Our beautiful new kitchen has in fact been made by recycling our old kitchen, but in a different room! The units in the kitchen were never the problem – they have lovely solid oak doors and are really well made – the issue was the tiny room. I loved the units, but I didn’t think it would be easy to salvage them for the new kitchen, so we went ahead and got a quote from Wickes.
Thinking about new
I have to admit that I was impressed with the design service. The woman thoroughly measured everything and really listened to what I wanted, following my brief to keep costs down rather than trying to talk me into unnecessary extras. However, even with the half price New Year offer and only including one single oven appliance-wise, the cost of the kitchen including installation came to £7k! I flatly refused to spend that much money on a kitchen which was actually inferior to the one I already had, replacing oak doors for plastic-coated MDF and ending up broke to boot was just wrong. So I decided recycling the kitchen to make it work in the new space, and updating the doors with some new brass handles rather than the dated farmhouse style ones, would be the better choice.
Deciding on recycling our old kitchen
This wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Because of the tiny room, a lot of units were odd sizes, and since the new room was a totally different shape, I couldn’t just transplant the units in their current configuration. I also wasn’t sure what kind of shape the carcasses would be once we took them out, and I knew we would need new end pieces and some new trim and a new unit to accommodate my butler’s sink (which I was totally insistent on). I couldn’t find any carcasses to buy which had all the items I would need, so I visited a local kitchen fitting shop.
I explained my dilemma and presented them with one of my doors. The owner was a lovely man who told me that normally he would persuade me that an entire new kitchen needed fitting because they don’t supply individual cabinets. I was very obviously pregnant at the time and he said he was a father of four and could see I had the most expensive project of my life just around the corner(!). He was also delighted that I recognised quality and refused to go the way of MDF, so he promised me they would help. And help they did.
I spent a few hours with a tape measure and a bit of paper sketching out various different incarnations of the room and working out how to best fit the units I had and wanted, in a sensible layout. I did this before the window in the room even existed, and although it had a vague location on the back wall, it could be played with a little which helped with the measurements. I eventually had my layout ready, and drew up a highly technical working drawing. (*Sarcasm*) My poor builder took one look and got out his tape measure and went to measure all the units a second time. Quite insulting, but his attention to detail was why I hired him! He then admitted everything fit exactly as I thought, and though he was used to architect’s drawings he could work with my rubbish sketched master plan. Whoop. Here it is. (Poor man).
Building work and recycling our old kitchen
Next step was the building work, which I wrote about here, ending up with a blank canvas into which the kitchen had to be transplanted. We couldn’t order the new carcasses until we saw what came out, so Dave and Nathan (builder-duo-extraordinaire) started removing our old units. Normally this would be a job Ste and I would do ourselves as it isn’t really difficult, but at that point I was very pregnant and incapable of crawling in cupboards to unscrew them or lifting anything at all, so we asked Dave to get cracking on it for us.
Happily all the top units came away in great condition so they could move them straight into situ. Since I needed a new corner cupboard for the bottom, we couldn’t fix anything in place, but they removed the other necessary units for the bottom and put them in place.
The kitchen company then came in to measure and colour match what I needed to complete the job, and four days later the new units arrived all assembled and cut to perfect size. This cost £1,500 in total, including five new base units, one a large corner cupboard with two space-saving carousels, and a bespoke unit to house my new oven and microwave and some wine storage.
It meant that I could have the beautiful marbled quartz worktop I wanted (£2k) and still come in way under the budget quoted by Wickes (which included a laminate work surface).
Dave then very cleverly recycled all the plinths and trim from the old kitchen to finish off the units, and installed new baseboards on it all.
I switched out all the handles on the units to try and give the room a more modern feel.
Then the worktop people came and measured up, and they delivered and installed the quartz a week later.
We still needed doors for the cabinet under the sink and under the cooker, because they were shorter than the cabinets in the old kitchen and we didn’t have a door in the right size. Derek the carpenter came to the rescue and expertly cut two doors down to size for us, and you would never know to look at them. The rest of the doors I recycled onto the same units or the new ones.
At this point I got very excited and we moved the dishwasher into place, Ste plumbed in my new sink, and we got the fridge and range into place, and voila – an actual kitchen! Even more excitingly, I moved the tumble dryer from one side of the house into the old kitchen on the other side, so for the first time in five years since I moved back from Italy I had my washing machine and tumble dryer in the same room. The old kitchen was going to become a utility but we’ve realised a playroom and small office space for Ste is more useful, so the downstairs loo will become a small utility.
I was far too pregnant to do anything much useful at this point, but one day, frustrated at a very overdue baby, I climbed my 9+month-pregnant backside into the window and painted it! Still cannot believe I managed it, or that I got down from there.
It looked great when I finished though, hard to believe there never used to be a window on this side of the room.
The final part of the new kitchen was to build a chimney breast around the range to house the cooker hood and also to include storage for all my cookbooks in the side pillars.
The room was perfectly functional before, but it looked quite strange, just a big box. The construction of the frame around the range suddenly made the room look and feel like a real kitchen, and I am so pleased we did it.
I also love the shelves for my cookbooks, though there was a bit of a hitch with this. The plasterer didn’t talk to the builder or carpenter about whether to use edging around the alcove, and it turned out it didn’t need it, and meant the perfectly sized shelving unit did not slot straight in as it should. Cue our lovely sweet old carpenter Derek wielding an angle grinder cutting the edges off, and taking with it some of the plaster, to make them fit.
This left a ragged edge which I have only recently plastered the edges of so we can finally fit the bookshelves in place. I still need to do a final coat of paint before that happens though!
It also took me an entire year (babies are time consuming it turns out) to crack on with the mantel shelf to finish it off, but it makes all the difference.
Laying a new floor
Emilia has also been crawling and is nearly walking now and I realised we had to get the flooring done. We had lived with the old bitumen floor that was under the old carpets for a whole year and I was delighted to see the back of it. I really wanted flagstones (in fact there are some under the bitumen but the cost of bringing them up, cleaning them and relaying with a new floor underneath was prohibitive) but alas, our budget does not extend to such things. Instead I found an amazingly priced faux slate tile in Topps Tiles of all places (usually far too expensive compared to others but actually they had what I wanted for the best price) at £9 per square metre. We also tiled from the kitchen into the downstairs toilet which involved removing the toilet, and used the tiles leftover from the back of the range for the floor in the pantry-to-be (currently the entrance hall). We hired a professional tiler for this because at the moment we don’t have the time, and it was worth it for the speed and the fantastic job which our tiler did.
So that’s where we are with the kitchen right now in fact. We still need to paint again, install the bookshelves in the chimney space, paint the doors, add skirting and wood trims, put up some shelves and some art, and of course, eventually when we move the front door, turn the current porch area into my walk-in pantry, but everything works just fine for now. We are trying to get things done as and when we can, and though we are prioritising rooms where there is even less to do to get them “done” so we can tick them off the list completely, i.e. the bathroom and our bedroom, the occasional bit of painting is happening downstairs too, because I am just so excited that the end is almost in sight!
I am so glad we decided that recycling our old kitchen was the best option for us. I now have a beautiful bespoke room which cost less than half of what a new kitchen would have, and is far better quality. Obviously not everyone has a lovely kitchen they can recycle when wanting a new one, but there are serious bargains to be had on eBay if you are willing to wait for the perfect opportunity. Often you will be required to remove the kitchen yourself though, so perhaps see if your builder is willing to travel to do this for you if it is not something you would be confident doing.