The Brief & My Vision
I wanted to create a light, bright kitchen that would be a pleasure to work in, a joy to eat and relax in. A living room, not just a kitchen. I wanted a kitchen that is on trend but one that wouldn’t date easily. As I’m a furniture stylist and up-cycling is a passion of mine, it also had to include some old and pre-loved pieces of furniture. I wanted white and greys to give the feeling of light and space and a mix of natural woods for warmth and character. I love grey and natural wood together.
When I’m up-cycling furniture I usually have a vision of the finished piece in my mind. Sometimes that vision changes as a piece develops but on the whole, I usually create what is in my head. I worked the same way with my kitchen. I had a vision in mind before I started and knew exactly how I wanted it to look. However I would advise creating a mood board, it’s far easier to show people what you want rather than try to explain sometimes.
The Structual Stuff
My new kitchen was doubling in size and needed structual work. This included knocking down a wall between the kitchen and utility, taking out the garage wall and moving it back 5 feet to give us the room we needed, raising the floor and ceiling and taking out the window and back door to install large French doors. Quite a big job. My garage was to become my new workshop which needed electrics fitting and a door through from the kitchen. A thermal electric garage door was also on my list to keep me warm (and working) in the winter. These photos were taken at the start of the building works.
Budget, What Budget?
Once I had decided on the style for my kitchen, the budget was set. This soon disappeared as the kitchen progressed. There were certain things that I really wanted, i.e. wooden worktops, quality units, nice flooring, etc. and although I don’t mind shopping around for a bargain, I’m not very good at buying something just because it’s cheaper. It has to be right too. For the work that was being carried out the budget was quite tight and I knew I would go over on this occasion to get the kitchen how I wanted it. However, a good quality kitchen is definitely an investment.
The units were more or less staying in the same place with the addition of a large breakfast bar and room for a table, chairs and a dresser. I wanted a white kitchen. One of good quality, shaker style with a wood grain. Sounds simple, however finding pure white (non-gloss) units was almost impossible. I could have bought chalk white, antique white, dove white, in fact any shade of white except white! So I ended up choosing a bespoke, paint to order kitchen from Matthew Charlton blowing the budget for the units straight away! However, the units are good quality and worth the spend. My advise when choosing cupboard doors is to take them home and look at them at different levels, in different lights. The same goes for worktops and flooring. Don’t just look at samples in your hands, in a showroom, you’ll get a false idea of how they might look when fitted.
I really wanted solid wood worktops, even though my builder tried his utmost to persuade me not to have them (because they usually go black when sat near sinks, coming into contact with water). However as my job is to work with furniture and wood I didn’t see it as a problem. I treated the worktops before they were fitted with a fabulous product from Treatex. I even impressed my builder and electrician who had to admit what a good job I’d done and how good they looked. So, happy with my solid oak worktops I started searching for a breakfast bar and and found it at Granite Transformations. With a very subtle fleck in it, it was beautiful. Nothing else compared. The difficulty was choosing between two shades which would have both worked. I had to have it. The budget increased again.
Shop around for deals and then buy what you want anyway.
If you’re lucky you might get a deal on your preferred choice. If you buy something purely because it’s cheaper, you’ll probably regret it in the long run. I know I would. It also depends on how long you want to live with it or whether you’ll be moving on. Even the sink ended up being a top end ceramic model but it was in keeping with the rest of the kitchen.
I did shop around for my white goods, and bought some from John Lewis (who weren’t as expensive as I thought they would be) and some from ao.com – Bang on budget this time.
The finer details matter too. I wanted pewter knobs and handles but they were ridiculously expensive, even for me. But Claire from Matthew Charltons found some ironware from a company called Hafele which were great value and a fraction of the cost of pewter. They look the part and I actually prefer them to the pewter ones. A bargain.
Be brave and creative.
I wanted to use a mirror in place of tiles behind the cooker. A few people thought I was mad but it has made a massive difference to the kitchen. As you would expect, it really opens the room up. At first glance you think it’s an opening into the room next door but then you realise it’s a mirror. A tip when fitting mirrors – If you have old walls I would advise fitting plasterboard on them first so as to give a flat surface for the mirror to sit on. An uneven surface can cause the glass to crack if any pressure is applied. It’s a myth that it’s hard to clean too. Just one little tip though… don’t look in the mirror first thing!
The ceiling I painted white and used French Pale Grey (161) from The Little Greene Paint Company for the walls. Their paints are so good to use. For the flooring I didn’t want laminate because it’s not as warm underfoot as wood. I couldn’t afford solid oak, however, I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and found a great deal on some engineered oak flooring and I love it. I knew it would look and feel great.
