renovation

Kitchen Extension

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2018 was a pretty big year for us. We completed the second part of our house renovation - a kitchen / diner extension, garden landscape and driveway installation - and welcomed our second child into the world, baby Jake. Throw a toddler into the mix - our son Josh - and you’ve got a pretty exhausting but exciting 12 months!

As with most building projects, the process had its ups and downs. My last trimester was particularly challenging as we were in full building site mode during England’s hottest ever summer (what timing!).

Here’s the full story…

THE PLAN

We’d left a sun room and office at the back of our house completely untouched and locked away until spring, ready to embark on our first ground floor extension project. This was the first time we’d been able to completely design the structure, layout and fittings of a room to suit our needs and we were EXTREMELY excited!

CURVE BALL

I fell pregnant with baby no.2 - Jake - sooner than expected, in January 2018. The next month, our builders pulled out due to the snowy weather (the ‘Beast from the East’) pushing back their other projects. Had Jake not been arriving in September that year, we could have been a bit more flexible with the deadline and still worked with them (we really liked their work). But we had no choice but to find a builder elsewhere at short notice. Luckily we did and the project kicked off in April as planned.

TRUST ISSUES

In a nutshell, our builders kicked off the project brilliantly. We were so excited and felt like everything was going to be all wrapped up by June. Sadly this wasn’t the case - there were a lot of delays and I started to have visions of breastfeeding in a building site-! Long story short, we parted ways with our builder and my husband L took on a lot of the labour, while roping in local experts to finish odd jobs. During this time, we learnt a lot about the process and how much of the work we could actually complete ourselves, rather than relying solely on one builder.

CUTTING IT FINE

The glass went in two days before Jake was born-! But luckily the rest of the room was complete so we had a working, warm kitchen that was ready for our newborn, as well as 21-month-old Josh.

BEFORE

Our 1930s house had already had some extension work completed on it over the years. For us, we wanted to extend the ground floor into the garden to create some open plan living space, as we felt that’s what the property lacked. As the house is on a hill, we also wanted to enjoy the view so added a patio with steps onto the back of the extension, leading into the garden.

The ground floor looking out into our garden: The left window was the office, right was the sun room. The far left was a bathroom we turned into a utility room.

The ground floor looking out into our garden: The left window was the office, right was the sun room. The far left was a bathroom we turned into a utility room.

A large clump of heathers took up a lot of room in the top half of the garden. This is where our extension and patio were built out to.

A large clump of heathers took up a lot of room in the top half of the garden. This is where our extension and patio were built out to.

The sun room (now part of our new dining area).

The sun room (now part of our new dining area).

Other side of the sun room - we’re currently restoring the fireplace.

Other side of the sun room - we’re currently restoring the fireplace.

View from the sun room - we removed the laurel arch to create a bigger garden for the boys.

View from the sun room - we removed the laurel arch to create a bigger garden for the boys.

The office. Ignore the furniture - these photos were taken when we viewed the house!

The office. Ignore the furniture - these photos were taken when we viewed the house!

DURING

The process took roughly five months to complete. (Builder delays that were out of our control meant it took longer than the predicted two!)

Patio progress.

Patio progress.

Dig, dig, dig.

Dig, dig, dig.

Patio shaping up.

Patio shaping up.

Prepping for the steels to go in.

Prepping for the steels to go in.

The big moment!

The big moment!

Structure begins.

Structure begins.

Starting to shape up: The left hand side is the kitchen window area, right hand side is where the bi-fold doors are.

Starting to shape up: The left hand side is the kitchen window area, right hand side is where the bi-fold doors are.

Old house meets new house.

Old house meets new house.

Plaster goes on.

Plaster goes on.

Floor goes down: Oak veneer herringbone parquet.

Floor goes down: Oak veneer herringbone parquet.

Mog inspecting the kitchen installation.

Mog inspecting the kitchen installation.

Cedar cladding goes on - can’t wait for it to turn grey-ish over time (and to start work on the rest of the exterior!).

Cedar cladding goes on - can’t wait for it to turn grey-ish over time (and to start work on the rest of the exterior!).

Patio goes down - grey Indian sandstone (spot my bump!).

Patio goes down - grey Indian sandstone (spot my bump!).

AFTER

It was amazing to finally start styling the place!

We’re still figuring the layout of the dining area - we’ll likely include some cosy seating near the bi-folds in the summer and move them to the fireplace in winter.

