Kitchen redesign filled with light

After being unhappy with their previous addition, Suzy and Elliot Helmanis-Johnson reconfigured the design to gain a more sociable, open-plan kitchen

TODO alt text

‘We redesigned our extension to create the perfect space’ After being unhappy with their previous addition, Suzy and Elliot Helmanis-Johnson reconfigured the design to gain a more sociable, open-plan kitchen

When we bought our two-bedroom bungalow a decade ago, we couldn’t wait to extend out into the garden and convert the loft to create two bedrooms,’ says Suzy. ‘In retrospect, though, I wish we’d taken more time to plan it, as we ended up with a kitchen that had no view of the garden and felt dark.’

After living with the layout for eight years, Suzy asked a team of tradespeople that work for her family’s interiors firm, Helmanis & Howell, to knock down the walls dividing the kitchen and two reception rooms. This allowed the whole space to be opened up and filled with natural light through two sets of existing French doors at the rear.

Fact file

The Owners: Suzy Helmanis-Johnson, who works for Helmanis & Howell interiors, and husband Elliot, who works in recruitment, live here with their children Jacob, eight, and Noah, six

The Property: A four-bedroom, 1950s dormer bungalow

The Location: Wolviston, County Durham

What they spent: The couple’s initial extension project cost £50,000, and their most recent kitchen project cost around £19,000

By this time, the family firm had started selling Second Nature kitchens and, with more planning experience under her belt, Suzy had a clear vision of how the space could look. ‘I wanted the new design to be fresher, easier to maintain and have a more sociable focus, with plenty of room for baking,’ she says. ‘Also, at the top of my wish list was more storage.’

Instead of cupboards, the couple fitted mainly drawers for storing crockery and pans; some include oak plate dividers and others hide utensil and cutlery drawers, which are conveniently positioned opposite the integrated dishwasher, which was reused from the old kitchen. ‘We’ve also been able to create a bank of tall larder units on a previously blank wall,’ says Suzy. ‘Although they’re quite shallow, together they form an ideal pantry for storing tins and jars.’

Finally, they tackled the lighting issue. ‘Due to the presence of a structural beam, the ceiling was two heights. We boxed around the edge of the higher side and added spotlights to help it feel lower,’ Suzy explains. ‘LED strip lighting was also added on top of the units for a relaxing glow in the evening.’

In total, the work took just over two weeks to complete and, thanks to more time spent planning, Suzy feels her new kitchen is future-proofed and works so much better for family life. ‘Everything is to hand and I can see what I need quickly,’ she says. ‘I don’t have cupboards full of out-of-date tins anymore! Since there’s more storage space, I can buy in bulk, too, which saves me money.’

helmanis kitchen before renovation

helmanis kitchen shaker island

Left A taller section creates a barrier between the Neff induction hob and guests. The cooker hood is from Elica and the white fishing pendant light is from Garden Trading

helmanis kitchen dining area open plan

Below Knocking down the walls between the kitchen and two reception rooms has created a hub of the home that links to the garden via existing French doors. The radiators are from The Radiator Company

Project Notes

What I’ve learnt

‘It can be very stressful dealing with builders. You need to either find someone you can really trust and communicate with, or save up and use a company that will act as project manager for you.’

My best buy

‘I love the Neff oven with slide-and-hide door. It slides neatly out of the way when open and is easier to clean. The second oven includes a microwave, as I didn’t want an appliance taking up worktop space.’

My top tip

‘Curved kitchen units can be good for an open-plan space as they feel more like furniture, and help a kitchen blend together with a dining or living area. They can be quite expensive, though, as the plinth and worktop need to be curved, too. We limited the curves to one unit, which is positioned where the kitchen ends and the dining area begins.’

My favourite spot

‘I love sitting at the table by the French doors, which has a great view of the whole kitchen. If anyone’s cooking or sitting on the stools, you can still chat.’

If I did it all again…

‘…I would add more lighting. Also, some more affordable island extractor fans have now been released, so I would probably have one of those to save the hassle of boxing one in.’

Recommended website is brilliant, as it has images of hundreds of real kitchens from around the country. Many kitchen websites just have showroom pictures, but these are actual kitchens so you get a better feel for how yours might look. I spent a lot of time browsing and making a note of the ideas I wanted to use, such as the white worktops.’