I chose spots with dimmers for the working side of the kitchen with a low watt strip light along the top of the units. I wanted a vintage/industrial look, nothing too pretty and nothing too industrial. I found them hard to source locally and eventually bought a couple of styles online, one pair were quite expensive but perfect and the second pair I wasn’t sure about but they were quite nice too. Being able to try them at home helped me decide. Yes, you’ve guessed it, the most expensive ones were the ones I chose (why change my habits). With the combination of spots, vintage lights and lamps I can vary the mood of the room considerably.
I may have gone over budget on the kitchen but I did manage to save money on the furniture. The old dresser had been fitted to the wall of our old utility and I thought when the builders took it off the wall it would fall to pieces but when it came away in one piece I was delighted and soon set about up-cycling it.
I took the top doors off, changed the cupboard doors, added a cornice and gave it my magic touch. It cost me very little. The secondhand farmhouse table was a deep orange pine when I picked it up. It had been given a varnish to the top that was extremely hard to remove, but once I’d stripped it back, white-washed and protected the top and painted the legs it was perfect. I wanted all the chairs to be different sizes and shapes with some being painted and some left natural wood. The old oak chair I fell in love with at an antique centre. I was actually scouting for space to showcase my work for Reloved by Jo and came out with the chair and no space! The large wheelback chair I bought at auction for my husband and painted it. Two of the other chairs I already had so up-cycled them in various greys and bought the two light oak chairs for just £7.50 each.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find old stools in the style I wanted so had to buy new ones. I did buy them in a sale though and as soon as they arrived started sanding them down and painting them to fit my scheme (I can’t help myself.) All bang on budget!
It’s hard to choose the best bit of my kitchen because everything counts in making it a beautiful, stylish room. However I’d have to choose my bin as being the best invention within it! I didn’t want a large bin sat in the middle of my lovely kitchen, it would have been a bit of an eyesore. And I didn’t want a small integrated bin that would need emptying three times a day. I was quoted around £175 for a large bin that would sit inside a slim cupboard (that didn’t include the cupboard).
So I set about inventing my own integrated, tall but slim fitting sliding bin. I designated one of my 300mm units to be a bin cupboard from the start. It was a challenge to find a tall bin to fit the space. I bought and returned four bins before finding one the right size at Homebase. A bargain at £24. I then bought a kit from Ikea for £18 which was designed to integrate one of their bins and my builder adapted the sliders from the kit, screwing them into the cupboard and into my bin. We then added an old pull handle and now have a bin that pulls out of the cupboard with ease. Situated at the end of the breakfast bar it’s in the perfect place. It was a good team effort. I love it!
The Nice Bits
When the builders have gone, do your best to finish off properly and dress the room. This might mean shopping around for bits and pieces which is quite time consuming but don’t leave it as it’s likely you’ll go on to start something else and you’ll never finish off the finer details. It makes a huge difference. Buy your glasses, clocks, pictures, frames, cushions, candles etc. I just had to have a large wooden wall clock (even though it cost more than my table!). I’m not a big TV fan, however I thought it would be nice to have a TV in the kitchen to watch whilst preparing meals, eating breakfast, etc. So the TV sits on a bracket that moves in almost any direction so it can be see from wherever you are in the kitchen or dining area. I also have a great sounding DAB radio/CD system that sits on the dresser. It’s nice have choices and make the room comfortable and inviting, after all it’s a living room, not just a kitchen.
If you’re in the process of having a new kitchen fitted be open to suggestion but stick to your design if it’s what you want. On a few occasions I had the builders and my husband stood behind me making alternative suggestions. I did listen and give their suggestions some thought but then stuck to my guns if it was really what I wanted. Sometimes this meant more work for the builders but the finer details and the finish have made the kitchen really special and my builder never complained (to me) and is very proud of the results too.
Everyone that worked with me was great; Patrick my builder of course and his team. Claire from Matthew Charltons. Karen from Granite Transformations. Even the girls at Greggs for making us coffee and bacon rolls when I had no cooker!
I must say I did have the best builders in the North East. Their attention to detail is second to none (absolutely necessary for me as unfortunately I’m a perfectionist). They didn’t take much looking after. I always made sure they had tea, coffee and biscuits to hand and that I was only ever a phone call away if they needed me to make a decision. After the first week of early morning starts they had the pleasure of seeing me first thing in the morning with ‘bed hair’ and no make-up – lucky them. It was entertaining listening to them bicker whilst working and I must say, once their work was complete the house did feel a little empty but lovely to have my beautiful, spacious kitchen.
A big thanks to everyone involved and to Katie Lee Photography for taking these lovely shots.