North London Kitchen

Cooking, eating, and designing a kitchen in North London

Category: Kitchen design

The North London Kitchen

The kitchen fitters finished in the first week of May and since then I’ve busied myself laying flooring, skimming where the wall cabinets had been removed, and painting the walls and ceiling.  On Wednesday afternoon my custom made pantry doors arrived, and though they would have been easy enough to hang myself I had running group on Wednesday evening, a comedy show on Thursday evening and on Friday my friends were due to come over for a combined birthday/housewarming party.

It was then that I declared my kitchen finished enough.  Finished enough to cook in, host guests and enjoy.  The doors still need putting up along with some shelves and a picture ledge, but it is finished enough.  Suffering from DIY fatigue, I texted my handyman.  Sometimes it’s ok to pay someone else to do work you don’t have the time or inclination for.  He’ll come over when he has time but for now, this is where we’re at.

First let’s take a look back at Before:

IMG_4881

My old kitchen was built in 1970 when my flat was built.  About seven years ago the old boiler was removed and a combi boiler installed, leaving that lovely blue panel covering an empty space under the new boiler. A DIY dunce had tiled the floor – I guess whoever it was ran out of tiles so opted for the mosaic effect you see there.  A slightly uneven subfloor led to cracks in many of the tiles.  Though the cabinets all had integrated handles the owner before me stuck wallpaper up on them and brass curly handles for some sort of 70s Victoriana mashup.

The first thing I did was to have the washing machine moved to one of the hall cupboards, where once a hot water cylinder had stood.  I had this done when I had my bathroom replaced last year.  Then I ripped down the net curtains and put a blackout blind up.  For privacy (my kitchen is at ground floor level), I coated the window with mirror film.  I can highly recommend this stuff.  They cut it to exactly the size you need.  It’s cheap and really easy to install yourself following the video they have on the site.  After I recommended it a colleague bought some too, only he had it fitted – if you are in the London area it seems their quotes for fitting are very reasonable (not a paid link, I was just very happy with it and it stopped a nosy neighbour in his tracks).  I gave the brass handles away on Streetbank and ripped the wallpaper off the cupboards.

Enough of that. Let’s cut to After:

20160527_074020.jpg

Normally the yucca lives in the living room and there would be a kitchen table there, but I swapped them to serve food on for my party.  Well, actually the table hasn’t made it back into the kitchen since before the kitchen fitters came.  Like I said, soon there will be shelves and a picture ledge, but for now I have a usable kitchen and I couldn’t be happier.

As for my party, being short on time (see above) I outsourced the catering to locals The GreenBean.  They have a regular stall at Tottenham Green Market selling vegetarian and vegan salads and savouries and always seem to have the longest queues!  Here are the salads they made me:

20160527_200224.jpg

My friends loved them and everyone had a great time!

I’ll post again once the finishing touches are done (and the pantry deserves a post of its own), but for now I’m going to go and enjoy my new kitchen.

Wednesday dinner – pizza at Styx

Today I got home and my kitchen didn’t look much different from yesterday.  The workmen were still here muttering away so I left them to it while writing up Rose and Mary.  It turned out most of what they had done was background work – tidying up the pipe work to make the cabinets fit better.

Busy writing, I didn’t take much notice when they left.  But then when I got ready to dash out myself – to a Streetbank exchange on my way to running group – I took a peek in my kitchen first and suddenly the units were all fitted to the wall and half of the worktop was there.  To see that definitely helped me to relax.

2016-05-04_11-16-25

After running today I dragged a couple of the girls out to somewhere I’ve been meaning to go for a long time: Styx Bar.  Located near Tottenham Hale station, Styx is a mostly outdoor space that looks like it’s been cobbled together from pallets.  It had a similar feel to the Pallet Pavilion that used to be in my hometown, Christchurch.

20160504_211017

Anyway, on to the food – pizza pushers @lovenpresents are there with their wood fired oven.  It definitely isn’t gluten free – though they do have some gluten free options on the menu.  My pizza, the Zola, had gorgonzola, radicchio and pistachios on it.  What a combination!  I think gorgonzola may be the ultimate comfort food.  Good food, good conversation and beer from local brewers Beavertown – and all after a run.

20160504_212057

I came home feeling relaxed for the first time this week.  Maybe I started carb loading a little early for my race, but it was worth it for how I’m feeling now.  I’m determined to get back to Styx soon!  

20160504_211948

Styx 

5 Ashley Road, N17 9LJ

http://www.styx.space/

@StyxBar

Kitchen carnage

I apologise; it’s been a long time since my last post.  I’ve been overseas again, this time running a half marathon in Budapest.  It was wonderful, but Budapest is not in North London so falls outside the scope of this blog!

