I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year since we started with this renovation project. I’ve been wanting to write about this for aaages (and I did at one point but it was in Dutch and this dumb-dumb deleted it) but here it finally is: the kitchen renovation story!
Alright, heads up: this isn’t going to be your typical ‘hey look at my new dream kitchen‘ type of deal. Our living situation isn’t exactly traditional, with my boyfriend, me and our cats occupying the upper two floors, and his father and his dog living downstairs. It’s a big house built in 1919 with the typical features: a big living/dining room, a study, five bedrooms, a bathroom, a storage room, a creepy basement anddd a back kitchen. So as you can see, we’re absolutely not lacking in space, lol.
Anyway, the end goal of the renovation was to just freshen up the space and install a new, modern and functional kitchen. Nothing too fancy, since we were on quite a tight budget. We had been cooking in a makeshift kitchen somewhere else in the house until we decided that it was time to renovate the real kitchen downstairs. I’m so sad I don’t have any pictures of the old kitchen – but I think it was from the early 80’s and overdue a renovation. Once we decided to actually do this renovation project, the old kitchen was torn down within the week! Pew pew pew.
When everything was stripped, I could get a better visual on how I was going to plan out this kitchen. So I started with drawing up the floor plan first, followed up by making a planning and budget sheet. Being an interior architect, I designed many kitchens before but let me tell you – it’s so different making these decisions for yourself (and your family). It did make it so much more easier because I had a good idea of what electrical and plumbing work needed to be done – I just didn’t know how to do it. Thankfully we had some extra help with this kind of stuff. I can be quite handy when I need to, but electrical and plumbing are too high stakes for me to fumble with. We ended up replacing the plumbing pipes, installing a new faucet system, a water boiler and new electrical wiring.
We also needed to insulate the walls since the existing outer wall doesn’t have a ventilated cavity. In the past, this resulted in a build up of moist and eventually, mold. We put up a wooden structure, placed thermal and damp proof insulation and finished it with plaster board. This also made it possible to hide the new electrical wiring without breaking into the walls.
There’s a 45° wall at the corner of the kitchen and dining area, which makes it useless. It’s where the chimney is located, but it has been out of use for years and years and I really wasn’t going to open up Pandora’s box by using it for our hood exhaust. So we made a new opening in the outer wall. We planned on covering up the outlet pipes with plasterboard, but we ended up leaving it bare – we just don’t really mind how it looks. Some walls and the open arch also needed re-plastering, something I took upon me (this shit is HARD!) but I think the results are pretty neat (if I may toot my horn for a second).
Once everything mentioned above was done, it was time to put the new flooring in. We weren’t going to take out the existing tiles. Instead, we installed a damp proof and thermal insulation on top of the existing tiles, finishing it off with laminated flooring. I would never recommend this for a kitchen because your dishwasher or washing machine can break down and do some serious water damage to your flooring – but we took the bet anyway (and hope for the best). Oh and, since we were ‘replacing’ the floor anyways, we painted the walls beforehand so it didn’t really matter how much of a mess we made (spoiler alert: a mess was made). We decided to paint everything white but one wall in the dining area. A muted, grayish green felt like a nice and calm tone for this rather small space.
We then took a trip to IKEA and ordered our new kitchen. I was always skeptical about IKEA kitchens, but I must say I was pleasantly surprised. Don’t get me wrong, it in no way compares to completely bespoke carpentry I’m used to work with, but it’s deffo good enough if you just want a functional kitchen. We decided on the Veddinge fronts, which are lacquered in satin white combined with the Berghalla handles, and the Eckbacken kitchen top in light oak. This matched our laminate flooring almost perfectly – and yes I totally took separate trips to IKEA and the store we bought our flooring to make sure they matched bc I’m a damn professional, okay? Okay.
The very last step was putting up the tiles and the hipster in me has been screaming METRO TILES for years now. And honestly, it was one of the best decisions for this kitchen. They were ridiculously easy to put up and I got the job done in about an afternoon. I cut the tiles with a table saw and it went very smooth. Don’t forget your gloves and safety glasses though – this shit is dangerous.
Now, drawing up kitchens and understanding its construction is one thing. Putting the whole kitchen up yourself is something else, let me tell you. I think it took us about 4 weeks to complete it. We could’ve worked a bit faster, maybe, but I really wanted to take the time needed to make sure everything was installed correctly and as straight as possible (a challenge in itself in 100 yr old house).
The whole renovation took us about 4-5 months from start to finish. That seems like a long time, but we weren’t really rushing and we mostly worked on the days we were free from work. So sure, you could do it much quicker – I guess in about two months – but you’ll have to spend almost all of your time renovating.
All that was left now was decorating and make this brand spanking new kitchen homely. And this is where the vintage comes in (finally!). At last, I got to use my second hand table and sourced ‘new’ vintage chairs with black fake leather, and an old cupboard from a second hand website. The Tomado string shelving was a Christmas gift from my boyfriend back in 2015. I finally got to put it up and I think it looks perfectly in that corner. I found the lamp on bol.com because lol who can afford a real Louis Poulssen light fixture (I still want one though, a girl can dream). Many other nic-nacs are vintage or second hand as well, like the red Kobenstyle casserole, the Vitra Eames tray and the Brabantia bread bin.
It’s maybe not the most retro or vintage kitchen there is, but sometimes you just have to work with what you got. The idea of this kitchen is that it’s a blank slate. Everything is neutral enough to fit anyone’s personal style, while still fitting to the style of the house. Choosing white and light ‘oak’ tones brightened up the space, making it look more spacious.
I must say it does feel a bit scary to show my interior so publicly. I can’t help but think that because of my job, it means my personal interior needs to fit in this ‘interior design box’. When in reality, the interiors I design are the complete opposite of how our interior is decorated. My boyfriend has his own peculiar taste, meaning there’s also a lot of movie posters, Simpsons objects and other weird / funny / creepy stuff blended in with all of my plants and second hand crap. It’s eclectic, to say the least – but we love it.
If I could design my dream kitchen, it would probably have walnut cabinets, a terrazzo or white counter top, and at least one wall painted in a bold colour (cobalt blue?). Oh, and it would be about twice as big as the one we installed – with an island. One day, fingers crossed.
That being said, I’m still very happy and proud of the result, and so thankful for everyone who helped. It has been a testing experience at times, and sometimes it felt like we were never going to finish it. But every morning, when I come downstairs to make myself a cup of coffee, I’m reminded of how much it has been worth it.