It’s a very exciting day, for I can finally reveal my kitchen makeover! It’s been a huge transformation and I’ve been beavering away behind the scenes, bringing it to life with IKEA. When we moved into our new house and found ourselves with this terribly vibrant, yellow kitchen, which was dark, dingy and unwelcoming to be in, I knew straight away that I wanted the complete opposite – a light, airy room that would be the sociable heart of the house.
At the same time, IKEA were promoting the idea that ‘when we cook together, we make more than just food’. The concept that the kitchen is not just a purely functional space for feeding ourselves, but a space for ‘happy household togetherness’, whether it’s gathering your nearest and dearest and using every spare chair available, celebrating those wonderful everyday moments or connecting over long, lazy lunches. It’s a philosophy which really chimes with my own, and having had an IKEA kitchen before and been really happy with it, there was only one brand I wanted to turn to to create a place to unwind, nurture and nourish. Watch the video below to find out more and scroll down to see the full transformation…
The role of the kitchen has changed and adapted hugely over the past decades. It used to be a female territory, confined to the back of the house. My previous flat has a narrow, galley kitchen cut-off from the rest of the house, barely two people could fit in it at a time and when friends came round you felt like you had been literally punished to slave away far from everyone else. Now, with the advent of the open-plan, kitchens are multifunctional spaces where we all gather.
At a party you’ll find everyone in the kitchen. They’re places where we can meet, gather friends and family, entertain and work in. They’re also spaces that can be used to display our identity and interests, our personality, hopes and goals in life. People will now display objects, books and arts as they would in a living room, they’ll use the dining table as a home office, they might grab a quick dinner while skyping a friend on the laptop, while the kids might spread their homework across the kitchen island. It’s really where domestic family life comes together – it should be a hard-working room that works of you and your lifestyle. Most of all it should make us feel good.
The kitchen before
The kitchen before didn’t work for us. Not only did the colour give me nightmares, but as you might have seen from my living room reveal post (here), it was separated from the living room and felt isolated at the back of the house. It’s a north-facing room, so felt dark and dingy, especially with the wooden units and heavy, black tiles. Practically it didn’t work either, we kept banging our heads on the extractor fan, doors were falling off, the freezer didn’t work, and the fridge was in one of those small base units with hardly any space to store food for two people.
Having had a separate galley kitchen for ten years, I was really keen to have a connected kitchen and living room. So that when one person is cooking, the other can chat from the sofa, or when friends are round, everyone can mingle in one place. The wall had to come down!
I love cooking so I wanted a kitchen that was smart and practical, with clever storage solutions and space saving tricks, but I also love entertaining – it was really important to me that the functional features of the kitchen faded somewhat into the background, so that the dining table could become the social focus of the space. I didn’t want the kitchen to be a style statement or have a look that tied into a particular trend, it was more a way of living and particular feeling I wanted to recreate – something natural, lived-in and soulful – a reflection of how we wanted to live in the space.
The decision was made to knock down the chimney breast in the kitchen (before it was concealed with a fake wall behind the kitchen units where the extractor fan was). That would gain us an extra 40-50cm to push the kitchen units back neatly along that far wall in the kitchen, and at the same time reduce the awkward meeting point with the window in the corner. It allowed us to widen the doorway to the kitchen and have enough space for a large dining table, something I had wanted for so long.
I think there’s a move in kitchen design to make the space look less ‘kitchen-y’, I didn’t want flashy appliances on show, lots of fussy features or unnecessary finishes or flourishes. I wanted the kitchen to be a neutral backdrop for all the things that make a kitchen homely – pots of herbs, much-loved cookbooks and favourite ceramics, things which show a little of our personality and preferences. IKEA’s Veddinge kitchen really appealed to me. Available in white and grey, the doors are smart and contemporary, just what I was after. They can be fitted with handles or left bare and opened with clever, hidden push-openers.
I was inspired by the light, minimal kitchens the Scandinavians do so well – think muted grey units, clean, white tiles, monochrome accessories and utilitarian, everyday items on show. More than just a look, it was a feeling the Scandinavians capture so well that I wanted to really harness – the attention to detail so that everything has its place, the focus on materials and textures, and products and items that stand the test of time without dating or falling out of fashion. Open shelving looks beautiful, but we really needed all the storage we could get, so decided on upper and lower cupboard units. I love the look of simple metro tiles but found an image where they had been positioned vertically and thought it was a lovely, new take on the look. Here’s the look I was going for:
So, how did we create that look and make it a reality? Planning a kitchen involves lots of decisions from the big to the small. It may seem a bit daunting at first, but I’ve found it needn’t be unnecessarily costly or complicated (builders not included!). I found it really useful to sketch out a plan of my kitchen, using a scale ruler to draw out the units and work out what we could fit in the space. You could even cut out the different sized units as separate bits of paper and position them onto a template of your room, so you can move them around like a jigsaw puzzle. I even measured things out in the kitchen using masking tape so I knew how far units would come out and how it would impact the space, especially next to that window.
Designing a kitchen
Everyone talks about the golden triangle of the sink, hob/oven and fridge/freezer. The arrangement of my kitchen was carefully considered to ensure that the space flowed and as we had quite a small space, just that wall of units, that everything fitted in neatly. I wanted to be able to move intuitively while I was cooking, without making unnecessary journeys or things being in the way. It seemed logical to have the fridge/freezer tucked in the right-hand corner, away from the window. It’s always quite nice to look out the window while you’re washing up, so the sink was positioned there, where the plumbing already was. That left the hob/oven in the middle and two units either side. It made sense to have the dishwasher next to the sink and drawers for plates, pots and pans the other side of the oven.
