|Anya and Sam think the new kitchen is just an extra large playroom…|
As I write this we are 3 months and 19 days into our kitchen renovation. Well I say renovation but what I actually mean is we ripped out our old kitchen, and 3 of the walls (!) and we are creating an entirely new open-plan kitchen. The old kitchen was the size of a postage stamp. The new one connects two rooms (the old kitchen and former ‘dining room’) and extends sideways to take up that uniquely Victorian waste of space – the ‘side return’. It’s been a long journey – an ongoing journey as we are nowhere near the end – and I thought I would write this post so that you can benefit from my experience (and yes, mistakes) should you ever want to embark on a similar journey. Are you ready? Here goes…
My top tips on how to survive installing a new kitchen
>> Set your budget. Before you start picking tiles and fixtures, before you even entertain the idea of doing anything at all, take a look at your finances and decide what you want to achieve and what you can actually afford. Once you have an idea of the overall project scope get quotes – lots of them. Don’t just take the ‘big stuff’ into consideration, budget for the little things too. Ok now you have a set budget in mind… add at least 15% to that budget. If you are using your savings consider having a slush fund for emergencies. And if you get a loan always, always, always get the maximum amount you can. If you take a small loan and then realise you need additional funds you can’t be guaranteed the same great rate again (because you have already taken a loan out. Did that happen to us? Yes it did).
>> Are you going it alone or hiring a project manager? If your kitchen renovation is relatively small and doesn’t involve structural changes then you can do it all yourself. Either literally (if you are a DIY genius) or by hiring and managing any builders, plumbers etc. that will be doing the work for you. I have two friends who have done just that and their kitchens are amazing (both are highly organised and unflappable). In our case the kitchen involved a lot of structural work, planning permissions and other scary considerations so we hired a project manager who oversees everything from liaising with the council and planning permissions to providing the builders, electricians etc. to ordering tiles and kitchen units.
>> Consider the timing. Even though in theory the project is set to take 3 months or 6 weeks or whatever in reality that’s very rarely the case. Usually these projects run over and timing them well is crucial. We started our project in early September and were hoping to have a finished kitchen by Christmas. Needless to say that did not happen – both because the timeline estimate was very optimistic and because not everything will go as planned. Don’t arrange for anything to be finished by Christmas, or by the time the baby arrives or anything like that IF you can avoid it.
>> Consider your neighbours. Your renovation is driving you crazy… just stop and think what it might be doing to your neighbours. Give your immediate neighbours plenty of notice, bribe them with wine and baked goods and, if possible, take pictures of the walls that might be affected by any work on your property so you can rectify any problems later (or have proof that you are not responsible for any problems later). If your project involves a party wall then it is important that you agree with your neighbours in advance what your shared responsibilities are or any costs involved. Ideally you should draw up a party wall agreement that clearly outlines all this… or regret it later. Take it from me.
>> Do your research. This of course applies to everything from budget to project management but it becomes very important once you have to choose kitchen units, counter tops, appliances, flooring and so on. Think about how you will use your kitchen, try to visualise what your style is and then visit showrooms (check whether you need an appointment first), compare notes with neighbours and friends, take notes and lots of photographs. Some kitchen companies provide more than units – they offer a full service from the kitchen units to the lighting, appliances, sinks and handles. There’s a lot to be said for ordering everything from one trusted source but be aware that generally an order will take about 6 weeks to be delivered so factor that into your timing. When ordering flooring, tiles, countertops it pays to get in samples and check not just how you like the look of them but how they wear, do they clean easily, do they stain? Having said this, practical considerations will not always win out – we decided to install marble flooring…
>> Storage is king. My previous kitchen was badly designed, ugly and small. There wasn’t enough counter space to make even the most basic meals and we had such problem with storage that plates, glasses and dried goods were housed outside the kitchen. Clever storage solutions are now usually part and parcel of a well designed fitted kitchen – consider what your needs are when you are first starting out to sketch your dream room. Do you have lots of appliances that need to be constantly available (hello KitchenAid!) or can you hide them away when not in use? Consider making storage part of the overall look – open shelving is very much in vogue at the moment and you can show off your dozens of cake stands (what? just me?).
>> How to survive without a kitchen… while your kitchen is being fitted. Well there’s only one answer here… MOVE OUT. However that is usually completely impossible for most people and the next best thing is to install a temporary kitchen, if space allows. We had a stove, dishwasher, washing machine and sink installed in our living room for the duration of the project and it is the one thing that has kept me sane (and able to blog!) during these long four months. If a temporary kitchen is out of the question, then appliances like an air fryer, portable induction hob, soup maker, microwave and so on really come into their own. You can cook perfectly well on a portable induction hob (this one from Andrew James is excellent) and it can be put away when not in use.
>> Finally… and possibly contradicting all of the above… try to have fun. Watching the new space take shape, changing from a building site to a shell, to a room to an actual kitchen (here’s hoping) is tremendously exciting. Visualising the end result (possibly with the aid of a little wine) will keep you going through all the noise, the dust, the enormous expense and general chaos. Or so I keep telling myself.
I have collaborated with Wren Kitchens on this feature – all opinions are my own.