In my last blog post, I talked about the preparation for our epic basement kitchen overhaul and here’s the next chapter:

Work started on demolition of the existing kitchen in the second week of March 2016: it was a bit later than I had hoped but it seemed doable as it left two whole months before the baby arrived.  And it probably would have been fine if I hadn’t opted to buy materials with very long lead times (more on that later).

Plastic sheeting went up, crumbly plaster was removed along with the old units and a makeshift ‘kitchen’ was set up in the utility room for us to use (I still shudder when I think about the weeks spent trying to make meals in a room barely larger than a cupboard with dust, dust and more dust everywhere).  And while all this was going on, I was still dithering over which units to get.   I knew I wanted wide drawer units throughout most of the kitchen, but it took forever to get the drawer configuration exactly right as it’s so hard to envisage what storage space is needed by each type of item.  I was pretty hooked on the idea of more Ikea units but none of the finishes really inspired me (my dislike of any sort of handle only hampered the decision making further).

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Week 1 and all that remains of my old kitchen was a pile of damp rubble
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It was so damp that toads kept appearing

And then the answer came to me late one night on good old Pinterest: buy the basic Ikea units, but then get all the drawer fronts and doors made elsewhere.  I then discovered a local company called Matt Antrobus who made birch ply fronts coated in formica (in any colour of your choosing) with handles created from recesses in the timber itself.  I was hooked, despite the 6-8 week lead time.

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Love at first sight – the birch ply and formica drawer fronts

Just as I felt I was getting somewhere with the endless decision making and ordering of kitchen materials, I came down with swine flu and ended up being put into isolation in the local hospital.  It was a strange time – the swine flu wasn’t diagnosed until my day of discharge and I spent a few days in a small room being taken away in a wheelchair periodically for tests and scans.  I felt ill, but not so ill that I didn’t worry about the kitchen so in between sleeping, eating and all the tests and checks I was trying to order formica samples and getting updates from the builder on the phone.  I wasn’t best pleased about the whole thing as you can see from the photo, but it was nice to eat food that hadn’t been prepared in a dust-ridden utility room.

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Lying in a hospital bed in isolation with needles and tubes in me, wondering if I’ll be able to order the formica samples in time

I’m still not entirely sure how much being pregnant drove the decision making about design and materials; all I know is that I reacted strongly to everything, just as I did food.  I LOVED birch ply, minimalism, pantries and natural materials, but at the same time I recoiled in horror at the idea of tiles and wall units.  There were supposed to be wall units along the entire left hand wall in the original plans but in the end I found the idea so unbearable I figured I would rather have  a bare wall and what didn’t fit in the remaining units could go in the bin.

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The halfway stage – damp proofing and replastering done, opening to kitchen is being widened and a rather nifty cavity wall is being constructed on the left.  This conceals the ducting for the extractor and provides a bit of soundproofing too.

The weeks passed, the plaster dried and the room began to take shape and look vaguely habitable.  The units were assembled and put in place while I tried to get on with making decisions about appliances, sink and worktops.  The old kitchen had a beech worktop with ugly joins in it (and in later years, masses of water marks and stains) so I was determined to get something more hardwearing, despite the bigger price tag.  In the end, I opted for a silestone worktop in a beige-grey colour with upstands and a single cut-out for an undermounted single bowl ceramic sink.  Oh, and those little drainage grooves you can get cut in, although they looked suspiciously like an ideal place for limescale to settle.

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The new units are in place, along with patching of the limestone floor and new dimmable spotlights

Towards the end of my pregnancy, the timings started getting precarious: the units and appliances were all in place at the eleventh hour reading for the worktop templating, ensuring the worktops were fitted just a few days before the baby was due (I was having a C-Section so we at least had a date to work to).  The ply drawer fronts were another matter though as I hadn’t ordered in time and they wouldn’t be delivered for fitting until 2-3 weeks after the baby arrived.  This in turn meant that nothing could be stored in the kitchen at all which was a bit of a pain but as the days went by and my discomfort grew, I was caring less and less.

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Still a few weeks to go, and wishing that plaster in the background would hurry up and dry

All of a sudden, it was May.  The worktops were in place, we had a working sink and cooker (exciting times after the utility room horror) and a baby popped out (or rather was hauled).

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Baby Marigold, all 10.5lb of her

We brought the baby home and got on with life and a half finished kitchen as there wasn’t anything would could do to progress it until the drawer fronts arrived.  Aside from the absent storage space, it was a dream come true as the space was ours to use again and we could actually cook, eat and wash up like normal!

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Just home from hospital and the kitchen is at least functioning.  It may not look pretty but it was a delight after two months of trying to cook food in a cupboard and washing plates in the shower

Towards the end of May, we got a delivery date for the panels and I realised we would have to get on with assembling the drawers (not a simple task as you’ll know if you’ve ever assembled an Ikea kitchen).  And it was only then to my absolute horror that I realised half the drawers were the wrong size.  I’ve still no idea how it happened as I had an official plan and a comprehensive list, but somewhere along the way, the wrong parts were selected by the staff.  There was only one thing for it – the car was loaded up and I staggered and waddled to my local Ikea with a pile of wrong-size bits which were quickly exchanged.  I don’t have much recollection of this trip now, but as you will see from the photo below, I didn’t just exchange a few kitchen unit parts.  This is full on Ikea shopping madness.  Let’s blame the hormones and sleep deprivation.

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In the full grip of shopping madness when I should have been resting in bed

There then followed a very stressful couple of days sat with the carpenter trying to work out which drawer went where (they were all different sizes and the final plan seemed to exist only in my head) while the baby cried and so did I.  Matching end panels were fitted, along with plinths and panels for the dishwasher, cooker and under sink cupboard.   The walls were painted a brilliant white and they provided the perfect backdrop for the Marimekko fabric which adorns the kitchen and dining area walls.

Once the shelf above the sink had been put up, it was pretty much finished and below are the some photos of the end results.  I loved it.  I still love it.  The drawers are amazing because everything is accessible and organised and nothing gets stuck at the back and never used.  It doesn’t always look this tidy, but it’s a happy yet practical space.

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View from the patio doors
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There used to be kitchen units where that doorway is – this was knocked through so that the pantry could be created from a cupboard in the hall
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Old shelves and new, just above the kitchen sink.  The new shelf is a reclaimed scaffold board
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Exactly the same spot, old and new
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Seascape view (fabric is Luovi by Marimekko) at the kitchen sink, with a useful basket to hide crap that doesn’t fit in with my minimalist fantasy
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The right hand side – note the carefully planned drawer symmetry!
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Left hand side and more drawer symmetry
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View from rear of kitchen looking towards dining area

So there’s the kitchen.  The pantry and dining area will form the subject of future blog entries with more before and after photos!

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