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My Room: We Turned a Damp Space into a Cool, Industrial-style Kitchen

Artist Sara Carlton shares before and after photos of her kitchen-diner, revealing a stylish, inspiring transformation

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

When Sara Carlton and her partner moved into their stone cottage, the kitchen was dingy and damp, but the couple could see the potential in the space. They ripped it all out, managing without a fully functioning kitchen for a while, and patiently set about designing the room to realise their vision of an eclectic, industrial-style space.

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Room at a Glance
Who lives here Artist Sara Carlton of Fern Art and Interiors, and her partner, Chris Parkinson
Location Durham, County Durham
Property A 19th century stone cottage with three bedrooms and one bathroom
Kitchen dimensions 4.5 x 5m

When Sara and Chris moved into their stone cottage, the kitchen was damp, rotten and unusable. “The stone wall on the outside was really damp, and the normal plaster that had been put on the inside had allowed the moisture to come through,” she says.

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“The kitchen and dining room were divided by a half wall with a checkered window above it, I think to try to bring more light into the north-facing space.”

They realised they would have to rip it all out and start again, which left them without a kitchen for a while. “We were living with an old workbench and a Belfast sink we’d found in the garden. We put a bucket underneath the catch the water,” Sara says. “Once we’d renovated the bathroom, we could at least wash up in the bath.”

They asked a local kitchen company to make the units for them. The firm were pretty busy, but went out of their way to help the couple out. “Our kitchen guys were fantastic,” Sara says. “When they saw the state of the room, they took pity on us and fitted us into their schedule.”

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But first they had to sort out the leak that was coming from a burst pipe below the kitchen floor. “The pipes had to be rerouted through the house, so now they go up and over the room,” Sara explains.

To solve the problem of the damp wall, the couple’s builders removed the concrete that had been used in the pointing on the stone wall and plastered inside with lime mortar. They also used specialist paint that’s breathable.

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“We wanted the space to be open-plan with an industrial style,” says Sara. “We pulled the ceiling down, which revealed the beams and some copper piping.

“The metal conduits that run the electrical cables around the room were Chris’s idea,” says Sara. “Some of the electricians we asked about this didn’t get it, but the one we used shared our vision. He got these pipes from a supplier he’d used when he was working in factories and managed to fix them all together with the cables inside.”

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The kitchen units are handmade and solid wood, but, to save money, the couple decided to do without wall units. Fortunately, for extra storage they could repurpose a corridor that ran from the front of the house to the back.

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“This used to be the way out to the back, but we blocked it off to create a pantry. Everything goes in there, so that enables us to do without the upper units,” explains Sara.

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The cupboards were painted black to tie in with the industrial look, and the couple chose simple metro tiles and a large Belfast sink. “We didn’t have the space for a double sink, so this is ideal,” says Sara. “Our plumber made the tap out of copper pipe. I do have to tighten it every other week, but it’s lovely.”

All the appliances are integrated to keep the kitchen looking streamlined and tidy, and metal handles match the conduit pipes on the walls.

Kitchen and worktops, Staples Woodcraft. Units painted in Off-Black, Farrow & Ball. Wall behind the sink painted in breathable Claypaint (suitable for lime plaster) in White, Earthborn. Remaining walls painted in Milk White, Crown. Tiles, Walls and Floors.

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The two spaces are separated by contrasting flooring. The dining area is covered with reclaimed solid maple boards. “They were salvaged from either a school or a church,” says Sara. “They needed a lot of cleaning, but we liked the old effect, so didn’t sand them. Our team of clever joiners laid them for us – they’re marked, they’re scratched, but they’re perfect.”

In the kitchen are concrete-effect tiles. “In hindsight, I wish I’d been more patient with the kitchen floor,” Sara says. “We were going to have a concrete floor, but as we were nearing the end of our renovations, we rushed it a little.”

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A couple of shelves are perfect for displaying Sara’s collection of glass bottles. “These are leftover floorboards from upstairs,” she explains. “We put them up ourselves using brackets from a DIY store.”

The couple also bought some S-hooks to hang plants from the conduit rail above, and installed a rail below for tea towels.

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“It’s not the brightest room, so we needed plenty of lights,” says Sara. “These cage lights go with the industrial style of the space, and there are also two pendants over the dining table.” The couple have cleverly positioned a hook on the ceiling, which they use to hang the light flex over in order to change the location of the pendant lights when they need to.

Cage lights, Dowsing & Reynolds. Pendants, Artifact. S-hooks, Ikea.

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“Chris got the dining table from an auction,” says Sara. “It was going to be his desk, but we ended up using it in here – we think it was an old school table.”

There was a blank wall behind the table, so Sara decided to use it as a blackboard. “We got some chalkboard paint and created a big square. We used some old floorboards as a frame, and then drew a calendar on it to make it functional,” she says. “It gets drawn on quite a lot when we have friends over.”

Two wire baskets below are ideal for storing vintage books and paperwork.

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The door to the understairs cupboard was saved from a pile of discarded items they found nearby. “There were a few on the pile, so we upcycled them, and our joiners put them up for us around the house.”

The adjacent wire shelves are used for storing the bread bin and all manner of kitchen paraphernalia.

See Sara’s artwork on her website, Fern Art & Interiors.

Tell us…
What’s your favourite thing about Sara’s industrial-style kitchen and dining space? Have you tried any clever upcycling ideas in your own home? Share your thoughts and photos in the Comments section.
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