IKEA kitchen planning
At this point, you can either go into your local IKEA store with your measurements and plan out your kitchen with one of their experts, or someone can come to your home and go through your needs. This service is £40, but I think well-worth it – it’s far easier to imagine what the kitchen will look like in-situ and they can also take accurate measurements so you don’t get any nasty surprises when it comes to fitting.
For my kitchen, Panicos came round and very quickly drew up a 3D model of the space so I could see what it would look like (you can use the same kitchen planner to plan your kitchen yourself online too). We worked out what units would work and how to optimise the space to suit our everyday needs. We went through worktop options and I opted for a hardwearing, white acrylic. He was the one who actually suggested adding the small units above the top units – usually that space is a bit redundant, but it gave us some much-needed extra storage. It was all a very smooth and painless process, he ordered everything we needed and all we had to do was wait for our kitchen to arrive in two weeks (and of course get the builders in gear to plaster the space and get it ready…).
The unit carcasses went in first, then the doors and drawers were fitted. We had a bit of a hiatus while we went to Australia and our builder went awol, but then the fitting of the worktop and finishing touches wrapped up in a few days. I should think if we hadn’t had the delays, it would have taken about 3 weeks from ordering the kitchen to it being fitted and finished.
And here it is!
The end result
Now the space feels so much lighter and bigger. We’ve lost unit space with knocking down the wall, but we’ve gained so much more in terms of how the space feels. I think we’ve actually got more out of the space than before. I’m so pleased we decided to run the units all the way up to the ceiling, not only does it maximise the storage, I think it also helps ground the kitchen and blend it into the space. It now looks clean and contemporary. Everything is organised and has its place, I have found that good planning really does pay off. We don’t have endless workspace or gleaming gadgets, but we do have a very space-efficient kitchen with lots of careful details to make life easier – integrated lighting with hooks for hanging utensils, pull-out rubbish bins hidden away in the unit under the sink, a chopping board that fits over the sink to provide extra workspace, and lots more I’ll get onto later in my next post.
I think my favourite bit of the kitchen is the square sink with the utilitarian Vimmern tap. We had some unexpected pipes to box in from the boiler above the sink, but some postcards hide that unsightly addition for the moment. I display art and postcards around the rest of the house so why not in the kitchen? I’ve been using the hooks to hang herbs and add a bit of greenery to the space.
Regulations state that you have to position plug switches a certain distance from a sink and hob, we wouldn’t have had enough space, but IKEA’s under-unit lights are luckily integrated with plugs and USB outlets. They also have the added bonus of looking rather neat and not detracting from the beautiful, textured Fired Earth tiles with ugly plug switches. Little hooks mean utensils are close to hand while cooking.
The dining table sits opposite the kitchen units. We have a bench on one side and dining chairs on the other. A step stool is handy for when we want to reach the top units of the kitchen.
The lighting works really well to transition from bright overhead LEDs, through task lighting for cooking, to more ambient light from the pendants over the dining table.
I love the simplicity of the kitchen design, it’s a calm, inviting space that we’ve personalised to make our own. Inspired by the big window looking out onto the garden, I’ve sought to bring the outdoors in with lots of herbs, plants and greenery. I’ve tried to soften the sleek, grey units with slightly textured tiles and natural textures, such as the painted wooden floor and the soft rug under foot along the kitchen units. Linen tea towels and earthy-coloured ceramics add a finishing touch.
The kitchen may look beautiful and tidy at the moment but I think it will really come into its own when we start to use it and populate it with our nearest and dearest, when it’s filled with life and personality. It really is an expression of the way we want to live in our new house – an open-plan solution that transitions from a space for cooking to a workspace with the laptop on the dining table, to an intimate gathering space for friends and family and entertaining. Already we’ve shared some lovely moments, from cosy, home-cooked dinners just the two of us to no-stress, no-pressure dinner parties where everything’s just put in the middle and people can dig in and help themselves.
It is the small details that really makes it come to life – the hours I spent painting the old floorboards myself, the deliberation over the perfect light grey for the walls, the finishing touches on display that make it home. I really think it is a space that can adapt and evolve with us, the grey Veddinge units in their simplicity have a timeless appeal and allow the inhabitation of the space to tell the story. The space works for us and our lifestyle, and that’s ultimately what a good kitchen should work hard to do.
I’ll be back on the 6th of March with some more of the details and personal touches that have made this kitchen homely and my own, from clever storage solutions and kitchen lighting to sustainable ideas for sorting rubbish and those little everyday rituals. I’ve listed some of the items featured below, let me know if I’ve missed any. See you then!
Veddinge kitchen doors, from £6
Blankett handles, £3 for 2
Vimmern tap, £100
Norrsjön sink, £253
Underverk extractor fan, £350
Råskog trolley in black, £49
Utrusta under unit lights, from £40
Bäve ceiling lights, £40
Norraryd dining chairs, £50
Bekväm step stool, £14
Wall colour: Farrow & Ball Blackened
Floor colour: Farrow & Ball All White
Dexter pendant lights, £85, Pooky
Bon Bon tiles, 90p/tile, Fired Earth
Itzel print runner rug, £100, Cox & Cox
Milano Alpha vertical radiator, £109,99, Best Heating
You can discover more about my journey from sketch board to finished kitchen on the IKEA ideas website.
This post is an ad feature, created with IKEA. All images: Cate St Hill, copyright IKEA