All the best parties end up in the kitchen

So my personal interior design challenge continues and after 11 weeks my kitchen is finished. Being such an old house a lot of decisions could only be made as went along. We didn’t know what we’d find behind the chimney breast. We didn’t know what would be under the floor that had to be dug up for the underfloor heating. We uncovered original features we didn’t know we had and we had to alter multiple units to make them fit my misshapen, wonky walls. Consequently my plan always had multiple options for certain features so not even I knew exactly what it would look like when it was finished. It’s been frustrating, filthy and sometimes freezing but it has all been worth it. I LOVE my new kitchen. It’s where I eat all my meals, it’s become my new favourite spot to work and it’s where we always end up if we have visitors. It’s like having a brand new room in the house.

The feedback I’ve had has also been very rewarding. Every single contractor that has been involved (and there has been a lot) has commented that they had been unsure about my colour choices, the size of the island and some elements of the layout but once they saw it completed they were sold. So as promised here are some photo’s.

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The kitchen is from a shaker style range called 1909, and I had it painted in Farrow & Ball Rectory Red and Ringwold Ground. The mantelpiece is oak as is the 10cm thick custom made butchers block top on the island. This butchers block is like a magnet when people come into the room, you just can’t stop yourself from running your hands over it because it’s such a piece of craftsmanship. It’s had 5 coats of Osmo oil so far and will probably need a few more yet. We finally have a dishwasher and an in cupboard bin, and I love the pull out wooden trays under the sink. For years I’ve been exasperated by having to store trays on top of cupboards or down the side of a unit. Why has it taken until now for kitchen companies to introduce these into their ranges!

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We made room for the island by digging a hole in the chimney breast to fit a 90cm wide SMEG oven. It was a tight fit and getting an extractor small enough to fit above it and remain hidden was a challenge but the builders came through for me. We even had to quickly source a steel plate one afternoon from a local scrap merchants to ensure there was enough support in it for the wall above. The space above the mantelpiece was perfect for another localised timezone clock (see my post on Murray’s man cave), some vintage ginger beer bottles a good friend of mine bought me when she came to stay, some antique pewter tankards and an hour glass I picked up in Heals years ago and love.

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The island itself houses an 18 bottle wine chiller and a 2 drawer fridge which is fantastically spacious and means you’re not always bending down to peer into the back of the fridge. On the wall behind the island next to the back door is a unit which houses a custom made wine glass rack – no more cramming wine glasses into cupboards or having to store them in the garage!

I bought two pewter finished adjustable height stools from a company called Steel Magnolias for seating, although we have brought another 4 stools in from the summer house a couple of times when we’ve had visitors so we can all sit around the island. It’s also great to finally have enough lighting. The old kitchen was so dingy and now I have multiple options. The pewter lights above the island and the sink are from Industville and are one of my favourite features. It looks so cosy when all the other lights are off.

So with the kitchen complete I am now finishing off the bedrooms and have started the plan for the upstairs bathroom. Another two months and I might actually be finished here…..

So now we have a habitable house we can have visitors again and this weekend Mr W’s entire family descended on us, so many of them that additional accommodation had to be booked in Cockermouth. They normally come in December but as the house was a bomb site we postponed until January which also meant we could celebrate Burns night together. The Trout Hotel in Cockermouth held a fantastic dinner on Friday night, with six courses, a piper and of course the traditional “address to a haggis”. The kilts were out, a few wee drams of whisky were consumed and the minibus home was very rowdy…..

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The host reciting the “address to a haggis” by the famous Robert Burns

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On Saturday night the party was back at Holly Cottage. We’d bought a Serrano ham at Christmas but had been too sick to eat it so we brought it out for the party and created our own alternative to Burns night with the “address to a ham” skilfully delivered by Chris my step-daughters boyfriend. My sister-in-law plays a mean air bagpipe….

And where did all this occur? But in the kitchen of course – where the best parties always end up and this interior designer is happiest.

 

A 50’s style diner and my new pewter addiction

Autumn has arrived in Cumbria….Yesterday mornings rain and 70mph winds kept me firmly indoors, apart from a mad dash to the wood store to re-stock. It wasn’t a bad thing as I have a new client who wants their conservatory turning into a dining area so I spent the morning researching. She’s a bit of an Americanophile (I promise this is an actual word), crazy about Florida, Disney and NFL, so one of the options I’m putting forward is a 50’s style diner with checkerboard floor and retro furniture. I’m secretly (well now publicly) hoping she likes this idea as it would be really fun to do. I have a contact that can make a customised bench seat and I found these great swivel stools on www.whatever.co.uk. Coloured faux leather and formica is easily sourced, as are the retro accessories. Fingers crossed she goes for the idea!

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I also spent time searching online for kitchen fittings. I was getting concerned that my new kitchen design might be getting a little too traditional. I mean I want it to be in keeping with a period house but I don’t want to go all out country cottage. I think the answer is pewter. Chrome is too modern, brass is to twee, but pewter has just the right amount of class with a hint of edginess. And the great news is its everywhere right now. The style of tap I was looking is also available in Pewter (Bayenne duel lever bridge mixer). Second Nature has a great range of solid pewter and pewter finish knobs and handles. And I found these lights and stools online by Industville, a supplier of vintage, retro, antique and industrial furniture and lighting.

