We had always planned to replace our kitchen at some point,’ says Claire. ‘We knew it would be a big investment, so we wanted something special, and a totally new look.’
Claire and her husband Nick had moved into their four-bedroom home around 10 years ago, shortly after their younger son, Daniel, was born.
‘With three-year-old Jamie, and the new baby, we simply needed more room, and there wasn’t scope to extend our two-bedroom period cottage,’ recalls Claire.
‘This house had four good-sized bedrooms and plenty of green space nearby – ideal for a family.’
- The owners: Claire Hoyes and her husband Nick, both business systems analysts, live here with their sons, Jamie, 14, and Daniel, 10
- The property: A detached, four-bedroom house built in 1995
- The location: Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire
- What they spent: The kitchen project cost around £40,000
Altering the layout
The house still had its original layout, with the kitchen overlooking the garden at the back, and although everything worked, its cream units were worn and dated, and the appliances were becoming ever more unreliable. ‘We didn’t want to replace things piecemeal, so we managed until the oven broke down,’ says Claire. ‘Then, we knew that it was time to take action.’
Adjacent to the kitchen was a neglected and under-used dining room, with a sliding patio door to the garden, and double glass doors through to the living room at the front of the house. To make more of what they had, Claire and Nick removed the dividing wall, combining the kitchen and dining areas in a single space. ‘As the boys are growing up, we wanted a big room where we could all spend time together, sit down to eat, and entertain friends,’ says Claire.
The couple considered various layout ideas before deciding what to do. Both the sliding patio door and the main kitchen window would be replaced with modern, bi-fold glass doors, giving easy outside access and filling the space with natural light. The double doors to the living room would be blocked up, creating additional wall space, and the new kitchen fixtures installed in the former dining room area, leaving room for a table and chairs at the opposite end, where the kitchen had been.
Designing the new look
Friends also reported a positive experience with kitchen installers Ice Interior, and Claire and Nick immediately felt at ease with its owner Matthew Parnum, describing their ideas to him so he could work on a design. ‘The first proposal had a peninsula, but we felt it was a little tame, although we liked the big bank of cabinets and ovens along the wall,’ says Claire. ‘After Matthew tweaked the design, changing the peninsula island, the space seemed more dynamic and interesting.’
The couple wanted their new kitchen to feel inviting, relaxed and timeless, and found themselves drawn to pale, painted units. After costing several options, they settled on Second Nature’s Milton in-frame cabinets in a soft grey shade, teamed with sleek, off-white quartz work surfaces. They explored the idea of adding a burst of colour with a purple glass splashback, but eventually opted for a stylish co-ordinating grey. ‘We realised changing it could be tricky if we got fed up with it over time,’ says Claire. ‘We kept everything quite neutral so it’s more flexible and easy to accessorise with colour.’
As they planned to have two sets of bi-fold doors installed – one fitting the gap left by the old patio door, and the other replacing the existing kitchen window – Claire and Nick put time into researching them, visiting several local companies as well as the National Self Build and Renovation Centre in Swindon. ‘There’s a lot of choice, and some are definitely easier to open and close than others,’ says Claire. ‘We eventually opted for a design by Origin, and installers Herts Bifold Doors were brilliant – they also fitted the glass with a dog flap for our Jack Russell, Sidney.’
The finished space
Within around three months, the plans had been made and work began. The building phase, including taking down the wall, blocking up the internal living room doors and installing the bi-fold doors, took about two weeks, after which the kitchen itself was fitted. ‘The home office was the only usable room downstairs, so we had the fridge and microwave in there and just made do,’ says Claire. ‘We also went away for a few days, so it was manageable.’
Once the kitchen was in and functioning again, the couple took a breather while they weighed up their flooring options. Practicality was key, although Claire also wanted a warm, welcoming feel. Both she and Nick agreed on dark grey vinyl tiles, and Nick came up with a smart, herringbone-style layout that would add an extra layer of interest. ‘We didn’t realise until the fitter explained it that our chosen pattern made his job quite complicated,’ says Claire. ‘It used up a lot of tiles, so he had to be really careful with wastage to ensure there were enough to finish the job.’
Laying the floor was the final touch, after which Claire, Nick and their boys could really start to enjoy their new kitchen. The transformation from a dated kitchen and under-used dining room to a modern family space is striking.
‘Investing in a completely fresh look was the right decision, and I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved,’ says Claire. ‘We weren’t as keen to entertain before because the space made it difficult, but now it works really well. It always looks good, and everyone loves coming here.’
|Appliances, sink, tap||£8,200|
|Building work/labour, including plumbing and electrics||£6,000|