+ Our Basement Renovation - Part 1

On the face of it, we moved into a flat with the bathroom of our dreams. When viewing the flat before buying, we were blown away by the giant shower enclosure,freestanding bathtub and the sheer space it was going to offer us. Our surveyor suggested we consider making the main bathroom an en-suite and adding a walk-in wardrobe between that and the master bedroom. From there, we could then transform the spare toilet/utility room into a family bathroom. After all, 3 beds 2 baths is far more appealing than a 3 bed 1 bath to any future buyers.

We kicked the process off over six months ago, popping over to Ripples Bathrooms for their free design service. For my first appointment with designer Joel, I talked through my suggestions for fixtures/fittings and tried as best as I could to answer questions like "how about a closed cup WC?" or "would you like a porter with the shower?" Based on this, Joel then spent a week or two sketching out proposed designs and pulled together a quote for bathroom fittings, as well as suggesting a reliable builder to carry out the work. The results of the designs and plans can be seen below!

From Utility Room to Family Bathroom

The current utility room is finished in two different types of tiles, with a tiny sink and the oddest assortment of boxed-in pipes. It currently fits our washing machine and laundry baskets. The goal is to turn this from a standard utility room with zero style, to a fully functioning family bathroom. The focus of the room will be gorgeous hexagonal graphic cement tiles from Terazzo Tiles.

I visited Scandic by Haymarket last June and this was where I first spotted this style of tile, used on the floor at Greta's Café! The middle picture is how we tesselate them, and the pic on the right is our sample from Terazzo Tiles I visited Scandic by Haymarket last June and this was where I first spotted this style of tile, used on the floor at Greta's Café! The middle picture is how we tesselate them, and the pic on the right is our sample from Terazzo Tiles.

To accompany the grey tiles, we're going for brushed gold fittings, a standard single-ended bath with 8-jet whirlpool system and some beautiful grey Ural Blanco tiles. The doorway to the old bathroom will be sealed off, and the washing machine moved from the main room to a new cupboard in its place.

Main Bathroom >> Master En-Suite & Walk-in Wardrobe

We're essentially converting the bathroom into new rooms - an en-suite and a walk-in wardrobe. For the main bedroom, the main changes will be new Covent Garden Oak flooring from Ecora (with underfloor heating) and the addition of a new, very handy ledge behind our Warren Evans Sunday bed.

Replacing the freestanding cast iron bathtub, too-small sink and old walk-in shower will be a Hans Grohe Raindance Air Overhead Shower and a double trough sink in the custom-made vanity unit painted in Farrow & Ball's Downpipe.

We initially wanted to tile the shower recess with special hand-painted tiles from Made a Mano in their beautiful petrolio blue, but we just couldn't justify the cost. The builders are going to plaster this area and leave it prepped for a custom-made walk-in wardrobe from Neatsmith.

It took Ned and I a few months to agree to get this all done at the same time as the en-suite - I was initially very hesitant to shell out more money given the fact that we're paying for the ENTIRE basement to be renovated. That being said, we've had to wait so long for our freeholder and his inept solicitor to approve, that I've been able to save enough. One Saturday we went to meet Valentina at Neatsmith on Finchley Road, where we spent about an hour and a half talking through our budget and exact needs. A few weeks later we then received this design:

I can't wait to share updates of each room once done! For now, you can see week one of progress in the video on Instagram.


+ What I Wish I Knew at 20

Ten years ago I was a Cardiff university undergraduate student, loving (most) of the experiences that era afforded me. Like other young adults, I was keen to get out of academia and start living life! At the time I didn’t fully grasp the important role that education continues to play in your life after university (even if it comes in non-structured forms), or that the ‘self’ I viewed as concretely me constantly changes and evolves. What would I tell my younger self, if I could? I recently turned thirty, so it’s as good as time as any to reflect on what I wish I knew at 20:

Leaving full-time education is NOT the end of learning

Graduation day is in many ways a symbolic goodbye to a life dominated by structured education. Education beyond academia should be given more weight to university graduates of today —the subjects I spent years studying and sitting exams for have had very little bearing on my adult life. I might not regularly use the knowledge I learned in Geography A-Level, but the ability to structure an opinion and research relevant facts is something I use every day.

