Kitchen tales: The build and prep phase
Kitchens are often described as the ‘hub of the home’ and something we here in England obsess about. There is an alarming trend for spending enormous sums on a kitchen created by a designer which leaves the rest of us wondering how on earth we can afford one. The answer is by taking it back into your own hands and getting creative.
With us moving our kitchen into the new extension everything had to be from scratch which meant we weren’t confined to existing drainage or electricity points and it put the onus on us to get the design right. This is our longterm home and we wanted to install something with longevity for both ourselves and future owners. Whilst we argued over if there was space for a breakfast bar (there wasn’t) we spent time creating a practical triangle (between the oven, hob and sink) and ensuring placements were practical (dishwasher next to the sink etc). Whilst in the design phase it’s often easy to gloss over impractical placements but DO fight the urge to put pretty ahead of practical!
We’re only part way through our kitchen build but thought we’d showcase progress so far:
We bought the kitchen cabinets from IKEA and had them delivered which was a practical choice given there were 120 flat-pack boxes!
We chose the inexpensive Veddinge fitted kitchen in matt grey. Whilst stand-alone units are wonderful, fitted cabinets really maximise storage and being a family of 4 this is now one of our top priorities! Being IKEA you can of course change the colours of the doors / styles as necessary and we liked the ‘future proofing’ this provided. The units are solid so they don’t have gaps for installing utilities like other kitchens you can buy in the UK but its easy enough to drill access holes and this doesn’t compromise the strength of the units. We then spent a long weekend putting together the carcases and even the kids were great with some of the repetitive builds like the plastic feet.
The next part is fixing the cabinets to the wall (and to each other). It’s here you discover the walls aren’t perfectly straight or you have wobbly floors so its best to allow lots of time (and patience) for this part. In our last kitchen we used hidden push openers but they didn’t cope with the heavy drawers well so unfortunately (we love the minimalism of handleless drawers) we’ve decided we need to install handles. The handles we’re using are fixed to the inside of the drawers at the top so it means we can change them in the future if we want to change the look or functionality as the handles we’ve chosen leave the doors perfectly in tact from the front.
With the washing machine at the end of the units we had to build an ‘end’ to it which the husband swiftly did with sheets of mdf. We always look to build in display storage wherever we can to add character and functionality to spaces and this was a handy place to display cookery books (in addition to the two yellow boxouts we bought). We’ll accent the bookshelf by painting the backing in Little Greene Mister David Yellow or possibly Lamp Black.
Similarly to hide the kitchen worktop from the kitchen table we raised the area above the sink with a simple timber construction clad in mdf. This also avoids any splash back to people sitting at the table and in time we’ll add a simple shelf, splashback glass and paint.
The next step felt really exciting – using ply to create the worktop template for the concrete pour. We’ve gone with a wonderful company called Z Counterform who let you DIY using their kits. This means you can create kitchen worktops which are personal to you and the space you’ve created (no annoying joints). We settled on a White Concrete mix with a square edge profile (but you can choose whichever you like). and they look like stone on completion so are a sturdy look for your kitchen which adds to that feeling of home. Watch out for a blog post on this shortly.
Our top tips so far:
- When you’re 90% sure which kitchen you want to proceed with buy a unit. We decided to go with a grey kitchen. Installing a kitchen into a room which wasn’t a previous kitchen was daunting so we bought a single unit and built it in situ to check before taking the plunge and ordering the kitchen. Whilst it seemed risky spending £100 on something we couldn’t return we knew worst case scenario we could use it in the garage and it would be easier than returning 120 boxes after we’d ordered it if they didn’t look right!
- Think of your triangle. Using packaging cut out templates for the size of sink and hob so you can check the proportion of workspace you have around them as you’ll want everything in proportion which can be tricky to visualise when starting from scratch.
- Shop around and if you can – buy in advance and store to avoid panic-buying. Through cash back schemes, brand online outlet stores and eBay we’ve saved a fortune on our appliances. Warning: it might take over your evenings though…
- Splurge on the items you’ll use every day. We’ve gone for an induction hob for the benefits of safety, lower energy consumption and speed. We know we will cook every day! Likewise our Rangemaster sink was a splurge but we loved the unusual modernist square proportions of it which visually tied to some of our bargain Smeg appliances and we don’t regret it.
- Think about storage and add in display areas if you can to break up the ‘fitted’ nature of the space to make it feel more like you. Our yellow display boxes handily matched with the shots of yellow we had in the house and whilst they were fiddly for us to build them out to be flush with the wall units we think the extra work was worth it. Likewise extra storage for cookbooks with their lovely covers on display seemed a handy and colourful way to finish off the end of the unit in the kitchen. Don’t be afraid to add your stamp!
Would love to hear your experiences and tips too!