Renovation diary: Figuring out the kitchen layout

HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope you have had a wonderful time over Christmas and you are feeling happy about all the possibilities in the year ahead. Personally, I’m super excited for 2019 as this is the year I tackle my biggest project yet – my house extension and renovation, to transform it into our dream home.

Since I wrote my last Renovation Diary post (gosh, 6 months ago!), I’ve been on a bit of a journey. Last summer, we sent out tenders to a few builders but the eye-watering quotes that came back had me despairing and wondering if we should just sell up and move, because this project seemed so far out of reach. Then there was the question of which builders I even liked, because some were blatantly sexist and didn’t like the idea of working for a woman 🙄, others were grumpy even during the initial meeting so not much chance of a happy relationship there, and some struggled to understand basic things. Some were lovely and very knowledgeable but their quotes either turned out to be completely unaffordable, or they didn’t quote at all. During this process, as I grappled with what options we had, I worked with my architect to figure out ways to cut costs. I didn’t make it easy for the poor man as I wasn’t willing to compromise the vision too much (what would be the point of trying to achieve a dream home if it was full of compromises?), but he was amazing throughout and in the end I’m very happy with the changes we’ve come up with (most relate to the open plan kitchen space). Aside from making some difference to the building costs, the resulting layout now ticks my entire kitchen wishlist! It’s amazing how budget constraints force you to think creatively and you can end up a design that works even better for you!

The kitchen layout evolved over many iterations (I can now design kitchens in my sleep, haha!), but for the sake of simplifying this post, I’ve broken it down into three sections to show how we arrived at our final layout. If you’re here just for the pretty pictures, feel free to scroll down. Don’t worry, I won’t judge, and if you have got this far with my story, I thank you for reading. 😊

INITIAL DESIGN

In the architect’s initial design (shown below right), the existing kitchen window was going to be blocked up and replaced by a full height glazed panel to match the aluminium French doors next to the dining area, resulting in a linear kitchen with an island.

While we loved the contemporary aesthetic of this design, I was a little concerned about whether the resulting kitchen layout could fit in all the storage and appliances we needed while also having decent worktop space. Most linear kitchens with islands have either a hob or a sink located on the island to give sufficient worktop space around the cooking and washing up, but I didn’t want either of those on the island. I prefer to keep the services along the wall as we are heavy kitchen users and I just didn’t want the mess and clutter of cooking or washing up on the island, in the middle of the whole room. Plus, as our space isn’t very wide, I want to be able to have a slightly shallower-than-normal island, which wouldn’t be possible if we had a hob or sink there.

The floor plan below is the kitchen plan I came up with for this layout.

Kitchen layout 1 || First Sense kitchen renovation inspiration

To have decent worktop space, the appliances and sink chosen for this layout were smaller than those on my wishlist. While this kitchen would have been SO much better than what we currently have to tolerate, I wasn’t entirely confident it would satisfy all our requirements in years to come.

The kitchen below shows a similar layout where the services are against the wall and the island is shallower than standard.

Farrow & Ball Hague Blue and marble kitchen, Skye Gyngell's kitchen

Chef Skye Gyngell’s kitchen by British Standard; image via Remodelista

As beautiful as this looks, it had me wondering how well such a layout would work practically for our family and all our stuff. My husband and I often cook together: would we get in each others’ way? And what about when the kids start helping out in the kitchen too? Would it feel squeezed with more than 2 people in it? Would a standard sized fridge freezer be enough when we have two hungry teenage boys to feed? How would I cook 8 pizzas at once (when hungry boys bring over their hungry friends)? I know these issues are not exactly life changing, but there is some self-imposed pressure in trying to design our ‘forever home’ dream kitchen that we will love and enjoy using for at least 20 years, that doesn’t feel compromised in any way.

REDUCING GLAZING COSTS

Initially, the plans had a glazed roof above the dining area and wide full-height Crittall-style aluminium glazing, and another full-height glazed panel which replaced the kitchen window. But glazing is very expensive, so we decided to:

  1. change the glazed roof to a flat roof with a roof lantern (which will still bring in lots of light),
  2. reduce the width of the French door glazing (which also saves us landscaping costs that we would have otherwise incurred in changing the patio design to suit the wider glazing), and
  3. keep the current kitchen window opening.

Side by side design comparison || First Sense kitchen renovation inspiration

With the kitchen window back in the plan, the kitchen becomes an L shape which gives us much more worktop space and storage, even with a larger range cooker and fridge freezer.

Kitchen layout 2 || First Sense kitchen renovation inspiration

If I am honest, I felt relieved to get back to an L shape kitchen and put to bed the niggles I had about the linear layout. This way gives us so much more kitchen.

