Let’s face it, you probably don’t rip out a kitchen and replace the entire thing many times in your lifetime.
Unless you are serial house renovator, in which case, I salute your patience.
In my experience, I’ve put in two kitchens. The first was in the very first flat I bought on my own. The previous owners had a freestanding IKEA kitchen – which they took with them when they moved out. And in our last home, we renovated the existing kitchen by replacing cupboard doors, updating worktops and re-tiling.
This current kitchen project was a must-do, from the moment we viewed our house. I could SEE how it could look. Back then, it was actually two rooms, a dark kitchen with double doors through to an old-fashioned conservatory. Glass roof, glass doors, freezing in the winter, too hot to enjoy in the summer. In short, for me, a complete waste of space.
It meant a big ol’ expensive project would have to be undertaken, but it would completely change the way we used the house – making the kitchen the place we all hang out together.
I have been featuring our kitchen renovation over on my Instagram and have been inundated with messages asking me to pass on some of the ideas I used to begin remodelling this space. So here they are – I hope they’re useful!
1: IMAGINE YOURSELVES IN THE SPACE. HOW DO YOU WANT TO USE IT?
I knew from the start that the space wouldn’t work for the kitchen / living area I dreamed of us having. I had the vision of it being our kitchen / dining / living space, where we could all be together as a family, where we could all watch a film on a Saturday night and eat eggs on a Sunday morning over the weekend papers. I wanted to be able to invite people over for dinner and open the doors into the garden. So the conservatory and those doors had to go!
Despite the fact the conservatory had the same deep foundations as the house and two proper walls, rather than it being just a glass box, it was a long process. Technically we were just replacing the roof and removing the internal wall, but we needed planning permission. So we went through an architectural surveyor to help with the process and the drawing up of the plans. This is a necessary, but expensive and long drawn out process. It took six months from the initial conversation with the architectural surveyor to beginning the knock through.
But that time is vital. I would suggest that living in the space you wish to change is invaluable. Learning about how the light affects the room, how you use the space, how you would like to use it and what you cannot bear is all completely necessary – if painful, when you’re as impatient as I am!
2: HOW TO DESIGN A SPACE THAT WORKS FOR YOU
Our kitchen pre-renovation was dark and drab (above). The floors were dark grey, the tiles were black and the worktop was black granite. The ceiling in there is low anyway, but the wrong lights were up and the energy was all wrong. I couldn’t bear being in there.
It’s a big space and there were lots of units, but they weren’t very practical or positioned particularly well. If I was unloading the dishwasher for example, my husband wouldn’t be able to get past to make a cup of tea. The ceiling lights made me want to weep, the wall units (which weren’t even hung symmetrically in between the windows!) made it feel oppressive.
When we started thinking about the new design, we considered the way we use the kitchen. The island was the main work surface, so that needed to stay – and in fact, made slightly bigger to accommodate two stools for the kids to sit and eat or chat. But it didn’t have electric sockets, so we couldn’t use a mixer or any other food processor. That needed to be looked at.
I actually wanted to keep the walls free of units for a more modern, cleaner look. Plus, as the ceiling is so low, this would give the feeling of height. A pantry made more sense, so we could keep all the food in one place.
We wanted an integral cupboard to house the bin and recycling and a full-size integrated fridge (the kitchen we inherited had one small under counter fridge).
We desperately wanted to ditch the lighting and create ‘layers’ of new lights, pendants over the island, spotlights for task lighting and then table lamps for atmosphere.
THE DESIGN PROCESS: I had visited every kitchen showroom going – and even had plans drawn up by one. In my experience, kitchen companies don’t charge for advice dispensed in store, but they will charge you for their time to visit your home, measure up and actually design the kitchen to work in your space. It makes sense, it takes hours of work.
We paid one kitchen company around £250 to create plans for our kitchen – we were originally going to go with them, so that was fine. But we did also feel that if we then had the plans, we would be in a position to legitimately get other quotes from joiners to see whether they could create something similar. We had paid for the company’s time and expertise – and we wouldn’t feel bad / they wouldn’t feel cheated if we decided not to go with them. Which ultimately, we didn’t.