And yet, it’s these more process-driven skills that fuel true growth. During a panel discussion at Stanford University (listen to the podcast here), the head of Google X, Astro Teller, told a room of students just that:

“The bad news is that the stuff you’re learning now is going to be fairly irrelevant in ten years. The good news is that the skill of learning things quickly, figuring how to understand first principles and being able to reconstruct your knowledge after you forget 99% of it later, those skills are critical for the rest of your life.”

True education is the attainment of a greater understanding of why the world is as it is, and what it could be. The primary way to attain this understanding is to read, read, read. Even though I smashed my Goodreads challenge of reading thirty books in 2016, it unsettles me that there’s so many novels, theories and scientific research I’ll never get time for.

I used to have an aversion to non-fiction, but some of the most powerful prose I’ve read recently is from the genre; I wholeheartedly recommend Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: a Brief History of Humankind or Alan Watts’ The Wisdom of Insecurity. Our smartphone is now a portal to information ripe for devouring, whether it’s via a language-learning app like Memrise or Maria Popova’s blog Brain Pickings. Popova talks about the constant evolution of the intellectual self in this episode of the Tim Feriss podcast, reflecting on her younger self as a “spiritual embryo” or an “intellectual baby.”

Mine the Trivia of Today

Even if a situation or event seems trivial to you, write about it. It will be endlessly fascinating to your future self! The iOS/Macbook Day One app makes it simpler than ever to sift through years of detritus, and by doing so you’re immortalising snippets of lived experience that would otherwise be long forgotten. I wrote a review of the app a while back, detailing the best ways to use it.

Day one app (mac,iOS) — ideal for capturing snippets of quotes read, memories, dream logs & more!

The Morning Pages technique is also a great way to continually flex your writing muscle, although it’s habit that’s eluded me.

More Later, Less Now

When I was twenty I didn’t think twice about occasionally sleeping with my make-up on or eating junk food, always happy to choose instant gratification over any benefits my future self might appreciate!

Valuing short-term wins more than long-term gains is what’s known as temporal discounting. While it’s immediately gratifying to sink your teeth into a burger rather than a tofu salad, it’s one of the hardest life lessons to take on board that resisting temptation will make things easier on your future self. I’m by no means a saint, but when I’m in my element my evening routine is like a ceremony for that future self:

  • Choose & arrange tomorrow’s outfit
  • Pre-pack gym bag
  • Use electric toothbrush for 2 and a half minutes then floss
  • Minimum of ten minutes removing make-up and slathering on various oils and creams

Say Yes!

No-one ever grew as a person by shying away from new experiences. Take for example a social invitation; nights curled up at home might rejuvenate your soul, but with every year that passes they’ll become more and more the default.

I’ve never regretted getting off the sofa and seeing friends or devoting free time to planning days and little London adventures. I’m grateful that potential evenings of boredom or self-pity were catalysed into memorable nights out (or in) with close friends.

Don’t Lose Your Roots

If I could go back to my twenty-year-old self, I would ask more candid questions to my grandparents. Once they pass away, your key to the past is cruelly lost. Thankfully my granddad wrote up a lot of his life history for my uncle so I have word documents typed up full of details of his life growing up in Birkenhead, as well as one or two asides about his own parents.

That being said, a day after initially drafting this blog post, Nanny Win, my last surviving grandparent died so this point is especially poignant. She would chat about certain times in her life, but I barely know a thing about her several siblings and how they lived their lives. Now, they’re reduced a box on myheritage.com:

My nan’s eight siblings — I only met one as a child, and have little information about the rest

Cherish Your Independence

Once you’re in full time employment it’s hard to quit and perhaps even harder to score a sabbatical — there’s always a path to promotion or potential new role within reach and walking away carries with it sacrifices.

One of my best decisions was blowing my savings (plus overdraft!) on travelling and seeing the world. In fact, my blog has 14 pages of travel posts! It bears repeating — you’ll likely never be as free as you are today. Before you know it, you and your friends will be saving for mortgages, marriages and munchkins so opportunities to connect with them decline.

What lessons have you learnt in the past decade that you would pass onto yourself? I’d also recommend a book entitled What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self, featuring letters that forty-one famous women wrote to their younger selves.


