Building The Dream, Chapter 6: Kitchen Goals & Pantry Porn

Creating a ‘Self Build’ home for our family

Reading Time: 9 minutes

It’s more of a design inspiration style post for you today, lovely people. I had planned to write all about how we had finally achieved being wind and watertight this month, but despite having aimed to be at that point by last Christmas, we’re still not! So I am saving that for chapter 7 now. Fingers crossed!

It does feel quite refreshing to get to talk about something a bit more ‘trivial’ than my usual heartfelt, stressed out ramblings and shift the focus momentarily onto the interiors and specifically, something I am far too excited about and which is really the whole centre of and reason for this project: our new dream kitchen.

In all our previous houses, we have either had a kitchen no bigger than a few square meters or a galley style kitchen in which you must shuffle past each other like a crab to pass to the other end or collide if you wish to open the dishwasher door consecutively with the oven on the opposite side (first world problems!). I have had visions since we first became a family, of the most beautiful open plan setup, where we can chat, drink wine, cook, do homework, have a nap on the sofa and run in circles around a huge kitchen island all in one room at one time, in a space flooded with natural light, which would be the hub of the home and flow out into the rear garden for dinner parties and Summer BBQs.

I am absolutely determined to find a supplier that will provide us with these stunning Crittall style steel doors for less than the price of a fortnight in Bora Bora.

When we had first begun our house hunt, it amazed me that so few ready-made properties offered this kind of layout. I suppose it’s more of a contemporary thing and funnily enough the typical new build style property is not really to my taste. I adore properties with age and character but all the charming old buildings I was so drawn to during our initial search, seemed to have especially dark and dingy kitchens, away from the garden, without space to dine in, and restrictions with being listed that meant it would be difficult to adapt it to suit our desired ground floor ‘flow’. We eventually realised that this ideal made-to-measure entertaining space wouldn’t exist to perfection unless we created it ourselves somehow.

Even the plans that had originally been approved for this self-build project were slightly odd for the modern family, we thought. The proposed dwelling had been designed with a tiny pantry style utility area, a kitchen at the back of the house with a traditional window overlooking the garden and a dining space at the front with a feature window looking across the driveway. So, in our non-material amendments submitted to the planning office, we switched the entire ground floor layout, to make what had previously been suggested as a disproportionately large office/study directly off the pointlessly long, skinny living room, into a 4m wide laundry/boot room (one of the things high on our wish list!) and moved the living room to the other end of the house.

We divided this into two spaces to allow for a ‘posh grown-up living room’ where we can truly switch off and unwind of an evening (and are seriously considering making a digital free zone at least after a certain hour, along with our master bedroom), and a kid’s living room come playroom or ‘the family room’, where they can make a mess, have the TV as loud as they like and where the dog will be allowed to climb on the not-so-fancy sofa. This then freed up the space at the other end of the house for a 10m long kitchen/diner of dreams, which we also swapped around so that the dining area will open out onto the rear garden and added bi-fold doors to allow a seamless connection between the inside and outside spaces.

Now the design….

So my list of ‘essentials’ was this:

Herringbone/Parquet Wood Floor

As we are having underfloor heating, solid wood is sadly a no no, but whilst my floor laying husband is a huge fan of luxury vinyl tiles such as Amtico and has pushed and pushed for this as it’s so hardwearing and practical (or we had also considered limestone), I am a sucker for the warmth of wood and it needs to be the real deal, so the ‘compromise’ (not really) is engineered wood, which surprisingly limits the colour and finish options available for a herringbone plank, considering how on-trend it is currently. Flooring manufacturers/suppliers, take note!

We are after a dusky, matte grey-brown. Not too grey. Not too brown. Not too grainy. Not too shiny. It’s not easy. There are lots of bespoke options but off-the shelf, more affordable products have such limited colour ranges. I am drowning in samples and the quality of some is pretty unimpressive. Even with Dan’s contacts and suppliers, we are struggling to source the perfect herringbone plank. I fear we will be paying £103 per square meter for the front runner at the moment. The search continues.

A ‘Marble’ Kitchen Island

To bake cookies, do the nightly school reading and drink wine at. Pinterest is to blame for this one (as with most things). I am really keen to have a juxtaposition of raw, natural, industrial style materials and textures with a bit of luxury and richness and clean lines and bright white shininess thrown in. This is the vision. So, the island needs to have the sharpest edges, bold marble pattern and barely visible joins, with a brass stool for each of our offspring so they can sit and tell me all about their day whilst I cook like the domestic goddess I am fully aiming to morph myself into when I have the correct facilities available 😉

After much research, we discovered that marble is actually not very strong and extremely porous, so whilst it can be sealed to avoid heavy staining, it could easily be cracked/marked and I feel like this might be the single part of the house we spend the most time gathered around, so hardwearing is key here. So instead, we have found the perfect quartz by Silestone, which I am obsessed with and I think it’s quartz you see featured in most of the Pinterest kitchen inspiration anyway. I think it also offers that super crisp whiteness we are after, rather than the creamy/off white, mottled effect you would get with the natural material.

So we’ll be going for super chunky thickness, seamless mitered joins on the corners and waterfall sides. The top will be free of any sinks/taps/oven hobs. Just a gorgeous, flat, strokable surface for spreading out nibbles, school books, recipe ingredients and all sorts of other family junk. We will have three minimal glass feature lights above the island and one more elaborate chandelier style light above the dining table. I’m so excited!

