Kitchen Wizardry

We’re gearing up to start a kitchen refurbishment and that always means I’ve made a list and I’m checking it twice. Ok, it’s not as much fun as Christmas, but the checking of that list is vital to the ease of the project and when someone else is picking up the tab, I take it seriously.

installing base units

installing base units

On the checklist today, do all the units fit into the run? That sounds pretty obvious, I know, but recently the guys have been fitting a kitchen for a client who was adamant she didn’t need help because the supplier ‘had done all of that for her.’ She ended up with units missing – simply not ordered – and other units that were too big for the space. Who had actually checked this? This type of oversight causes delays that mean your workforce will be left with nothing to do. A workforce with time on their hands will leave site and go on to other jobs! If you’ve commissioned the kitchen yourself and there is no project manager on the job, you MUST make sure that someone (you) knows what is on the order and that the measurements are correct for your space. You will need to know this because the workforce will be asking you questions throughout the fit out and they will need answers.

Have you ordered a plinth? This is the strip of wood/kitchen unit that goes under the base of the units to cover the legs of the carcasses. If your kitchen is free standing, you won’t have a plinth. In that case, have you ordered decorative legs?

positioning end panels

positioning end panels

And what about end panels? If your kitchen has an exposed end – and doesn’t run from wall to wall – then you will have the end of the run showing. This will need covering with an end panel otherwise it will likely not be the same finish as your kitchen doors.

Have you ordered drawer frontals? The drawer units don’t include the panels that cover the mechanism. Check how many drawers there are in the unit and the sizes of their frontals. And do they have handles? Check the type of closure mechanism too.

Have you ordered a sink? And does it fit into the sink base unit?

kitchen elevation

kitchen elevation

Al these things need considering and if you can’t take that sort of time when you’re at work, employ a project manager. It isn’t an extravagance to know that you have someone on site regularly who has first hand knowledge of the order, who can chase suppliers and who will direct the workforce. A project manager will refer any pressing concerns to you but keep everything else on track without you having your boss breathing down your neck. This is not only about piece of mind if you haven’t done a kitchen refurbishment before, it’s about using someone who has the right skills for the job – who is used to working with building contractors and suppliers – and this means that errors are more likely to be caught before they become full blown disasters.

It’s only when you have this level of detail covered that you can start to think about gadgets, but firstly let me say that ‘American’ style fridge/freezers need water supply and modern regulations require good extraction/ventilation. The basic purchase price doesn’t include the costs you will incur from running pipework and electrics to accommodate the appliances themselves. These are not hidden costs, but the appliances will not work without additional preparation being done to make your space suitable for their installation. You will have to factor this into your budget.

choosing finishes

And when additional work is undertaken to accommodate appliances, there’s usually a bit of ‘making good’ (replastering etc to walls, relaying of tiles) to get the space back to a finish that is suitable for decoration. This too is not a hidden cost but you will have to allow for it in the budget.

Which brings me to lighting. It is almost impossible to work in a badly lit kitchen without injuring yourself, so consider very carefully where you will place your lighting. Under unit lighting works well when you want to reduce the shadows created by wall units, but these too will need to have electrical supply taken to them. Down lighters provide great overall lighting, but you need to remember that you will cast a shadow on the work surface when you stand directly under them. Consider therefore, installing a lighting circuit that is slightly shallower than the depth of the work surface. (If the work surface is 650mm deep, take your lighting wiring circuit 550mm from the wall.)

under unit lighting

under unit lighting

Layer your lighting and have different types of fittings in different areas, this will allow you to have a more flexible level of light – after all if you have a table in the kitchen area, you may want to dim the lighting to eat.

And a final word about the kitchen fitting process, most kitchen companies do not have plumbers and electricians as part of the installation team. This means that when your kitchen is fitted, none of the services will be connected. The kitchen will look beautiful, but you won’t have any gas, water or electrical supply! This is a hidden cost because most people assume that having a kitchen fitted means it is ready to use. Unless you use a team of general contractors – who can do all the work, from running pipes and wiring to plastering, tilling and decorating – you will need to find a firm that can connect up the services. You will also need to find someone to tile, lay flooring and decorate. These are all separate trades that the kitchen company generally will not provide – and which will cause you sleepless nights to schedule.

