The kitchen renovation
When we moved into the cottage the kitchen was a damp disaster. It hadn't been lived in for 4 years. The wood was rotten and warped and it wasn't useable
So, we did what we knew best and ripped the whole lot out. And, of course, when we started to rip it apart, the walls crumbled down with it. Underneath the plaster we discovered a stone wall with original wooden beams. We wanted to keep it exposed. Unfortunately, it was the dividing wall between the neighbouring cottage and they also had the same wall exposed on the other side. Therefore, it was noisy and believe it or not we could actually smell what they were cooking for breakfast! We figured that it would have been unreasonable to ask them to cover up their side for our sake....so, we reluctantly boarded and plastered it.
There used to be a partition wall - half brick, half window - dividing the kitchen from the dining space. Chris initially wanted to keep this but I wanted to get rid of it to open up the space. I got to work one day with a chisel, a crowbar and a hammer and knocked the wall out. No todger or previous DIY knowledge needed ladies. It was probably the most satisfying bit of DIY ever! The plasterboard ceiling then had to come down and I'm glad it did because we found rustic beams that had previously been painted and exposed which we loved and decided to keep on show.
the technical bit.
The kitchen is situated against the front of the cottage which is built from stone.
Essentially, the previous owners had pointed the exterior stone with concrete and had plastered it internally with standard plaster which didn't let the stone breathe. This led to moisture being trapped in the wall and thus led to damp which transferred to the wooden units that were built against it.
To make sure that this didn't happen again, we had the front of the house re-pointed with lime mortar and our plasterer agreed to have a crack at lime plastering the internal side of the wall. This would let the stone breathe and hopefully reduce future problems with damp. We would add a waterproof membrane between any wood surfaces that attached to the wall to prevent water transferring. We painted it with a breathable lime based paint (Earthborn clay paint) and I am relieved to say, so far, so good!
We lived without a kitchen for a while. We had a hose pipe for a tap and concocted a sink from an old belfast sink that we found in the garden perched on top of a workbench with a bucket underneath to catch the water. It was like 100 christmases at once when we had the bathroom installed so we could at least wash up in the bath!
We put pen to paper with our kitchen ideas, taking inspiration from bars and cafes that we liked. We wanted to incorporate an industrial vibe, but keep it simple. Pinterest was our hub of inspiration…
We browsed the usual high street stores for kitchens....Ikea, B&Q etc.... but we couldn't find anything that we liked. Some prices were calculating towards 10k which, unless I sold a kidney, was way over our budget.
Chris liked the idea of getting a bespoke kitchen made so we approached a local woodcraft company called Staples Woodcraft to get an idea of price....I thought it would have been totally unaffordable, but we were pleasantly surprised! They listened to our ideas and helped us to design a solid oak kitchen that fitted the space perfectly, balancing style with practicality and it was reasonably priced. Win!
The woodcraft company were extremely busy but when they came to take the final measurements for the design they took pity on our desperate situation and shoddy DIY sink and went out of their way to squeeze us into their schedule.
To reduce costs further, we decided to forsake upper kitchen units and created a pantry space by repurposing a corridor that ran from the front to the back of the house. We agreed that we would never really use it as a hallway, so we divided this into half pantry/half external storage.
I had a vision of dark units and light work tops. We considered granite or marble worktops but they worked out too expensive. Chris also had the idea of making concrete worktops (which are much more popular and accessible these days!) and in hindsight had I not been impatient to get the kitchen finished we should have given it a crack. But at the time, we agreed on solid oak. We decided to have the cupboards painted in Farrow & Ball ‘Off Black’ and chose metal handles for a rustic finish.
We installed a Belfast sink. I initially wanted a double sink but unfortunately limited space was against us and it came down to either a double sink or a dishwasher. I had never owned a dishwasher (true story) and all being well in life I will never live without one again! After years of pointless bickering over piles of dirty pots, It was definitely the right decision!
We don't have the luxury of a separate utility space so I wanted the washing machine and dishwasher to be integrated to keep the kitchen looking streamlined and tidy. Integrated appliances weren't much more expensive than standard appliances and in my opinion I think it's worth the cost of an extra door or two for the finished look.
