Thank you everyone for the kind comments and lovely compliments you made last week after the first kitchen post, revealing the transformation of our once dingy and impractical kitchen to a bright, pretty and functional family space. Now for part two, the completed kitchen.
I designed the kitchen inch by inch first in my mind then on paper. I had a folder 4 inches thick of inspiration images, sketches, references and tear sheets. I knew exactly what I wanted in every detail, so it was just a matter of make it come to life with the right joiner at the right price!
My first rule, always use drawers. I never have cupboards, and especially not corner cupboards or ones with a folding door. I think they are a nightmare and you end up putting things in that you can’t see or reach and ultimately never use. So I only have drawers, of various widths and depths, and even if they are doors on the outside for the design feature, I put pull out drawers on the inside. I design my drawers with my appliances and crockery etc in mind, to make sure they will fit.
I had a checklist of features I wanted in the kitchen such as the proud skirting, the corner posts, the profile and joinery details, the hearth over the stove, the display ledge, the drawer profile, the open shelving on either side of the stove, the sink, appliances, glass cabinets mixed with solid, the height of the cabinets, cornices. I had done several sketches of these details and photos taken on trips to the US where I had visited kitchen showrooms and take countless photos of details I loved. I managed to incorporate most of them into the design and then found a someone to recreate my vision. It was a painstaking, long and involved process finalising each detail, and I’m sure I drove them nuts with my irritating perfectionism, but it was well worth it.
The space itself posed a number of issues and forced compromise on things I wish could have been different, but when you are working within an existing house and room foot print and not from scratch, you have to make the best of what you have. I only had one relatively short wall to use, which was immediately taken up with the stove/oven, fridge and a few cabinets. I had nowhere to put a butler’s or walk in pantry as much as I would have loved one, so had to make use of the two sections of wall either side of the French doors. One has the pantry and the other is more for display and houses the coffee and tea making paraphernalia. It still isn’t ideal and I don’t have enough pantry space by half, but it was the best I could get given the wall space.
I considered all kinds of tapware, but after my last experience buying taps from the US I was sure I wasn’t going to risk that again. So all my tapware was sourced locally. I would have loved to have a stunning English Tapware set in polished nickel, but budget is always a constant pest and this one with the accompanying vegetable spray was a lovely next best thing.
The island is a fabulous size and width, and anchors the kitchen in the large open space. I always like seating at the island as the kids are still young and eat there, and invariably guests always gather in the kitchen, no matter how many comfy seating areas you have elsewhere. Again, I would have liked a few other features in the island such as a book shelf for cookbooks, a larger bin drawer and somewhere for hanging tea towels, but space was the issue.
In this kitchen I admit I completely favoured aesthetics over function in many instances. It might not be the most user friendly, state of the art or practical kitchen I could have designed, but it sure is pretty! All the detail on the cabinetry looks gorgeous but admittedly it is a nightmare to keep clean as there are so many surfaces to catch dirt, dust and grime, so it’s a bit-weekly job to keep clean. Not that I do it bi-weekly, but if I was more particular I would!
In my last few kitchens I have always chosen a stainless steel sink with draining board, because I had favoured the function over the form. But this time I blew that off and just went with something I loved, which is a farmhouse or butler’s sink. Again, I do miss the draining board and they are very practical, but this just looks so lovely. I do find though that you always end up forfeiting one sink for the dish rack or drainer, and it’s always full of hand washed stuff, so I never have two clear sinks to use.
The kitchen bench tops are higher than I have had before, these are 950mm as suggested by the joiner. This was because it’s supposed to be easier on your back, but I hated it at first and found it took a lot of getting use to. My chopping arm used to ache at first, but I’ve adjusted now. It is in proportion with the scale of the kitchen and height of the ceilings which are 3m, but it also means the wall cabinets are higher than usual which can make the top shelves hard to reach.
I decided on two tall dish drawers and I’m so glad I did. However, we did have a hiccup a few months in when I noticed these awful stains appearing in the marble. They would appear for a few days then go again, then reappear and couldn’t be cleaned off. I thought I was going mad and when I complained to the marble company they clearly thought I was in the wrong and tried to lay blame on me for doing something or using some product I shouldn’t. I finally convinced them with photos to visit and it was then that we worked out the problem.
The steam from the dish drawers was escaping into the cavity underneath the slab and being absorbed by the marble, turning it darker. The location depended on which machine I had used, the length of the cycle and temperature in the kitchen, which was why it was so random and why it would disappear as it dried out. Who was responsible for this is still a moot point. The dish drawers were not plumbed in as they should have been on installation so that the steam could escape into the waste pipe. Instead it was being trapped under the bench. On the flip side, the other argument was that there should have been vents built into the skirting so that the steam could also escape that way. Regardless, the problem has now been fixed by the appropriate plumbing and everyone was hugely relieved it was so simple and effective a solution.
My tip, when you buy appliances for your kitchen or laundry is to make sure everybody, including you, reads the installation instructions so that mistakes aren’t made and important details overlooked.
I had originally wanted the kitchen cabinets to go up to the ceiling without a gap or need for a bulkhead, and I designed it with an extra row of a mix of solid and glass fronted cabinets, mostly for display and also to house the ducting for the range hood. I do love that look and it makes the room and kitchen just flow beautifully without the interruption of the break, and makes the room seem bigger and ceilings higher. But when it came to costing it, this extra row of cabinets added an extra $10k to the price, so I reluctantly had to forgo them. However, I think making the hearth higher and still grand hopefully achieved a similar effect.
It did pose a problem with the range hood, where to duct and extract the fumes and smoke, now that there was a gap, so I had to resort to a charcoal filter based range hood which is meant to clean the smoke and fumes as they rise, and allow clarified air into the room. However, the smoke alarms go off regularly when I’m cooking something on the stove on high heat, so clearly they aren’t that effective. Another lesson learned!
The splashback tile is a glazed hand painted Spanish tile. I was going to use marble mosaics and found some stunning patterns in a marble factory in China, but decided on the blue as I felt the kitchen needed a bit of colour and a focal point amongst all the white. I don’t have problems with the grout getting dirty or being hard to clean at all, so never worry about having a tiled splash back.
I bought most of my lights in the US and had them shipped over, although a few were also bought locally. I have a whole other post on buying lights from overseas, converting and the lessons I have learned there, expensive ones of course.
All in all, it’s a beautiful space that I love and am proud of, and is a wonderful beating heart of our home. It’s bright and sunny, has lovely view of the garden, is central and open, it’s pretty and welcoming and cosy at night. Ok, if I’m completely honest, it’s not the best designed kitchen from a storage, function or practical point of view, but I made choices and decisions knowing the consequences or benefits, and you can’t have everything! But I do so love pretty.