When you’re buying a new house, you have to take into account many things. Location. Price. Chain, no chain. Outdoor space. Opportunities to extend. Local facilities. Area. The neighbours. Schools and Ofsted. You have to prioritise and make sacrifices. We were moving when I was pregnant, in my third trimester so buying a complete renovation project wasn’t an option, although financially it would have been a much better decision at the time. But we also couldn’t afford the finished article either. The house we fell for was a compromise. A compromise with so much potential.
The Dining Room – Before – Estate Agent Photo
It was a traditional, post-war, 3 bed semi. Some rooms had been done. Not to my taste, but they were beautifully presented and you could see the owners had done a fair amount of work. Oak flooring throughout the hallway and dining room, newly plastered walls and skirting boards throughout most rooms. This was one pretty big job we didn’t have to sort.
Unlike the kitchen:
The Kitchen – Before – Estate Agent Photo
We referred to the kitchen as the hovel. Black tiles. Black floor. Black worktop. The cheapest kitchen units in town. The cooker hood didn’t work. There was a UPVC false ceiling to accommodate some really poorly wired and quite unsafe down-lights. The fact we lost about a foot in ceiling height made it feel even smaller than it actually was. The boiler was broken, although we didn’t know it at the time. There were pipes of all shapes and sizes running all over the walls. The woodwork hadn’t been sanded since the house was built by the looks of it. It was tiny. I officially hated it. But we knew it was going. So we got on with the offer, it was accepted and eventually we got the keys to our new home about 6 weeks later.
So we lived with this floor plan for about 14 months. I had my son just two months after we moved in. So for the first year we did the smaller jobs like decorating, fitting carpets and lighting, sorting bits in the garden and sorting some of the shoddy woodwork. But we just couldn’t take on a building project where walls were coming down and gas meters were getting moved. Not with a newborn. I’m pretty hardcore, but not that hardcore….. We did however rip out the bathroom when my son was about six months old. That was another space that was bloomin awful.
The Bathroom – Before – Estate Agent Photo
It’s a small bathroom with a separate loo, which we preferred actually so there was no knocking down required for this refit. It doesn’t look that bad in the photo above, but the tiling was just horrendous. Some of the tile “cuts” looked like they’d been gnawed off by a set of teeth with large areas of the wall filled in with grout. Lovely.
Here’s the bathroom now.
Clean and simple concrete effect wall and floor tiles from Villeroy and Boch. The Lepus tile was pretty pricey but we only tiled half of the bathroom and plastered the other side and painted it white. There was no room for free standing storage but we ripped out the old storage cupboard and replaced it with a slimmer more useful built in cupboard that was accessed by a mirrored door. This door was from the Pax wardrobe system at Ikea. We were just about to fork out a load for a bespoke sized mirrored door when I had a quick squizz on Ikea and BINGO! The VIKEDAL door was an exact match size wise, came with hinges and had a grey reverse which matched our tiles. And the best bit, it was £40. Aces!
The bathroom refit kept me sweet for a few months but after a while I started getting itchy fingers to get moving with the kitchen. After being there about a year, I don’t think a day went by where I didn’t lob a spoon at the sink whilst screaming “I HATE THIS KITCHEN”. This didn’t really help matters, but I needed this room to know it was not wanted around this joint. I’d already planned and designed the entire space in my head. I knew exactly what I wanted, which style units, worktop and flooring and how to alter the downstairs layout to make the most out of the space. Keeping my mouth shut any longer just wasn’t an option. My other half would be quick to jump in here and tell you that that’s never really been an option.
W slowly started ripping stuff out of the kitchen and stripping back. I remember my other half saying “I’m just off to make a cup of tea…” Two minutes later, half of the ceiling was on the floor. I was so pleased. The whole process was very cathartic. It felt like we were giving the house what it deserved. And after finding an amazing builder who came highly recommended to us by my electrician, we finally booked in the main event. Whoop! (By this time, my son was one and toddling around which was probably the worst time to do it. Hindsight n’ all that jazz.)
A year after we moved in, our kitchen was now in this state:
(Please excuse the next few photos. I didn’t know I would be writing all about it at the time, so my photos are pretty poor. But you get the gist.)
Nice isn’t it?
And here’s the ripping out gallery. I get a real kick out of seeing these.
The pantry being reconfigured.
We boarded up the old entry from the kitchen and reopened into the space from the hallway. This meant moving all the meters, the alarm and fitting a new fuse box. The boiler was being moved to that space too along with the washing machine. It was officially going to be the smallest utility space ever.
The new window was going here to overlook the rear garden.
I see daylight!
And the window was in.
Time for the dividing wall to come down. The most exciting bit.
Can you see the old kitchen door and window has been bricked up here too? I think you can start to see the new layout forming now.
I remember the DUST. It was impossible to keep the house clean. I think I carried the Pledge and my duster around the house for most of this week just to try and keep up my anal obsession with cleanliness and order. Oh and I carried my son too. He was with me for most of this… poor sausage. We co-ordinated the noisy jobs around his nap times. Bloody bonkers.
And this was the view from the kitchen into the dining room. Adios wall! We were officially open plan. I had a temporary central island cooking unit and was surrounded by acrow props for a couple of days. This was the evening I cooked tea and a bit of joist fell in my pan of pasta. That was nice.
The space as a whole, in daylight with most of the crap taken out.
And this is the final photo before the big reveal. Just boarded out ready for plastering with the plumbing and wiring first fix all done.
We were all exhausted by this point and just wanted it done. We’d had no running water downstairs for about a week, our bathroom became a part time kitchen. We only had a microwave and toaster for meals (you can totally toast pizza – ish) and our lovely neighbours passed some home cooked meals over the wall (remember what I said earlier about neighbours being on the list of reasons for choosing a house?!) We were all dirty, tired and were counting down the days until we got our house back.
Was it worth it?
It sounds a bit over the top, but this kitchen completely changed our lives as a family. The previous lay out was so difficult to work with. It was anti-social, took all the fun away from cooking and dining and made cooking, washing and childcare really difficult. This project changed the way we used the house. We spend more time in the garden and now I actually enjoy gardening. We barely use our living room, except for when we want to cosy up with the log burner on cold nights. Having the back of the house all looking into the garden means I can let my son (who is now 2.5) run around outside whilst I get the dinner on (and have a glass of wine).
Here’s a brief run down of some of the bits in our kitchen incase anyone is currently thinking of doing the same project.
- Luca Gloss White units from DIY Kitchens
- Silestone Unsui quartz worktop
- Ikea INGATORP Dining Table
- Habitat Harrison dining chairs
- Heal’s Contrast Stone Pendant Light
- Quickstep Natural Varnished Oak Flooring
- AEG appliances
- Gorenje Retro fridge freezer
- White glass splashbacks from GKS
Thanks for reading peeps. I love a good Before and After don’t you. Are you thinking of going open plan this year, but needed convincing? I hope this has helped a little. Would love to hear your thoughts.
** 2018 update – see how we re-vamped our kitchen this spring by clicking this link. **