When we bought our house, we knew right away that we were going to have to renovate. And when I say renovate, I mean seriously gut and start over. It wasn’t something we had really planned on, we weren’t exactly shopping for a ‘renovator’s dream’ but the housing market in Melbourne is insane and we had been searching for a house for so long. When we finally saw this house, we were so over the whole process that we decided to just show up to the auction hung over from my birthday party the night before and just see what happened. As it turned out, the weather was terrible, the auction was early, and we were able to finally have the winning bid on a house! Fast forward two years and a lot of saving, and we were ready to start gutting our house. We would’ve started renovating much sooner, but we had to get the house re-stumped which means you have to wait a year for the house to settle before renovating and we also got married so had a wedding to pay for which meant the house went on the back burner for a while.
The day we started pulling out the kitchen was so exciting. I hated the old kitchen with a passion. No storage, cluttered, totally impractical and falling apart. Not to mention, the appliances were so cheap and nasty and because I cook for a living, I was well and truly ready for an update!
The old kitchen had what looked like a range hood, but wasn’t actually ducted in anywhere, didn’t have an exhaust fan and didn’t even have the filters in it. Just the shell. So every time I cooked, there was steam and haze all throughout the house. Luckily for me, just as our kitchen reno was starting, I was asked by Schweigen to run some food and photography workshops at their showroom. Their silent range hood was on my wish list and after working with the team, they were kind enough to gift me the range hood for our new kitchen and it’s fabulous! Honestly, I would’ve ended up paying for it anyway because it’s so efficient, minimalist, barely noticeable to the eye, has bright LED lights and is totally silent! It even has a timer because you do forget to turn it off because you can’t hear it! SO cool. The mesh vents are dishwashable and the extractor fan is so energy efficient. Because it is such a powerful range hood as well, it removes the steam and heat before it even reaches the cupboard doors, protecting and preserving the finish. See the photos below of the new kitchen.
For our other appliances, I chose an inset gas cooktop which is flush with the bench rather than raised and I just think it’s so suave. I also chose a pyrolytic oven because I will get out of oven cleaning any way I can ha!
When we were designing our new kitchen, we were pretty limited because the space is awkward. Originally the area where the kitchen currently is, was the house’s back porch so when we ripped up the ugly blue tiles we found the original decking. This was really unexpected because we had resigned ourselves to tiling the kitchen area because we wouldn’t have been able to match the original floorboards in the rest of the house to new ones. Seeing as the house is coming up to around 80 years old, this was massive!! But it also meant that we had the tiniest gap in between tradies to rip up the ‘porch’, build a new sub-floor to level the floor to match the ‘house’ floor boards and relay all the porch floorboards back down the way they came. The reason you have to build a new sub-floor to level everything is because back in the day, timber decks and porches were built on a slant away from the house so that rain could run off them. Lots of coffee, beer and ham and cheese rolls got us and our dads through five long days and nights working on it. We would all begin working as soon as we finished our day jobs (yes we worked through!) and finish when we were too frustrated to continue. But it turned out PERFECTLY in the end and lucky for us, our amazing floor sander and polisher worked nights to match the stain of this back porch to the rest of our house that he had done just a few months prior.
There were a few things that made our kitchen more affordable than most. We got a range of quotes from small cabinet makers to big, kit kitchen companies and the cabinet makers were cheaper and more inventive with their layout ideas. I guess this is because they custom build it, rather than slotting standard sizes together until it fits like kit kitchens. I originally wanted dark shaker cabinets and a moody marbled bench-top with brushed gold accents. I also wanted a big enamel-coated stand alone oven and cook top. But we did need to keep in mind that this won’t be our forever house and the space was small and dark so we went with sleek white cabinets with finger pull drawers rather than cupboards and a stunning Caeserstone bench-top which I thought was average AF when I saw the sample but absolutely love it now it’s in the kitchen! I also love the backsplash tiles we chose. We have subway tiles in both the bathroom and laundry and I think they were a little plain for the kitchen but I also didn’t want to throw another colour in the mix. These white diamond sheet tiles worked perfectly.
We chose to have ‘waterfall’ benches which means that the bench-top continues to the floor over the ends of the kitchen to give the cabinetry an enclosed look. This was definitely an added expense that wasn’t necessary for functionality but made the kitchen look a million dollars. I think it we had’ve left the ends open which is what’s traditionally done on these sorts of kitchens, it would’ve looked too white and unfinished. We spent the money we saved buying our sinks and tap fixtures on eBay on this!
To get maximum space out of the little room we had, we decided to close over the biggest window in order to gain a full pantry, which the kitchen didn’t have previously, and a double door appliance cupboard with power points and shelves galore so our Nespresso machine, toaster, kettle etc. can all be stored away and used in the cupboard. This opened up heaps of bench space so we didn’t have to have loads of appliances all permanently sitting on the bench. I was also desperate to build in a fridge space. The old kitchen never had a fridge space and our fridge weirdly sat by the back door which was ugly and impractical. By removing this one window, we were able to gain all of this so I think it was super worth it. I even got a proper area next to the fridge to put my props trolley which meant I could set my desk up in the area this and the fridge used to be in. For a small house, gaining all this space by being efficient and smart with the area available to us, was really important and finally felt like we weren’t all cluttered and jammed in.
The island bench is my most favourite thing in the world. It has huge pull drawers with a ‘hidden’ drawer inside so the storage is massive. Our bins are even hidden in drawers! So when you open one drawer there’s actually another one within it so you can store things appropriately rather than stacking plates or glasses really high. It’s hard to explain so I took a photo below!
I also love that we were able to make the closed off kitchen space into an open and welcoming area that is perfect for entertaining. Logistically I couldn’t move the gas or electrical lines so the big appliances did have to stay along that back wall but the addition of an island with bar stools has been perfect to bring people into the kitchen while I’m cooking and serve right there.
After building a kitchen that was so many miles away from what I thought was my ‘dream’ kitchen thanks to all the limitations we had (awkward space, needing a subfloor, not being able to move gas or electrical lines, dark room, slanted/cathedral ceiling etc.) I thought I’d ‘grin and bear’ it and love working in a clean, new space anyway. But as it turns out, I love it. I just love how modern it is (something I never thought I’d say!) and how the colour and marble of the bench tops and the classic geometric style of the backsplash tiles work into the age of the house perfectly. I also love the functionality and that I was able to gain so many added bonuses like a fridge space, a silent Schweigen range hood and an appliance cupboard because we custom built it. Sure, it doesn’t have the things most new houses in Melbourne have these days like a butler’s pantry or big 1200mm oven but for an old house with not much room to play with, I think we did a great job (but I might be a bit biased!)