Prices for the full kitchen varied, but were all around the same eye-watering £20,000 plus mark. Getting our heads around that took a bit of time (having never done it before), but we finally started making financial plans to make it all work.
And then one day an email popped into my inbox from a lovely lady called Elly, who had found me on Instagram. She didn’t know we were about to start our kitchen, but had seen that we were doing up our house and wanted to tell me about Herringbone Kitchens, her small, family-run business based down in Canterbury. Elly’s husband William is the designer – and she wanted to let me know about it, just in case we ever wanted to do our kitchen.
It was, as they say, serendipitous timing. Our extra mortgage money had come through and we were ready to start.
We spoke on the ‘phone and I knew William and Elly could create the kitchen we dreamed of (I mean, take a look at some of their other projects here). There were no issues with things that had caused problems on previous kitchen design chats, such as pesky corner units having to be a certain size. Getting hold of gold taps was no problem and the kitchen could be painted any colour I wanted.
The Herringbone process is slightly different, in that they operate on an honesty-policy, meaning they do not charge for design or measure. Elly says, ‘Our design and measure costs are free, but it does take us a days worth of Will’s time to do the design, depending on how complex and how many options he does.
‘While we don’t charge for the design, we ask people to be honest. If they know their intention is to buy the kitchen online or at somewhere like IKEA, be conscious we are a small company and to properly do a design takes up an entire day’s worth of time.
‘It’s great when people visit the studio first, then they have a better idea of what type of style they want. Then we normally visit their property or go off-plans if they live far from us, like Erica, or are building a new home/extension.’
Working with a small company also means there’s such a personal service – nothing was too much of an issue, even when I suddenly remembered something and emailed on a Sunday. They really wanted me to be happy with the details.
Feeling confident with the people you are investing a huge amount of time, emotion and money is a big deal. Whether it be a fitter working on his own or a large franchised company, it should always be about the customer service.
3: STARTING FROM THE GROUND UP
The flooring was a BIG deal. It had previously been two separate floor types – granite effect tiles in the kitchen and then limestone effect in the conservatory (top). As this was going to be one big space, I wanted a floor that would cohesively link the area, look great and be practical!
The flooring world is a minefield, there is actually TOO much choice. I tackled this by narrowing down what it was I wanted – which was wooden parquet. We have encaustic tiles as a statement in the hall, so I wanted something that would look stunning, but not compete with them. I also have two small children who like to scooter around the house and a dog, so it needed to be practical.
I’d seen an image on Pinterest and then didn’t deviate from trying to recreate that.
We chose Amtico Signature in Aged Oak and had it laid in a parquet pattern, which makes my heart sing! It’s neutral enough to go with the scheme I have planned, but also looks beautiful.
4: HOW TO WORK OUT YOUR COLOURS AND BUILD YOUR SCHEME
Unless you are highly proficient in Photoshop or Canva and can create moodboards, I highly recommend building your decor boards on Pinterest for ideas. I found I consistently Pinned the same kinds of things, which really shows that your subconscious tells you what you like! It helps focus your ideas and colour themes. Above is the board I created for my kitchen.
I’ve made some fairly bold decisions in terms of colour in the house so far, with a grass-green stair runner from Roger Oates, as well as going for a dark, inky blue on the walls in the living room (Juniper Ash by Little Greene Paint Company).
I have decided that tones of these two colours will be the basis for the rest of the house too – which will link the rooms and give it a cohesive feel. Obviously this is very easy to do if you prefer a more muted look, greys for example, or monochrome. But I want to use tones of the same blue thoughout, mixed with a smattering of the punchy green as an accent. To me, it feels fresh and exciting – and I want to create a home that we all feel energised by.
With the kitchen, I referred to my Pinterest boards and saw that I’d pinned a lot of navy, inky painted Shaker style kitchens. I love the simple, classic design of the Shaker, but amped up with a strong colour choice.
