It’s all about the kitchen! For years I had to make do with kitchens that had not been updated since the 70s or were so small, that you couldn’t swing a cat in (no cats were harmed testing this theory).
I could forget about trying to prepare food and entertain at the same time so I was extremely keen to do my own kitchen renovation.
So, when we started looking for a property to buy, the kitchen was THE most important room in the house for me.
I knew what I wanted, we moved around a lot whilst my Husband was in the army and had lived in houses that had galley-style kitchens, kitchens with a small breakfast bar or enough room to squeeze a small table in.
Another dark and characterless Army accommodation which was in serious need of a kitchen renovation – also before I knew how to take photos!
What we were looking for in a kitchen.
The most important things for me were –
Lots of worktop space. I’m a messy cook and needed the room to spread out all my ingredients!
Big enough to fit a large dining table in. I liked the idea of family and friends coming over for dinner and for us all being able to sit around the table comfortably
Plenty of cupboard space. We moved every 1 to 2 years and every time we packed up, I’d find about 10 tins of tuna shoved in the deepest darkest part of a corner cupboard as we’d normally only have one cupboard to fit all the food in!
A social space. It’s no secret that I love a good party and having people over, so a place where we could sit and chat with a glass of wine was very important
The Range cooker! I had romantic visions of a big Christmas dinner with all the family over and a range to cook all the food. When we were designing the kitchen with Howdens, the designer laughed and said, you’d be surprised how many people design their kitchen around Christmas!
Bi-fold doors were the absolute dream! Many of our previous kitchens looked out over the main street and I was forever hearing the kids playing (fighting) in the garden and couldn’t see what they were up to. It was paramount that I could look out over the garden whilst preparing dinner.
Lighting. This is often overlooked, but I wanted a kitchen that was bright throughout the dark winter months so I didn’t chop my fingers off, but could also be dimmed in the evening when we had friends over.
With all of this in mind, we set off to find the perfect house that would cater for our needs and start our kitchen renovation.
We looked at houses with beautiful kitchens, but often not to my taste which would mean changing the units or redecorating.
But, this was something I really didn’t want to do as we would be spending more money but not actually seeing a bigger return on the house.
So in the end, we only looked at houses that needed a kitchen renovation.
We initially put an offer in on a house that had the space, but the layout for me was all wrong. It had a galley-style kitchen and three reception rooms, which just didn’t work.
The kitchen is by far the most used room in the house in my eyes, but it was no wider than 2 metres which would have needed an extension and complete kitchen renovation!
We would have needed to knock down walls and create a bigger kitchen diner, with the potential of extending out the back, but I could see the potential.
Deep purple! Credit:Harrison Brant Dining Room with patio doors through to 3rd reception room. Credit: Harrison Brant 3rd reception room with sliding doors onto the garden. Credit: Harrison Brant
4 weeks into the buying process, our house came on the market and as soon as I saw it on Right Move (does anyone else continue to torture themselves by looking at properties, even after they’ve put an offer in/bought?!?) I knew I had to go and view it.
It had a huge kitchen diner with bi-folds already in place and 5/6 bedrooms, plus it needed full renovation and was on the market for the same price as the one we were currently buying.
I put an offer in there and then and it was accepted.
Moving in day!
Once we had moved in, we hired builders and started looking for units for our kitchen renovation.
We had designers from Howdens, Wickes and Wren and visited IKEA to get some ideas and the best piece of advice I can give is always, ALWAYS get several quotes.
Wickes was by far the cheapest, but their customer service was appalling (the designer told us the room was not big enough for an island. It’s 25ft x 17ft, enough room to swing an elephant!! They also didn’t deliver the quote when they said they would, resulting in lots of phone calls and delay tactics).
Howdens were more expensive, but their customer service team were superb, they listened to everything I requested and completely delivered. The kitchen was with us the following week and we were ready to start our kitchen renovation!
The Kitchen Renovation starts!
The builders turned up 3 months after we had moved in. We had to deal with a kitchen where the 2.5 metre long units and worktops were made of scaffolding boards, there were no cupboards or drawers to throw crap in and my dishwasher sat outside in the extremely leaky lean-to.
I could have kissed the builders the day they turned up!
They started with the kitchen renovation straight away by ripping out the old kitchen and, due to my very poor planning skills, I was left wondering how on earth I was going to cook dinner that night.
Thankfully we have a utility room and I turned this into a makeshift kitchen whilst the kitchen renovation was going on.
One of the first big jobs was to take out the wood burner and structurally prepare the chimney breast for the Range cooker to go in, which is still one of my favourite features of the kitchen!
Woodburner out! Structural support in place Plastered and good to go! Looking back at the kitchen area from the dining space Our utility which doubled up as a makeshift kitchen
The renovation taking shape.
It was fascinating to see the kitchen units come to life and the kitchen renovation take shape, all to the soundtrack of loud dance music and a constant aroma of McDonald’s.
We went with the Burford white kitchen from Howdens with a solid oak top and the main reason was, I loved the curved units (ideal when you’ve got 2 small rugrats charging about) and it was their most popular range.
Why would I want the same as everyone else you might ask? This house for us was always a doer upper and even though I dreamed of the dark blue units with marble tops, it made sense to go with a kitchen renovation that would appeal to the masses!
The kitchen renovation taking shape with the units going in Worktops and doors going on Solid oak worktops cut to size and ready for varnish Kitchen units and worktops completed
Choosing the tiles
After spending months on Pinterest, I really liked the look of white metro tiles, so our builders ordered these and started to put them up around the range cooker.
But as they took shape, I felt totally uninspired by them. The whole kitchen was very monochrome and it needed an injection of colour and pattern, which is why I chose the grey Victorian style tiles from a local Brighton tile shop.
Thankfully, everyone agreed they transformed the space and gave it far more character, even if the builders were cursing me as they chiselled off the old tiles!
The all-important Christmas day Range cooker and tiles taking shape The finished kitchen!
Pretty much 8 weeks to the day the builders started, they packed their equipment and said a final farewell and left me in peace and quiet (for about 5 minutes before the kids kicked off) to contemplate how the rest of the room was going to take shape.
We already had a dining table in place and I wanted a corner sofa which looked out through the bifold over the garden. It was a completely blank canvas, waiting for an injection of colour and character and my head was brimming with ideas.
The kitchen renovation may have finished, but there is still quite a bit left to do.
I knew I wanted lots of plants around the room to bring the outside in (if you want some advice on great plants, read my bringing the outside in blog) and started with lots of green paint test pots and shelving to give it a tropical look.
The kitchen as it stands today Our peninsula. We went for a U-shaped kitchen after being told there wasn’t enough room for an island! My favourite view of the kitchen renovation as you walk in The view of the kitchen along the back wall Where dining and social space meets the kitchen Entertaining, cooking and being able to watch the kids as they play in the garden! All my kitchen “musts” met!
All in all, the experience was thoroughly enjoyable, helped by the fact that our builders were amazing, a pleasure to have in the house and we had an excuse to eat out (nearly) every night!
I can’t wait for the next project and start another large kitchen renovation!
More on Kitchens…