If you follow my Instagram feed, you might have seen that this summer we finally managed to upgrade our horrendous kitchen from hell into something a little more suited to the needs of a large family. Having tried unsuccessfully to win one, Max’s new job this summer meant that at long last, we could actually do something about the worst designed kitchen in the history of new build houses.
Sandwiched between a holiday and the new beginning of term – with a frantic one week planning window due to tight constraints on builder availability and delivery slots – I ran around frantically trying to work out what exactly it was I needed to do in order to make a kitchen happen, all of which seemed impossibly overwhelming until a friend recommended ‘Chris the Builder’ an opera singing, bereavement counseling, miracle man with the loveliest nature and biggest set of skills I’ve ever seen in one place. He also brought his entourage of plumbers, electricians and floor laying wizards, meaning that a lot of the stress just dissolved overnight. All that was left to do was decide what we wanted and source it all within budget.
A number of things needed to change: there was a ridiculous wall that divided the room into 2/3 kitchen and 1/3 useless utility room with a second sink that never got used, almost no worktop space and a horrendously badly configured set of white goods spaces that meant you couldn’t have the pan cupboard open while unloading the dishwasher, have a fridgefreeze without cutting off the ability to use half of the 1 1/2m of worktop space or have a tumble dryer at ground level.
We put up with it and the deeply dull and uninspiring units and worktops for as long as we could but it was such a small space for a big family and had no food prep space. The bits to the left and right of the sink was literally all there was.
I spent a fair bit of the week running around and trying to decide what units
we thought we should have I wanted. 😉 I was set on Shaker style fronts in gloss cream and had to persuade Max that flat front wasn’t the way to go. The difficulty was cost and I spent the week going from Homebase (expensive) to B&Q (not my cup of tea) to Magnet (nice and very helpful but just a little too much) before finding exactly what I wanted for the right price at Howdens. Not only were they lovely and within my budget but they completely redesigned the original design I had, made it far better and let us swap bits in and out when putting everything in turned out to mean we spotted better cupboard configurations ‘in the wild’.
I have never seen a kitchen get ripped out as fast as this was (and I actually have seen a few, I used to be an estate agent who helped developers buy places to do up) – it was all out and tiles off in a day, even with the wall knocked down too!. The one benefit of 2 sinks was that we could keep one in action while the main end of the kitchen was prepared. I took the opportunity to declutter lots of kitchen crud but I have to admit a summer holiday week of camping in the dining room and picnic food was a touch wearing.
Here it is, all ripped out and ready for a face lift. It’s amazing how quickly you then forget what it was like!
The next stage was to get the new kitchen out of the garage and in to the kitchen; they were ready made units (lovely and sturdy for the same cost as flat pack from some places) and oak finish so they just look lovely when you open them and Howdens have it all in stock all the time so no long wait for delivery (and the ability to rejig your design if needs be). Max got to choose the hob and oven and chimney; very simple basic ones in fact but perfect for the job.
I made Chris the Builder laugh quite a lot with my excited squealing, even though this was the one day and a half that we had to wash up in the bath 😆 Meanwhile I was running about sorting out floor choices, lighting and trying to decide on paint colours. We had originally planned French Grey (as per every single kitchen catalogue in the country) but while pondering floor choices with Auntie Kate, we hit on red – and eventually I chose a version mixed by B&Q of the Farrow & Ball Carandine. It is just perfect.
That was all a way in the future though and poor Chris still had to get through punching the tap hole in the ceramic sink I had chosen. We went with this because the lack of the utility sink for very occasional dirty jobs meant I wanted something that wouldn’t stain easily. Combine with my tap choice (B&Q again) it ended up looking perfect, classic, stylish and has been a dream to use.
The week ended with the worktop man coming in to cut our beautiful worktops and get everything in to place.
My job for the weekend was to oil the worktops; it needed 5 coats (and now that the upstands are in I need to do them and give everything one more coat) but looked stunning and I have to say that so far my fears about how easy to keep nice it would be have been unfounded. We have to be careful not to put hot things on it – so we have trivets and a few worktop protectors – but it has stood up to ‘not very careful’ teens extremely well.
Handles in – another tricky choice but I’m please with the simple wood ones we decide to go with – and all that was left to do was the painting, which was rather fabulously done by my daddy once he arrived from Cairo.
Painting a kitchen is NOT a fun job.
We lived with a naked floor and window for a few weeks until I could find time for them to be fitted. Blind done by a lovely friend of mine we work alongside at our unit, Leary’s Blinds, and then began the fun of finding where everything should live. Kettle, toaster and microwave migrated around the kitchen for a few weeks until they settled in their natural homes. We now have so much worktop (from 1.5m to 8m!) that the two bits we used to have actually don’t get used at all, except for kettle and fruit bowl places.
The corner under the light bar will shortly have some oak shelving for the tea and coffee bits and bobs; that’s the last thing left to go in now.
The rest of the lighting was done by another work friend, Glow LED, who advised LED strips for under the worktops and sorted out the ceiling lights and bulbs for everything. Almost our whole house is now LED, which pleases me and has vastly reduced the cost of our electricity, even though we had old style low energy already.
Then the electrician came back and refitted all the plug sockets with lovely chrome ones to finish the effect off nicely.
New toaster (and matching kettle) bought with vouchers from John Lewis this weekend. LOVE it. It has a bagel setting. Just… wow.
Last thing – and quite possibly the bit I was most excited about, was the crud cupboard which Chris came back to do a few weeks later. I’ve had 9 years of vacuum in the loo, shoes everywhere (we have a LOT of shoes!) and nowhere to store essential crap and the crud cupboard behind the door, built into the last remaining alcove between corner and a small piece of wall we left up specially, is just perfect.
Pigeon holes for sports shoes and a gradually increasing number of Curver Rattan plastic boxes for storage of all other stuff from hats and gloves to a supply of water bottles, to tea towels, lunch boxes, shopping bags, recycling, coats and more. I will probably curtain it at some point but you don’t see it when you are in the kitchen generally and it has really changed the feel of the house.
I’m just so pleased with it.
For the avoidance of doubt, no part of this is a sponsored post but some of the local people gave me discounts. They didn’t do that in exchange for links, but I chose to link to them because they are fabulous.