This year I completed the hardest project of my professional career.
Was it the one where we designed and built 3 houses from the ground up? Was it the one where the client had a penchant for the bespoke without the budget to back it up? Or was it the redesign of a 45m2 studio flat in Battersea into a seriously cool one bed flat?
Nope, none of the above.
The hardest job of my career was a straight forward kitchen refurbishment in Crowle, a picturesque village just outside my hometown of Worcester.
Now, to be clear, it wasn’t the type of project that made it difficult. Nor was it the location, some two and a half hours from my SW London base. The budget was sensible and the brief and style were well within my wheelhouse. The thing that set this project apart was the jeopardy. The “what if it goes a bit sideways?” element. This was the kitchen of my mother-in-law, in the beloved childhood home of my wife and sisters-in-law. If I didn’t get this right, Christmas would be a very different experience from now on…
When Laila and Martin approached me to help with the redesign, I was a little apprehensive. I try to avoid working with family in much the same way Blue Peter presenters avoid screen-time with elephants, but they seemed open to my initial ideas and have seen and liked most of my other projects to date. So, I felt like an exception should be made here. I’m so glad I did as we created a truly beautiful space that I am really proud of and which the whole family seem to love.
Which is lucky..!
So, this is how we did it.
Originally, the plan was to extend the kitchen and build a large room out to the rear of the property, but planning issues made them decide to put a pin in that. However, although still practical, the kitchen could use a bit of an update. So the brief was to update the room whilst maintaining the feel of this well-loved space.
Because the layout was to remain the same, there was little point in removing and replacing the units themselves, which were bespoke pine and brass. They also sat well with the style of the property. The main changes would be the worktop, lighting and splash-backs. And the Wall colour would have to change too. We would also be able to reduce the depth of the base cabinets by about 100mm. Although this doesn’t sound like a lot, it would make a real difference when moving around the space – especially with the dining table in-situ.
As the worktop is one of the most visible elements in a kitchen, it’s really important to get this right. The worktop in this case was a tiled surface which, aside from starting to look a little dated and tired, doesn’t wear too well. The grouting between the tiles can discolour easily and it’s a far less practical surface than a stone, for example. My idea was to replace this with granite. I’ve spoken before about my love of stone worktops – granite especially – as they are hard wearing, practical, and can be really beautiful. Despite the vast range of shades and patterns available, most people will think of granite as that black material fitted by developers with a creativity bypass. A bit of research however, can reveal a real treasure trove of colours and patterns. As the flag flooring wasn’t being changed, I wanted to try to incorporate a bit of the rust red colour into the top, not as a main colour, but an accent if possible. I found an amazing stone called Bordeaux River which picked this out perfectly and would add a bit of luxury to the space. The polished surface would also bounce a bit more light around the room, helping to keep it light and bright. We would also specify an Ogee profile for edge to add a little bit of period interest.
The splash-back would be re-tiled in a rich green brick tile with a beveled edge profile to add another colour and to draw out a slight green tone I’d pick up on in the granite. Being a gloss tile, they also helped to bounce a bit more light about.
The wall colours would also be green, though a softer, less intense shade by Farrow & Ball (obvs) called “Lichen”. This helped to tie the worktop and the splash-back together, bridging the gap between the hint of green in the top and the vibrancy of the tile.
As you can see from the before shots below, the lighting was also in need of an update. I really wanted to highlight specific areas within the room. This would help to make the space feel bigger by drawing the eye from one area to another and allow specific details to really come to the fore. We would replace the 2 three spot plates with a couple of recessed spots to highlight the wall hung cabinet and the larder units, and drop three pendants over the sink and work space area, really helping to take your eye to the beautiful granite. Under unit lighting below the wall hung cabinet continued to illuminate the worktop right the way across the run. We decided to drop another, larger pendant light in the form of a rise and fall over the dining table to help make this a focal point and feature.Lastly, we would light up the recessed archway over the hob, which would really highlight the new tiles.
All the appliances were pretty new, so there would be no need to replace them. The brass handles and hardware were also in really good condition so would also be staying. To try to pull everything together, we would replace the chrome tap with a less incongruous, and more glamorous, brass bridge fitting. The steel sink would be replaced by a 1+1/2 white ceramic basin, which would be under-mounted with draining grooves cut into the worktop. The blinds too would also have to go, no longer working with the new colour scheme. All of the wood work would be repainted white to help tie in the grouting and keep things looking fresh.
The finished result.
I’ve put together some before and after shots of this project and it’s really interesting to see the old and new side by side. The room looks completely different now, the colours adding vibrancy and the area specific lighting combined with the reflective surfaces of the tiles and granite add a touch of luxury.
I’m really pleased with the end result here, and I’m SO glad my Mother-In-Law is too!