Our Self-Build Kitchen Experience

When we first viewed the flat we knew that the kitchen was going to take A LOT of work. The size was quite generous for an internal kitchen, but it felt dark, dingy and just generally ugly. I like cooking but I couldn’t imagine making more than a cup of tea in this place (disclaimer – I love tea so I would be happy to make it anywhere). We knew this was going to be a tricky one but I was excited to transform it.

First step was ripping everything out and making a plan.

When everything was out we realised that by reconfiguring the layout we could actually give some space to the small back bedroom. We also had to figure out the ceiling. There were lots of different boxed in sections and we were a little worried about what was underneath. (See Stuart being worried below)

Thankfully, the boxing on the wall wasn’t hiding anything scary, just some old pipes. The one on the ceiling was a structural beam, so we made sure not to disturb it and left it well alone. To make the ceiling flat we decided to lower the whole thing to the height of the beam. The ceiling in the kitchen was over 3m high so losing 200mm wasn’t a problem. It also meant that we could add spotlights. We moved the existing partition wall 500mm into the kitchen, this made a huge difference to the back bedroom (I’ll be doing a post on the bedroom soon) and the kitchen felt more appropriately sized.

The next issue was the lack of natural light in the space. One solution to this was to add a high-level, internal window into the bedroom, but I thought that would be odd. Imagine your asleep and someone goes to the kitchen for a late-night fridge raid and BAM! The lights are on and you’re wide awake! No thanks. Also, I’m not a fan of internal windows.

We decided to add a cut out in the wall between the kitchen and the hall as well as raising the doorway to the same height. I had a look on Pinterest and found lots of great ideas.

We decided (based on my limited joinery skills) to go with a simple cut out with shelves for extra storage. To make the shelves usable we strengthened the wall and made it wider.

We measured the space and went kitchen shopping. B&Q was launching their new kitchen range and giving out free Subway so we decided to go there first. They do have a great range of kitchen designs but I felt that they were slightly limited for our small space. I knew I wanted extra high cabinets and they didn’t have anything suitable. We have used Ikea kitchens before and I think they are great, especially for small spaces. I made a plan online and booked an in-store appointment.

The appointment took around an hour. They check that doors have space to open and that everything complies with regulations. I’d also recommend the complimentary hot chocolate. I enjoyed one along with two cups of tea (I told you I love tea).

The next step was to prep the space. If you follow us on Instagram you probably know the plasterer drama. I won’t go into too much detail on here but basically, the first plasterer ran away and we had to find a new one who could fit us in around his other projects. This set us back a couple of weeks and was a bit of a headache.

The units were really easy to build and install. We had some professional help with the worktop since we didn’t have the right tools. We decided to invest in a solid oak worktop rather than a laminate. I can’t remember where I heard it but one piece of advice that has stuck with me is to spend money on finishes that you touch often. So, we saved money on the units but spent more on cabinet handles and the worktop. I also really wanted an under-counter sink so we had to have a solid surface. Because Ikea cabinets are slightly deeper they need a 630mm wide worktop rather than the standard 600mm. We struggled to find one the right size (that wasn’t from Ikea) so we ordered one that was 700mm and cut it down.

We also had a little drama with the tiles, specifically the grout.

The grout soaked into the un-treated worktops. We bought an orbital sander and (with some effort) managed to get the stain out. I don’t think I’ll be in a rush to use dark grout near wood again.

We were then onto the finishing touches. Ideally, we would have painted before installing the kitchen but we had to wait on the plaster drying totally and we were on a tight schedule. I do all the painting and decorating while Stuart does all the technical, skilled or manual jobs. Since I also work 3 days, Stuart is often ahead of me but it doesn’t really make sense for him to spend time painting when he could be doing other things. So in this case instead of him painting the kitchen (a job that I am comfortable with) then installing the kitchen, he installed it then moved onto the bathroom while I came behind and painted.

I then built the shelves to go in the wall opening and Stuart wired in the appliances.

I ‘m so happy with how this little kitchen turned out. It might be small but i’d be happy to have it as my own.

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