After 20 weeks / four and a half months of being parents, we’ve got a bedtime routine pretty much nailed (she says, terrified it could all go to pot any second now) and have started to get our evenings back somewhat. So AT LAST I can get round to sharing the biggest piece of renovation work for our house.
When we moved in, we did the best with what we had. The living spaces weren’t particularly spacious. The floor area was there, but the layout and quality of it was not great. So, as mentioned before, after a few nightmare months of liaising with a structural engineer we eventually got plans for our extension and booked in our builder for January.
Our Plan: A light and open family living area, with room to cook, eat and relax
The plan was to knock down the shoddy lean to which had been constructed by knocking down three of the walls of the old coal house and outside loo and joining up with where the back door had been to create an extension to the kitchen. It was a single brick construction with a glass roof meaning it was bloody cold in winter and bloody hot in summer. The kitchen was a small galley kitchen with an opening into the lean to, few cupboards and old, tatty oven and sink. The only space for the fridge was in front of one of the windows in the lean to. Meanwhile, the dining room next door was pretty dark; the original window looked out into the lean to. It certainly wasn’t geared up for the modern family we had in mind.
Once the lean to was gone, the builders would be replacing it with a slightly larger well insulated, sloping roofed, solid extension with bifold doors. The external wall between the dining area and the extension would then be removed, along with the internal wall between the dining room and kitchen. And all the floors would be leveled off. This would create a larger, open plan space which would allow for a kitchen diner with living space. Perfect for a growing family.
It was a pretty big task, but our builder promised it’d all be done in 6 weeks. Though we did think this a little optimistic and so lied a little bit about the baby’s due date to make sure it all came together with time to spare. So come the first week of January, the builder started demolishing the extension. It’s a pretty frightening thing, coming home each day at the start of your building work and seeing your lean to going from a slightly ramshackle building to a home to a pile of mud, then wall-less and roof-less, before vanishing completely. There’s no going back at that point, and whatever happens you have to keep going and have faith that all will go to plan. Otherwise, we’d less house than we started with and no back door to keep us secure. And with a baby on the way, that wasn’t ideal.
Things progressed with the building work, as we plodded along (me more so than the hubby) with keeping the building work on course and trying to keep warm and comfortable in less than comfortable living arrangements. Our front room was acting as a kitchen, dining and living room. The fridge in one corner, dining table in the window and microwave next to the telly. Throw in a three seater settee, coffee table and a big birthing ball and things were what some might call cosy, others cramped.
After several weeks of food parcels from the mother-in-law and ready meals, the builders were moving out. They’d done their work to the kitchen / dining / living room, and it was ready for us to take over.
Our budget was always quite tight for the whole project. We’d managed to save up enough money to pay for the building work, but the fittings were another matter. So, in came my dad and the hubby to lay the floor and fit the kitchen.
We designed the kitchen as a U-shape rather than an L-shape or single wall kitchen. A few people said to us things along the lines of, “don’t you want to have the kitchen along the whole right hand wall to the back doors?”. Our answer was a resounding “no”. We wanted to make sure that the space had different zones. A defined dining area, living area and kitchen area. This was to be a multi-functional family room, and a kitchen along the whole of one side of the room wasn’t for us. And anyway, with that we wouldn’t have achieved the valuable kitchen work triangle.
We also knew that we wanted to keep the space simple and clean, but not clinical or cold. So we decided on a warm engineered oak floor and simple stone coloured shaker style kitchen with oak worktops. We decided against tiles and instead went for an oak upstand and stainless steel splash back. As the kitchen isn’t huge, we didn’t want to waste worktop space with a pointless draining board that would end up with limescale build up over the years regardless of scrubbing, so we chose a simple inset stainless steal bowl and a half and bought a removable drainer for the washing up. At least that way the washing up isn’t left out for hours on end. Under cupboard lights and a brushed copper pendant hanging low-ish over the sink added good task lighting rather than the typical spotlights or a useless pendant in the middle of the ceiling. Sadly, we didn’t have space for a double oven, but we treated ourselves to a good quality single oven and gas hob instead. And in came our washer/dryer, fridge/freezer and dishwasher that we’d bought for our first home in Highbury in 2009. They worked fine, so why shell out for new? A final plinth drawer for under the oven provided extra storage.
By the end of the transformation our bank balance was vastly reducing, so our old on-the-small-side Habitat extending table had to suffice for the time being. But we bought a lovely new copper pendant to hang over the dining table and hung our huge maps across the wall – picking out the turquoise of the chair upholstery (the same brilliant 1960s Danish teak chairs we had in our Highbury flat) and the copper of the light. Add the must-have in every Scandinavian home – a Tripp Trapp highchair – and we’re there. A new, larger 1960s teak table will just have to wait.
We wanted the living area to be in-keeping with the rest of the room, so found ourselves a new mid century modern style settee to sit opposite the 1990s Danish beech units that my parents brought down for us from their home in Hull. These units were to house a selection of CDs that we couldn’t part with and a fraction of our record collection and be home to the hubby’s decks (which he is regularly using to teach Finlay to mix and scratch). Above the units, we hung several cube shelves for some of our favourite bits and pieces.
The living area opens out onto a decked patio (expertly fitted by my dad) through the oak bifold doors – a must-have in any living area in my opinion.
We’re awaiting a rug for the living area, and a built-in unit under the stairs currently hidden by a curtain next to the dining table. Then, once we’ve also changed the curtains which we put up for some quick privacy, we’re done.
Pinterest mood board
- Kitchen – Burford Stone from Howden’s Joinery
- Worktop – oak worktop from woodworktops.com
- Floor – engineered oak from flooringsupplies.co.uk
- Copper lights – Float by Nordlux
- Cube shelving – Valje from Ikea
- Settee – Zinc by French Connection at DFS
- Copper hanging planter – Cool local seller, Geofleur