On top of this, I’ve had a job interview (successful) and have been busy getting some kitchen DIY done.  I had thought I would write more about this aspect of my kitchen, but it’s been taking up all my energy just to do it, let alone write about it.

Nevertheless, the kitchen fitters arrive tomorrow.  I’ve been at home this Bank Holiday Monday, waiting for deliveries from Ikea and Appliances Online.  Everything is here now (I hope; I haven’t counted all 150 Ikea packages).  It’s time for a little show and tell.

20160502_150355

This is the current state of my kitchen.  I’ve spent a couple of months on and off (but mostly the past week) bashing tiles off the floor with a chisel and mallet.  The floor had ceramic tiles on top of vinyl tiles.  The ceramic tiles were in pretty bad shape as they appeared to have been a bodged DIY job to begin with.  The vinyl tiles underneath made them easier to lift – no tile adhesive or grout stuck everywhere – but harder at the same time, as age had made them brittle and messy.  The internet to the rescue – I learned that vinyl tiles are easy to lift using a heat gun to make them more pliable.  I had a heat gun on hand from stripping the door frame and skirting boards.  It made things easier.  Still, my mallet arm is aching and my glutes and calves are screaming out from all of the crouching down.  Another tip I learned from the internet: talcum powder brushed over a sticky floor will de-stickify it!  I did not learn this one in time to stop myself tracking black sticky stuff all over the white floors in my hallway, but white spirit made short work of that.

Anyway, I have another half marathon this coming weekend so have just under a week to recover from my travails!

This also raises the question of how I’m going to look after myself with no kitchen.  I’m currently camped out in my living room imagining how it would be like to live in a studio.

20160502_150246

That’s my Lakeland heated airer between the fridge and the media unit.  If you don’t have one, get one.  They’re throwing in the cover free of charge at the moment.  That’s not an affiliate link; buy one then buy me a drink out of sheer gratitude if you ever bump into me.  This thing is life-changing.

There’s a microwave, my new filter kettle and tea and coffee stuff.  Cutlery is in the tray on top of the microwave and crockery is in the drawer below.  The fridge is stocked with cheese and a couple of ready meals, but I’m going to eat out or get takeaways as much as possible over the coming week or so.  I had a very good lunch at Sushi Heads today when I realised I had an hour between the Ikea delivery and the Appliances Online delivery.  That’s a place I keep meaning to write about but I go there so hungry I forget to take photos of the food.

20160502_150207

The other side of my living room.  The console table folds out and is usually my kitchen table.  I’ve done some pretty impressive kitchen Tetris with everything else.  There’s a coffee table under there somewhere too.  I have a dish drainer set up in the bathroom.

It all feels very grown up, this kitchen business!  Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how I get on with having a kitchen fitted while preparing for a half marathon….

 

Kitchen decisions

Tonight I went to Ikea to finalise my kitchen design and get in the queue for installation.

Here’s a Pinterest board I’ve made with my choices:

Follow North London Kitchen’s board North London Kitchen on Pinterest.

The design actually all started with a tap:

 

I think I spotted this on Pinterest a while ago and I decided I had to have a copper tap. I kept an eye on the website – then one day the tap was out of stock, but they had a few very slightly blemished taps left at half price. I snapped it up. There is a tiny nick in the neck of the tap but nothing that wouldn’t happen after a few days’ use anyway I think.

I chose Ikea because they had the styles I liked most – in particular, white matte cabinet doors with integrated handles. The big difference between Ikea and other suppliers is other suppliers have a “service gap” at the back of their cabinets so all pipes etc are neatly hidden away. Ikea cabinets have their backs right to the wall so sometimes holes have to be cut for things to pass through. People will warn you that this results in more work, taking longer and costing more. My contractor poo-poohed this. He says he gets paid the same for kitchens from other suppliers like Wickes and sometimes pre-assembled cabinets have been assembled poorly, so there’s more control over quality if you do it yourself (or get your contractor to).

I was a bit torn over the worktop. I had been tempted by various acrylic worktops, wood, or even marble or composite stone. I hated laminate, that was out of the question. Then one day I went to a friend’s flat in Camden Town and saw her worktop in grey (my favourite colour) with a wood effect straight edging. It looked great. Laminate has the advantage of being both cheap and durable – compared to the other samples in store it was certainly holding up the best! It just seemed the sensible choice.

