In the last blog post, we began to explore replacing our old kitchen. The units were at least 30 or 40 years old, perhaps older, and many of the cupboard carcasses were rotting out due to the lack of central heating and the damp conditions.
After contacting the borough council to check whether the kitchen would require listed building consent, we made a start. Everything had to come out.
We discovered that the old mains pipework had been weeping, adding to the decay of the cupboard carcasses, with the cupboard below the sink almost falling apart on its own.
I also found a small ball of shredded paper, string and torn cloth, about the size of a tennis ball, under one of the cupboards. When we first moved in, there were mouse droppings on the kitchen floor, but after a thorough clean and only putting food in overhead cupboards, evidence of mice slowly petered out. This small white ball was a mouse nest, hopefully now vacant. Mice like to stay close to their nests and food sources, so they probably rarely travelled beyond our kitchen until we cut off their food sources.
Once the room was completely empty we had to use our library as a temporary parlour and kitchen, with our library table housing a camping stove and microwave to keep us going for a few weeks. Our bath became the spot for washing the dishes, as the deep-dished bathroom sink just didn’t cut it.
Before replastering the walls and ceiling, I fitted a stud wall to house the new mains water feed, rather than burying it into the brickwork, as I wanted to cause as little distress as possible to the fabric of the building.
You may recall from a previous blog that we still had old lead pipework feeding water into our property, which has slowly calcified over the decades, reducing the bore size and restricting the water flow. To compound the problem, we were on a shared feed with the neighbour’s property and our cottage was furthest from the main. With the new mains supply live and the kitchen refit on track, it was time to complete on the pipe installation.
As the kitchen is housed in a relatively new extension at the rear of the property, we could use modern materials for most of the plastering, though one wall is part of the original property, requiring a lime plaster application.
Upon inspecting the kitchen, the plasterer also noticed that some plaster in an adjoining room was likely to be original to the building, with horsehair blended into the mix. This was quite an exciting find for us.
As mentioned in the last issue of Listed Heritage, we’ve had a long time to think about how we want the kitchen to look, and we decided that trying to emulate an old-style country kitchen just wasn’t the right way to go. We decided on sleek lines, integrated appliances and hidden cupboard handles that will be sympathetic to the clean Georgian lines of the building, while not trying to be untruthful by emulating a kitchen of the period.
I planned to do much of the work myself, as we had a very precise vision of what we wanted, but I called upon G Williams Joinery Services to take on most of installation of units and appliances, to make sure the job was a professional one.
One of the great things about using Graeme Williams was that he worked with the vision of what I wanted to achieve and suggested a number of workarounds which allowed me to step beyond the boundaries of a normal kitchen build.
As well as using locally-sourced rough-hewn timber to make the worktops, I wanted all the cupboards to be made from drawer fronts, so we would achieve a consistent sweeping look across the entire span of the units.
For the integrated appliances, we’ve gone for the Neff brand, as they have an oven with a door that slides away underneath. We’re installing the oven and microwave in a tower unit, so this seemed like a good way of making sure we could get easy access into the oven. For the hob, we decide on an induction unit.
Although induction hobs can’t be used by people with pacemakers – which means my dad won’t be cooking us Sunday dinners on it anytime soon – the immediacy and controllability of the technology meant it was worth the spend. A pan of water can be brought to the boil in less than a minute!
We’re nearing completion on the kitchen now, with the first coat of paint applied to the walls and the new lighting ready to go in. Then it’s just the tiling, worktop and finishing touches before we can move on to the next room in the cottage.
Fitting a new kitchen completely from scratch has been quite an upheaval, with tools, units, appliances and all the associated paraphernalia cluttering up almost every room of our house for the last few months. It was probably more disruptive than reconfiguring the bathroom (which didn’t even have a bath in it) and bringing three separate rooms into one, but it has been worth it.
With the bathroom, gas installation, central heating and water mains supply all out the way and the kitchen not far behind we will soon be able to focus on some of the fun jobs, as well as just enjoying living in our Georgian cottage. I can say with some confidence that most of the upheaval is now behind us. I think…