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My Room: How I Made My Dated Kitchen Feel Bigger and Cosier

Stylist Maxine Brady of interiors blog WeLoveHome gives us a ‘before and after’ tour of her kitchen

Houzz UK Editorial Staff. I’m a freelance journalist with more than 13 years’ experience… More

In this new series, we’re asking homeowners to guide us through their room renovations, sharing the ups and downs of their project, as well as the tips they learned along the way. Here, Maxine Brady of WeLoveHome shows us how she transformed her kitchen from cold, damp and dark to the bright and welcoming space it is now.

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Room at a Glance
Who lives here Maxine Brady, interior stylist and blogger at WeLoveHome, with her dog, Teddy
Location Brighton, East Sussex
Property Two-bed Victorian terraced house
Room dimensions 3 x 2m
Budget Approx £9,000 (including labour and all items)

When Maxine Brady moved into her Victorian terrace in Brighton, the house had been empty for seven years. “The house felt damp and cold. I’d bought a project and had always planned to do the kitchen first.”

“I did a lot of the planning in advance and had a clear idea of what I wanted,” she says. “I’d recently visited New York and loved the coffee shops there.”

Brady took away lots of ideas from the cool industrial style of these coffee shops to adapt for her own space. “I don’t even like coffee,” she laughs, “but I appreciate the way these places get so much wear and tear, yet still look good.”

Before Photo

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The original kitchen had laminated door fronts and worktops, which were starting to peel, and there was a huge damp patch over the extractor.

“The sink was in the corner, so you couldn’t even get your hips in to wash up,” says Brady, “and there was 1980s-style strip lighting on the ceiling.”

A designer from Symphony Kitchens helped her with the layout, and the structural work was carried out by her builder. “I gave the kitchen designer a list of what I wanted to squeeze in – a range cooker, slimline dishwasher, fridge-freezer and washing machine.

“He stuck with the L-shape but moved the sink into the middle [of the short run]. I made it clear that I didn’t intend to do any washing-up, so it’s small and undermounted.”

Discover inspiring ideas for Victorian homes from our Houzz Tours

Before Photo

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To save some money, Brady put her original kitchen on Gumtree. “I offered it for free on the proviso that the recipient would rip out the units and take them away,” she says. “They came over two nights and even took the oven and sink, which meant I didn’t have to pay to have them removed.”

Slightly less successful was Brady’s decision to remove the old plaster herself, with the help of her dad and a friend. “We hacked it all off with a jackhammer, but when the Building Regulations inspector came over, he insisted we insulate it all,” she says. “It cost a thousand pounds more to install insulation board along the walls, which meant we didn’t save any money at all by doing it ourselves.”

However, she adds, “In hindsight, I’m glad we had it insulated. Anything to make my home watertight and warm is worth spending money on.”

The fridge-freezer was originally in a cabinet that backed onto the understairs cupboard…

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…but the new solution works much better. “You couldn’t open the fridge door properly,” says Brady, “so the designer had an idea to block off the understairs cupboard and put the fridge higher than the step to make it easier to open. I also ended up getting more storage space under the stairs.”

Stoves Sterling 600Ei induction range oven, rangecookers.co.uk

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Next to the fridge is another clever space-saver. “I didn’t have masses of cupboard space, so the designer planned a slim, pull-out larder next to the fridge-freezer,” Brady explains. “All my pasta, spices and similar items are in here now.”

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Brady had underfloor heating fitted to ensure the space was warm and cosy. “I wanted it to feel like somewhere to hang out,” she says.

The floor tiles were one of the first things Brady chose for her kitchen. “They remind me of the artist Escher’s work, and create an optical illusion,” she says. “In a small space, lots of tricks help to distract the eye – you can’t see where the floor finishes.”

The induction hob is a good choice for a small space, as Brady explains. “I can use the hob as a worktop by putting a chopping board on it.

“I also chose a white composite worktop, which bounces light around the room,” she adds.

Gemini worktop, Wilsonart. Biscelado metro wall tiles; Feature Floors Illusion floor tiles, both British Ceramic Tile. Underfloor heating, Warmup.

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The copper fittings and scaffold plank shelves were inspired by those coffee shop interiors Brady loves.

“I already had the copper tap and sink, and knew I wanted the handles to be bespoke,” she says. “The handles are plumber’s piping, and the brackets were from Amazon.”

Alveus Monarch copper mixer tap; Variant 40 undermounted sink, both Olif.

Find out how to make your home feel finished

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The shelves were made from old scaffolding boards and copper pipes. “I got the boards from a local supplier, and sanded and limewashed them, so they’re super-smooth,” Brady explains. “The copper piping frame is so heavy, the carpenter had to screw it to the joists in the ceiling.

“I went for shelves because I thought wall units would enclose the space,” she adds. “With open shelving, you can fit more on, as a bowl can fit even if it’s larger than the shelf.

“Of course, you have to be super-tidy and have a limited range of matching items to make it work,” Brady says. “But I keep everything clean and neat, and it’s so much easier to reach and grab what I need.”

The shelves were stained with Hard Waxoil, Blanchon.

Should you ditch your kitchen wall units?

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One essential part of the renovation project was to replace the draughty 1980s aluminium windows. Brady ordered new uPVC ones, but when it came to fitting them, she realised her measurements were wrong for one of the frames.

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Her trusty builder was on hand to help, though, and suggested they block up one of the two side windows and create a new opening on the back wall instead (the same size as the window she’d ordered).

“Now I have a lovely view out to my garden,” Brady says, “and the window makes the kitchen feel bigger, as it extends the view.”

Visit Maxine Brady’s blog and website to find out about her styling work, and about the new pop-up styling workshops she’s running – the first is on 9 March at Farrow & Ball in Hove.

Tell us…
Did you find any of Maxine Brady’s space-saving and budget ideas handy for your own design project? Do you have any tips of your own to add? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the Comments section.
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