Updated: Mar 13
Design Inspiration for an open plan, family kitchen diner with snug
Shortly after we moved in, one of my closest friends bought me a picture as a house warming present - she said she saw it and thought it was just 'me'...how well she knows me!
I love a splash of colour and am particular fond of blue - any shade will do. The gifted 'Ooh la la' picture as you'll see below is very similar to a scarf I've had for years and love wearing, and also a faded, favourite table runner. You'll notice that although multi-coloured the tones are more mid tones than very bright, luminous, primary, or neon.
My family of boys are all past the age of mega bright colours and don't want to live in a primary school inspired theme now they're growing into young men, so I needed to ensure I designed a space to suit us all. Therefore, rather than taking these colours and matching every surface in them slavishly, I created a scheme where these colours could all sit comfortably as accessories, without being too childish.
I selected a neutral backdrop and chose a suitable dark blue Valspar's Folk Blue) as an accent. In our part of the world the light is particularly cool and its easy to come a cropper with greys, whites and blues so the exact hue is important. Starting with white which would be the main ceiling and wall colour I decided on Farrow and Ball's All White which is a slightly warm but neutral white. Not brilliant white which is cool on grey days and too dazzling on bright days!
Moving on to the kitchen unit colour I wanted to use a dark grey again as I had in my last kitchen and I loved it! This time the grey is a little browner (sometimes it even looks dark blue in dull light). I chose a matt finish this time though, as I didn't want a reflective surface. The bespoke elements of the kitchen are the larder cupboard in the awkward corner and adding extra cover panels to take the units to the ceiling. This is a nice finishing touch which makes the kitchen look more high end I think. It also stops my husband from using the tops of cupboards as overflow storage....
Kitchen planning is a very detailed process and I'm not going to outline it here other than to say, the more exact you can be about what goes into each cupboard, drawer, shelf at design stage the better your kitchen is likely to function. Also, try to be on hand when fitters are in as it will help to make personal tweaks to tailor your kitchen to your exact requirements. E.g. when making the larder I was able to stand with a tin of beans and ensure shelving was at correct height and spacing for what i would put on each shelf. The devil's in the detail as they say!
The flooring is a light toned bamboo flooring similar to a light oak in colour. The reasons I chose this was it is warm and sunny, durable and within my price range. The bamboo is strandwoven with a resin to bind it, making it harder than solid oak flooring and suitable for use with underfloor heating. It can also be sanded and refinished as many times as necessary. This is important to me as experience has shown me that family life and strong sunshine can take its toll in high traffic areas. It was easy to source, a dawdle to lay and I love the finished look. I've deliberately laid it across the room to help visually re-proportion the room and lead the eye out the bi fold doors.
We decided to use electric underfloor heating this time. It is normally cheaper to install but more expensive to use. We hope to be able to connect it to solar panels at some stage to make it more sustainable. We did not want to be more reliant on oil fired central heating than we already are.
The next big design decision was the work surface - when I say big decision I suppose I mean outlay. Big decisions are only those that cost you a fortune and/or a lot of upheaval to rectify - flooring, units, worktops and appliances are all big decisions in a kitchen renovation!
Who doesn't love a marble island? But they're not necessarily the right option for all spaces. Islands need a lot of space around them and as this kitchen is narrow but long a peninsula was more suitable. As for marble, yes it looks lovely but it isn't the hardest of stone surfaces. I've had marble tiles chip on me previously. Luckily, the quartz options are vast and this marble finish quartz with brown/grey veining tie in really well with unit colour - its called Michelangelo. The quartz was sourced at our local Lamont Stone - their measuring wizardry (yes I stood and watched their laser machine like a nerd) and accuracy is 2nd to none. And, perhaps because I was installing at a quieter time, the installation was rapido! I decided to continue the quartz over the entire window sill behind the banquette rather than introducing another finish. It makes the final look much sleeker.
The banquette was requested by the lads as they find them comfortable. I heartily agreed as they're also very space efficient, easy to clean and you don't have the added noise of many scraping chairs on the floor! The boys would have loved an american style, slick, red shiny leather covering but that 1950's diner style was not really what I was aiming at here. Rather than introduce new colours to the scheme I used a blue (this time lighter denim hue) on one side of the back next to the window and brown/grey faux leather finish on the seating and back on the higher side. (As heads rest against, and fingers smudge it, a light fabric could get grubby quickly.)
A banquette is relatively straightforward to make if you have a handy carpenter or competent DIYer at home. I wanted to use the space underneath for storage of outdoor cushions etc which wouldn't require everyday access. I loved how we were able to use left over bamboo to face the base of the seating - economic and slick.