+ Split, Korčula & Dubrovnik: Croatia Travel Tips

Split, Korcula and Dubrovnik Travel Guide
I planned our Croatia trip almost a year in advance - we had no big plans to look forward to and Croatia was always on our bucket list so it made sense to get something in the diary. It was a daunting task - there's so many must-see places that it's futile to try to tick them all off in one week, so we settled on an itinerary of five nights in Split (to include day trips to nearby gems), two nights in Korčula and then two final nights in Dubrovnik before flying home. See below for my Croatia travel tips based on my first taste of this gorgeous country!

Tip #1: Don't spend more than two or three nights in Split, and instead spend more time in Korčula or a more peaceful island such as Hvar or Brac.

Split

Diocletian's Palace

I came across Apartment Luxury Palace No.1, a beautiful one-bed apartment right in the heart of Diocletian's Palace with its very own hot tub and terrace. You might think that staying within the confines of a UNESCO World Heritage site would be peaceful, but on a Friday night in peak tourist season the palace is less royal and more rave! The Diocletian's Palace was absolutely heaving with people when we arrived, so we were perked up to see that the apartment owner had left us some freebies:


Complimentary fruit, biscuits and wine from the owner of our Airbnb

The main living area
The main living area

The master bedroom
The master bedroom

Breakfast on the terrace
Breakfast on the terrace

The hot tub with a glimpse of the Saint Domnius Bell Tower

The hot tub with a glimpse of the Saint Domnius Bell Tower

Walking around the Roman ruins is captivating; every time you look up you'll find gorgeously worn shutters, intricate chimneys  and columns, or a cloudless sky framed by the opening of a vestibule.

Tip #2: If you're short on time and money, Diocletian's Palace has reams of cheap pizza stalls and well-priced gelato.

We only ate out one evening within the palace grounds, at a place called Appetit - my steak was good but Ned wasn't so convinced about his braised beef! It didn't help we were there super early and the place was artificially forcing an atmosphere with electronic music despite there only being three tables' worth of punters. I'd also thoroughly recommend Buffet Fife, quick, cheap and unbelievably tasty Croatian cuisine.

Tip #3:  Don't be fools like us and withdraw lots of Euros for your Croatia trip - even though some places accept them, it's technically illegal to use as currency so it's best to get a small amount of Kunas and then top up as and when you need to. Another tip we were told by a fellow traveller was to choose the option that lets the bank set the conversion rate on ATMs to get a better deal.

Split's Coastline

Bačvice Beach

Bačvice Beach

It's a truth universally acknowledged that sandy beaches are better than pebbly ones, and the good news is that there's the golden Bačvice beach just a few minutes' walk from the main town centre. However, this beach is REALLY busy (Costa Del Hell) so  (Tip #4) I'd recommend walking along the coast towards Radisson Blu, as the beach there is less hectic.

We stopped walking once we reached the Mistral Beach Bar & Restaurant. The food here was pricey but tasty with the fluffiest home-baked bread rolls I think I've ever been lucky enough to try! You can also rent a sun lounger at their beach bar.
Lunch at the Mistral restaurant

Plaza Kasjuni

The next day we tried out Plaza Kasjuni. You can either spend 45 minutes walking along the coastal road from the Riva of Split (bearing in mind that the pavement stops at one point) up towards Joe's Beach Lounge & Bar, or get the No.12 Bus from here.

You can rent a sun lounger for 100 Kuna, overlooking the beautiful Kasjuni bay. The water is so salty you can almost float but be warned - the seabed is very, very jagged! Unfortunately for us, one of Joe's restaurants didn't serve food(!) and its sister restaurant had a big birthday group reservation and so there was a two-hour wait. My advice is to reserve a table before you go!

Joe's Beach Bar & Lounge at Plaza Kasjuni

Bene Beach

Our first encounter of this quiet little beach was on our Split Sunset Sea Kayaking Tour. The no.12 bus also takes you there directly. We got into our kayaks (much to the disapproval of a local self-entitled idiot who harassed our tour guides for ruining 'his' stretch of sea) and set off towards an old military posting, past The Mediterranean Institute for Life Sciences and then onwards to a quiet bay. En route, we spotted a couple of nudists who really didn't expect thirty kayakers to glide past!

Most of the group posed for Go Pro shots as they jumped off a jagged boulder, whereas Ned and I opted for a few moments chilling on a more attainable rock on the shore. We then headed back and watched the sun set from our kayaks before the tour officially ended.

