier to maintain and keep clean, and better lighting options were the things that stood out, but we realised fairly fast that the actual layout was not so far wrong. We found a pull-out unit that would solve the problem with the dead space in the corner, and our builder came up with a clever way of making that work for us, and my lovely friend Ross who is a bit of a whizz with such things made lots of brilliant suggestions on the lighting side, which we incorporated. The only real layout change as such was to move the washing machine to the far end of the room and put the dishwasher next to it - making the whole room that much more useable. Structurally we also made the decision to get the door moved across a little and change it from a traditional doorway (which can't have a door on it anyway) to an arch, and have a pointlessly thick piece of wall narrowed down and reinsulated - increasing the space in the room from end to end and giving us slightly more useable worktop. We chose units, appliances, tiles and all the other odds and ends, and then we took a collective VERY deep breath and gave the go ahead...

As a reminder then - before the work started it looked like this:

(Sneak preview right there of the new wall colour!)

The first and third shots there are taken standing as far back in the room as it was possible to get - which gives you an idea of space. Or lack of it. *Grin*. Yes the appliances did really stick right out into the room like that. And yes the unit doors are slightly different colours above the oven. Oh and yes, the top light did dazzle you regardless of where in the room you stood, and create nasty dark spots wherever you really wanted light. It wasn't, to be blunt, great. Still though, it was more user-friendly than this:

which was the sight that greeted us when we got home the first day of work... *gulp*. Nothing we weren't expecting, but still made us realise the real scale of what we'd done!  The reason for the white goods sticking as far into the room as they had was immediately obvious too - the plumbing was a total abomination:

What on EARTH were our predecessors thinking?!

That was dealt with, the new electrics were put in, and the new doorway took shape...

Obviously while all this was happening we had pretty much NO use of the kitchen. We made a point of requesting that the washing machine was kept useable for as long as possible which was really helpful, but beyond that, all cooking and washing up was having to happen elsewhere. Washing up in a bowl in the bath is NOT fun, and neither is trying to use a very limited space in the spare room, and a microwave, to cook all your meals. The camping stove used outside on the balcony proved great for stir fries, and over all we were remarkably good about not falling into the trap of eating masses of takeaways. It was helpful that it was summer as things like salads etc are easily prepared and require no cooking of course! The arrival of our eye wateringly expensive, but stunning Silestone worktop boosted our spirits and made us feel as though progress was being made...

As you can see we opted to have the worktop taken right to the window - again this maximises space that would have been lost had we had a sill. It also makes a massive difference for a short person (me!) as it means that I can reach the windows to open them while standing at the sink, AND I can reach right into that far corner to clean - a vast improvement!

As with the bathroom, we spent where we needed to but saved where we could. Having found the marvellously cheap floor tiles that we liked and used in the bathroom we were happy to get those again. The larder simply needed plain square white ceramic - so we bought the cheapest we could find at the right size. The wall tiles were a little trickier - but basically we spotted the style we liked and then hunted for the best price. In total the tiles cost under £200. We looked at a LOT of taps, essentially to find the style we both liked. We wanted brushed steel as this would fit with the oven and fridge we'd chosen as well as the sink (brushed steel is a theme that runs through the room - the switches and sockets are all in that finish too) and eventually found the one in the picture above which fitted precisely what we were thinking of and cost just £69 from Homebase. Neither of us are fussed about "designer labels" or impressing other people with the brands we own, which helped - as it meant we were able to purely focus on the look we wanted rather than whether it was an acceptable make. Oddly enough the thing that brought this home the most was the rubbish bin - whoever knew you could, if you wish, pay over £100 for a simple two-compartment rubbish & recycling bin. ("SimpleHuman" in case you were wondering - and yes, that's the brand, not the sort of person who would pay £100 for a kitchen bin!). We found an almost identical one for well under half that amount. You will be relieved to say that it works marvellously!  On the flip-side, the worktop, as mentioned, cost a painful amount (one-fifth of our total budget!) and with the appliances we chose to buy good makes that we had confidence in.

The decision about which appliances to retain and which to replace was a tricky one from a sustainability point of view - it went against the grain to replace appliances that were still working, but on the other hand our dishwasher and Fridge freezer were both over 13 years old, the dishwasher had already been repaired (by us!) twice, and neither would go with the new kitchen in the slightest. The cooker was a much simpler question - at in the region of 16 years old one ring had already failed completely and another was starting to play up, and it had cost us nothing in the first place as it was gifted to us by the landlord of our rented flat many years ago. That was scrapped as we wanted no risk that anyone else might try to use it bearing in mind its age and that an elderly gas cooker can be a dangerous thing. The compromise on the dishwasher and fridge freezer was to donate both to a local charity that takes electricals, and the washing machine was only a few years old so we decided simply to keep that.

So, to the end result then:

The first thing that surprised us was just how much bigger the room looked and felt - just the cleaner lines I think and the fact that the light now reflects about the room rather than being absorbed into dark corners. We're pleased with the mix we achieved of industrial and homely - the sink is a HUGE deep industrial-style one, but it doesn't stand out thanks to the undermount on the worktop. Talking of worktops, we've had to learn that the new one needs careful watching to prevent things staining, but overall it's so much easier to keep clean. Storage is wonderful - we've still not quite managed to fill all the cupboard space and I now have room for a utensil tub on the worktop for wooden spoons, and also a couple of pots of favourite herbs - wonderful! The larder now has crisp white tiling and waxed pine shelves - and MrEH's idea and by FAR his favourite feature in the room I think - a rather clever light that comes on when you open the door...

As you can also see we opted for a spice rack that sits on the inside of the door in there too which helped keep the cupboards clear of small jars.

Needless to say it's not stayed quite as "showhome" as it looks above - but generally speaking it's pretty easy to keep the surfaces clear of too much clutter. What is there is stuff that gets used all the time...

 The pull out unit to the right of the cooker takes all our pans, bowls and a further utensil pot that holds things that get regular use but don't for whatever reason fit on the rack - it's so easy while you're cooking to just pull it out, grab what you need, and bump it with your knee to close it again - and I could watch our soft close doors all day!

The cost stayed relatively under control - we'd set a budget, and allowed an additional 10% for contingencies, and thanks to some delays in various areas, and the fridge we had originally chosen not turning out to be the width it was described as being, we did end up using most of that contingency, but unquestionably it was worth every single penny we spent on it. It's a joy to work in, and costs less in running costs as our appliances are all up-to-date energy efficient versions, and the lighting is LED. It's incredibly easy to keep clean and we tend to keep it far tidier as it simply looks nicer, plus we have sufficient storage for everything now. The cooker hood is a full extracting one rather than a filtration type so we get less issues with condensation, and we have less "stuff" overall as we took the opportunity to thin out the items that didn't get used. All in all - a triumph!



Sue said...

Wow .. that looks amazing, and I LOVE your larder :-)

What a good idea to take the worktop right to the window too. I'm quite tall and although I can reach to open the kitchen window, I have to go outside to push it closed so I can fasten it, so yours is a brilliant solution.

Wishing you all the very best for Christmas and the New Year. xx

Robyn said...

Thanks Sue! Happy New Year to you too!
The worktop to window thing - SO simple and yet not anything that would have occurred to us as an option until it was suggested, yet it makes SUCH a difference! (And yes I used to have to de exactly what you describe!) The larder was one of the main reasons we bought the flat in the first place - we love it!