But don’t let that put you off. Getting your kitchen the way you want it, is absolutely worth the chaos – just like Christmas.

Advertisements

Moving Outdoors for Summer

When people extend at the rear of their houses, it’s often to achieve ‘indoor/outdoor living’ – a space that allows them to have easy access to the living areas of the house but to transfer the activities of dining and relaxing outdoors. This week it’s Chelsea Flower Show and with the weather as nice as it’s been for the last fortnight, I have to say sitting in my garden is one of my favourite ways to spend time at home. I have french doors from my dining room to the patio and for much of the next few months they will stand open. We eat breakfast on the patio and lunch in the garden, but dinner it’s sometimes too cool in the shade to be completely comfortable, so back to the dining table we go.

outdoor seating

Having this flexibility with my living space is one of the reasons I bought the house. Even though the garden is shady from mid afternoon onward, I still spend the bulk of my time out there in the summer months, so planning how to use this space is as important as the thought put into how your kitchen and dining room will work. Not only do you have to consider things like lawnmowers and parasols that need to be stored when not in use, you also need to think about the orientation – the way the garden faces. A garden that faces North-East, as mine does will have next to no sun in the winter and this will wreak havoc with your grass. That might sound bizarre and somewhat extreme, but consider if you will the very wet winter we had. I now have a lawn that is 3/4 covered in moss – and the moss is thick and healthy! That’s too big an area to ‘patch’, so what on earth am I going to do with it? In the nearly three years since I’ve lived here, my lawn has gone from lush to lame – and I have fed it.

the grassy side

the grassy side

On the other hand, if my garden faced South-West I’d have another problem; the area closest to the house, usually where people have their patio’s, would be too hot to sit in, even with a parasol.

Outdoor space at this time of the year becomes an additional room, but it’s totally dictated by the elements. This may sound obvious, yet people are often mystified when they can’t quite use their gardens the way they want. Of course if your garden is huge, none of this applies, but for a garden in town you are very much at the mercy of your neighbouring properties. Big trees are either a problem because they shade your side of the fence and the neighbour won’t get it pruned or a delight and you’re terrified that the neighbour might decide to pull it down!

the stump is to become a garden seat

the stump is to become a garden seat

I have a bit of a thing for trees I have to confess, but this spring I took the decision to remove one that was cutting a lot of light from my garden. Given the grass situation and the fact that I have 10 trees in an area 5m x 12m, I wasn’t sorry to see this one go even though in the aftermath of last winter several people I know have large trees that are now at risk. Their roots haven’t held in the saturated soil and these landmark trees are now dangerous, leaning badly and must be taken down. Sad.

Rooflines do the same thing where light is concerned, especially if a loft conversion goes up and you suddenly lose your sunshine. In our first home, we consented to our neighbours putting in their loft conversion and our garden changed completely. No longer could we sit in the sun for lunch, unless we wanted to eat after 3! Can you see why I say it needs thought?

afternoon tea

Making the most of your outdoor space is more than simply putting in some decking and buying outdoor furniture. To be able to use the space the way you want, your patio might be better situated as an island away from the house. It depends on whether you hanker after basking in the last rays of the evening sun and sipping on a ‘sundowner,’ or if you’ve always dreamed of breakfast on the terrace. This is the type of question to ask yourself, it’s not enough to say let’s put in a summerhouse and then find that it never gets used. As with all space planning, the garden needs to be considered as a whole – even if the work is done piecemeal. And this is one situation where you really are better to have lived in the property for a while, so that you know where the sun rises and if the shed is actually the part of the garden that gets the most sun! It’s worth moving things around to make the most of your gardens natural attributes. If my lovely garden shed were on the other side of the garden, I’d have sun until about 7pm…

late afternoon in the garden

late afternoon in the garden

So back to planning the way you use your garden. As with any ‘room’ – and garden designers do talk about themed areas of the garden as rooms – flexibility is key, so zoning the garden with areas designed to be used at different times of the day is actually quite practical. It enables you to create plantings and privacy in those areas which will introduce a journey as you move through it and reveal different aspects of your personality in the same way you would indoors. It also allows you to hide the bicycles and compost bin – or create a fire pit… Marshmallows anyone?

a garden ornament

a garden ornament