A family-friendly kitchen

With a baby on the way, Helena and Gareth Fulford planned a practical yet stylish space to reflect the period detail of their home. The renovated kitchen has a new, more practical layout that allows more room for cooking

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‘We moved into our flat almost seven years ago and had wanted to update the kitchen ever since,’ says Helena. ‘It’s a fantastic size – but the units were old as they had been fitted 20 years ago, the lighting was poor and the layout wasn’t practical for cooking or entertaining – you had to walk the long way round to reach the fridge and squeeze past guests to get to the hob.’

The couple wanted a kitchen that would allow Gareth, who is a professional chef, to experiment with recipes, plus a more practical layout with plenty of storage space for all his cooking equipment.

They had set their heart on a traditional painted Shaker-style kitchen to complement the high ceilings and period features of their Georgian home – and chose the company to supply it five years ago – but were unable to raise the funds. However, Helena then discovered she was pregnant.

Fact file

The owners: Helena Fulford, former deputy editor of Real Homes magazine, and her husband Gareth, who works as a chef

‘That kitchen wouldn’t have been a nice place for a toddler, with some of the cupboard doors hanging off, drawers without fronts and 20 years of ingrained grime that we couldn’t shift,’ she explains. ‘We had to go ahead with our kitchen project and ended up borrowing some of the money from my parents and putting the rest on 0 per cent credit cards with a strict plan to repay them.’

Helena and Gareth admit they hadn’t really considered how the new layout might impact on the practical use of the kitchen. Their kitchen designer, Enrico Roncaglia of John Lewis of Hungerford, showed them how to create the perfect layout by starting the design from scratch.

‘He came up with a layout that was very different from what we initially planned,’ says Helena, ‘but it was so much better than our ideas and we fell in love with it.’

His simplest suggestion, which would make a big difference to the existing space, was to hang the kitchen door from the opposite side of the door frame. This meant they would be able to walk directly into the space, rather than it being hidden by the door as they entered.

Keeping a close eye on their budget, the couple didn’t plan on relocating the gas and water supplies, but one major redesign change involved moving the sink and plumbing to a different wall, separating it from the main cooking area. Helena and Gareth were concerned that the new position of the washing machine and dishwasher would be next to the baby’s cot on the other side of the wall in the nursery. They also thought the wastes might not have enough of a fall underneath the floor to be able to exit the building above the level of the drain, in which case they would have had to add a noisy pump to the system.

‘We didn’t think it was a good idea,’ says Helena, ‘but Enrico reassured us that new white goods are manufactured to be quieter than they were in the past.’

The couple had the falls for the waste checked anyway and found that a pump wasn’t necessary after all.

‘He was right – I’ve since stood in the nursery with the washing machine and dishwasher on in the kitchen and I could barely hear them,’ says Helena.

Enrico also suggested re-opening a fireplace to house a new range cooker, with a mantel above to match the units plus a traditional tiled splashback. However, after pulling off part of the plasterboard that covered the chimney breast, the couple discovered that the opening wasn’t even big enough for a small wood-burning stove.

‘The potential cost and upheaval of opening it up further outweighed all the benefits, so Enrico redesigned the layout,’ says Helena. ‘He kept the oven in its original position, introducing deep drawer units each side and cabinets above for storage.’

Helena and Gareth wanted olive green painted walls and thought a warm neutral shade on the units would suit the oak worktops they had their eye on.

‘We chose to paint the units in Biscuit – but Enrico suggested having a granite worktop around the sink area instead of an oak one, which would get damp or warped,’ says Helena. ‘So we picked a matt finish, hoping to disguise sticky handprints in the future.’

Once the colour scheme was chosen, the couple turned their attention to the flooring, choosing an elegant oak-effect vinyl because it would be low-maintenance and lightweight – perfect for when their new baby reached the toddler age.

The original kitchen had been poorly lit with only a strip of spotlights, so they introduced a variety of zoned lighting sources, including directional dimmable spotlights on wire tracks strung above the food preparation and sink areas, with discreet LED undercabinet downlighters over the worktops and inside the glass-fronted wall units. A retractable pendant above the dining table varies the mood at mealtimes.

‘Graeme, our electrician, was very helpful, offering advice on the extra parts we needed to buy,’ says Helena. ‘We’re also lucky that Gareth’s stepdad and brother are plumbers, so they did the gas and waterworks. My dad and my sister’s boyfriend are fantastic at DIY and took a week off work to help, even coming back in the evenings and weekends to finish the job. It saved us a lot of money.’

Now that the project is complete and baby George has arrived, what is their verdict? ‘The kitchen was the last room in the flat to be updated – but it was worth the wait,’ says Helena. ‘Creating our dream space in time for the arrival of our son means we now have the perfect family home.’

Costs

Fixtures, fittings and appliances£19,024
Furniture and accessories£985
Walls and flooring£1,234
Labour and misc£1,077
TOTAL£22,320

Helena Fulford