Sunday, 31 October 2010

Kitchen: Before and After

Lets start at the very beginning. Want to see a nightmare?  Check this out, the day after we moved in.  

Only half of what you see is ours.  The rest we inherited from the previous tennants. A flatful of free junk.  It was like they got halfway through moving, before deciding that they didn't need to go back for the last load of jeans, shoes, books, piles of bank statements, kitchen equipment...  Or to clean.  There were half full rubbish bags and piles of swept up dust all over the floor. 
You'll also see the ingenious and rather becoming solution the previous owner had taken towards window treatements, upon realising that a standard £5 blind from the budget DIY store wouldn't measure up so to speak... That's right, a wooden pelmet, screwed right into the wall.  It was a happy day when those travesties came down. Although the weather is just turning really cold here now, and I'm hoping we won't miss pulling down those nasty plastic blinds for extra insulation.
But back to the kitchen. The previous rental tennants had tried to create a 'kitchen room' in the back corner by placing the freestanding bench out in the middle of nowhere and using the Expedit bookshelf for the other 'wall'. Crazy stuff. There was also a disgusting grease covered open wire shelving unit, which from a distance I thought I could clean up and paint to be kind of cool.  Up close I realised the best home for it was at the tip. Or the local chippie.
But we did score a free Expedit bookcase! I don't know what they used to cook in here but I spent about 3 hours with industrial strength cleaner removing dust glued onto it with grease. We also kept a few other things like a brand new fancy corksrew, still in the box, a fridge, freezer, a thermos and some saucepans in good nick. 
The first thing we did was push the bookcase against the wall, and move the freestanding worktop alongside it to open up the space.  And that's pretty much how it's remained since.  Despite my protests of "I'm not living with this kitchen for more than a month!", we've now been here 10 months.  This photo was taken a few weeks ago - isn't that extractor pipe just lovely? It runs through our bedroom as well! 

So much better.  But why doesn't my makeshift kitchen look as good as this one?! Possibly because I can't be bothered buying those nice looking wooden crates.
Photo courtesy of Remodelista via The New York Times
So, now to the 'after'.  Ok, so its not my 'after'.  Yet. Make-shift kitchen aside, we're in a bit of turmoil about the new kitchen as well.  The advice to live in your own house before renovating cannot be underestimated. There are some decisions that are undisputable, made even before we moved in.  And there are others that, had we gone ahead with them in the early days, would have been a disaster.  For example, we originally loved the rustic-y style with subway tiles, and GG was even sold on having a butler's sink:
These days we're thinking that ultra-modern is the way to go - it fits better with our mid-century furniture obsession, and will sit nicer in this old building, rather than trying to match or mix eras.  I want the simplicity of the kitchen to mean it fades into the background allowing the industrial features stand out more.
So I've started looking for inspiration on ultra-modern kitchens... and luckily they are a-plenty. But it seems that splashbacks are a bit passe these days, which throws the subway tiles into question. This is a little unsettling, as they have been my one constant throughout these rollercoaster months of indecision.
Would you believe it took 6 months to agree finally that white cupboards would be best?

Photo courtesy of Remodelista
This next kitchen is by Henry Built, which I suspect is the US version of European kitchen companies such as Bulthaup. Which we visited once.  They went up a notch in my book for not sneering at us even though it was blatantly obvious we were not able to afford any of their stuff, and the sales lady even gave us a hardcover book - I mean catalogue - as a souvenir.
Photo courtesy of Remodelista
Swedish log cabin. Love the wood walls, and as soon as it gets cold enough in London to ski to work from the front door I'm installing them.  Also love the gunmetal-coloured cupboards.
Photo courtesy of Remodelista
As much as I hate overhead cupboards, if I had to have them, they would look like this - right to the ceiling and totally sleek.  Nice use of brickwork as a splashback.  Unfortunately our brick wall is next to the kitchen, not behind it.
Photo courtesy of The Kitchen Vote
 But I'd much prefer to try and get away with just this little guy.
Photo courtesy of Remodelista
Or better yet, this.  This picture also makes me want to rip out the floorboards and polish up the concrete.   If I didn't think it might hurt the resale value on this place I'd do it in an instant.
Photo courtesy of Apartment Diet
In reality we'll have to have some form of open shelving, maybe something along these lines.
Photo courtesy of The Kitchen Vote
And then I saw this! Could it be? Stainless steel worktop with white cupboards and subway tiles in a modern setting!
Photo courtesy of Remodelista
Complete with built in sink.  In the end it all seems so obvious and... boring. Not in the way it looks but in the way it sounds when I try to describe it. But, having had 1 or 2 conversations with builders recently, the simpler the better when it comes to describing what you want.
Photo courtesy of Remodelista
But the biggest pain is actually working out the details once you've figured our roughly how it looks.  I just wish there weren't so many practicalities to consider. Like whether you can survive with just an integrated under-counter fridge/freezer, or whether it would be better to have a full size one. With Tescos and Waitrose right next door I'm tempted to just treat them as my personal fridge and pantry... pretty much as I do now.

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