The upholstery part I did myself. Again, its not that difficult if you practice your corners before you start and measure at least twice. A strong staple gun is essential! It can be time consuming though, especially when you do this ribbed effect, but I personally find it more comfortable and stays taut longer, when done this way.
I have Ikea kitchen chairs which have lasted for over 15 years. I was struggling to find a suitable replacement though and was considering just refinishing them in a new colour. Chairs need to work hard. They need to be sturdy, comfortable and easy to clean in my house. But then on one of my wee forays to On The Square Emporium in Belfast I found a gorgeous bench and stool. What these do are not only tick the boxes above but they are beautiful and they don't have backs which looks less cluttery - (just made up that word folks!)
What I was looking for at On The Square was some feature lighting and they didn't disappoint. Not only do they have an array of pre-loved lighting some vintage, but they also have some interesting repurposed lights. Above are the honey pot lights I snapped up. Apparently they came from a restaurant in Moira. I love them over the peninsula with a filament bulb adding lovely atmospheric lighting in the evening. Of course when taking on lighting like this you need to trust your outlet and have a patient, experienced spark.
I used Andy & Scott on this job, they're fab - professional, proficient and a good laugh to work with! They were meticulous in measuring the spacing of the ceiling lights, working off the floor plan and then ensuring all was in the correct place when the kitchen units were installed. Lighting can make or break a space. If your pendant is not in the right place it can really unbalance a room. Again, whoever is project managing a job should be on hand at these moments to ensure the best possible placement, the right height for the people in the house and the right switch circuitry. Lighting needs to be planned early on so that from first to final fix the installation runs as smoothly as possible. I have a mix of mood, task and ambient lighting in this room. These guys also took care of the underfloor heating and plumbing too. It was good to have both trades in one phone call - much easier to schedule in with my main build team PC Builders.
When it comes to fittings and fixtures this house was already a mixture of old rope style brass switches, white plastic and some brushed steel too. I took the opportunity to tackle the finishes in the room and used brushed steel for tap and switches. However to add interest, I used the copper honey pot lights and pewter coloured pendant light from online company Industville. Sometimes people think you can't mix metallic finishes, truth is you can and often it looks better. Whatever your thoughts, suit yourself. Mix it up or go matchy - whatever floats your boat! Its your house after all.
The shelf brackets either side of extractor hood are brass coloured again for a hint of warmth and difference. Andy worked closely with carpenter Robert to insert channels and LED strips in these plain wood shelves to create task lighting washing down the quartz backdrop.
The extractor hood is stainless steel but I asked Robert to cover it with this mdf structure as I didn't want it as a 'feature'. This isn't an industrial style kitchen. As its painted the same colour as the wall, the hood is less obtrusive.
Usually we paint walls ourselves but we were impatient to get this job finished and there's some tricky cutting in when dark blue meets white. So we asked Alex Ravenscroft to finish and paint the entire space. Lovely job he did too!
Back at the planning stage I had chosen roller blinds as the most practical option for the kitchen. The clever cassettes at the top hide the roller mechanism, which in my experience can get a bit dusty. Kitchen dust is different from any other room as it mixes with steam and can stick to surfaces and can be much harder to remove. And if you have an Aga or similar you'll know that the tops of the cupboards can get really sticky. The blinds are a dark denim wipeable material. they're not a solid colour they are almost linen look texture. I used a local company that I've been using for 20 years now, New Look Blinds and they always fit really well with sturdy, safe chain mechanisms. I will add curtains now that I have finalised everything else. I have planned for them to be similar to blinds. But after a while living in the space I'll see if if I fancy a bit of pattern. They're just for added cosy factor.
The area rugs help delineate the snug space from the rest of the room and anchor the sofa. The patterned rug was not large enough so I used the larger grey one underneath. The patterned rug is from Homemakers Discount in Coleraine, a local independent retailer and the grey, woolly one is from Ikea. This layering makes for a luxurious cushy feeling underfoot. Lola, our working cocker certainly approves....
All that was left was to pull together some accessories - mainly pictures to help disguise the TV on the wall. I can't remember where all the pictures are from, but the aboriginal painting is an original and a gift from our relatives in Oz, the heart pallet wood painting is one of my own made as a valentine gift to my family a few years back and the tiny painting of 2 boys is one of mine too.
If you'd like any more details on any of the above please comment below or message me. I'm more than happy to share the information.
Finally some photos of the finished space just finished in Jan 23.... Thank you for reading this far, it has been a journey to live through never mind blog about! And thanks to those mentioned above who worked so hard and so well with us on this job - we love your work!