Krka Waterfalls - Day Trip

Although we technically booked a tour, it was really just a return bus journey with a brief river cruise from Skradin to the park entrance. Tip #5 - Buy your tour ticket as part of a special offer bundled in with the sea kayaking tour. On the cruise we were treated to the most stunning views of untouched nature, as if humans had never discovered this slice of the world before. It was only when we got through the entrance that we started to appreciate just how busy the place was!

Once you've bought your ticket and walked into the park, (tip #6) is to turn left towards the wooden walkway rather than going straight to the waterfalls. That way, you're going 'against' the majority of tourists as they loop along the path.

Following the path around, there's various little pockets of water bordered by rugged bushes to explore, very much like tiny secret gardens! Come lunchtime, food at the Buffet restaurant near the Mill was good if slightly overpriced, and unfortunately we didn't get to go too close to the waterfalls as it was packed with people :(

Marjan Mountains

To start your ascent up this hill, walk past Buffet Fife up Solurat Ul. and then turn right up the stairs when you reach Hotel Garden Apartment. Once you reach the top of the steps, you'll find a viewpoint to your left (opposite Cafe Bar Vidilica) where you'll see a gorgeous view of Split, as seen in the pic below:

From what we could see, there's no real end point to the trail but we continued past Bene Beach and towards a marina full of yachts. The dense forest offers a lot of much-needed shade, and en route you'll also find the odd secluded cove - (tip #7) definitely seek a space there to bathe rather than walking all the way to Prva Voda plaža, a distinctively average beach. Next time I go I'd also consider paying closer attention to this blog post by Becky Snyder detailing the best way to explore the mountains.

Korčula

Getting there from Split: First of all, getting the ferry from Split was a bit of an ordeal - the Jardolinijia website doesn't say which part of the port to go to, and all the ferries look the same and are a long way apart from each other so tip #8, leave yourself plenty of time to find/board the ferry. We booked the 9.15am ferry (via Hvar) but narrowly avoided missing it thanks to running about like headless chickens with a broken and far too heavy suitcase! We got to the old town port just in time for midday, where we were easily able to find a taxi to get to Tara's Lodge.

Tara's Lodge

Snapshot of the bay and the food served at Tara's Lodge

It takes about 10 minutes to get from the port to the lodge by taxi, and upon arrival you're greeted with a complimentary drink each :) The resort is located in a pristine bay minutes from the old town of Korčula, with units decorated in a minimalist Nordic style. FYI, we had room #20 and the panoramic sea view was slightly obscured by the main restaurant building.

Tip #9 Visit the beautiful Zrnovska Banja bay while it's still wonderfully undeveloped! The lodge is essentially the only touristy place we could spot which means you feel like you're a true local while lying on Tara's bean bag beds, but there's lots of new buildings being built and I suspect it won't stay this preserved forever. The only drawback is that there's not many other options for food or drinks unless you're willing to go to Korčula old town or explore further inland.


Every Thursday they hold a big barbecue on the shore. It's over £35 (350 Kunas) which is ridiculously overpriced, but you are a captive audience. The food was awesome though - we could choose from traditional skinless sausage, pork shoulder or chicken kebabs.

Korčula Old Town

We walked towards the old town in time for sunset. Along the coast were some secluded beaches and stunning views to boot of the mainland. For me, the old town is reminiscent of Cartagena in Colombia with its brightly painted houses and palm trees lining the roads.

Tip #10: Sit atop the town at Massimo Cocktail Bar in time for sunset. The bar offers 360 views from a medieval tower. To enter, you have to climb a ladder to get to the main bar, where poor Ned and I had to cover our eyes as dozens of girls with tiny skirts made their way down to leave! Finally we were able to get our seat, and before I could question how they get the cocktails into the bar, I noticed the little basket being raised up by a pulley system! The waitresses shout down the orders to the barmen downstairs 🍷🍸🍹

Šetalište Petra Kanavelića has arguably the poshest restaurants, all with reserved tables along the shore. You can easily find a bite to eat by exploring the walled town, and luckily we found an empty and deceptively average-looking place called Fundamentum. I tried the seabass with roasted vegetables and Ned opted for a Korčula speciality called Korculanski Scartocet (marinated baby beef filled with cheese and prosciutto, with homemade macaroni). This was the best introduction we had to Croatian cuisine throughout the entire trip!

