If you’ve been following my kitchen posts (why I hated the old one and plans for the new one), we’re creating our dream kitchen out of an entirely different room in the house – the dining room. Which has meant quite considerable building work to achieve a suitable layout for a kitchen and to fix some of the issues caused by the half-hearted adaptation of two terraced cottages into our house back in the 1950s. Almost no room in the house was left untouched by the job, not least because of the filthy black lime mortar dust created whenever you strip the walls back to bare stone. It has definitely been a bit of an upheaval, one which I probably could have done without while pregnant, but it has all absolutely been worth it!
In order to install a kitchen in the dining room we needed to bash it about a bit first. It was far from simple as my last post on our plans for it showed – we have been through three plans already and the final layout is slightly different again, as we needed to be flexible depending on what was uncovered when we removed walls (because with these h0uses over 200 years old you really never know what you will find). It took a while, it was absolutely filthy and unbelievably disruptive, and it cost us quite the fortune, but it all went really quite smoothly in fact! The building work was all done by a local builder, Dave, and he and his colleague Nathan were probably the holy grail of builders – they turned up when they said they would, they worked quickly, they discussed things with me as they went along (and were happy to revise things if I asked), and they cleared up after themselves each day, and only asked for one or maybe two cups of coffee a day! Given that I was at home nearly every day of the two and a half month-build, it was pretty crucial I got along with them, and I can honestly say the whole process was quicker and easier than I had imagined. It was also wonderful not having to dedicate our every spare moment to doing the work ourselves, and some of it was probably beyond our technical capabilities anyway, so it was quite refreshing not to be DIY-ing it as we usually do. There was still a fair bit of that though.
Removing the chimney
The first thing we needed to do to make room to install a kitchen around the edges of the room was remove the enormous chimney breast which was two metres wide and extended over a metre deep into the room, plus another half a metre for the fireplace. Of course, if taking out the chimney downstairs, the ones up above it had to be removed also (or we could have added steel supports, but we also wanted extra room in our bedroom above). So they started with the chimney stack on the roof, down through the attic, and into our bedroom, gaining us an extra half a metre of space (which doesn’t sound much but has made a big difference), before finally removing it in the dining room. They managed to do all of this in 4 days! I thought we would have a kitchen a week later at this point I was so impressed!
Here’s the roof showing the chimney we removed (in the centre) and the old solar panels connected to a water heating system which wasn’t connected to anything else!
and with them gone:
Our bedroom before and during – because we haven’t managed to finish this space off yet. It has been plastered and mist coated now though. You can see from the floor in the second pic how much room we gained. I intend to add shelving across the gap with a vanity table kind of effort at the bottom and the dog bed will then live underneath the table.
And the dining room with fireplace when we first moved in, and during the removal. You can see how much extra space is created from the carpet cut out again.
Creating a new window
This was my favourite part of the project. Having worked out where I wanted the window (over the sink), which at the time, despite having measured many times, felt like total guesswork as there was no kitchen to speak of and never had been, it took Nathan just a couple of hours to make the opening once the new lintel was in. Suddenly the dark room was filled with light and I could begin to imagine the new space. Then we covered it up with boards for another few weeks while we waited for the made to measure window to arrive, but I discovered one morning the builders had drawn a pretty countryside scene on it for me! Alas the actual view is of the stone retaining wall in our garden, but at least it is light.
Adding a new side entrance
Given that we will eventually be moving the front door from the side of the cottage to the centre, I wanted direct outside access to the kitchen, for bringing in shopping, prams, and dirty dogs etc. It also means we have access from the shared side passage which we actually own but couldn’t use as there was no entrance to our house or garden from it and the neighbours were using it for their dog and bikes. I have always dreamt of a cottage with a little stable door, and our lovely little old carpenter Derek kindly obliged, even adding a little window for me as well as traditional wrought iron fittings. It required a bit of engineering as we discovered the side passage was a foot higher than floor level in our house, so there’s a natty little step down inside, and because of that we needed to change the cellar door to open inwards instead of out, so it wasn’t totally straightforward. On hot days it is amazing to open up the top and have a nice breeze through the kitchen. I can’t wait to paint it up a cute colour and add a nice door knocker too. Maybe by the time Emilia is three or four I’ll get around to it!
Preparing the walls
As we stripped the four different types of woodchip and anaglypta wallpaper(!) in the room we realised that underneath was wooden board stapled to battens, not plaster, and it was in bad shape. The ceiling too was ancient lathe and plaster and needed to come out, so we stripped the entire room back to the stone and joists. Which meant re-plasterboarding the entire room before plastering, which gave us a much neater room to work with and meant we could conceal all the electrics easily without having to gouge holes in the walls.
At this point I asked them to straighten the side wall with the door to the front in it, as at some point it had been brought into the room to provide a slightly larger porch area. You can see this on the carpet cut out. It is very tight as a porch now that wall has been rebuilt, but only until we move the door – at which point it will become a very roomy pantry. Living the dream!
I also wanted the old fashioned curved arch on the other side of the room removed and widened and raised as much as possible to create an open plan feel from the kitchen through to the living room, as eventually our front door will also be just the other side and I wanted the area as big and airy as possible. Just squaring off the arch makes it look so much more modern and it feels much bigger, but I forgot to take photos of this.
Next Kitchen Steps
So, at the end of all the main building work, we had a freshly plastered box, all ready for us to install the kitchen of our dreams…post on that coming just as soon as I can get Emilia down for a long enough nap!