A flexible kitchen space

Wajeeha and Ian Nolan created a sociable open-plan kitchen and dining area by knocking two rooms into one; transforming a tiny, cluttered and dated kitchen into an open, spacious and airy kitchen/diner, complete with painted units and reclaimed wooden floorboards.

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The problem

‘When we first moved in here, there was a pokey galley kitchen that just wasn’t suitable for a family of four.

‘It was a small narrow space off the hall, with a 1970s style serving hatch through into the lounge. We wanted to create a large, open-plan communal space for flexible living and entertaining.’

‘We had wanted to change the kitchen immediately, but it actually took about a year before we could get started on it because we were converting the loft to create an extra bedroom. We’d begun at the top of the house as it’s easier to work down, rather than treading dirt and grime into areas you’ve already worked on.’

Fact file

The owners: Wajeeha Nolan, who works in marketing, and her husband Ian, a photographer, live here with their children, Barney, three, and six-month-old Jemima

What we did

‘The logical solution was to knock through from the kitchen into the living room to create one large open-plan space. We approached some builders who were working on a neighbouring property and had been recommended to us. They agreed to take on the project and then suggested a structural engineer who we could get in touch with. We did that and he drew up some initial plans and did all the necessary calculations. We had to get Building Regulations approval and fire safety checks, but planning permission wasn’t required.

‘Wanting a simple design that wouldn’t date, we looked at Roundhouse, which is a kitchen company I’d seen in a local magazine. It was a good time to visit the showroom, as there was a sale on at the time. Both liking the style of the kitchen – and the fact that the units could be painted to suit any colour scheme, we managed to bargain with the salespeople and get even more of a discount, but they would have wanted an extra £900 for the painting. We decided to do it ourselves and chose a pale olive-green.

‘We also did the shelving, tiling and floor preparation, and painted the walls white. Plumbers and electricians were called in when we needed them, after the builders had done all the structural work to create the open-plan space – but, unfortunately, this stage went on longer than expected. The builders said they anticipated it taking two weeks, but it turned out they weren’t terribly reliable and were taking on other work at the same time. This meant that our build ended up taking three months.

‘Despite that, the disruption wasn’t too bad because we’d set up a temporary kitchen upstairs in one of the bedrooms. We simply reassembled the old units up there. We also turned another bedroom into a lounge and, because we had the new extra loft bedroom, we could carry on quite comfortably without having to spend any time downstairs.

‘We didn’t set a budget upfront; we just tried to do it all as inexpensively as we could, looking for sales, discounts and ex-display items. In a way, our purchases were dependent on how busy things were at work – more work meant more money to spend, but less time to devote to doing jobs at home.

‘Design-wise, we’ve got a wall of units running the length of one wall. This houses the cooker and dishwasher, while the fridge-freezer is freestanding to one side. The opposite side of the room has been left free of units and is our dining area. One of our favourite aspects of the new layout is the island unit. Although it’s quite a substantial size, as it’s on wheels it can be moved around for added flexibility – there’s more space in the kitchen or dining area as needed. If we’re entertaining it’s great, because you can prepare food while still facing guests at the table. So it’s a really sociable space.

‘We chose the wooden worktops to match the floor, which is old French oak that we bought from an architectural salvage company; they were surprisingly inexpensive. Some of the walls we tiled with classic rectangular white tiles in a brickbond pattern, behind the hob and main workspace.

‘As an unusual twist, a utensil rail – made DIY from a length of copper pipe – runs the whole length of that wall. We also had lights fitted under the wall units and in the plinths, which creates a great atmosphere for evening entertaining.

‘Everyone is very pleased with the space. We’ve created something unique and functional, easy to keep clean and easy to entertain in, too. You cook in the same room with the children or guests, rather than being shut away. As a family, we spend a lot of time in here. It’s perfect for modern living.’


Fixtures and fittings£10,470
Walls and floor£2,080