Dubrovnik

Tip #11 Rather than rough it on the usual ferry, you can pay just 22 Euros (paid in Kunas) for a transfer onwards to Dubrovnik via the Korkyra travel agency. The cost includes hotel pick-up, then drop off to a boat at the Old town port which then takes you to the mainland before a very rocky and white-knuckle drive through the mountains towards Dubrovnik.

Once there, must-see attractions include walking the city walls, taking the cable car and sea kayaking at sunset. As we plan to come back to this beautiful place again soon, we decided to take it easy and spend most of our time at our hotel, the only 'activity' we did was City Walls:

As we plan to come back to this beautiful place again soon, we decided to take it easy and spend most of our time at our hotel, so we only tackled the City Walls! To get there, you can enter via Pile Gate and entry costs 120 kunas per adult. There's also plenty of stops along the walls to get an ice cream or a snack so don't worry about bringing too much with you. To get to the entrance, you can enter via Pile Gate and entry costs 120 Kunas per adult. There's also plenty of stops along the walls to get an ice cream or a snack so don't worry about bringing too much with you.

Villa Dubrovnik

Tip #12 to infinity: One day, you HAVE to visit Villa Dubrovnik. It's seriously a place you'd think only exists in dreams. OK, it's ridiculously expensive which is why we only stayed two nights as the cherry to top our trip. The hotel itself is made of Brac stone and designed by two Croatians to a stunning finish, making Ned and I feel like we were being entertained at someone's Venice Beach mansion!

Villa Dubrovnik

Villa Dubrovnik

We plumped for room 201 (executive suite) as it included a hot tub, and according to Trip Advisor was the best suite to watch the sunset. It's a shame that this was overlooked by anyone taking the lift of chilling near the swimming pool, doubled with the fact that there was no curtain for us to bathe privately. The suite has a well-sized bathtub, his-and-hers sinks and a large bed with silk sheets. Because we chose the executive suite, breakfast delivered to our room was free of charge too! The lunch menu was reasonably priced (compared to the eye-watering amounts I imagined they'd charge) and you get to experience a gorgeous view of the walled city across the ocean.

The grounds also included:
* Swimming pool with choice of indoor or outdoor sunbeds
* Spa (if you book with Mr & Mrs Smith they give you a 30-minute 'Diamond Bed' treatment, but don't bother!)
* Free gym with reasonable choice of equipment
* Concrete beach with private swimming area
* Numerous luxury lounges with a wide range of books
* Prosciutto Wine Bar (amazing view of the walled town at sunset)
* Vaporetto boat service to the old town. The boat had technical issues during our stay so we had a free taxi shuttle instead

To wrap up, this truly was a trip of a lifetime and it blows my mind that Croatia is less than 3 hours to fly to from London. No need to fly long-haul to find paradise ever again! Ned and I have already decided that we'll head back next year and visit Hvar, Brac and spend more relaxation time in Korčula. All I know is that I can't wait to write up my next Croatia travel blog post in 2017 :)


+ 10 Ways to Make a House a Home

About a year ago Ned and I got the keys to our maisonette near Clissold Park, and since then we've pretty much poured all of our money, sweat and tears into making it our own. I captured everything I learnt during the mostly horrific process of being a first-time buyer here, but this time I wanted to share my thoughts on how to make a house a home, a far more positive topic!

Tip 1: Tear It Up

The kitchen we inherited wasn't horrendous but it quickly became obvious that it just didn't work for our needs. The oven was old, the sink was grotty, the cupboards were too shallow for our plates and there was little to no worktop space to prepare meals.

So, we decided to get the kitchen renovated with our needs in mind. You can read about the whole process here and see more before/after photos. It's obvious but it's true that once you're responsible for the entire look and feel of a room, it feels so much more like your own home.

 

Tip 2: It Will Be All Light on the Night

I have a thing for lighting. I have to actively stop myself from taking a quick trip to Heal's Lighting department as I invariably end up fooling myself into thinking another corner of one of our rooms needs a pick-me-up. Over the past year we've made quite a few purchases on 'investment' pieces 🙏, as you can see below:

Barbican Triple Pendant Light (Jim Lawrence)

Bella Vista Lumious Garland Lights by Seletti                  The Garden: Bella Vista Lumious Garland Lights by Seletti

Kuukuna Table lamp - 1986 Reissue - Iittala The Hallway: Kuukuna Table lamp by Littala

Tip 3: Hold a House Party

Halloween 2015 saw about 60 people turn up throughout the night, and more recently we held a big summer barbecue which went on from 2pm to 4am, with over 40 people turning up. After the Halloween party, there was fake blood all over the walls, and the floor was sopping wet with beer... That being said, it was really fun to open the doors to so many people and the see the house come to life!