I soon realised that the issue with picking copper to base my kitchen around was that stainless steel would have to be ruled out. So white appliances and a white sink it is! I decided not to go with Ikea appliances as I couldn’t find enough reviews of them. Instead I trusted Which? reviews and decided mostly on Bosch appliances – mid-range and reliable, and also available in white.

I’m not leaving everything up to the contractors. I have a pantry down one end of my kitchen. It used to house (before I moved in) the boiler, fed by two steel pipes sticking up through the middle of my flat. The gas supply has now moved to the other corner of the kitchen so I had an engineer come over to confirm it was ok to take these out. Getting the pipes out involved first removing some floor tiles so I could get as close to the floor as possible with a hacksaw. A lot of chiselling and sawing later and victory was mine!

2016-03-11_08-48-20

There was also a copper pipe running around the top of of the wall from where the boiler used to be to the far corner of the kitchen, where the new boiler is. This was no longer needed, though it set me down the path of thinking about copper accents. It was also very easy to remove with a nifty (and safe) little tool called a pipe slice which cost all of about £3.

The upshot of all of this is there is now a lot more room in the pantry than there ever was before. I plan to fill this with Ikea’s IVAR shelving, which is customisable with things like bins, hooks and – most importantly – wine racks.

 

So this is how I spent my Friday night. But it’s all in the pursuit of better Friday nights to come entertaining friends at home – I can’t wait.

 

The minimalist kitchen

I’ve lived in North London for nearly nine years now and I’ve been through three kitchens in that time: the first two in shared flats and now a kitchen of my own.  Always cooking in small shared spaces I’ve learned to economise on kitchen equipment.  Even since moving to my own place I’ve always had my kitchen refurbishment in mind so I’ve been careful not to fill it with stuff before that happens.

In fact, influenced perhaps by The Minimalists with a bit of Marie Kondo thrown in, I think since moving into my flat I’ve subtracted more stuff than I’ve added.

What did I start with when I first arrived in London?

First of all, I packed my favourite knife in my suitcase – a 20cm Henckels chef knife.  I received a knife set for my 20th birthday but when I moved here I only had space for my favourite knife.

 

My first flat was in Bloomsbury, near the Brunswick Centre and Waitrose.  I took myself down to Waitrose in that first week and invested £25 in a large wok.

 

 

(similar to the one I had only this one is induction compatible!)

Next I went to Habitat and found a bamboo chopping board and a cutlery set (though I shared the kitchen with three other people I’m not sure what they ate with because there wasn’t much!).  I impulse bought a pretty tea tin, and I also bought some tea towels so the kitchen had more than one.

I love that Habitat still sells exactly the same chopping board.

And that was it.  Everything I needed for my first year in a London kitchen boiled down to a good knife, something to chop on, something to cook in, implements to eat with and something to dry the dishes with.  There’s really not much you can’t cook given these items.  I know what you’re thinking – some high end choices for a minimalist kitchen, right?  To be honest, I made those choices because I didn’t know where else to shop.  I hadn’t discovered Ikea yet and public transport still freaked me out so getting there would have been way out of my comfort zone.  However, I’m glad I bought the things I did.  They were all great quality and lasted the distance.

I was reunited with the rest of my knives when my parents finally accepted I was here to stay and brought them over a few years later.  I still have the chopping board too and some of the cutlery – the teaspoons all ran away to join a longitudinal cohort study in Australia. I gave the wok away very recently because I’m planning to put an induction hob in my new kitchen and the wok wasn’t induction capable – it had some life left in it still and was adopted by a young couple setting up a new home.  The link above is to the new John Lewis wok (still £25 though) which I’m pleased to see is induction compatible.  The tea tin may have been an impulse purchase but it is still with me.

Did I get my choices right?  What things could you not live without in the kitchen?

Breaking the first rule of blogging

For my first post, I thought I would put it right out there: my kitchen is ugly.  Really ugly.  Since the first rule of blogging is “make sure you have good quality pictures” (ok, maybe that’s the second rule after “create great content”) I thought I’d get this one right out of the way.  This is what my kitchen looked like when I moved in.

It doesn’t look exactly like that now, because I couldn’t resist the urge to rip that ugly wallpaper off the cupboards for starters.  But I still have a long way to go.  Some of it I’ll do myself, and some I will call in the pros.  I’ve already finished the other rooms in my humble abode, and I’m glad I’ve got that experience behind me to help create the most important room in my house.

I moved into my North London kitchen in October 2014.  This blog is about my kitchen transformation, the food I cook here, and exploring the local food and drink scene here in North London.  Join me – and I promise not to hurt your eyes quite so much again…