An open-plan kitchen redesign

Caroline and Michael Taylor extended the back of their home to achieve a modern kitchen-diner

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‘Looking at the bungalow for the first time, we could see it had been really well looked after by its owners, but the interior just wasn’t to our taste,’ says Caroline of the home they bought back in 2006. ‘Everything from the paintwork to the carpets was immaculate. ‘It was on a good-sized plot, in an area we liked, so we went ahead and bought it,’ she adds. ‘By the time we moved in, we already knew that we would extend the property upwards one day, but at that point we hadn’t decided exactly what else we were going to do to it.’

The couple lived in the bungalow as it was for a few years before eventually having plans drawn up for a loft extension with a master bedroom and an en suite bathroom. ‘I couldn’t get used to living in a house without stairs,’ recalls Caroline.

Fact file

  • The owners: Caroline Taylor, an office manager, lives here with her husband Michael, a civil engineer
  • The property: A detached, extended five-bedroom bungalow, built in the 1950s
  • The location: Farnham, Surrey
  • What they spent: The couple’s kitchen redesign project cost around £53,000

Redesigning the space

The couple also decided to re-plan the back of the house at the same time, to create a large open-plan cooking, dining and living area where they could also enjoy the garden. ‘The original layout was badly planned; it had a sizeable dining room but a small kitchen, then an outside patio area that was essentially dead space, plus a narrow utility room,’ says Caroline. ‘Incorporating the patio area into the plan gave us much more room but didn’t really affect the size of the garden, so we didn’t feel we were losing any valuable space.’

To keep down costs, the couple decided to do as much of the work themselves as possible, and rather than employing one building company to project-manage the job, they decided to find the tradespeople they needed as they went along. ‘We didn’t have the budget, plus we weren’t prepared to pay for something we could do ourselves, such as decorating,’ Caroline explains.

Structural work

In addition to several rolled steel joists (RSJs), the design incorporates a supporting pillar that was originally part of the outside wall by the patio area. This was mainly for structural purposes, but also to create interest and define the different areas. Caroline was also conscious that the open-plan look isn’t to everyone’s taste and, in case they decided to sell the house, she wanted to make it easy for any new owners to put up studwork walls to turn it back into separate rooms. ‘I love the feeling of space but wanted to give it a little bit of character to stop it feeling soulless,’ she says. ‘We also incorporated bi-fold doors and a set of French windows to let in more light, with a lantern rooflight above the dining area.’

Looking to replace all the uPVC windows in the house with timber double glazing, the couple shopped around for the best price they could find for all the doors and windows. ‘It really was worth it,’ says Caroline. ‘We had one quote for £45,000 and managed to get them elsewhere for £25,000.’


Choosing kitchen cabinetry

When it came to the kitchen design, Caroline knew exactly what she wanted, and when local kitchen company designer Femi Ogilvy came to visit the house, she was able to give her a very specific brief. ‘I had been looking around lots of showrooms and flicking through brochures and magazines,’ she explains. ‘I wanted a large island incorporating a hob and sink so I could look at the view rather than a wall while I was preparing dinner. I also wanted plenty of storage so I could keep the island completely clear, and a pantry cupboard for the kettle and toaster that I could shut when they weren’t being used.’

The couple were looking for classic Shaker-style cabinetry that wouldn’t date but could be refreshed in years to come. They were keen to inject a little colour, but knew it was important to choose a shade that would co-ordinate with everything else in the room. Caroline felt that grey would go with most things and chose a soft, neutral tone for the units. ‘I basically wanted a high-end kitchen on a sensible budget,’ she admits, ‘plus, grey is such a versatile colour.’

Planning the layout

Caroline worked with the designer to plan the layout carefully. The dishwasher is next to the sink, near drawers for the cutlery and plates, while the wide pan drawers under the hob house the utensils. The bank of units behind the island includes a pull-out larder and cupboards above and below the built-in appliances that provide hidden storage. ‘I was quite detailed in what I asked for, but the designer was able to incorporate everything,’ says Caroline. ‘One of the cupboards is in front of a chimney breast, so only includes narrow shelving for single rows of bottles and cans, but it ensures the line of cabinetry isn’t broken.’

The couple saved money on installation costs as Michael fitted the cabinetry himself with the help of a friend who is a kitchen fitter. ‘We also got a good deal on the work surfaces,’ says Caroline. ‘I couldn’t find a quote from a local company in the south of England for less than £3,500, but after searching on the internet I found a company in Leicester who could do it for £1,000 less.’ Oiled engineered wood flooring in neutral white enhances the feeling of space and a row of painted white bar chairs under the extended Corian work surface turns one side of the island into a sociable area for relaxed dining and coffee with friends. ‘It’s been quite a journey and doing a lot of the work ourselves has meant it’s been more of a marathon than a sprint,’ says Caroline. ‘It’s very satisfying knowing that we have exactly what we wanted but we’ve also saved a lot of money.’

The costs

Building work£16,000
Doors, windows and rooflight£11,000
Work surfaces£2,700
Cabinetry hardware£350