Do you remember this post?
It’s been a few months since we finished the kitchen refit and I thought you might like to see some photos.
Let us compare and contrast the sink, old with new.
I am really happy with the transformation of this area! We have refreshed the dingy brie-yellow of the walls with a lovely soft chalky paint from my all-time favourite house paint company: Earthborn Paints. These paints are amazing – they offer an ultra matt surface that has a magical relationship with light and are breathable in ways that suit an old brick house like the one in which we live. To go with this magical pinky white paint, Mark tiled the area above all the worktops with some soft pinky white craquelure metro tiles. I love them so, and especially in the morning when the light comes in and makes everything glow.
The aims with this kitchen overhaul were to keep the things that worked well and to change things that didn’t. We’ve had the same kitchen since the early 00s when Mark moved into this house. We have cooked hundreds of meals in it, so have lots of experiences to draw on in terms of “this works” “this doesn’t work”. One thing we unanimously love is having pans and utensils hanging above the sink, ready to go when inspiration or hunger strike! The previous shelf under which we hung up our colander, pots and so on was a bit oppressive, so we opted to lose that shelf in the refit and use a rail with hooks instead. Everything remains accessible and handy, but there isn’t a massive shelf infringing on the small bit of headspace above the sink.
That shelf and its beloved collection of cookery books now live in the old brick fireplace.
The fireplace was previously painted the aforementioned turgid brie-yellow colour and a fridge lived in the recess, sticking out into the room. I confess there is not a day when I am not delighted by the decision to REVEAL THE BRICKS.
The books are so much more accessible in this spot and keeping them here is much better than their previous storage in haphazard piles above head-height. I think we are getting more use out of them as they are so much easier to reach; pulling one out definitely involves less swearing and knocking stuff on the floor.
Thinking about access we also decided to take all the spices out of the cupboard and give them their own special, shallow shelves. I much prefer this as I can now find everything without rooting around. Also, no more finding four pots of fennel seeds at the back of the cupboard because we bought more when we couldn’t find the ones we already had hiding at the back.
For this spice rack we simply bought two very picture frame shelves from IKEA and worked out where to put them to give clearance to my taller jars on both levels. As the shelves are so shallow, it’s impossible to hoard too many spices and herbs behind each other, even with my best hoarding and jam-jar-collecting efforts.
I love the shelf of books and the spice/herb shelves as everyday opportunities to play with colour and they really warm the whole room up so that even though we went with white units, white paint and white tiles, it is a warm and welcoming space and not a clinical one.
Stripping back the bricks reminded me of the KNITSONIK screenprints I made back in 2014, which tell – in graphic format – the process of starting with an inspiring thing, developing a chart, then producing hand-knitted fabric. The examples of this process immortalised in screenprint format include the knitting I did inspired by my EDIROL R09 digital sound recorder, and the knitting I did inspired by the bricks of Reading. These two prints now sit proud and framed above the fireplace and, on the mantelpiece, is a very special brick made for me by my friend Lorna from special Sussex clay that she dug up herself (it’s little and front and centre of the second picture down).
The mantelpiece has always been a wondrous shrine to everyday life featuring bin bags for the compost bin, the compost caddy, the main bin; a place to put batteries for recycling; kitchen roll; and lovely gifts and special things from friends. Lorna’s magical brick; a polka dot vessel with a polka dot spoon that was a Birthday present from my friend Debbie; and a card from Caro depicting A GIANT VAT OF HEALING SOUP which is, in the end, the key theme for the kitchen on all levels.
One thing that has stayed from olden kitchen times is that friends are represented everywhere in the new kitchen, in keeping with my long-held feeling that the kitchen is the heart of the house and where the best times are had. In tea-towels collected into the tea-towel drawer; in glasses and mugs that have been gifts over the years; in the beloved and long-serving SHEEP CAROUSEL tea cosy given me by Kate I think maybe a decade ago? Friends are present everywhere. Ten years on, that cosy is still keeping tea wonderfully cosy in warm and resilient Shetland Supreme wool.
There was some talk about whether or not to box in the pipework under the gas boiler but we decided against it in the end because 1. we would lose some precious workspace and 2. because Bobby (shout out Yellow Gas Services) did such a gorgeous, careful job of welding all the new pipework that I didn’t want to hide it away. I love the carefully crafted pipes beside the ceramic caddy where we put compost, the felted nest and the basket I made from nettles and ivy from our garden in which we keep the chickens’ egss, the woolly bits I use to protect the worktop when lunking heavy pots around, the tea cosy.
Time for another before and after?
Lots of the improvements to the kitchen have made it easier for me to use with my dodgy, arthritic wrists. But the under-cupboard lighting has been amazing for my mental health. I AM OBSESSED WITH THE LED LIGHTS; there is not a dingy grey day or mood than can’t be brightened by putting them on. There is a slightly unexpected side-effect of all root-veg kept under the lights sprouting – a situation that can be exploited for germinating seedlings – but YE GODS I LOVE THE LIGHTS!!! I also love cooking things on the gas hob and there not being an upsetting chasm of grease and fluff and cat hair and unreachable dirt either side, as was the situation when we had a freestanding cooker.
ALL HAIL THE NEW HOB AND THE UNDER-CUPBOARD LIGHTING!
There are also lights in the drawers, which are an infinitely better place than cupboards for storing heavy stuff. This is the most practical change we have made in terms of accommodating dodgy wrists: no longer are glass bowls and dishes stacked high up in cupboards – now they are in smooth rolling drawers where I can easily get them with no rage!
All these wonderful changes and design decisions mean I have more spoons with which to enjoy cooking – both metaphorical, because I am not fighting against design that does not accommodate my body and its needs – and actual, because what is finer than a good collection of spoons? That’s right, nothing.
I love the new kitchen so much. Do not ask me about the rest of the house and especially not my workspace, crafting areas or floordrobe…
BUT THE KITCHEN? Re: The Kitchen, I will take the win.
Thank you for joining me on this tour,
YOURS IN A GIANT VAT OF HEALING SOUP AND OVERFLOWING SPOON COLLECTIONS –