Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A finished kitchen

Mr Cake's parents spent a week with us recently, a planned working holiday, which allowed us to make some pretty decent progress on our house (extra hands for both reno and childcare = mega productivity win). The biggest thing we've ticked off the list is finishing the kitchen. Hoorah!

Before and after - note the "before" is from the real estate listing and includes fake furniture

The kitchen was the biggest single thing that needed dealing with in this house - and was also the most urgent, to my mind (the old kitchen, even after being scrubbed with sugar soap, was pretty awful). We moved it from a small room at the back of the house (which is now our guest bedroom and playroom - or will be when we've finished in there) to the front of the house, where it is the hub of our living space between the dining room and lounge.

This is the kitchen we started with - ugh! The real estate agent's
photos did a good job of hiding the grime on every surface.

The change of use for the rooms meant we needed to move several doorways (semi-complicated but so worth it!). Then we needed plumbing and electrical work in place, which included shifting the switchboard - not a trivial undertaking.

We did some painting and plastering, and the floor had to be repaired. Then we installed and built in the cabinetry, had the benchtop installed, put coving up, and tiled the splashback.

We had the plasterers in just before Christmas to tidy up our DIY coving efforts and plaster the "built-in" bits around the cabinets, so January's to-do list was simply to do the final coats of paint.

The final paintwork involved undercoat and two top coats to all the freshly plastered areas, with the top coats being applied to ceiling and all walls as well. We'd done as painting as we could before the cabinets went in, both because it's easier to paint an empty room and because we knew it'd be a wee while before we got to the end. 

Although the kitchen has been pretty much fully functional for six months the last coat of paint makes an amazing difference to the feel of the room. Not being able to see the plaster does improve the aesthetic a wee bit, and just knowing it's finished lets us breathe a big sigh of relief.

Things we love

Almost everything! Obviously we weren't highly constrained here, because this wasn't previously a kitchen so we were starting from scratch. Budget is of course a constraint, and some of our choices (like the cabinetry) were strongly influenced by cost, but we tried to add interest in among the boring, functional stuff. 

My favourite bits: 
  • Our beautifully restored timber floors. We had no idea what was under the carpet so it was a pleasant surprise to discover matai floorboards in such good condition. This was a budget win, too, because restoring them was cheaper than installing something else would have been. 
  • The tiled splashback. So lovely to look at, and the dark grey grout and white tile mirror the rest of the colour scheme so well. 
  • The 60mm engineered stone benchtop. I am pretty picky about some things, and (weird or not) I don't like 30mm thick benches. I'm so glad we forked out the extra for the thicker finish. 
  • Our Fisher & Paykel induction hob. We installed a super cheap induction hob in our previous house, and it was enough to convert me to induction cooking but the F&P one is so much better. The flexible cooking zones are my favourite tech feature of our kitchen. 
  • The way the light floods in every morning and bounces off all the white surfaces. Glorious! Just need to build our planned window seat in the bay window and we'll be all set for leisurely morning cuppas. 

Things we'd do differently

Mostly we're thrilled, but we are learning as we go so it's not perfect. There are only two things I can think of that I wish we'd done differently (both my fault). 

The first is that the main bowl of the sink, which is a lovely double bowl black composite stone, is too small for our large frypan. Since we cook about 90% of our meals in the frypan (and don't put it in the dishwasher), that's pretty annoying. It fits in on an angle, but ideally the sink should easily fit the cookware you use day to day. I should have measured the frypan when ordering the sink. Lesson learnt.

The second niggle is that in my quest to maximise storage I chose to place the hob off-centre in a large set of drawers. I meticulously planned the symmetry from the bench up, and it looked great when the bench went in... But as soon as we put handles on the drawers it started to grate on me. I also wish, in the quest for symmetry, that we'd made the cupboard next to the dishwasher open the other way. 

Next time the cupboards will be forced to be symmetrical too! 

The before photo here is really midway through - but still looks a bit different! 

The budget

First, a bit of a disclaimer - these are big numbers! We feel that it's important to be honest about what we're spending - I like looking at Pinterest-worthy kitchens but it's hard to know what's actually achievable if no-one puts numbers on anything - but I know this is big money, so please don't freak out. ;-)

The labour was mostly us (with a lot of help from family, especially my Dad), but we did hire quite a few tradies for various parts of the project.

We could have done it cheaper, but we wanted a reasonably high-end finish, and (I think) we've done pretty well at keeping costs down, considering the end result.

These figures include:

  • Building consent, including architect and council fees
  • Building, plastering and flooring work, including reconfiguring doorways and relining the kitchen ceiling
  • Extensive electrical work, including replacing the switchboard and replacing all old wiring in the house
  • Cabinets, appliances and benchtop
  • Construction materials for the stuff we DIYed

I can't believe how close to the planned budget we've come in - I'd like to claim supreme project management skills but in reality that has got to be a fluke. Happy to be on the right side of the number, though!

Planned budget: $45,200
Timeframe: 6 months
Who did the work: Us + help from family + builder + sparkies + plasterers + flooring specialist
Actual cost: $44,485 ($715 under budget)
Learnings: Book tradies early, thorough planning is very good, our families are amazing, measure your biggest frying pan before settling on a sink.

There's a full gallery of photos over on my Facebook page if you want to see a bit more of the process.

I'd love to hear what you think - is there anything that you'd do differently? Do you have weird preferences about benchtop thickness and symmetry or am I on my own there? 


  1. Well done! That's a huge undertaking

  2. Wow!!! That looks amazing!! Looks like kitchen from The Block or House Rules! And well done for doing it under budget!

    1. Thanks Charlene! High praise indeed. :-D I do think the budget was a bit of a fluke, really, but very glad we didn't spend any more than that.

  3. It looks fantastic! We did our kitchen four years ago and finally finished installing the range hood and splash back at Christmas time. Instead of a split sink, we opted for a large single bowl with an Insinkerator in it. Far more practical for pots and pans and better to scrape scraps into a decent sized bowl.

    1. Haha, yeah, so dangerous having it mostly working, right? But always nice to get those finishing touches done. :-) The small bowl of our sink has an insinkerator, I really like being able to get rid of scraps and drinks even when the main sink is full (especially valuable with a toddler!) but the large bowl would have been nicer.

  4. This looks so great! We are just about to start ours (with a much smaller budget!) and I love looking at what other people have done. Thanks for the tip on the sink, that will be very helpful when I choose mine!

    1. Fun! I do love kitchen renos. This would have been half the cost if it was just replacing old with new in the same space - if you want any info on where we sourced stuff let me know, happy to share any and all info. :-)

  5. This is fantastic, you've done such a great job. We've seen heaps of kitchens when looking for a house to buy and what you've achieved with your budget is really impressive (have seen pretty average kitchens that cost like $60K).

    1. Thanks Evealyn! I love hunting out the deals but still feel like this was a crazy expensive project - glad to hear it measures up on budget (easy to lose track of what's reasonable when you're in the midst of it).


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