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Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Kitchen Reno

We moved into our first house together while our builder was laying the new downstairs timber floor, and with no kitchen. Arran and I agreed that if the bank wouldn’t lend us enough money to at least replace and renovate the kitchen straight away, we weren’t buying the house! In its original state it wasn’t functional. The kitchen cupboards weren’t attached to the floor and the floor tiles had been laid directly on dirt!
(Notice the beautiful exposed brick arch entry)

Those first months we alternated between BBQ dinners (washing up in the laundry sink), meals at The Australian Youth Hotel and eating take-away in the bedroom. Getting out of the house each day to go to work with clean dust free clothes was a challenge. At the end of eight weeks we had a lovely new kitchen and a beautiful solid timber floor. The rest of the place was still a renovators dream but at least we could cook!

I really love Terrace houses and swore that when I moved to Sydney I would live in one. It was a romantic notion that got into my head somehow. Very quickly though, you learn the 2 rules of Terrace House renovations: Get in as much light as possible and get in as much storage as possible, as Terrace Houses typically have neither! I think these rules hold true whether you are maintaining the original structure and are just trying to make it more liveable or whether you are doing some major work with the help of an architect. We were doing the former. The Beirut end of Glebe location meant that renovating beyond making the house modern, clean and liveable, would be overcapitalising. This turned out to be a sensible decision when we came to sell 4 years later.

Terrace houses were traditionally built to make the best use of the land i.e fit as many houses in as possible so workers could walk to and from work or easily access public transport. This translates into housing built on a long thin rectangular blocks butted up against other sharing common walls and fences. Houses are either built in pairs or can take up a whole street. Every now and then you will see a stand-alone Terrace. Windows are typically only at the front and rear of the house unless the Terrace is at the end of the row. Even then I could show you examples of end Terrace's in Glebe with no windows down the exposed length (what a waste!). The middle parts of the house are DARK..

Our Glebe St house was sandwiched between a warehouse-style structure and another “mirror-image” terrace. This combined with dull and dark colours and depressing cheap reno’s meant the house didn’t have a choice to be anything but dark.

We used lots of white and new lighting in our kitchen renovation with a bright colour on the glass splash back on one side and a stainless steel look Laminex on the other. The glass splash-back is a great choice. So easy to clean and you can have any colour painted and baked to the back. The bench-tops are Caesarstone.

Terraces are challenging to live in with lots of modern things. When these houses were originally built their occupants didn't have much in the way of material possessions and therefore no need for much storage.  If you were part of the working class poor residing in Glebe you were lucky if you had a change of clothes to wear. As such Terrace Houses have bare square rooms with nothing built in, like cupboards. 

While living in Glebe St we instituted a "something in, something out" rule, to handle all the stuff we would have accumulated with no where to store it. The biggest issue was books. Arran and I both love to read and Arran would often get pulled into Gleebooks and come out with 6 new ones! Every few months I would make him attend to the piles of books suffocating our bedroom and take them to the Gleebooks second hand store or Sappho Books to sell. He would then have money to go buy more books!

To get as much useful storage in our kitchen as possible we used big deep drawers under the benches and pull out drawers in the pantry. If there was space for an additional cupboard, we put one in. We even managed to fit in a display cupboard with glass doors to show off our growing wine glass collection, complete with lights.

We choose a gas cooktop and the biggest under bench oven we could find as well as a really quiet dishwasher. Unfortunately Kleenmaid went out of business a couple of years after the appliances were installed but we had no problems with them while we lived there.

We ended up with a kitchen we just loved. It was light and bright and a great social place when people came for dinner. People would hang out with their wine and nibbles while Arran cooked up a storm (and a big mess!).

(Sleek and functional)

What do you love and hate about your kitchen? If budget was no issue what would you do?

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