So I had narrowed it down to blue, but fancied doing more of a two-tone effect. With the help of William from Herringbone, we came up with a couple of designs where the units were in different colours.
The safe option was to paint most of it in a pale grey, with the island painted in the inky blue. But I didn’t want it to be safe! So I chose the colour ‘Bond Street’ by Mylands as the main shade, with the same pale grey colour as the walls for the island – ‘Blackened’ by Farrow & Ball. Mylands is also a paint company based in London, at the bottom of the road we used to live in, so it felt like the right choice!
DETAILS: I knew I wanted gold or antique brass for the handles and fixtures. We are going for an aged brass tap from Perrin & Rowe on the Butler’s sink – which I am more excited about than I think I should be. And we’re ditching the kettle in favour of a Zip HydroTap – also in a gold finish. William sourced the GORGEOUS brass handles for me – I think I scared him a bit with my specific request! You can contact Herringbone directly if you’re looking for similar.
Our worktops are Silestone, which is a quartz. I love the Carrera marble look, but it’s a bit too high maintenance for me, so I chose a white surface with a grey vein running through it.
The pendant lights over the island were a bit more of a complicated decision, because I am planning so much colour in the rest of the space I didn’t want to over-do it.
I originally thought green glass would work, but had a gut feeling it would look OTT. Always go with your gut instincts! In the end I decided to go for a tonal look with three pale grey glass and copper designs called ‘Grace,’ which I found on the Heals website (they’re the small ones and the SKU code is 793331).
5: TYING THE WHOLE LOOK TOGETHER
Making the whole space work altogether would be down to colour. Despite the dark shade, the kitchen is actually a pretty neutral space, so I knew it would lend itself to the idea I had – which is midcentury meets 70’s texture meets tropical plant! It works in my head!
I wanted the green of the stairs to come through into the kitchen. So it made sense to anchor this with a big, ol’ sofa. Now, I looked at a LOT, but finally decided on Habitat’s Hendricks sofa in green, which is not only the colour I was after, but also the midcentury shape (it arrives next month).
And these rug colours are actually my starting point for tying all the colours together. I would suggest this is a great way to begin thinking about colour themes for any room. If you’re drawn to a particular rug, cushion or curtain fabric – even a vintage print you’ve spotted – use that as your starting point. Things don’t have to be matchy-matchy anymore, so you really don’t need to buy the same pattern wallpaper, border and cushions from the same place. Think about tones; for example, if the rug you love has lots of hot pink in it and you feel happy just looking at it, go with it and shop around for items that have complementary shades that’ll work next to that rug. You ultimately want to design a space that will make you feel relaxed, happy and calm.
I have chosen blush pink metro tiles from Topps Tiles to go behind the cooker, which will bring in the pink. And then – inspired by a conversation with my very clever friend Kate from Mad About The House – I’ve ordered a long, bleached pine dining table painted in Charlotte’s Locks by Farrow & Ball, which is a gorgeous, deep orange. The dining table I found via eBay, at a store called Peppermill Antiques. They do a variety of sizes and then you can paint the legs in whatever F&B colour you would like.
The dining chairs will be a blue/black, to reference the kitchen colour and connect the room.
As I write this, the room isn’t finished, so who knows whether the whole thing will work?! In my head it does – at least for me! But if I have enjoyed one thing from this project so far, it’s not to be so constrained by fear of ‘getting it wrong.’
Ultimately, it’s paint – it can be repainted. Sofas can be reupholstered. Cushions and light fittings can be swapped. And I’m not living in this house so I can sell it on. We’ve no plans to move again for a while, so I want our home to reflect us, not stay neutral for the next inhabitants – whoever they will be.
This has been a mammoth post, so if you’ve made it to the end – well done! I will be posting a lot more images, here and on Instagram, as the room is finished off.
And if you have any other questions that I haven’t covered, please message me or comment below!