OUR KITCHEN CHOICES TO HELP YOU PLAN YOURS

After months of researching then months of going through the mess (grrrrrrr) we finally came through, fed up of microwave foods, but ridiculously happy with our new kitchen.

Here are our choices with the reasons why along with tips based on our experience to help you on your design journey. I’ve broken each area down incase you want to scroll through and look for anything in particular (is my obsessiveness with structure and organisation coming through?! ha ha)

Layout

Layout-wise we turned one half of our old kitchen into a banquette area so we could use the formal dining room across the hall as a playroom. The other end of the kitchen gained a peninsula and space which we stole from the downstairs cloakroom on the other side. Here are the before and after pics:

The full details of how we went about creating a banquette, including recommended dimensions, whilst gaining more storage and making the rest of the kitchen work can be found here.

One thing I’d recommend to anyone changing their layout is to mark it out on the floor using masking tape before making any decisions. It really helped us to physically see how big the clearances would be to determine whether we could have an extra cupboard at the end of our peninsula and how big the dining table could be.

So, down to the nitty gritty…

Choosing a supplier

Knowing our budget and knowing that I wasn’t going to compromise on bi-fold doors or quartz worktop meant also knowing that made to measure cabinetry and really high-end kitchens were unlikely. However that didn’t stop me looking to them for tips and inspiration and I fell in love with the Tom Howley ranges; rather than it ‘dangling the carrot’ for something I knew we couldn’t have, I saw it as research and an exciting challenge to work out what it was I loved about them in order to recreate the look for waaaaaay less. Armed with all of this information it gave me clarity when knowing what I was looking for with the suppliers in budget like Howdens and Magnet.

There wasn’t a huge difference between them to be honest as their ranges are in the same ball park and very similar, so it became more about having a rapport with a designer who got me and having trust in their ability to pull together the best combination, which is the main reason I chose to go with Magnet. She made recommendations that worked with my vision as opposed to upselling and really thought about our kitchen project in its entirety instead of focusing solely on what they were supplying. There was also a huge amount of difference in the time she spent in the space before going back to create the plan in comparison to the others.

We managed to get a huge discount through our builder/fitter at trade price so it’s always worth asking what accounts they have.

Door fronts


For a transitional style like mine, shaker fronts are great mixed with a sleek dining table and contemporary pendant light as they balance each other out. If you’re thinking of having the same, the one thing I’d mention is that some shaker style units have multiple grooves which I decided against because it’s really easy for grime to get in there and it creates a much more traditional look.I deliberated and deliberated over white or soft grey coloured door fronts. Knowing that I definitely wanted white walls, white dining table and white marble worktops I decided to add warmth to the doors by choosing ‘Leighton Grey’, particularly as our window frames are dark grey.

Built in door fronts which fit into the frame are generally more expensive than those that are hung on the front of the carcass and there seem to be pros and cons for both:

– Built in framed doors look more traditional in my opinion because there’s that extra crafted detail. There’s less clearance to get into the cupboard because of the frame plus dust and grime can also build up in there.

– Front-hung frameless doors can arguably look cheaper but are a more modern version of the shaker style and easier to clean and get access to. This is what we opted for.

– If budget doesn’t allow built in but you love the more traditional look, a compromise can be checking that the range you like has an ornate cornice option. This is the coving that runs along the top of your units. We opted to not have one at all but if you check out my Kitchen Decor board above you’ll see some with this detail.

I realised from my Pinterest boards and the Tom Howley style research that I love chrome traditional cup handles and knobs which I sourced independently.

Ready built vs flat pack carcasses

In some cases you can choose whether to have your carcasses delivered flat packed or ready built and there are a couple of factors to consider here:

– it can seem cheaper to go for flat packed but unless you’re building them yourself you need to consider the extra time you pay your builder/installer to assemble them so it may not be cost effective at all

– if you don’t have a huge amount of storage you may need to opt for flat packed and build as you need them. Much to my husband’s annoyance we had to clear out our garage to store the ready built units!