We’re still figuring the layout of the dining area - we’ll likely include some cosy seating near the bi-folds in the summer and move them to the fireplace in winter.

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Utility room / Mog’s digs.

Utility room / Mog’s digs.

We went for anthracite colour radiators to match the window surrounds and outside drainage.

We went for anthracite colour radiators to match the window surrounds and outside drainage.

Feel so lucky to have a view. We’ve popped a bird feeder by the patio so the birds fly right up to where the boys (and Mog!) can see them.

Feel so lucky to have a view. We’ve popped a bird feeder by the patio so the birds fly right up to where the boys (and Mog!) can see them.

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We’ve borrowed a dining table from Mama & Papa B for the interim.

We’ve borrowed a dining table from Mama & Papa B for the interim.

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Enjoying the extension at Christmas time.

Enjoying the extension at Christmas time.

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Bespoke railings created by a local ironmonger, as our patio is curved and it added that vital safety element. (Going to plan a toddler-safe gate to block the steps off for the interim!) We added some steps down to the garden and at the side for easy access.

Bespoke railings created by a local ironmonger, as our patio is curved and it added that vital safety element. (Going to plan a toddler-safe gate to block the steps off for the interim!) We added some steps down to the garden and at the side for easy access.

We went quite simple with the railings due to budget but we managed to have some monkey tails included to add some detail.

We went quite simple with the railings due to budget but we managed to have some monkey tails included to add some detail.

Ignore the patio clutter - that’s our next project!

Ignore the patio clutter - that’s our next project!

LESSONS LEARNED

  • If you have good organisation and budgeting skills and know a thing or two about construction, consider project managing an extension yourself and avoid hiring one builder to do the lot. We did this towards the end of the project and were so glad we did.

  • If you have a tight budget, consider going direct to an online kitchen retailer and hire a freelance kitchen designer to make your vision happen.

  • If you have an intricate floor, make sure you allow a fair amount of time for it to go down before your kitchen is installed.

  • Paint your kitchen walls before your kitchen is installed, otherwise it will take longer trying to paint around the cabinets and above the worktop (not necessarily the whole room just where the kitchen meets the wall).

  • Remember to consider outdoor lighting as well as indoor if you’re doing work to the back of the house.

  • Also consider adding an outdoor tap to a rear extension to help with gardening etc.

  • Walk through every single detail. From where you’re likely to use appliances in the kitchen for socket locations to how far your doors will come out to when open / what not to put there!

  • Don’t be shy. If you’re not sure your builder’s done something right or you’re questioning a decision you’ve made - discuss it. You have to live with it so speak up as there could be an easy solution at the time.

  • Consider lighting in all forms - spotlights, cabinet lighting, table lamps, floor lamps, etc. We added a neon sign to jazz things up a bit (and I’m always up for adding in some pink where I can!).

  • Create a shared note on your phone for a house to-do / to-check list. We found this really useful when reviewing the build in the evenings and trying to remember what to discuss with our builder the next day. It also gave us peace of mind when remembering something in the middle of the night!

    Those are just a few things we learnt along the way (and things we learnt when renovating our previous house). Hope some of the info proves useful if you’re starting an extension project.

    LINKS

  • Kitchen cabinets are Langton in-frame from www.kitchencollection.co.uk (grey cabinets are cashmere colour, island is charcoal).

  • We soured the brass handles from an Etsy seller called YesterHomeUK (make sure to buy some brass polish to keep them looking shiny! We made a stencil out of acetate to put around each handle when cleaning to avoid damaging the cabinets.

  • Floor: Oak veneer herringbone parquet in biscuit oak colour from www.hardwoodfloorstore.co.uk

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Toddler's Room

This is the first before and after post to emerge from our new home renovation project. Starting in September 2017, we've been busy planning and transforming our new family home in the countryside.

The most important room to me is J's room. It's his space to sleep, play, learn and relax in and a happy toddler = happy parents! We transferred some of J's elements from his nursery in our previous home so it wouldn't feel like too much of a big change. But there were some features we altered and added to meet his toddler needs, especially now he's walking!

BEFORE

We removed a ducted, warm air heating system from the house. The vent ran straight through J's room - this is what it looked like when it was removed-! It gave us back so much room!

