The kitchen is nearly done. So close, in fact, you might actually think it is finished.
It’s been just about a year since I walked into JAG Kitchens in Botany and met Hannah Brown. What an amazing project manager - one of those thorough people who never miss a beat or lose their patience. I sat with her and told her about my kitchen. I’m not sure she really believed me until I sent through photos later that day. She called me immediately she received the files “You poor thing!” Yes, our kitchen was neglected and suffering from half-arsed short-term solutions. This time, I was gonna do it properly.
And I did.
I knew we’d have a nice new kitchen and dining room by the end of the process. What I didn’t understand is that it would change the way we used the house completely. The kitchen didn’t used to be somewhere people stuck around in for long. It was cold and dark and always messy. Now it has become the heart of the house. It’s a pleasure to work in, hang out in, eat and read and type blog posts in. It has become the conservatory Greg always wanted and never even knew he had. We don’t eat out nearly as much because cooking in our fully functioning, gorgeous kitchen is such a pleasure.
Plus, I learned a lot. About organisation, tradie-management, that I could trust my design choices. Turns out they’re not so bad after all.
The vision I held in my minds-eye for so many years is now a reality and the decisions made along the way were the right ones. Even the couple of times I had to push a little harder than I thought I’d have to: I was right.
Write everything down and keep it in one place - those decisions made in discussions on site: write them down as they’re decided. Your builder has a lot on his plate, you can’t expect him to remember every little thing you said to him. Keep everything in one place, from the paint chips, the business cards, the instruction manuals that come with new appliances; put them in a folder or a box or a drawer (we used one of the new kitchen drawers) that both you and your tradesmen have access to and know where to look should they need to. That way things either won’t be forgotten, or can be a reminder that doesn’t cost extra money because it’s there, in the box/binder/drawer: evidence of the decision.
Talk talk talk to your tradies - ask them questions about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it that way, if they’ve done this kind of work before. We had an instance early on when we were just letting them do what they were doing. After a while we found out that the bench cutter, for instance, had cut the bench around a bend in the wall. Had we known about the bowed wall earlier, we could have fixed it before the wall was gibbed and the tiler found out he couldn’t work with a wall that bowed. It’s not a matter of not trusting your tradesmen, it’s a matter of creating a culture of communication.
Take lots of photographs - not just for your blog, but so you can see how far you’ve come and where those studs/wires etc are and used to be. We relied on photos I’d taken more than a few times over the course of the project especially when problem-solving the bowed wall and deciding the best way to fix it.
Understand it’s going to take longer than planned - I don’t know about where you are, but there’s a building boom/tradesman shortage in Auckland. Sometimes our builder had to deploy his troops to other more pressing jobs and we had to just be okay with that. While the job took longer, being more relaxed about timelines meant for less stress. We don’t have small children to contend with but those “pressing jobs” sometimes were families who needed work done faster. Give and take.
Order early - appliances and tap-ware often have to come from overseas and have a lead time. Our pot filler had a lead time of 10 weeks to come from Italy. We left ordering our kitchen appliances until we needed them thinking because they are manufactured in New Zealand it wouldn’t be a problem, only to find the manufacturer had ceased providing those models that very week we were going to order them and we’d have to wait 3 months for their new stock. Order early, order often. You can always sell items or return to the manufacturer/store if you change your mind.
PRO TIP: you might not know all the details at the beginning of the project. Decide what you care about and work around that. I cared about my “nod” to country style, the pot filler and the plantation shutters. They were my non-negotiables. Everything else I could compromise on. I made decisions quickly and didn’t fret over anything other than those things.
It was only a kitchen, after all. I’d had the pits, anything else was going to be better.