Designer Kitchens have kindly asked me to write a guest blog about my kitchen renovation experience; and I am only too happy to oblige. The kitchen was the biggest eyesore in the house. I mean, really it was an embarrassment. When we first moved into our home there wasn’t even a cooker. With our limited funds we had to make do with a freecycle-sourced oven, peeling wallpaper and flotex. Oh don’t get me started on that dreaded flotex. With a new addition to the family, we realised we needed a complete kitchen makeover. And we needed it done quickly. But we had absolutely no idea where to start.
This is where Designer Kitchens was worth their weight in gold. Although Jane invited us to the showroom, we didn’t visit because we we’re simply too far away and we managed to sort out everything over the phone and email. With a few tips and pointers Jane helped us identify what it was that we actually wanted from our kitchen, and how we could make the most of our very tight budget. This was immeasurably useful as we had no previous experience of house renovation on such a large scale, and likely would have dived straight in without a thorough plan. So, after our first chat with Jane we felt confident that Designer Kitchens for Less would make our desires into reality.
So what did we want?
First and foremost we had to keep budget in mind. We wanted something that looked great, worked well but didn’t cost the earth. I was initially dubious that a kitchen provider with “designer” in the name would be within reach of our price range. But with some research we realised that this company’s products were definitely affordable.
We needed something child-friendly. There was no point having the most visually appealing kitchen if my wife then had to spend her days keeping the baby out of the room. Hence, Designer Kitchens advised us to go for soft-close cupboards (to protect little fingers); rounded cupboard handles (no sharp, pointy edges at toddler head-height); and suggested which floors and surfaces would be best suited for everyday use (durable, easy clean etc).
The other key feature of our kitchen was good space utilisation. We wanted the most work surface and cupboard space possible, while still having room for a dishwasher, washing machine and dining room table. With a bit of design advice from Jane (the in-house designer), this was easily accomplished in the space that we had available. To get the functionality within the budget set, we didn’t even have to compromise on the style of the kitchen, which surprised me. For example, we decided we wanted to have a hidden extractor fan, which if course means you lose a cupboard; however the remaining space is put to good use with an inbuilt spice rack. This ingenius idea has become my wife’s favourite part of the kitchen (see photo).
When it came to the actually designing the kitchen it was easy. We were able to go back-and-forth with Jane, tweaking and improving until we hit on the exact design we were happy with. Jane was always keen to help, and provided useful suggestions and advice whenever needed. Below is the final kitchen design we settled on.
The kitchen installation process
For various reasons I decided that getting involved with the kitchen renovation. We brought in an independent builder and I diligently sweated and toiled and scratched my head alongside him through all the ups and downs that this project threw at us. There were great times, including finally ripping up that awful flotex (good riddance!), and I certainly learned a lot of new skills. But as you can see, not all of it went entirely to plan:
It was a frustrating moment (to say the least!) when we realised we would have to get someone in to replaster the entire kitchen again because the existing plaster just crumbled down into a dusty heap on the floor. There was an agonising moment when we realised that if the kitchen cupboards would not longer fit along the back wall due to the new thickness of the skim. To my greatest relief, each unit slotted in perfectly (after some slight alterations to the wall), we managed to get everything level and straight and more importantly – it met my wife’s expectations.
Now, despite all the hassle, I’m glad I got involved because it gave me a direct insight into the builder’s perspective of the kitchen installation process. The builder himself (who has no affiliation with DKFL) kept commenting on the noticeably high quality of the products he was installing. Just a few of the remarks he made were that the cabinets had: better feet; thicker carcasses and more sturdy joints meaning that each one could handle a much greater load than your average kitchen cupboard. He was most significantly impressed with the LeManns unit, which I caught him testing out by placing heavy objects on it and gliding in and out of the cupboard. So all in all, listening to the glowing approval of someone who seeked no benefit from such judgements made me further appreciate the product I had.
So that’s enough about the cupboards. The next step was the worktop. I never thought I’d be one to lust over a kitchen counter, but when I take the time to appreciate it I bask in the geometric beauty of it. The sheer hard work that went into the installation of this shows in the fine details. It is perfectly level; and in each corner the point where two separate surfaces meet is almost invisible, meaning it doesn’t collect food particles or grime. These work surfaces give the perfect finishing touch to the kitchen and are hardwearing and functional to boot.
The final major task to complete was the floor. Initially, we were a little hesitant about our choice to go with Amtico as it is on the expensive side, but we couldn’t be happier with it. We needed something hard-wearing that would withstand knocks, scrapes and large spills (kids!), but equally looked in-keeping with the rest of the kitchen. Amtico does it all. And again, the person which put down the floor did a fantastic job – the final result was flawless (excuse the pun). We couldn’t recommend them highly enough. And to this day my wife still comments on how ‘warm’ the surface feels to bare feet in the morning, which is a welcome change to cold stone tiles or plasticky lino.
A final note I wanted to make was about the appliances. We kept what we could from our old kitchen, but of course a new oven was a necessity. We also saved up for a dishwasher purely because cleaning the dishes was the least favourite chore of the household and predominant cause of domestic squabbles (I kid you not!). We went with Neff and Bosch they turned out to be excellent choices as they are both still ticking along nicely with no hint of trouble on the horizon. My wife likes the fact that the dishwasher looks exactly like an ordinary cupboard on the outside. Both appliances are a joy to use and simply get the job done; that’s all we want and we are certainly happy with that.
The kitchen a year on…
So we really have put our kitchen through it’s paces since we had it installed. It has dealt with toddler tantrums; multiple dinner parties and it even copes with my wife’s food hoarding tendencies (thank goodness for that LeMann cupboard’s ability to deal with heavy loads). The reliability and accuracy of the oven means my wife has begun to enjoy baking for the first time in her life, and is even beginning to make it her hobby (not good for the waistline, but otherwise I’m not complaining). The fallout from all of the above means the dishwasher has certainly been put to the test, but it is worth it’s weight in gold (or moreover: marriage harmony). I don’t know if is simply a lifetime of IKEA mentality, but this kitchen has thoroughly exceeded all of our expectations by far. No exaggeration. In fact, I’m really glad I wrote this review, as it is so easy to take things for granted when they just work so well and give you no issues. But this really is a fantastic kitchen that is the hub of our home and provides the whole family with no end of pleasure. If ever we look to move and need a new kitchen, then I will be straight on the phone to Jane, no doubt about that.