Halloween 2015 House Party

My recipe for a good house party:

  1. Invite anyone and everyone you know
  2. Add some themed decor depending on the occasion e.g. pastel bunting in the summer or some cobwebs/plastic skeleton for Halloween
  3. Make a big punch in a large drinks dispenser. My go-to recipe is this sangria, topped up with any leftover vodka and lemonade!
  4. Remove anything valuable (heirlooms, rugs etc) from the main rooms
  5. As long as your wi-fi works without the odd hitch, Sonos really is an epic way to have the same playlist on throughout the house and in the garden!

Tip 4: Shut Yourself Away from the World

When we moved in, none of our windows came with curtains or blinds. We had to wait for bespoke window shutters to be made so we spent the first few months with a few flimsy frosted panels for privacy. Hillarys Blinds quoted us a hefty sum for bespoke Windsor shutters in pure white. Despite the cost, nothing beats closing these and putting on a movie with Ned to my left and Chickpea snoozing on my lap!

We also took a trip to Prêt à Vivre off of Upper Street to get some bright orange roman blinds in linen chintz for our spare bedroom and cottage pine wood venetian blinds for the kitchen. Again, they were pretty expensive but as our windows are such odd sizes, we wanted to make sure we had reliable professionals who would get the job done in one go.

Pret a Vivre blinds

Tip 5: Treat Your Guests Like Royalty

Guests are the best judges of whether your house is truly a home! I haven't completely nailed this yet, but here are some ideas I want to make a reality:

  • Guest Slippers: The goddess of housekeeping Martha Stewart suggests keeping a basket of slippers for your guests.
  • Spare toiletries: One day we plan to get our spare utility room made into a proper bathroom so we truly have a guest bathroom too, complete with guest toiletries to make it feel more like a home from home.
  • Frame your Wi-Fi Password: Make it easier for your guests by printing and framing the Wi-Fi password on the wall. You can find some printables over at Elegance and Enchantment too.

Tip 6: Add a Fur Baby

Not only does our cat Chickpea greet us every time we come home by brushing against our legs and miaowing, she's also helps make every room look lived in. You can find my new kitten checklist here as well if you're thinking of following suit!

Tip 7: Make It Personal

On our side table in the living room is a Cheerz box of 30+ photos from over the years, uploaded via Facebook, Instagram and Google Photos. If I find myself bored while chilling on the sofa, I can flick through the prints and take a trip down memory lane. You can also use the promo code JENFIH to get £4 off your own box of memories!
Cheerz box of photos

I also resized some photos in Photoshop (tutorial here), got them printed by Metro Prints and framed by the local company S'Graffiti:

Tip 8: Immerse Yourself in the Local Area

Feeling at home is as much about getting to grips with the local area surrounding your humble abode. You can read all about the fave places in my local area of Highbury/Finsbury Park. I also love that I'm finally on first name terms with a couple of local businesses and (when I'm not crazily busy with work trips/life admin) a weekend walk around Clissold Park to fool myself that I'm in the countryside.

Tip 9: Invest in Art

While in Lahaina, Maui, we came across this vintage poster shop and decided to bite the bullet and buy a beautiful Hawaii print by Chas Allen, identical to this one sold at Christie's. What I love most about is that it's the first thing I see when I get home, and reminds me of our amazing Maui trip:

Tip 10: Bottoms Up

No house can really be a home unless it contains a well-stocked wine fridge, drinks cabinet or a selection of copper mugs - do you really want your guests' G&Ts to go cold?!
Copper mugs

We've come a long way in a year, and I can't wait to get cracking on painting over the magnolia walls, replacing our horrid draughty doors and plastering over the endless cracks in the ceilings from our electrical work. Wish me luck as we enter a second year making our house a home :)


+ Our Kitchen Redesign: Before and After


Over nine weeks ago our builders started work on the kitchen and it's still not 100% finished, but I just have to share some photos anyway! The kitchen redesign was originally pitched to us as a two-week job, but due to various issues (inaccurate measurements, poor communication between our builder and the kitchen fitters) it's still not finished. Even so, you can see from the photos below that it's starting to look stunning. I'm really happy with the results but just wish it was complete now!

