Operation kitchen continues….
If you missed “Part One” you can read it here.
Week 13– After leaving the house for two weeks, we returned home from Cornwall and I was excited to see the progress. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t what I had expected. I think I had thought that we would come back to a complete room with doors, a floor and plastered walls. Alas, that was not the case! Half the room had the underfloor heating pipes, the walls had all been knocked out and the fireplace taken away and plaster-boarded to form the new alcove for the cooker. That was it. Mess and dust everywhere; nowhere near to the nearly-finished room that had been pictured in my mind.
When we were away they had discovered that the back corner of the house needed underpinning, and that the roof where the boiler was needed dismantling and re-building as the joists were rotten. This set us back about two weeks. That coupled some long bouts of rain, I was beginning to wonder whether our target date of finishing mid-June would be possible. (Given that today I am writing this is 25th June and I still have two carpenters and a builder here, and half a kitchen that is yet to be finished, I am assuming our initial “end date” was a little optimistic.)
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t panicking, The floor tiles were arriving the following week and the tilers arriving lay them…we didn’t even have a floor to stick them to! The kitchen fitters were arriving the following week. There was no way we could be ready in time; could we? I have to say that the builder and plasterer did their best so that we could get at least half the room ready in time for tiling and kitchen fitting. It was a less than ideal situation, given that the back of the house had no roof lantern or doors, but we had come to a point where we just had to do what we could to stick to timelines.
I definitely did not realise what an exact critical path a project like this has. If one thing is delayed it pushes every other step out of whack. Some days it felt like we were moving backwards instead of forwards, which was incredibly frustrating, but we kept a smile on our faces (most of the time). The house was covered in dust, everywhere I went I could see a thick layer had formed. If I cleaned it, it would return the next day. Not having a downstairs sink or anywhere to wash our clothes was probably the most testing thing. We all take these basic things for granted, but not having them, even for the 11 weeks we didn’t really made me think just how lucky we are. Saying that, I must admit I got quite used to washing up in the bath and taking our laundry to the launderette twice weekly. If you’re planning any building work in your house, then just keep these practical things in mind.
Once half of the room had floor tiles, we did all of the painting ourselves to get the kitchen ready for fitting. We looked at the budget and decided that we couldn’t justify paying someone to paint, so we ordered all of the paint and some new rollers, brushes and dust-sheets online. It took us about two full weekends to do the walls and ceilings, but with the radio on and a bit of chat it didn’t seem like too much of a task to undertake. I have to say, I really enjoyed it. We painted the walls the same colour as our old kitchen (what can I say, I like what I like?), which was Wimborne White.
Week 15– Once most of the painting was complete, half the kitchen was in and the floor down, it already felt as though the room had been transformed! Just having white walls made the space feel so much bigger. We put the unit handles on ourselves as we felt confident to and the fitters wouldn’t be coming back for a few weeks. As we had the handles ready (we had bought these separately online from here) we just decided to go ahead and fit them so we could have access to some storage. As fun as it was having everything in the front room, the novelty was beginning to wear off a little.
I had also used our time in Cornwall to plan some more of the details in the room. I designed and ordered an over-mantle for the cooker alcove using a carpenter I found online here. It cost £110 including delivery, so I was chuffed. The cooker was already on order, we had chosen to buy a Lacanche, which was being built in France so took a few months to come; I knew I wanted to frame it with an oak over-mantle as a nice contrast against the grey enamel, and this one seemed perfect. (I spent a lot of time with a tape measure in my back pocket during the build, always making sure I had it to hand, so that I could measure the widths and depths of spaces when ordering things.)
I also chose and ordered two armchairs for the end of the room to go in front of where the bifold doors were going. We had planned the room so it would be big enough to have a space to relax as well as cook and eat; so I was hoping this little spot would be perfect for reading or enjoying a morning coffee. We bought these from Loaf, and went for the Gramps armchairs in “Pink Clay” and “Soft Green” as I wanted to inject some colour into the room given that the flooring, walls, units and worktops were all fairly muted and neutral shades. My Mum and Dad also bought me this rug for the new space for my birthday and I thought the chairs would compliment it’s colours really well.
We found the perfect stools for the island when we were in Cornwall at my favourite new shop down there, Jo & Co. Luckily we had just enough space in the car to bring them home, so we decided to buy them there and then instead of getting them delivered. They are counter top height (instead of bar-stool height) meaning that you can sit at a kitchen island and actually be at the right height to sit and eat or relax. Lastly, as we had moved the kitchen into the centre of the house, it meant that the actual space where the island and cooker would be was likely to be the darkest end of the room. I decided that the wall next to the door frame would be the perfect place for a large, fill length mirror. This would help to reflect light back into that end of the room, and hopefully prove to be the perfect place to check your outfit on the way out of the door. I bought the mirror from One World, who have a brilliant shop close by to me in Haslemere, which meant I could see it’s size before I ordered it online.
Week 17- A few weeks after the kitchen had gone in, we finally had a good enough run of weather for the roof lantern at the other end of the room to be installed. This had been delayed due to us having it sprayed in a bespoke colour. We didn’t want a white, dark grey or black frame so we decided to have it sprayed the same colour as our old kitchen windows and doors; a colour match of Hardwick White. We also had the bifold doors made in the same shade to match. Having doors and windows meant that the light suddenly flooded into that end of the room. It also meant the next week saw huge progress; the underfloor heating complete, the plastering finished and the rest of the floor tiles down. The room was transformed. After another weekend of painting it felt like we were getting somewhere near to the end (*crosses fingers*)
The following week, the work tops also went onto the kitchen units. Although I had initially liked the idea of stone worktops everywhere, we decided that because we had gone for a flagstone tiled floor and with the room being big with high ceilings, that we wanted to try and incorporate some warmer textures like wood to absorb the sound and make it feel cosier. With that in mind, we went for Carrara Quartz on the unit tops and around the sink, and a traditional solid oak top on the island. Seeing them both together I realised that I really loved the mix of the two. The sink also went in the following day, after 11 weeks without one this felt like a joyous occasion indeed (Too much to say I nearly cried?!). After getting the correct dimensions from the kitchen designer I bought the sink online here and the taps were bought online too, made by Perrin & Rowe and finished in Satin Brass to match the kitchen handles.
With all of these things finally in my house instead of just my head, it was starting to feel like home again. Not long to go now; surely?