We removed a ducted, warm air heating system from the house. The vent ran straight through J's room - this is what it looked like when it was removed-! It gave us back so much room!

You could see the kitchen below-!

You could see the kitchen below-!

Area where a bedroom sink used to be. (Now where J's cot bed is!)

Area where a bedroom sink used to be. (Now where J's cot bed is!)

Pano shot!

Pano shot!

Windows are on two walls so the light is fab.

Windows are on two walls so the light is fab.

AFTER

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Scaffold board shelf above the door so it doesn't dominate the room too much. Great place for items that J isn't old enough to use yet.

Scaffold board shelf above the door so it doesn't dominate the room too much. Great place for items that J isn't old enough to use yet.

Crate shelves, made by L. Teepee from  Not On The High Street , sheep rocker from  John Lewis , rug from  Sukhi Rugs , storage baskets from  HomeSense  and  Dunelm .

Crate shelves, made by L. Teepee from Not On The High Street, sheep rocker from John Lewis, rug from Sukhi Rugs, storage baskets from HomeSense and Dunelm.

Our book spot.

Our book spot.

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TOP TIPS

  • Blackout curtains are essential for those light summer evenings
  • I love the wall colour we went for as it makes everything feel calm in the evenings - just what you need before bedtime! (Paint is Farrow & Ball 'Pavilion Gray')
  • Storage baskets are great for keeping toys and books tidy, but still accessible for a little one
  • A book ledge at toddler height is a great way to display their favourite stories, plus they can grab them whenever they like. J's are from Great Little Trading Co.
  • Keeps things fun with colourful mobiles dotted around the room like the above rain cloud, from Sausage and the Dog
  • Stained glass sun-catchers also make a super sensory room.

I've shared more decor ideas for a toddler's room over on the Sharps website if you fancy a look! 

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Bathroom: Before & After

Creating our bathroom involved a lot of work. When we moved in, the bathroom was on the ground floor at the back of the house leading off from the kitchen, with a separate loo next to it. All very old school and definitely not practical for us. We love to entertain and spend time in the garden - this layout meant there was only a small side door leading to the garden and the kitchen area was pretty pokey.

THE PLAN

  • We knew we'd want to convert the loft in the future, so we sacrificed a first floor bedroom to turn it into our main bathroom.
  • The existing bathroom and separate loo downstairs were knocked down to create an open plan kitchen diner, with french doors being installed in the back wall to allow better access to the garden.

The photos below pretty much tell the full story - but there were definitely some things we learned along the way (scroll down for my top tips):

PREVIOUS BATHROOM (DOWNSTAIRS)

BATHROOM BEFORE

DurING

AFTER

TOP TIPS

  • Don't be disheartened if you spend hours removing woodchip, to then be told the whole wall needs to come down. Sadly, you can't tell the true condition of a wall until you see it properly. It took us, and our incredible friend Maria, a couple of days to strip the walls... I'll always remember Maria's face when our builder said: "Nope, sorry. It's got to come down." That was a low point.
  • But you do have high points: We discovered layers and layers of retro wallpaper, from 50s Disney to 70s poodles. It had obviously been a children's bedroom over the years. Renovating a house is the most tiring but brilliant experience as you get to piece together discoveries as you go - slowly learning a bit more about the people who lived there before you. 
  • IKEA does the best sink/cabinet combinations. This way, you get loads of storage but don't have to add bulky wall cabinets that can make a room feel smaller, or shelves that collect dust. Instead, add a big mirror to reflect the light, as well as wall lamps either side in case you want some cosy lighting while relaxing in the bath.
  • We struggled deciding on the floor - I loved the look of floorboards but wasn't convinced they would be practical, especially with water. L sourced the most amazing (and affordable) compromise - waterproof laminate flooring in wood effect ("beach house"). It sounds a bit naff, but it really isn't. We loved the final result.
  • Tongue and groove is a great option for breaking up plain walls - if we hadn't used it, I think the room would have felt quite sparse and cold (as I didn't want to tile everywhere), plus it protects the walls from daily wear and tear. We opted for Homebase kitchen/bathroom paint in Duck Egg to add some colour.
  • Our cast iron roll top bath cost us £38 from Gumtree. It had seen better days! So we bought a self-enamel kit online and gave it a facelift with a dusty pink Dulux paint (for metal). We then bought the fittings online to keep costs down. 
  • We decided to build a shelf next to the bath, fitted onto the wall. This provided storage for the taps/pipes and meant we have somewhere to put our bubble bath, shampoo etc when having a bath.
  • Don't scrimp on towel rail radiator size in a medium-large bathroom. We initially put a smaller one in but one winter and we quickly changed it for a bigger one! (The smaller one was used in the new bathroom we put in during our loft conversation the following year.)
  • While we opted for a traditional Victorian toilet to fit with the rest of the house, it does collect dust - so we opted for a built-in cistern in our single loo and loft bathroom. Less to clean and it provides a shelf for toilet roll, diffusers, even books!
  • We store our towels on one of these behind a spare bedroom door rather than in the bathroom as they become a bit dry with all the hot steam circulating when you have a shower.
  • For better light, opt for a door with windows in the top two panels, then add sticky back plastic to them for privacy. 