Electrics

Try to ensure you have a complete plan for where your electrics should be before the project starts, or at least have a vague idea. This could save you hassle, disappointment and expense later on. I drew a plan (hand drawn, nothing fancy) to give to the electrician and considered:

– how we could hide as many points as possible by asking for appliance switches to be put inside the cupboards

– if we needed under cabinet lighting (we decided we didn’t because the extractor above the hob has an in-built light so there was only a cupboard to the right which could have had some anyway)

– how many spots we wanted in the ceiling and where they should be located in relation to the rest of the design including them working with the location of the pendant light and appropriately lighting the worktops. There are guidelines online stating how many spots you should have and what distance they should be apart; check out my Pinterest board below. Some say they should be equidistant throughout the room, others suggest placing them where they’re needed without causing unwanted shadows to create a more sophisticated scheme. I have to admit to finding it a bit of a minefield; you can hire dedicated lighting designers but after going round in circles I decided to stick with simplicity. We put equidistant fixed spots in the kitchen end but two directional spots at the banquette end so we could position them towards the panelled wall and be complimentary to the pendant.

– how many dimmers we wanted (I.e if spots at the dining end would be on a separate circuit to the kitchen end, as well as the pendant light)

– if we needed a USB point to charge phones and tablets (we put one inside the panelled wall storage at the banquette end)

– if we needed additional electrical points put elsewhere in the house to save having to get them back (we had outside points put on the external wall ready for our garden project next year)

– if we had sufficient points for other requirements in addition to the obvious things like kettle and toaster. We put a double socket on the wall central to the peninsula which currently isn’t used and is hidden behind our pierced jar vase but I may put a statement table lamp there at some point. There are a few extra sockets in the panelled wall storage for our Bluetooth speaker so we can play music from inside the cupboard without having to see it and my husband was ecstatic to get his ‘coffee station’ in there too.

Lighting

I’ve covered some elements of lighting in ‘electrics’ but when it came to statement lighting:

– I spent a ridiculous amount of time considering whether to have small hanging pendants above the peninsula as well as the single pendant above the dining table, along with finding the perfect complimentary styles for each, but in the end I decided to keep it simple and go for the one statement light instead of breaking up the space. I also didn’t want to cause too much clutter in the vignette area I had planned on the peninsula

– I decided to go for a modern chrome sputnik lightto contrast the traditional cup handles and knobs and to complement the bamboo Chippendale chairs I had to have (I’ll share my journey for those enigmatic chairs soon)

Flooring

Now I love the look of large natural marble/stone tiles but there are a few reasons why I didn’t go down this road:

– we were running the same floor throughout the whole of the ground floor which includes the hallway and playroom. Great for the hallway but too cold and hard for a playroom

– the kitchen bi-folds aim to bring the outside in, which means (hopefully, you know what the British weather is like) wet slippery feet running in and out from the paddling pool and the thought of our girls falling on such a hard surface sends shivers up my spine

– having a white marble worktop and white walls was never up for discussion, so having a wood effect floor added warmth and a different dimension. Another ‘Transitional’ trait

– underfloor heating wasn’t an option so we needed to add warmth

We therefore decided on Quayside Oak LVT by Camaro because:

– LVT (luxury vinyl tiles) are apparently more indestructible against water spillages and heavy traffic than real wood or laminate which can buckle if they get wet and dent easier. Having two young children and friends over for play dates, spillages are bound to happen. Shops and commercial premises tend to use this material too, according to the research I did

– It’s really warm

– It works in all rooms on our ground floor

– I loved the tone and texture of the Camaro Quayside Oak. Karndean seems to be the industry leader and I have friends who are really happy with theirs. I chose Camaro because I read really good reviews on it, it’s a bit cheaper which became important due to our non-negotiables! and our fitter said if he was going to choose between the two brands he’d go for Camaro every time as he thinks it’s just as good quality but without the ‘name’. There are others who may disagree but these factors are what I based my choice on and I’m chuffed to bits with our floor months on.

