And Then I Saw This

And suddenly all my ideas for the kitchen took shape. I’d had a picture from Smallbones tucked into a file for about six months and had thought that that might be my jumping off point, but it was much grander than I knew I could achieve in my space – I didn’t want stone work surfaces to start with. What I liked about it was the contrast of the blue and grey, with the natural warmth of the wood introducing a more relaxed feel to an area that could otherwise feel quite cold and impersonal.

It was this contrast of colour and texture visible with the wood and the painted surfaces that I thought I could achieve. But although I’d found a tile and the paint colours, it just wasn’t quite coming together for me. So when I saw the jug at Designer’s Guild, I knew how I could make it work.

kitchen samples

It would be wooden work surfaces and they would be oiled – not varnished – to a colour that would age a bit like driftwood. The base units would be pale grey and the wall units would be blue. I’d create a shelf below the wall units and use a bracket to support the shelf so that the units would look longer and more like furniture. The handles and draw pulls would be black, the sink and taps would be brushed stainless steel as would the oven and hob. The light fitting would have multiple pendants – in different styles, some metal, some glass. The feel would be functional and arty, a bit like a studio space in essence.


I decided I’d also use french doors in the opening to separate the kitchen from the dining area. This may sound mad, but for those of you used to open plan living, you will know how noisy the space can get when you’re cooking or running the washing machine or dishwasher. If someone is also watching the telly, that too increases in volume and things can get tense – no one can hear themselves think! I’d seen a couple of kitchens that had glazed doors across the opening and it really fitted with what I wanted to do.

Homes and Gardens magazine August 2015

Homes and Gardens magazine August 2015

I’m not usually one for ‘copying’ ideas because I think it’s quite a lazy way of approaching design, but sometimes the ideas are so very similar to what you were considering that it can’t be avoided. The above kitchen is very different to mine – urban and streamlined, mine will be very utilitarian and play with styling based on the shaker heritage – the feel will be very different. My doors will be hinged into a frame with side lights, not pockets doors on runners as these are. And sometimes a picture helps the builders understand what you want much more easily than even doing a drawing of it!

So that was my side of the design work done, this is how the space is looking now.

tiling in the kitchen

Things are coming along…

While the Designer’s Away…

The builders will play. My kitchen looked like this when I went on holiday last month…

queensville kitchen2

And when I came back, it looked like this…

RJF kitch refurb

RJF kitchen

And I could tell before I even got into the house, because the front garden was piled with rubble bags. Quite a surprise actually, because I thought the rear of the house was being painted.

So once my heart rate returned to normal, I got down to the business of planning my ‘new’ kitchen. I had done some plans, thinking that we’d get onto it shortly after my holiday, so it wasn’t a completely mad idea on their part and I’d even gone so far as to calculate what units were required. It’s fair to say a reasonable amount of work had been done. The big questions were things like tiles and the work surface. Generally tiles are the glue that pulls a kitchen or bathroom together. In this case because the floor in the old kitchen was tiled, I was faced with questions about what I would be able to achieve on a budget, working within the framework of what was already there. Was the original floor still underneath? Would it be in good enough condition to use – or would I have to replace it with a ply sub floor and re-tile?

tiles stripped back

And units that we had initially thought we’d re-use, now have to be replaced. Why? Because the plumbing in my kitchen is ‘creative’, the wiring is ‘creative’ and the gas connection is scary. We have to start again – the backs of the units have been cut about and that’ll be obvious after the wiring and plumbing is redone.

kitchen old door wall

So I’m still keen to see exactly what I can get on a budget. My brief – because I have to have a story, even for my own work – is to create a kitchen alcove that links visually to the dining room. The whole of my downstairs is now open plan except for the hall and stairs, so the different zones are all visible from where ever you stand in the room. In my own home I have a relaxed, eclectic style mixing french painted furniture with utility and mid century pieces, so there’s a mix of wood and painted furniture, (with a bit of glass and metal thrown in for good measure.) It’s this link I want to pull into the kitchen, so I’ll be looking to create that same relaxed, mismatched, utility feel. It’ll work with the age of the house and the overflowing garden I have outside the french doors.

The last kitchen I did for myself was the total opposite of this (though the size wasn’t far different.) It was very sleek and urban, high gloss units and a quartz work surface with a mid century feel, but that look just isn’t right for this house because it has more of a cottage feel to it, so I think a ‘country/workroom’ styling will suit it – be easy to live with. What I can’t do anything about is the size of the kitchen. I had looked to reverse the rooms out and put the kitchen where the dining room is, but the costs involved were more than I could cover at the moment. So I had to resign myself to moving on from the innovative option and to thinking creatively within a very restricted place. Hmmm.

floor plan Diane's kitchen

Working with a small space is challenging, but the mechanics of a kitchen create even more restrictions. In this room the plumbing needs to stay where it is because there is no room anywhere else to put the dishwasher or the washing machine – and on a budget moving the ‘services’ creates a lot of additional cost. Corners can’t be accessed, so space that can be used as storage, can’t be got to easily, there are lots of doors opening into the space, so the door swings have to be included in the tolerances, electrical supply is needed in every area and it all has to be well lit.

Because I do this all the time for clients, I know the drill. The space always dictates what can and can’t be used in a room and often I have to tell them that the wish list isn’t going to be possible. It is a disappointment, because I do like to be able to give people what they want – and it’s still a hard conversation to have with yourself. I’m as frustrated by this as any client – I still want it how I want it! So I’m going to have to think hard…