Interiors: How to design a family friendly kitchen

If you were following our renovation journey last year you will have seen that we were keen to make our 1850's cottage farmhouse more family friendly. Whilst our old layout was fine when it was just us two, it was increasingly becoming obvious with our Little Inspiration and a bump on the way that we needed to open out the rooms and put in a hardwearing kitchen that would make our life easier with two babies under two.

We worked with Howden's Kitchens to redesign our space, which involved meeting with their resident designer. We talked about what we wanted to achieve, they told us what products they had and we swooned over soft close cupbaords, quartz top islands and integrated bins. Such is the exciting life you lead when you're mid renovation!

Our builders provided floor plans and details of how they would extend and open up the room, and the kitchen designer made one on site visit to talk them through the kitchen design. 

It involved moving waste pipes and a window, so they had to match up plans and we regularly printed out the kitchen plan and left it for the trades to look at. Especially the electrician and plumber, so that he could make sure everything was in the right place.

We were able to bring sample kitchen doors away with us to look at in situ, as we were a bit undecided on colours. Having it in our space with the light helped us decide on the graphite island and the light grey elsewhere. 

We opted for big drawers all over as they are so handy for storing things and stop jumbled mess accumulating at the back of cupboards. We also went for the pull out pantry of dreams, which I absolutely love for storing dry goods and spices. An integrated split bin helps us recycle easily and store general waste and it's baby and pet proof. 

We opted for extra tall cupboards rather than waste lots of storage space at ceiling height but, on reflection, I still wish they'd been right to the top of the ceiling as they are just dust magnets. I asked for the traditional angled cornice but we ended up with a more contemporary style which I didn't like but it was easily changed further down the line. 

I really wanted the brass handles as we have a lot of brass in the house on our door handles and window hinges; it seemed to fit better with our old house and add warmth to the grey. This tied into getting a brass tap, which the Carnivore needed some convincing about but  agreed works so well. A year on it's starting to show some signs of wear, though, from water corrosion which is frustrating.

We went for carousel corner cupboards for tins which is a dream and helps us to keep organised. We did also talk about perhaps having some open shelving or glass front cabinets but in the end we opted to keep things hidden. With young kids we have a lot of bottles, sterilizers and plastic bowls that need to remain hidden. 

 We added a scaffold board shelf over the island for things we might want to display and we also have a home bar we've created in our old alcove shelving, where we can keep nice cocktail glasses etc. We sourced bespoke mirrors for the back of the shelves to invite more light in and make it feel more bar like. Eventually we'll add some led lights to it too.

I really loved our old wooden worktops and was reluctant to let them go but the Carnivore was fed up of sanding them back and oiling them. In reality, if we'd kept on top of the oiling we might not have had so much staining, but he was clear he wanted something harder wearing so we went for a white, marble vein quartz. It's classic, clean looking and we went for a 20mm thickness rather than the standard 30mm as it saves money and looks more minimalist. We sourced them separately from a different supplier as Howden's had a limited range. 

I managed to convince the Carnivore to get another Belfast sink; I couldn't imagine not having one and bathing my babies in it. It's very pretty and makes me happy, even if it can be a pain to keep clean. If I'd had more room, I would have gone for a double sink for rinsing food. I also liked the functionality of the rinser taps with spray hose, but personally, I didn't like the fussy look of them and so stuck with a simple swan neck tap.

Again, space permitting I may have opted for a Range cooker, as it would have fitted our country style property, but I couldn't argue that a double oven/ microwave / grill at height worked better with young children. We also opted for an electric induction hob, as it's easier to keep clean and we wanted it mounting on our island so we could still be sociable when cooking. In order to do that we had to get creative with the cooker hood and didn't want something hanging down over our eye line. 

We had to buy a ceiling mounted extractor and a lot of research went into the room size, requirements and noise dpi but we ended up finding one that was discreet enough but powerful enough for our needs. It was advertised as a bathroom extractor but when we spoke to the manufacturer it can in fact be a kitchen extractor too. It was a big outlay at around £600 but worth it for making the most of the space.

It gave our builders a bit of a headache at first but they seemed to figure it out ok in the end thank goodness. In terms of the building work we needed a very big rsj as a 200 year old, 1m thick wall had to come down. We were sad to lose part of the character of the house but modern living has moved on and to be honest you couldn't see much of it anyway. 

We also needed steel where our new bifold doors went, as it was also part of the original property but opened up the space so much and made it feel light and airy. We also opted to put a large picture framed window at the end of the kitchen space in between the island peninsular. This was to  connect to the garden, make the space feel bigger and also because it's cheaper to use plain glass than add doors. So it got around the issue of whether to have 5m or 3m bifolds. It really is a huge frame of glass and I can't imagine the space without it now. 

We upcycled our old farmhouse dining table with benches by sanding it down to make it lighter. The benches allow us to tuck them in when we want to open up the space but still seat a lot of people. We also made a family seating area with a new French Connection sofa, which means we have another reception space to hang out and we can all spread out when we need to.

We did other works as part of the project including a side extension to create a garden room which I'll write about another time, but if we had just done the kitchen we may have had it done in 12 weeks, sooner probably. There was a delay on some parts of the kitchen but we were also dependent on the builder dropping different trades in and out as the other parts of the build progressed. 

The floor was last to be laid, which we sourced from Quick Step and is an engineered laminate wood in a blonde oak colour with a grey vein. It is wider planks than you normally get which we liked. I still love the colour but a year on the noise drives me crazy. I would seriously consider getting Karndean or similar vinyl just to avoid the noise. We used to have tiles which I loved but they are not forgiving on crawling learning to walk babies or plates, so we opted for something softer. Maybe once kids are older we'll go back to tiles, as we have underfloor heating and you just can't beat the feel of cosy, warm tiles under foot. 

Looking back it was so worth the chao and disruption of using our utility as a kitchen for 16 weeks and it has transformed our family life. I can cook and keep an eye on little ones, we can socialise around the island and we also have another sitting area to hang out in. 

I love how much light and glazing we have and can keep an eye on the changing seasons and our garden coming in and out of bloom. The babies watch the birds and trees, running in and out on warm sunny days. There's no major step to get over so it's easy for Baby Inspiration who is crawling. We've had the odd party before lockdown and it is lovely to open up the whole space.

I can see us enjoying the space for more years to come and it growing with our family so if you're thinking about redesigning and renovating your kitchen - go for it!

Is it something you have done already or want to do? I'd love to hear about it....

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