Worktop

As I’ve said already, the white marble effect was a non-negotiable but I did a huge amount of research on what type of material to use to achieve this look and this is why we chose Venato Bianco quartz:

– Actual marble is hugely expensive and very porous so it’s not great for red wine stains and the like

– Granite is a natural stone which means your piece is unique and the quality is consistent, but in the same vein (no pun intended) the design can be inconsistent and there’s less colour choice. It’s pretty durable but it is quite porous and it’s not as heat resistant as quartz.

– Quartz is semi-natural manmade so the design is predictable, there’s a huge colour choice, it’s durable, heat resistant and non-porous.

– Templating for quartz isn’t done until the base units are fitted, which is great if, like us, you’re not sure whether to extend the worktop out over the units to fit a bar stool underneath

Backsplash & Tiling

From the very beginning I loved all those Pinterest pics of kitchens with a white marble herringbone tile splash back, but there are a few reasons I (sadly) didn’t use them:

– I was worried about marble effect worktop and tiles being a bit too much

– The tiles I found that were marble effect were made from porous materials so bologneise sauce would have caused staining

– I like balance and thought drawing attention to the wall behind the hob would highlight the lack of a clean run of units due to our oven housing on the left hand side

– There would have been a lot of grouting to clean!

I therefore opted to run the quartz up the whole of that visible wall, then have an upstand running along the sink wall plus up and onto the windowsill to create a cleaner look.

Peninsula

The purpose of the peninsula was to provide extra storage lost when creating our banquette seating area at one end of the kitchen. You can read more about this here.

We could have had an extra 300mm cupboard at the end and we nearly chose to have a wine fridge, but after marking out the layout on the floor we decided to err on the side of caution and give ourselves a bigger clearance around it with the option of extending the quartz out once the cupboards were fitted. This is what we went for to allow space for a bar stool, which works brilliantly as one of us can sit and chat to the other one while they’re cooking (OK, let’s be honest here, I sit and drink wine while my hubby cooks. I’m lucky that he loves cooking!)

Sink

I really didn’t want to break up the consistent lines along the worktop so went for a white sink and because we went for a quartz worktop it meant we could have an undercount sink too. After much research we went for a Schock sink, a non-porous granite composite material which doesn’t stain or allow bacteria to thrive and I love it!

Tap

A traditional tap appealed to me so much more than the sleek ones which seem to be everywhere so it took a while to source, but in the end I found the perfect chrome bridge tap with white ceramic handles. They’re designed for Belfast sinks but I really like it with our set up!

Heating

We lost both our radiators to the bi-folds and to allow room for the oven door to open. We’d ruled out underfloor heating, so there were only two options:

– have a heater installed underneath the bench seating and add a vent, but after researching it they’re not always that effective so we decided against it

– install a tall vertical radiator on the only wall we had spare, behind the door coming into the kitchen. This is what we decided to do but we ordered a double radiator to get maximum coverage.

Wall colour

I don’t know about you but I find choosing the right shade of white harder than any other colour?! I knew all along that I’d have white on the walls so it was the ‘simple’ task of finding the right one; one not too creamy as I wanted the fresh look and less green undertones as I wanted our green-grey unit doors to look more grey. In the end I went for ‘White Cotton’ from Dulux as it seemed to bring out the grey and complement the warm tones in the floor.

Accessories

Now, when it comes to colour palettes I love to keep the colours neutral and calming, choosing to mix textures and shapes, modern with classic, and having fun with accessories that can easily be changed (a lot of it DIY/upcycled – hence why I’ve set up a blog so I can share them with you lovely people!). This is my style, it’s what I’m drawn to and what keeps me calm and happy, but it’s also practical. Few people have endless pots of gold to continuously change large items in their home as seasons and moods change, right? You can read my post on accessorising our kitchen and my post on Transitional Style for more info.

Please tag @ohsokel and use #OSKinspired on Instagram if you create something after reading this post. I’d love to see the results!

Until next time,

OSK xx

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