Take a look at my Bathroom Pinterest Board for more decor ideas.

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Bedroom: Before & After

One of the first finished rooms at Maison Bailey was our bedroom, as its completion (alongside the bathroom) meant we could move in. As long as we had somewhere to sleep and wash - we could get by.

Prior to this, we were borrowing the flat of an extremely kind family friend up the road, who temporarily moved in with my parents for two months (as did Mog). This was a huge lifeline as it meant we could commute to our full time jobs in London, renovate during the evenings and weekends and still sleep in a warm, safe place ready for work the next day. We couldn't have managed without the incredible generosity of our friends and family.

A few weeks in, we quickly realised just how much you can achieve when you set yourself a tight deadline. What would have probably taken us six months, took us two. I won't lie, it was tough, especially after a long day at work. But we got our heads down and once we'd moved in, even though the pressure was off, we kept up the pace. It was only another six months and we were hosting Boxing Day.

Our bedroom was a huge turning point as it was the first time we saw a room visibly come together and the first time we felt the feeling of, 'hang on, we can do this!'. Hope you like the pics...

BEDROOM BEFORE

A green, psychedelic carpet (with vinyl and newspapers underneath on top of the floorboards), a sink in the corner, an off-centre pendant light and mountains of green WOODCHIP WALLPAPER (it took so long to remove):

DURING

Hours and hours of woodchip wallpaper removal, a new wall, ceiling, plastering, doors, radiators, windows, skirting & coving, painting...

AFTER

Dulux 'Chic Shadow' paint makes the room feel fresh in daylight and cosy at night. White furniture and frames tie in with the skirting and coving, with bright stripe bedding added to give it some colour. 

Love before & afters? Take a look at what the Maison Bailey kitchen used to look like.

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Living Room: Home is Where the Hearth is

    Duration: 1 weekend   A working fireplace was the best discovery of our refurb. We'd removed a gas fire, knocked through the plaster and there it was! We sourced a fireplace surround on  Gumtree . All it took was a couple of coats of white eggshell paint and black heat-proof  fireplace spray  to get it back into shape, with a black slate hearth we sourced locally.* By luck, it arrived with its original Victorian tiles.   The project took a weekend (excluding plastering/painting the surrounding wall) - not bad for a big focal point of HomeLife. Our companion set was a bargain from  B&Q , which also offers  affordable fire screens . Mog is a big heat worshipper so we use the screen to protect her when a piece of firewood starts to 'spit'. If you ever get new carpet in your living room, use an off-cut of carpet as a protector / camouflaged rug.

 

Duration: 1 weekend

A working fireplace was the best discovery of our refurb. We'd removed a gas fire, knocked through the plaster and there it was! We sourced a fireplace surround on Gumtree. All it took was a couple of coats of white eggshell paint and black heat-proof fireplace spray to get it back into shape, with a black slate hearth we sourced locally.* By luck, it arrived with its original Victorian tiles. 

The project took a weekend (excluding plastering/painting the surrounding wall) - not bad for a big focal point of HomeLife. Our companion set was a bargain from B&Q, which also offers affordable fire screens. Mog is a big heat worshipper so we use the screen to protect her when a piece of firewood starts to 'spit'. If you ever get new carpet in your living room, use an off-cut of carpet as a protector / camouflaged rug.

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*Safety shout out: Please ensure you consult a professional before installing a fireplace - as you can imagine, it's important it's put in correctly and safely, and that your chimney is safe to use. We also have a carbon monoxide alarm next to it, and in the room above it.