Concrete worktops

A complete contrast to the marble style quartz. Again, very pourous, but unlike the island, I think this wearing and staining etc over time just adds to the rustic charm of this material. It can be sealed but will need a little caring for of course. We have looked into this thoroughly too and we have a few options here. Cast concrete (offsite) VS concrete poured in situ VS micro-cement. The difference here is that micro-cement is concrete troweled onto a pre-made plywood form. Cheaper than solid poured concrete but a very different aesthetic. We love the air pockets and ruggedness of actual solid chunks of concrete, so whilst micro-cement will be ideal for the walls, floors and ceiling of our son’s en-suite, we definitely don’t want this method for the kitchen worktops. The price difference between poured concreted being cast off site and in situ is mega hefty and in fact very few people seem to offer the latter. The reason being that it is extremely difficult apparently to have the perfect conditions onsite for achieving the desired finish.

It seems to be a very specialist and niche approach. But having the worktops cast offsite means that having joins will be inevitable. They can only make each section up to be a certain maximum length (up to 2-3m) and as our longest stretch of worktop is in excess of 4m, plus we have corners too, the only way to avoid any joins is to have it cast onsite. Having looked at a few examples of each, we have decided we don’t want to compromise on this and it looks so amazing as one huge solid piece. So we are almost definitively going to go down this route. Oops. Bye hard-earned cash!

Handmade Shaker Style Cabinets

This has been a total minefield. We are after a really deep, dark navy (but not too blue!). We went to see a wonderful independent kitchen designer in Canterbury (armed with the kid’s DVD players!) called Herringbone Kitchens, who provided a brilliant service, but unfortunately we just couldn’t get our design to work on budget for the range we liked. The service at Neptune Home (also Canterbury) was sadly very under-par from the start and with their starting price for our ideal kitchen of £45K for the cabinetry only, we weren’t all that keen to explore this further. We had a meeting at Devol where I fell in love. Their whole concept and style is everything I adore, the service was incredible, the products absolutely stunning, and they stood out a mile as the front runner in handmade, bespoke shaker style kitchens. I had my heart set on them. However, as the design of our ideal kitchen with storage-a-plenty was ever-growing in size, we realised after some rather heated debates, which very nearly resulted in divorce (we call this ‘kitchen-gate’ – see chapter 3), that we couldn’t stretch to their prices either. This devastated me to admit. We approached Howden’s who would have been around one sixth of the price, but they struggled to even put a design together for us, despite us having given them the design! Plus, their only shaker style range that offered enough different colour options, wasn’t framed, so I wasn’t mad on this either anyway. It just wasn’t what we were looking for and their service level and seemingly limited understanding of our requirements put me off entirely.

Then we came across Shaker Kitchen Co. They are only around three years old and seem to have cracked it with their offering of more affordable handmade, bespoke, framed, shaker style kitchens. There was obviously such a gap in the market here and they have filled it beautifully. They interpreted our design brief with ease, made lots of helpful suggestions and even when our initial designer moved on from the company, our project was picked up seamlessly by a new consultant. The sales team in the showroom were incredibly helpful and we knew that this was the answer to achieving our kitchen goals for a sensible and affordable price.

So I am utterly delighted to say, we have now placed our order and just had our kitchen survey and about to sign off on all the details! First though, we need to decide on a RAL Classic colour to paint our cabinets as we are not able to do this in our first colour of choice, ‘Railings’ by Farrow and Ball. Since comparing tonnes of tester posts though, we are not sure if we want something a little more blue and not so ‘anthracite grey’ in shade. I think we have now whittled it down to RAL5008, RAL5004 or RAL7024. Help!!

We have chosen to flip the island (an idea which I was originally very adamantly against) but this has allowed so much more unit and worktop space, so was one of the few compromises I have been convinced into making. It seemed like such a lot of wasted space otherwise, and storage has been a key part of all this for us. It will now feel so much bigger as a kitchen area than if we had proceeded with the first design and half of it will be low level base units only, creating even more light and space and a more contemporary feel, with some chunky shelving on the walls for our new pots and pans.

The Pantry

My life will not be complete until I have one of these babies. So we have incorporated this into our kitchen design, including a slate cold shelf, oak interior and space for all our herbs and spices etc. I just can’t wait to label everything inside and organise it all into neat little rows and stare at it proudly as I try to work out what it’s all meant to be used for.

Brass

Yes, I have this thing with gold. I have my heart set on an under mounted brass sink for the concrete worktops and of course a brass tap and brass hardware for the cabinets. We’ll probably opt for a more traditional butler sink in the utility room where we have chosen a super pale grey for the cabinetry (RAL9002). The walls in both rooms will be a super clean, bright Farrow and Ball white. Either Wimbourne White, Wevet or perhaps something a little more grey in the utility like Ammonite. The jury’s still on that one. I’m also torn between following through into the utilty with the herringbone for continuity and creating the feeling of even more space or opting for a cute patterned reclaimed tile in there instead.

Furnishings

More gold in the form of a vintage drinks trolley, a neon light above the sofa and a tall unit for trinkets and beautiful crockery. Lastly, I am absolutely determined to find a supplier that will provide us with these stunning Crittall style steel doors for less than the price of a fortnight in Bora Bora. Anyone??

 

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Main image source: Pinterest (Arts and Crafts Kent Kitchen | deVOL Kitchens | 2017 Final Kitchen)
All images via Pinterest (Shaker Kitchen Co/Devol Kitchens)

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