A vintage-style kitchen renovation

Sandra Rogers and her husband Tony renovated the kitchen, creating a large open-plan design with a vintage-style scheme

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Sandra and Tony Rogers knocked two rooms into one open-plan space, adding glazed doors and electic touches to create their perfect country-inspired space.

Fact file

The owners: Sandra Rogers (right) and her husband Tony Soffe, who run Vintage Kitty Rose, a vintage furniture and accessories shop, live here with sons Sean, 19 and Tom, 16. 
The property: A semi-detached, five-bedroom house built around 1910
The location: Torquay, Devon
What they spent: The couple’s kitchen project cost around £22,000 

‘The sunniest spot in our house was always a cramped little extension that had been added on to the kitchen in the 1970s,’ says Sandra. ‘It was frustrating because we had a lovely, big home, yet everyone always crowded into a tiny room, with no easy access to the garden.’

Since Sandra and her husband Tony bought their spacious Edwardian house in Torquay 12 years ago, they have converted it back from five separate flats to a family home. Keeping the existing kitchen, which overlooked the back garden, the small adjoining extension was used as a breakfast room, then later, as their two boys grew up, as a casual seating area and games room. ‘The area should have had a really summery feel, but it always seemed dark,’ explains Sandra, ‘so we’d often discussed knocking through the two rooms to give us more light and space.’

The couple had been renovating in stages, and, looking at their budget, decided to go ahead with removing the dividing wall but leaving the units intact. They consulted a local architect, who drew their attention to the discrepancy in height of the kitchen ceiling and the low, sloping extension roof. He advised increasing the height in the extension by removing the false ceiling, and installing rooflights.

‘We were concerned about the added cost,’ says Sandra, ‘but taking down the plasterboard and cutting into the roof wasn’t that big a job, and the extra height and light would make a huge difference.’

Sandra and Tony approached local builder Steve Washbrook, and work began in January 2012. In hindsight, the timing was not ideal, as Tony was studying for a degree and Sandra was launching their new business, so the building work was an additional stress. Part way through, they also decided to install two sets of bi-fold glass doors while the kitchen was out of action, bringing in more light and creating access to the garden. However, while waiting for the made-to-measure doors to arrive, their builder had to move on to another commitment, leaving the project temporarily stalled.

‘There was no running water downstairs because the sink had been disconnected, and we had four people to feed every day, with just a microwave and a washing-up bowl,’ recalls Tony. ‘We were so busy and the house seemed to be in chaos.’

After about three weeks, the doors were delivered and work got back on track, so Tony and Sandra bit the bullet and put in a new kitchen. Throughout the project, they had kept a close watch on their costs. Tony had negotiated a deal with the glass door supplier, who offered a discount in return for photographs of the installation for marketing purposes, and to minimise unforeseen expenses, the builder’s quote was accepted on condition that any additional costs would be absorbed.

‘I needed a fixed price,’ Tony explains. ‘One of the steel joists in the ceiling ended up costing a little more than we’d anticipated, but our builder stuck to our agreement. He also passed on his trade discount for some items, which helped.’

For their new kitchen, the couple explored various designs before selecting simple cream units from Howdens. ‘We like to buy locally where possible and I felt more comfortable going somewhere where I could talk to someone face-to-face if there were any queries,’ says Tony.

‘I would have liked more time to get used to the new space, but with the builder on site I had to make a decision,’ adds Sandra. ‘I chose a neutral kitchen, as I knew I could add lots of freestanding pieces to make it more interesting.’

The couple weighed up several different layouts. With the windows, slanting ceiling and new doors along one side, wall space had to be carefully allocated to ensure sufficient storage and work areas. One solution was to put in underfloor heating so there would be no need for radiators.

The range cooker was in the house when the couple moved in, and, as it was still in perfect working order, Sandra planned to keep it in the same position but have it professionally cleaned, so as not to detract from the pristine new furniture around it. ‘Everyone thought we’d bought a new cooker,’ she says. ‘The cleaning cost about £100, which was money well spent.’

Sandra was keen to inject her own style into the space, and had a clear idea in mind of the look she wanted to create. ‘I love anything with a pretty, rustic feel,’ she says. ‘I also like having different items, colours and designs that all work together informally, without strictly matching.’

She opted for a dainty foliage-patterned wallpaper that softens the room and links visually to the outside space. The large dining table is surrounded by mismatched, secondhand chairs covered in country-style checks and prints, while Sandra’s vintage china is displayed on plate racks and a freestanding painted dresser.

Following the six-month project, the kitchen is still the most used room in Sandra and Tony’s house, but now everyone can enjoy the light, space and comfortable surroundings. The experience proved quite stressful and the couple acknowledge that things might have progressed more smoothly if they had allowed more planning time at the outset.

‘Next time, we probably wouldn’t try to study, launch a new business and revamp a kitchen all at the same time,’ says Sandra. ‘It was tough, but now it’s finished, we’ve got a beautiful kitchen at a great price.


The costs

Building work/labour£8,000
Kitchen units, worktops, sink, dishwasher£6,800
Bi-fold doors£3,400
Plumbing/underfloor heating£1,020