Welcome to the story of my Victorian kitchen makeover.
I always smile when I see those quizzes about where and when you were happiest.
I’m a big believer that happiness isn’t a destination – it’s not a place you go, or something that arrives in a rush as soon as you’ve got the right car, or the big house, or the perfect man.
Happiness for me is moments. It’s rounding a particular corner on the school run every morning and appreciating the way the sun lands on the green fields that stretch as far as the eye can see. It’s sinking into your seat in the cinema, totally absorbed in an imaginary story of someone else’s creation. It’s feeling someone’s warm feet against mine in bed at night.
Obviously, though, I’m not so spiritual that I don’t get a happy buzz every morning when I walk into my shiny new kitchen. So when Jen asked me to describe my happy place, I thought I’d share it with you.
The Starting Point: A Long, Dark Kitchen
I’ve written before about the DIY disaster that was my kitchen for many years after we bought this house. I wanted to fix it up as soon as we moved in but there were so many things that felt more important – the roof, the loft conversion, a new boiler, the damp proofing, new drains… you’ve got to love period houses.
This was our kitchen before. It felt dark, the floor was ridiculously uneven, the worktop was falling to bits, and the cupboards were badly fitted, with wonky doors and a weird design that made the room feel small – not to mention the fact I couldn’t reach the top shelf of half the cupboards.
On top of that, a leak in the pipes behind the plaster was causing damp behind the sink and worktop across one side of the kitchen, causing the worktops to swell and warp.
This Spring, though, we finally had the money set aside for a new kitchen. Hurrah!
A Kitchen Makeover under £10,000
We found the most amazing kitchen fitter who took my £10k budget and worked wonders with it.
We chose gloss white units and bright white tiles to maximise the light, with solid oak worktops and window sills to add warmth. In total, we spent £5,000 on the kitchen cabinets, and another £1,000 on plastering, tiling and carpentry.
In some ways, it’s quite a thrifty makeover – we’ve re-used some elements of the old kitchen, including the existing double stove, and the existing fridge, which was less than a year old. We also kept the overhead fan above the stove, which was perfectly decent and didn’t need replacing.
Rather than getting the kitchen fitted by one of the big stores, using independent local tradesmen and suppliers (all sourced via the quite brilliant ratedpeople.com) kept costs reasonable.
In fact, we came in around £1,500 under budget. The total cost of the kitchen including fitting and decorating was £8,500.
Once we got started, things moved fast – the kitchen fitter took two days to strip out the old kitchen and lay a new (level) floor, then two days to fit the new kitchen.
They spent one more day fitting and connecting appliances and then popped back over the weekend to do some little bits of snagging.
After that came the tiler (we chose some brilliant bevelled subway tiles from Topps Tiles that came in at under £250 for the lot), the flooring, and the decorator, who repainted all the walls, ceiling and woodwork with fresh white paint.
Our Victorian Kitchen Makeover
A few more finishing touches and voila, a completed kitchen!
I think it achieves what I wanted it to – making the room feel lighter and bigger, without looking too clinical. We’ve taken that dark, gloomy Victorian kitchen and made it feel lighter and bigger – without actually adding any more windows or moving any walls.
The “New Day” wall decal (below) is from a US company called Movie Cutouts – kindly shipped to us by some American friends. The ceiling lights were a bit of a bargain – after scoping out some almost identical vintage lighting on Etsy, I just happened to spot these tucked away in B&Q at under £60 each.
The hanging rails are from Ikea, and the oak shelf above the sink was made to measure by a local joiner.
We kept our existing stove, extractor fan and fridge/freezer which helped keep costs down – so I didn’t feel bad for splashing out on a fancy tap that converts from a single jet to a shower spray, and entertains me endlessly.
The wooden worktop savers/chopping boards (below) were a brilliant £7 each from Ikea, and the step-stool is another Ikea find – it’s perfect for helping Flea reach the coffee maker in the mornings (What? I’m building her independence. That’s GOOD parenting).
In the utility area, which was an odd extension at the end of the house, we tidied up. We’ve added an oak counter and matching window sills, along with an oak shelf, again made by the joiner. We had space for a spare freezer back here, which is brilliant as being a two person household, we often have a lot of leftovers to freeze!
I love the light in this part of the kitchen, from the two windows and the glazed ceiling. Note the split in the downstairs w/c door – it’s from when I accidentally locked it, and had to break down the door with a sledgehammer. Oops.
So there you have it. My happy place. I love sitting on the counter in a morning, chatting to Flea, and enjoying a coffee before we head off to school.
What’s your happy place?