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If only I knew what had happened to my Dads pewter tankards after he passed away. He was a morris man and a pewter tankard clipped to the belt was mandatory. I bet I could find a few in my local charity shops, or is this turning into an addiction…..

My island dreams

I have lain on white sandy beaches listening to the rolling surf on many beautiful islands, in the mediterranean, the caribbean and the indian ocean, but these are not the islands I dream about. It’s kitchen islands that float through my head at night. In my most erotic dreams the kitchen island is situated in a basement kitchen with skylights and a dumb waiter (not the two legged variety). I once came close to living this dream in a house in Yorkshire but sadly the house was next to a busy road in a less than salubrious neighbourhood so we had to leave it on the market. But now thanks to the two foot stone walls in Holly Cottage and the extra foot of chimney breast in the kitchen I can push the stove into the chimney and create enough space for an island in my new kitchen. Even greater news is that when I chipped off the wall tiles on the chimney breast the original red sandstone lintels are still in place which I can move up to frame the new stove. They will need grit blasting (she says with a sinking heart as this creates a terrible mess), but it will be worth it as we found when we discovered the original red sandstone fireplace in the living room hiding behind a gas fire and plaster wall (which has to be an interior design crime).

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Sandstone – before in the kitchen, and after in the living room

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So it’s been all kitchens go for the last 3 weeks as I worked on the design and scoured the market (no pun intended) for products. I’ve settled on a painted wood kitchen from the 1909 range. It’s a beautiful shaker style “with a timeless quintessentially British feel” as they put it in their brochure. Perfect for my period property and a style that I can carry through into other areas of the house like the porch and the utility room. The kitchen is a dark room, despite the 2 windows. We have made it lighter by replacing the staircase that leads to the bedroom above and removing the wall that enclosed the previous one, but it’s still a little dingy at times which impacts my colour choices. I wanted to introduce a rich dark red as this colour will flow throughout the downstairs, but the room couldn’t take it so I’ve limited this to the base units and will be having cream coloured units at eye level. I mixed black and white units in an open plan kitchen in London and it was very effective. My local supplier will order the cupboards from 1909 in natural wood and have them painted in my chosen F&B colours.

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Half pencil and scalloped kitchen from 1909 and Farrow & Balls Rectory Red and Ringwold Ground

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It has to be black granite work surfaces as Mr W is a red wine drinker, but I am treating my island to a thick oak butchers block top. I can cope with occasionally re-sanding and oiling a small area but not the whole kitchen. The granite will compliment the black SMEG cooker I intend to pick up at discount at Grand Designs next week in Birmingham. The show is always worth a visit but it is even more worthwhile if you are about to purchase a pricey item and the supplier is exhibiting. Light cream metro tiles will finish it off nicely as you can see in the photo below.

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I spent hours trying to figure out how I could have more fridge space without installing a tall unit as I wanted the red below and cream above design to be consistent and a tall unit would scupper this. Jim at The Cockermouth Kitchen Company, my supplier, suggested a 2 drawer fridge by Hotpoint. No more squatting in front of the fridge for me! I can now put all Mr W’s beer, cheese and chilli products in the bottom drawer and all the useful stuff in the top drawer (i.e. butter and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc). By installing this in the island it will be handy for food prep, and allow me to maintain the triangle you need for navigation between the fridge, cooker and sink. We’re also installing a dishwasher which my current kitchen sadly lacks, and a decent under counter bin. This probably sounds like an obvious comment but after living for the last 4 years with one of those frames on the back of a door that you hang plastic bags on this is probably the thing I am most excited about, after the island of course…

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Lighting has been tricky to source as I really want  a double pendant light above the island but the fixed bars are too long for me low ceilings. But then I discovered David Hunt Lighting at Decorex last month, and they can manufacture bespoke sizes which means I can have this beautiful station lamp altered to the size I need, and get a matching single light pendant for above the sink. With a few spotlights and some under cupboard and in cupboard lighting we can say goodbye to the dingy kitchen.

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The only important feature I need to finalise before I get into the fun stuff, i.e. replacing all the Ikea kitchenware with new, is the taps. I’ve still got a little research to do but I’ve seen a few I like such as this brushed nickel colonial bridge sink mixer tap by Bristan.

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So the order will be placed tomorrow to ensure a pre-Christmas installation. I didn’t think the grit blasting would produce enough mess (!) so I’ve decided to install a wet underfloor heating system which involves digging up the existing floor. But there is nothing nicer than bare feet on warm stone flags, and it means I can remove the radiator to create space for a window seat with a pan drawer below it. So Scratchy the cat also has a seat when me and Mr W are seated at the island I can’t stop dreaming about.

Photo’s to follow when it’s all installed. In the meantime I’m off to scramble some eggs with one of the double yolkers my ladies keep producing. Must be all the treats I feed them. They go mad for corn on the cob. They were all chasing Margo round the hen house last week when she managed to grab a piece for herself. I might have to rename her Usain after her performance.