REDUCING THE SPAN OF THE LARGEST STEEL BEAM

Knocking out walls and inserting large steel beams and structural supports is a substantial cost and we will require several beams for our renovation. In the initial plan, the largest beam spanned about 5.9 metres from the front to the back of the open plan space. There wasn’t much we could alter about the structural work, but once when I was playing around with the kitchen layout to see if I could fit in an American-style fridge freezer, I had the idea of changing the position of the door so I could have a wall of pantry and fridge space. This also reduced the span of the largest beam significantly – winning!

Kitchen layout 3 || First Sense kitchen renovation inspiration

So this is where we’re at, and I feel pretty good about this layout. It allows me to have good sized appliances, sufficient worktop space, and even a little walk-in pantry that I’ve always wanted. 😀 I also like that the fridge freezer is tucked away. The island size has been reduced, but that doesn’t bother me in any way.

Naturally, I have started gathering lots of inspiration to figure out the style and colours for the kitchen, and below are some of the kitchens and pantries that I’m loving.

White shaker kitchen with dark island || First Sense kitchen renovation inspiration

Bright and airy classic shaker kitchen designed by The Shaker Kitchen Company. (I won’t mention that they should’ve chosen counter stools instead of bar stools for an appropriate seat height.)

Pale grey shaker kitchen with dark island || First Sense kitchen renovation inspiration

I find this pale grey absolutely gorgeous and timeless, and I love it contrasted with a dark island. Image: LivingEtc

Dark green shaker kitchen || First Sense kitchen renovation inspiration

The muted dark green here is stunning and visually connects the kitchen to the greenery outside. Image: @bloggaibagis on instagram

Zellige tile splashback || First Sense kitchen renovation inspiration

The black range cooker and stools contrast beautifully against the paler colours, and I also love the texture of the Zellige tiles. Image: design by Ashe Leandro via 1stdibs

Small walk-in under stairs pantry || First Sense kitchen renovation inspiration

Even a small walk-in pantry can add so much storage. Image: Livingetc

Dark walk in pantry || First Sense kitchen renovation inspiration

A stunning little walk-in pantry designed by Roundhouse

Walk in pantry designed by Humphrey Munson || First Sense kitchen renovation inspiration

A tall door rack maximises the storage in this walk in pantry. Design by Humphrey Munson

If you know me at all, you’ll know I advocate design longevity, so I will be aiming for classic, timeless design that also feels fresh and fun for contemporary living. I want to achieve a bright airy feel so I am considering going without wall cabinets altogether, provided I can figure out all the storage we need elsewhere (the pantry is going to help me a lot with that!).

I’ll be sharing everything about my renovation on this blog (not just the kitchen, there will also be bathrooms, a utility room, a boot room, a snug/music room, a new bedroom, a library and not forgetting the redesign of existing bedrooms – it’s going to be a busy year) so I hope you will follow along! To make sure you don’t miss anything, you can subscribe by email on the sidebar (located at the bottom if you are viewing on a mobile device) or follow my blog on Bloglovin’ or on social media.

When renovating, most people wait until the building work is almost complete before they start planning their rooms, but you can see how working out layouts prior to finalising plans can make a huge difference to how your space can work for you. This is what I’m doing with all the spaces in my house. If you’re planning a renovation, you may want to consider involving an interior designer from the start. 😉

P.S. In case you are wondering, I have found a builder at last who is experienced, unprejudiced, a creative thinker, cheerful and whose quote is more in line with my expectations. 🎉🎉 That’s not to say this project has suddenly become affordable. We are really up against it with our budget so that’s scary, but we have to keep going. This house is really in need of renovating. All the cosmetic jobs I have done to make it more liveable only go so far… we have already spent too much on repairs and we can’t keep wasting money patching things up, so a big overhaul of everything is required. There will likely be a lot of DIY to save where we can. One significant saving we are making is by not renting elsewhere during the build as we had initially thought. Hmm, budget vs sanity. Living through a three storey gut renovation with little kids is going to be… um, let’s call it an adventure. (I’m terrified.)


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18 Comments

  1. January 4, 2019 / 10:39 am

    Really interested in all the detail you provided, as this sounds like our own plan as well (though we have not as yet reached a design stage!!!). Very curious about glazing costs (initial plan and reduced glazing alternative), is this something you can share at all?

    • Meera
      Author
      January 4, 2019 / 3:41 pm

      Glad you’ve found it interesting, Jenny! Overall, the cost difference is several thousand, and the biggest cost difference comes from swapping the glazed roof (very expensive) with the flat roof and lantern. As of now, the aluminium glazing costs are combined with the costs of other glazing around the house and support works, but as soon as I’m able to break it all down, I’ll share with you the cost of the two glazing designs. I’ll also share the steel and aluminium products I looked at and which range we’ve decided on. x

  2. January 5, 2019 / 8:53 am

    I’m SO excietd for you Meera!!! We had a setback on ours just before Christmas- the conservation planner said no to the initial scheme; we now have further meetings to see if we can work something out that we’re all happy with.

    It’s such a rollercoaster isn’t it? I’d bookmarked some builders but as we’re no nearer to knowing when we’ll need them, I haven’t approached them yet. Your experience has made me feel a little nervous!!!