Our patient plumber made the tap from copper pipe. I’m happy to admit that it is 100% aesthetic over practicality. It needs tightening every now and again and most people who come to the house and use it are worried they are going to break it when they turn it (they won't, it's just very stiff) but we love it.
We chose simple metro tiles from Walls and Floors for the splash back with black grout which was done separately after the kitchen had been installed.
the metal conduit.
I get questions about this a lot! It's the metal piping that houses the electrics. It’s fully functioning and not just for show. Now, I can't take any credit for this, it was Chris' idea. He talked about getting it and I wasn't quite sure at first. But, because the ceiling was exposed it would mean that the electric wires would also be exposed so metal conduit was the perfect solution to house it. Some of the electricians that we spoke to just didn't get the idea, but thankfully we found one that was willing to give it a go and he nailed it.
The mixture of conduit and exposed copper pipe gives the space that industrial vibe that we were hoping for.
The kitchen and dining spaces are separated by contrasting flooring. We considered the idea of making the kitchen floor out of polished concrete (again...much more accessible now...dammit!) but impatience got the better of me (again!) so we tiled the floor with concrete effect tiles. Similar to the worktops, I regret this decision and wish that we had given it a go!
The dining area is covered with reclaimed solid maple boards which follow through from the living room.
Along came the fun part…styling! Shopping vintage has been our ‘go to’ when it has come to decorating the cottage. Most of our furniture is reclaimed or upcycled, apart from the odd piece. The dining table was bought from a local auction. We think it was an old school table from all of its imperfections. The metal chairs were one of our only splurges, from Barker and Stonehouse.
Mildly under the influence of alcohol (keeping it real…) we had the spontaneous idea to create a chalkboard wall by painting a large rectangle on the wall with blackboard paint and framing said painted rectangle with left over floorboards. How it turned out straight to this day I have no idea. When slightly more sober, I added the calendar design and ‘to do list’ to make it more functional. i also added wire basket storage below to store paperwork.
The kitchen is north facing therefore it isn't the brightest of rooms, so we needed plenty of lighting. We placed hanging cage lights above the kitchen units. These are from Dowsing and Reynolds. We placed two pendant lights above the kitchen table. These are from Artifact lighting. We screwed hooks into the ceiling to hang the flex over so we can reposition the pendants if we need to.
We chose accessories and pieces of furniture to go with the rustic and industrial theme that we had in mind. We added warmth and character with wooden and vintage accessories.
We have used metal shelves to store the bread bin and other pieces of kitchenware. Similar shelves can be found here.
I found a quirky vintage coffee shop light box on Etsy which was a bargain find! I added hooks and chains so that I could hang it from the ceiling.
The conduit comes in handy to hang items from, like serving boards and plants, using ‘S’ hooks from ikea.
We added a zinc rail for tea towels and additional storage - this one is from The Little House Shop.
We also made some shelves out of old floorboards to display artwork and the vintage accessories.
I chose a matt black kettle and toaster which I love. These are by De’Longhi. We also went for a black fridge freezer, cooker and microwave for consistency. The dream one day would be a matt black SMEG fridge…but that’s for the future…
And that’s the journey of our kitchen renovation. My style and tastes are constantly evolving so it will no doubt change again. It’s not the brightest room, so it is likely that the blackboard will disappear at some point and to be honest it mainly gets used for rude drawings when friends visit…
Some tips for anyone renovating:
Don’t be afraid of persevering and trying new ideas - my biggest regret is not going with the idea of polished concrete floors and worktops, which at the time was very outside of the box…
Mix the old with the new - Gumtree, Ebay, Auctions…there is so much amazing furniture to be found! Some is brand new and still has plenty of life in it. It also saves ££££ for those like us without a bottomless budget.
Don’t rule out bespoke kitchen companies - it made our kitchen renovation so much more affordable and the whole renovation came in well under £5000 including all fittings and appliances - half of what some high street stores were quoting us, even for our small space.
Shop around for your appliances - most places these days will price match, don’t be afraid to ask!
Thanks for reading - I would love to hear your thoughts! Sara x