Open-plan kitchen for entertaining family

Catherine and Shane Sylvester extended to create a bright, sociable kitchen space

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‘We lived with our previous long, narrow kitchen for 13 years,’ recalls Catherine.

‘I’m the youngest of three brothers and a sister, all with large families who often come over for dinner. Before, our space was limited, with no room to chat while I cooked. My husband Shane and I knew we wanted to extend the kitchen to give us more space, so the design grew from there.’

With the necessary planning permission granted, a 20-week build programme began in early 2012, helping to create an extra 28 square metres of ground-floor living space.

Plans involved opening up the ground floor and extending it, bringing it in line with the existing side extension, and also adding bi-fold doors that would link the kitchen to the garden.

Fact file

  • The owners: Catherine Sylvester, who works in retail sales, and her husband, Shane, a builder and metal fabricator, live here with their children, Ellen, 12; John, nine; and Lily, five
  • The property: A four-bedroom, semi-detached house built in 2000
  • The location: Swords in Dublin, Ireland
  • What they spent: The couple’s kitchen and extension project cost around £65,000

New kitchen design

The build

All internal works were carried out first, which included removing the dividing kitchen and dining room wall and moving the kitchen from the side extension directly across to the new space where the dining room used to be. The entire width of the property was extended and opened up at the rear, creating a bright new kitchen-diner, with expansive glass doors and clerestory windows that ensure the open-plan room is now filled with light.

‘While the building work was going on, we lived in the front room with a cooker, microwave, dining table and chairs — almost everything we needed was in that room!’ Catherine laughs. ‘We depended on family, friends and neighbours, who were brilliant and allowed me to use their cookers.’

Adding the extension

The couple’s most difficult part of the project was supporting the back of the house as the new extension was being erected. ‘We had to seek an engineer’s advice on structural issues, as the side walls were constructed on the party wall line, which then changed the whole design of the foundations,’ says Shane. ‘The complete back wall and side of the house had to be supported with metal needles to facilitate the fitting of hidden beams.’

‘When the back wall of the house came out, there was just a sheet that was put over in the evening,’ adds Catherine. ‘My neighbours would often laugh at me as I washed my dishes outside in the open air! It was a nightmare. You think its going to be tough, but you never know just how tough it is until you’re living through it.’

Interior design Catherine and Shane bought all their appliances directly from local outlets and selected champagne-coloured gloss units from Dublin-based kitchen retailer Kube Kitchens. ‘The colour of the units varies in different lights, from greens to greys,’ says Catherine. Pennywell supplied the quartz worktops and designed the large, white island that houses the oven, microwave, a hot plate drawer and deep pan-storage drawers. ‘I wanted a practical, sociable kitchen that isn’t precious, and just does what it says on the tin.’

seating area

extension at night


Delays due to bad weather hindered the schedule and labour costs doubled, increasing the budget. ‘As we went for such a high-end spec, we felt we had to select furniture to match the overall design, hence the reason our budget spiralled out of control and we ended up spending double,’ says Catherine. ‘The build was supposed to be finished in far less time, and we had to take out loans and use savings to finance it, but it was worth it as the end result is fabulous. Whenever we have guests, they all congregate in the kitchen. We love entertaining now and have hosted lots of dinner parties.

‘We can see the morning sun rise in the east and set in the west through the new skylight roof panels, so at all times the sun goes round the house. It’s so lovely.’

Catherine Sylvester

Project notes

Catherine Sylvester shares her kitchen renovation experience

What I’ve learnt

‘The weather can have such an impact on a project. It rained almost continuously. We had builders turn up and leave as they couldn’t work under such wet conditions.’

My top tip

‘Hiring a good architect is paramount – we’d have been lost without Derek. Shane had a full-time job as well as managing this project, which was hard to do, so depending on your budget I would consider hiring a project manager.’

My favourite feature

‘I love the limestone floor tiles, as they give us that streamlined look inside and out. They had to be shipped from Portugal but were worth the wait. Whatever time of year, they always look clean outside.’

Clever idea

‘Instead of having radiators,we opted for the Thermodul heat system, where all the heat comes from the skirting boards, leaving the walls free for furniture.’

My best buy

‘The Italian bar stools from Arena Kitchens are so comfortable and everybody loves them.’

Planning the layout

‘Derek worked closely with Shane on the overall design of the space. The bi-fold doors have made such a huge difference in terms of light, and the island creates the perfect sociable place to gather.’

I couldn’t live without…

‘…my Miele fridge and freezer. Before, I had a combined fridge-freezer, but you can pack so much more into two separate appliances.’

My favourite spot

‘The island: I love it when people come to sit and chat with me over a glass of wine while I cook. I don’t miss out on anything anymore.’

The costs

Building work£38,000
Limestone flooring and paving£10,000
Kitchen units£7,600
Bi-fold doors and windows£3,800
Sink and tap£400