Carmel and John Reynolds overcame a serious personal setback and delays to create a vibrant open-plan kitchen extension full of character

Carmel ReynoldsFact file

The owners: Carmel Reynolds, who owns a launderette, and her husband John, a retired builder, live here with son Harrison, 18
The property: A three-bedroom, semi-detached house built in the 1930s
The location: Leeds, West Yorkshire
What they spent: The couple’s kitchen project cost around £26,000

For years, we had dreamt of having a spacious kitchen-diner that opened on to the garden,’ recalls Carmel. ‘The old kitchen was too small, and family meals in the separate dining room tended to be special occasions. As we have a large garden, we could build outwards at the back without losing too much outdoor space, so we decided to add a two-storey extension across the width of the house.’

The couple hired a local architect to draw up plans for an extension to double the size of the kitchen by creating an L-shaped room with a dining area and bi-fold doors opening on to the patio. Upstairs, there was to be an extended family bathroom and bedroom.

With planning permission approved within six weeks, John quickly set to work digging the concrete foundations, as well as building the walls with breezeblocks and bricks to the damp-proof course level.

‘When we started making plans for a bigger kitchen, we knew we would have to wait a few years until John had time to build it because of his busy work schedule, so we were excited when he finally started to dig the foundations,’ says Carmel.

John’s work was checked periodically by a building regulations inspector as he took the walls to roof level, and added a pantile roof to match the original property.

To make the shell watertight, the extension was fitted with new windows and bi-fold doors across the width of the property, and the old kitchen window was reinstated along the kitchen side wall to draw light into the dark end of the room.

A few weeks into the project, however, when only the shell of the extension had been built, John fell downstairs while vacuuming and tore a ligament in his shoulder. Work on the extension came to an abrupt halt and it took a year before he was well enough to start building again. ‘We could only view the extension through the window and imagine what it was going to look like,’ recalls Carmel.

Despite this setback, Carmel and John used the extra time to fine-tune the details of their long-awaited kitchen and research everything from the cost of appliances to the colour of the accessories.

‘We probably saved ourselves thousands of pounds by shopping around and making sure we got the best prices for everything,’ says John. The couple partly financed the project with money they had inherited, while the rest was funded by their earnings and savings as the work progressed.

By the time John restarted the project, progress was swift. The first major job was to open up the extension by knocking down the old external rear walls, inserting four steel beams to support the new openings and the extended rooms upstairs.

‘We taped up all the doors into the rest of the house to stop dust getting through, but no matter how hard we tried, it still went everywhere,’ remembers Carmel.

All the plumbing and electrics were extended from the original part of the property into the new build, including electric underfloor heating laid in two sections – with one mat in the kitchen and the other in the dining area so that they can work independently of each other. These are supplemented with a radiator in the dining area.

When it came to choosing their kitchen, Carmel and John already had a supplier in mind. ‘We always knew we would buy our kitchen from Arlington Interiors in Leeds,’ says Carmel. ‘It has a great reputation for quality and service and we wanted to buy the best we could afford. As we were only planning to update our kitchen once, the units had to be right.’

At first the couple considered dark wood and cream units, until they saw the same design with green doors and loved the vibrant contrast. ‘It’s really striking,’ says Carmel. ‘Our old units were white and traditional in style. This time we wanted to make a statement with a modern kitchen.’

Carmel and John wanted to position the sink so it would be possible to look at the garden through the window while washing up, with the hob within easy reach at a right angle to the sink. They were also keen to have a wall of full-length cupboards incorporating the integrated microwave and oven, and the fridge-freezer, plus plenty of storage space.

After the first-fix stage, the kitchen units were installed in only two days by John and one of his brothers, who runs a joinery company, so that the underfloor heating, screed and floor tiles could be fitted up to the kickboards. Within a week, all the appliances were installed and the second fix completed ready for the finishing touches.

‘Day to day, we managed really well while the kitchen was being installed,’ says Carmel. ‘When the wall between the old and new parts of the building was removed, John relocated the sink next to the back door and left the cooking facilities in so that we could still make meals and wash up without too much bother. It was a bit chaotic, but we were able to escape to the living room at the front of the house to get away from the mess.

‘Apart from John’s accident the build was very straightforward, and once he’d restarted work on the project afterwards, everything was finished within 12 weeks,’ adds Carmel. ‘The secret is to prepare well and do as much work as possible yourself.’

Carmel and John love their new lightfilled kitchen space. ‘We eat at the dining table as a family for every meal now. The old dining room has become a living area, so we are in the new space most of the time when we’re home,’ Carmel says. ‘In winter it’s so light and warm that it makes you feel good, even on a rainy day, and in summer we can open the doors and step straight into the garden. I only regret that we didn’t start the project sooner.’

The costs

Kitchen units £10,800
Appliances £6,360
Bi-fold doors £3,500
Worktops, splashback and edge detailing (including fitting) £2,496
Furniture and accessories £1,420
Floor tiles £600
Eco underfloor heating mats £500
Sink, tap and accessories £480
Light fitting £100
Paint £100
 
TOTAL £26,356

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