This will be the final instalment of the renovation update for a while! Although there is a LOT to be done to the outside of the house (it still looks like we just moved in – overgrown, parts have fallen off, the roof needs replacing etc), the inside is pretty much done and we’re going to slow down, relax and enjoy it for a while….!
The kitchen, for us, has always been the biggest and most important project for us (although the hall and bedroom ended up being far more disruptive in the end). Why didn’t we do it first? Budget…we knew we wanted to go out and create a kitchen/diner and as we didn’t have the savings to do it (we remortgaged to do the work), we focused on smaller, more affordable, projects first.
We painted it, cleaned it and piled a load of old and borrowed furniture in here so it was useable, and our plumber (who was installing radiators when we first moved in) set us up with a temporary sink. And do you know what? It was fine!
In fact, by leaving this room until last, it made it easier to do when we got round to it. This room is at the back of the house so, albeit with a 6 week lockdown break, the builders were able to block off the back and get to work from the garden without access to the house.
It did make it tricky, for instance: we lived, worked, cooked, ate and looked after our toddler (whose nursery was closed) for a good few months in one room with banging and drilling and dust constantly in the background. And we couldn’t just ‘pop’ in to see developments and ask questions, instead we would go round at night after putting Peggy to bed, and then email across questions and order fittings that were needed as and when. But overall, it worked fine and it’s over now…!
Where to start…? I suppose the extension, we decided to extend and gain some extra room so we could have some living space as well as the kitchen. This was originally the dining room, so there was no original kitchen here but it was the best sized room and backed onto the garden so made sense to us. We didn’t get an architect, just someone to draw plans as we couldn’t afford a side return (the quotes were double the cost of what we did) and we matched the neighbour’s house so it wasn’t a crazy new floorplan. We added a small downstairs toilet and then went out roughly 2 metres.
Everything was basically gutted and stripped back to the brickwork, the fireplace was removed (don’t worry, we kept it!) and the chimney breast filled to where the cupboards would sit. We planned the kitchen to be fitted into the chimney breast so we gained that space, but squared it off as the arch became tricky (we’d already lost one side of it to the downstairs toilet).
Thankfully, they knocked through in stages, so they left us with a working sink and kitchen for as long as possible, doing all the outside work first. And even when they took away the sink, they plumbed us in a dishwasher and washing machine in the side alley with a cover so we could go round at night! So there were only really a few weeks where we had to wash up everything in the bath upstairs…!
Overall, the building work took around 5 months – it was supposed to be finished in three but COVID obviously prolonged everything (from having to pause the works to having to wait for supplies – the great plaster shortage of 2020!), and then with the final work such as painting being done by us and having to wait for a few more deliveries and the windows and door(!) it has been 7 months in total.
Planning-wise, we made sure we bought the kitchen early enough to be delivered within our timeline, although it ended up being delayed (again: COVID, couldn’t be helped) and the builders had to leave and come back to fit it. We got a date fixed with Mick the floor guy early on so we liaised with our builder the date when this would be possible (i.e we needed to make sure the wooden floor was laid after the tiled floor – to be matched up, but before the skirting boards). Most other items we bought as and when we needed them – new radiator, coving, skirting, tiles and grout (although we still had a lot of last minute dashes to Topps Tiles and Screwfix!).
The kitchen is from DIY kitchens – we chose the Malton bespoke, handleless (I knew my family could help with those!). We got the plans done at Ikea (we booked the free 2 hour consultation) and found them so helpful and we were excited to go with them but thought we’d send DIY the plans whilst we had them and their quote was even more reasonable, we could get all the appliances from them (you get discount the more you buy, plus they’re branded so not so many issues if they are faulty) and they offered a bespoke colour matching service. For us, the colour-matching sold it as I wasn’t 100% sold on the colour of the green Ikea kitchen and by doing something bespoke means it’s a bit more personal to us. And in the end we did two tone cabinets which we’re really happy with.
DIY is exactly what it says – you order all the cabinets and panels yourself (although a consultant advised us on what we would need when we sent our plans, and they contact you if it looks like you’re missing a panel etc). We did forget to order a couple of items and there was a mix up with one of the deliveries where we received someone else’s panel but we called and it was always sorted. So plan for a few hiccups but I’d say it was worth it in the end, this kitchen came in at under £6k including appliances (but without handles or kitchen top). They arrived built rather than flatpack (something to remember with delivery and space) and you fit the doors and panels.
We got the kitchen worktop made to order separately through London Joinery (who made our windows upstairs!) and they sourced reclaimed iroko wood (apparently very hard wearing) for the surface (you can find it easily on eBay etc but they took the hassle out for us!) and buying it separately to DIY kitchens came out cheaper. Wood is cheaper than most stone surfaces too, you do get some water marks etc but it’s keeping well so far and we have been recommended some good products and oils to use for upkeep!
The floor is reclaimed oak parquet, this is from an old school gym. We first discovered Mick when doing our study (read the post here) and he actually helped us source the larger blocks for this room as we gave him a lot of notice. If you source blocks via eBay and reclamation yards you can save a lot of money, and even by cleaning, sanding and laying yourself. Thankfully, Mick did ours with his industrial equipment (I was still in my first trimester of pregnancy during most of this building work so was sadly not quite on form to help much!). As with most crafts, the expense is in the laying and labour – and we are so happy with the results and the fact that our floor is lovely and worn with so much history.
We didn’t get underfloor heating as the cost was just too high, so we installed another (Acova!) radiator instead.
We did spend money on a boiling hot tap and that was a game-changer. There isn’t actually much chopping space with the new kitchen, so not relying on a kettle is a great space saver. This hot tap is by Fohen, it is one of the cheapest, chicest I found and it has a child-lock and we love it (but don’t forget you need space in the cupboard underneath for a mini boiler). One of our ovens also doubles up as a microwave so this saves space on the counter top.
We did have a few hiccups: we didn’t think to seal these tiles from Porcelain Superstore as we didn’t realise they were crackle glazed…and the original idea of black grout went through to the tiles. So we had to remove a section, seal (we did 4 times to be sure!) and use a lighter grout just in case.
The windows and doors took longer as we had to get them remeasured after building control recommended we put some steels in. So instead of being fitted within the last week of works back in mid July, they have only just been fitted!
We went with aluminium windows with a crittal look. These were my non negotiable as I think they really make the kitchen, but still much cheaper than original crittal windows and doors. I’d say they were worth the wait! We’re pleased with them but not recommending our exact fitters as didn’t feel very prioritised by them.
We also have to do a few touch ups of cabinet paint (mainly scuffs from fitting) but DIY send you touch-up paint pots. This cook book nook was actually redundant space in the breakfast bar so we ordered two small cabinets without doors to use as shelves -it’s one of my favourite bits of the kitchen!
My other favourite bit – the clean line between the tiles and flooring. We made sure we knew the measurements of the wooden blocks (after sanding) and made sure the tiler laid the flooring to the same height – it involved a bit of planning but worked so well!
We still need to buy furniture, we have no bar stools, there are no pictures up and we definitely need some blinds/curtains for the doors and windows but this is a space that will evolve over time. We went over with budget so now have some debt to pay off and an interest free C/C so will be adding to this room slowly as we focus on paying back what we owe. It has already made such a difference to our life and we wouldn’t change a thing!