The picture below is of our kitchen before the work. the cupboards were too shallow for our plates to fit! The back wall (where the window is) was also really under-utilised.

The view from our hallway on a gorgeous sunny day, with Chickpea perching on the wooden peninsula.

I LOVE these Kartell masters stools in 'rust'. Without them I think the kitchen would be severely lacking in colour:

Chickpea on the peninsula (again). We also decided on floor-to-ceiling cupboards so that we'd have more storage and less flat surfaces gathering dust.

A cluster of succulents and a cactus by the sink:

Our very own (messy) larder:

The sink used to be fixed to an internal wall (so no view at all). I love that our new Blanco Tolon sink looks out into the garden and reflects back natural light. The wooden venetian blinds are from Prêt á Vivre (Upper Street, North London):

Ignore the fact that the corner of the kitchen is STILL not finished, and instead admire our Le Mans unit for pots & pans, a nifty CDA wine cooler and tambour unit to hide our toaster!

What I Learned

You can read about the design/planning process here, but I have learnt so much more since works began over two months ago:

  • Paying more doesn't always mean getting more. Even if you pay builders a handsome sum to project manage for you, it doesn't mean shit unless they've actually shown you a project tracker. Our builder promised us this (as the work was shared between them and the kitchen fitters) and we never saw it.
  • Expect to waste hours of your time chasing builders for details. If your kitchen needs just a few tweaks, don't expect your builder to rush to finish the job. We have had to incessantly chase ours to get basic work done, and initially we didn't chase certain things as we thought it was all in hand. Turns out, lots of things had been overlooked by both parties!
  • Don't pay the deposit until you're 100% satisfied with the project plans. Like I mentioned, our builder promised us the world 'I'll be your surrogate parents in this process; you'll receive a full project tracker'... his actions couldn't have been further from the truth.
  • Go through your final kitchen order with a fine-tooth comb. We had initially asked both the builder and the kitchen fitter for a 'venting out' extractor rather than a recirculating one, and they both agreed. However, 6 weeks neither party had a clue about the chimney hood! It took Ned and myself to explicitly ask multiple questions over email before they tried to resolve the issue and get something done.
  • Batch-cook home-cooked meals in advance. My god, for the first 2-3 weeks we ate more than our fair share of microwave meals and cheeky Deliveroos! Our fridge/freezer was connected to power the entire time, so in hindsight I wish I had prepped lots of nice home-cooked meals to see us through and save some money.
  • Immerse yourself in the design. If I'd known about it, I would have demanded to view the design using Virtual Reality, e.g. TruVision. It would have really helped to picture how we'd utilize the kitchen space and make changes to hard-to-reach cabinets/odd angled cabinet doors before building started!

A peek into the mess we had to endure on the road to our dream kitchen:

The Details 
Design & dry fitting by Funktional Kitchens
Plumbing, flooring, splashback, electrics and plastering by UDS Construction
Shelter Island 'harbour view' herringbone marble tiles (Fired Earth)
Shepton Flagstone Floor Tiles - Worn (Ca'Pietra) (Horncastle Tiles)
Kartell Masters Stools (Amara)
Barbican Triple Pendant Track in antique brass (Jim Lawrence)
Samsung American-Style Fridge Freezer (Curry's)
LG D1484CF TrueSteam Dishwasher  (Curry's)
30mm Thick Royal Bavarian Wild Spekva worktop (ordered by Funktional Kitchens)
Häcker Classic kitchen cabinets in magnolia (ordered by Funktional Kitchens)
Siemens iQ300 chimney hood (ordered by Funktional Kitchens)
Siemens IQ500 Extra wide gas hob with wok burner (ordered by Funktional Kitchens)
Siemens IQ700 oven (ordered by Funktional Kitchens)

Finishing Touches
Orla Kiely Tulip Double Oven glove (Amara)
Le Creuset 'volcanic' utensil jar (Le Creuset)
Garden Trading Seagrass Placemats (Amara)
Painted Amaryllis butter dish (Anthropologie)