    Exciting times ahead for you! Your interior plans are so similar to mine!! I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be joining you on the excitement and aggravation of a big build!! Xx

    • Meera
      Author
      January 6, 2019 / 1:52 pm

      Aww Caro, I’m really sorry to hear about the setback, but don’t be disheartened, I’m sure you’ll come up with a design that satisfies everyone and works beautifully for you. It really is a rollercoaster! I have only very briefly summarised here all the ups and downs that we’ve already been through, and we haven’t even started the building work yet! I’m also keeping my fingers crossed for you… we’ll be build buddies this year! xx

  3. January 6, 2019 / 12:09 pm

    An adventure for sure! Looking forward to the numerous reveals this year. The new kitchen layout looks very practical and you still benefit from huge windows. And the pantry! Gotta love a good pantry.

    • Meera
      Author
      January 6, 2019 / 1:53 pm

      I feel like I have thought of every possible layout that can work for our space and this is as good as it can be for our space. Yes the glazing is still generous so I’m happy. I’m really very excited about getting a pantry! 😁 You can be my cheerleader this year, Juan. I think I’m really going to need one. 😅 xx

  4. January 9, 2019 / 11:59 am

    Wow how exciting! And I agree with you, you definitely need to plan ahead, and think about layout and plans first. It’s such a big expensive project, you want it all to be perfect. Can’t wait to see how it turns out!

    Sarah | https://www.dreamofhome.co.uk

    • Meera
      Author
      January 11, 2019 / 1:38 pm

      I’ve been thinking about this project for almost 4 years so I’m really very excited! Yes exactly, it’s all so expensive I can’t afford to get anything wrong, hence all the very detailed planning! Hope you enjoy following the renovation 🙂

  5. January 9, 2019 / 1:13 pm

    Best of luck with your renovation – I’m looking forward to seeing your progress! Love the walking through your choices, they make perfect sense and it sounds like you’re making the absolute best use of the space you have. I’m very jealous of the walk in pantry! We have just started our own renovation project and the sheer amount of decisions to be made is so daunting at times. It’s very exciting to see things taking shape though!

    • Meera
      Author
      January 11, 2019 / 1:44 pm

      Thank you Katy, I hope your renovation is going well. Yes, there are SO many decisions to make! I’m going to try to nail down most of the designs before the works start because I can be indecisive about my home at the best of times and I don’t want to have to be forced to make quick decisions amidst the stress and chaos of building work! Glad you like my kitchen plans, can’t wait till I have that pantry! 🙂

  6. January 10, 2019 / 10:35 pm

    All those kitchens look heavenly! I’ve used floorplanner in the past when trying to visualise rooms but your plans look a lot better than mine 😛 X

    • Meera
      Author
      January 11, 2019 / 1:46 pm

      Glad you like the kitchen inspiration, Pia! I use Sketchup for my floor plans, it’s great! x

  7. Sally
    January 11, 2019 / 9:48 am

    Hi Meera, I found you on instagram and enjoyed reading this, enlightening! This is what you call an optimised plan! Are you able to share more about how you planned your kitchen units? I have subscribed to your blog and look forward to reading about your renovation. Sally x

    • Meera
      Author
      January 11, 2019 / 1:50 pm

      Thank you Sally! I’m delighted you like this post and my open plan kitchen plan. Yes, I do feel like I have optimised the space; I can’t find any other way to improve on it! I’ll be more than happy to write a post about how to plan a kitchen, stay tuned for it! Hope you enjoy my blog and my renovation updates. 😊 x

  8. January 12, 2019 / 3:27 pm

    Oh my goodness Meera I’m SO excited for you and cna’t wait to see it all unfold. I have to say, I’d always planned to have doors all the way across the back and then someone said that they did the same and then realised they had no window just to open to get a bit of air when it wasn’t warm enough to open the doors and that was SUCH a good point. So I think your plans with the window back in will definitely work X

    • Meera
      Author
      January 12, 2019 / 8:16 pm

      Thank you, Lins! It’s so great to be able to share all this with people who love interiors, I feel like I have my own cheerleading squad :-). Re: the glazing, I had thought about that when our plans didn’t have a window (although I know it’s a point that can easily be missed during planning), so I had specified the glazed panels to have top opening windows, but of course this was adding to the cost even more. I’m very happy with the practicality as well as cost saving of what we have finally decided on. x

  9. January 17, 2019 / 5:36 pm

    Love your plans Meera. You made me as excited about your renovation as you are. Honestly can’t wait to see it after it’s done. Your house is pretty as it is and if it’s going to be any prettier than that then WOW!!!

    • Meera
      Author
      January 20, 2019 / 10:30 pm

      Thank you for your sweet words, Anne Marie! 💖 I’m so happy to be able to share it all here as I feel like you’re all going to be with me through this keeping me sane! Definitely feeling the pressure to deliver an amazing result though, haha! x

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