I’ve decided, quite excitingly ( for me anyway) to give my blog a face-lift, and so next time I post you may find a few changes to the layout and header, but for today I’m going to tell you about the much needed face- lift for our very neglected kitchen!
Anyone that’s rented in France will know that the ‘oh so’ well known english expression, “taking everything but the kitchen sink” is not a figurative expression here when it comes to house moving, but a very big reality. It’s very common to arrive at a new rental or purchase property to find that in the kitchen there is only one item- quite literally a sink, often without even a cabinet below it.
It was almost the case when we first moved into our house. The elderly Monsieur from whom we’d bought it had gaily lived his life using the top of his mini fridge as his work top, with a small wooden table in the centre of the room. The sink, on a very dilapidated cabinet in the corner was built for a very diminutive person, and washing up bent double to achieve the right height was not a pleasant experience. For three years we nevertheless continued with his tradition.I made a very half hearted attempt to paint the cupboard.It wasn’t strictly necessary to struggle on, but ‘husband a l’étranger ‘, as he was at the time , and I had come to an impasse over what would be the replacement sink. Husband ‘a l’étranger’ was very fond of the old battered ceramic sink, complete with chips, yellowing and scratches, and I was all for a modern but similar replacement. Gradually he begun to comment about the presence of some interminable flies which seem to appear from nowhere just after he had cleared the last lot through the door. For my part, I was anxious about the damp under the sink which turned out dishwasher salt into a nasty clump, and let’s not even mention the wet patch in the cellar which had convinced me that we had an major underground drain leak.
At the same time as we bought our island unit to give us a decent worktop, I bought a matching base unit for a future sink. I also searched around for quite some time, looking for a new ceramic sink. It took a lot of finding as I wanted 2 bowls, and Husband ‘a l’étranger ‘ wanted an integral draining board. It had to be as near to a metre long to fit into the space I calculated would be available after the base cupboard was modified. Eventually, at great cost I found one.When it arrived on the truck it took 2 strong men to lift it, and it was put in the corner of the dining room…where it stayed for nearly for two years! Husband ‘a l’étranger ‘ cocked a snook at the lovely new white ceramic sink declaring that my idea of converting the base unit cupboard, which was designed for a single Belfast sink, into a double Belfast sink was nigh on impossible. He went to Emmaus and bought a competing sink for 15 € in a style circa 1970, which would involve, yes you guessed it, modifying the base unit as his was a “sit- on”, rather than a “sit-in” style.
The stand off lasted longer than I bear to think about, but approximately two years! Half the trouble was that ripping out a kitchen sink completely handicaps the functioning of a kitchen and there wasn’t quite enough impetus to make it happen. At some point into the second year I disappeared into the garage, and only came back inside once the base unit had been completely painted, – except for the area which needed to be modified and cut away.
Husband ‘a l’étranger went into the garage and balanced his sit-on sink on top of the base unit, and gradually the whole turned into a new dumping ground for various bike helmets, tools and ‘odds and sods’!
And so the stand-off continued.
And then, in November, the mighty ‘hand of god’ intervened with his ‘acte de dieu’ and our dishwasher spontaneously went up in flames at five o’clock in the morning. And there’s nothing like being forced to wash up for a family of six at a very low sink to focus the mind.
The following Sunday, Husband ‘a l’étranger’ rose from his seat in the sitting room and disappeared into the garage and suddenly the sound of a saw could be heard. Within a couple of hours the offending piece of base unit was removed and a double sink size space was created in its place.
The following day the cupboard and sink from the kitchen saw their last.And from that moment we haven’t looked back!A support was made for the new heavy sink:You can see how we cut away the right-hand drawer to increase the space for the sink.The biggest detail issue was how to close of the space between the sides of the sink and the base unit, which we did with a thin piece of timber panel, slightly recessed and painted the same colour.We closed of the left hand end of the freestanding base unit with the wall with another piece of recessed painted panel, placed the new dishwasher in its position with a temporary door and laid on the oak worktop.
The next issue was how to deal with the small spaces either side of the cooker.
Matching the feet of the freestanding unit we made a faux left-hand panel and a fixed right hand panel. The centre part of the left hand side panel opens with a narrow pull-out bottle drawer.On-line I had discovered a company who made paneled dishwasher doors in a shaker-style. Their excellent design with identical feet to our kitchen units would have been ideal but unfortunately theirs was designed for a higher worktop and an XXL dishwasher. Neither of which we had.
Husband ‘a l’étranger’ thought I was more than a little mad (and rather demanding) when I suggested copying the design and making it ourselves.The idea was to make the dishwasher door resemble a free-standing unit, and therefore a door within a frame. However the door and frame are actually just a door!Here it is with the leg part of the frame cut off, fixed to the dishwasher and with painting just underway.And here it is fully painted with the legs in place. If you look carefully you can see the horizontal cut across the legs which is where the dishwasher door opens at its hinges. Without the cut the dishwasher would never open!
The full width of the dishwasher door runs from washing machine on the right to sink unit on the left, but yet it looks like a freestanding unit in itself. I think you’ll agree it’s a great design, (and build), neither of which I can take credit for.
….and the flies, well they had made their nice home in the old overflow pipe of the old sink, and the old waste pipe had been silently dripping for years into the sink cupboard and down to the cellar below. Now both issues are something of the past.
There’s something about creating and building for oneself, I get a little bit of pleasure each time I have to open the dishwasher and load it up…
….and that’s got to be a first!
Great work on the made-to-measure cupboard door! I gave up years ago on getting husband to do anything handy – à l’étranger or at home!
Thanks, I am ecstatic about it. We’re having a pause before the tiling, and i’ve moved onto re-upholstering my bed. But that’s another story!
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Looks great! Well done!
Thank you! I’m in a kind of “new kitchen bliss”, although the reality is that we still have wiring and permanent electrics to do. As a cause of the fire a painter is coming in to do al the paintwork when we are ready, and that’s a first because I’ve never had a decorator in my life before – unless of course I count myself. I shall enjoy putting my feet up!
Fantastic job and well done for standing your ground on the dishwasher door … the whole thing is stunning and simply chic (though I’m sorry it was provoked by a scary fire). It takes quite some getting a non-French head round that you can quite literally take over a house with only a tap in it. I’ve been fortunate with the three properties I have lived in that they have all had fully functioning kitchens (well, I did have to invest in a cooker and hob and had my fridge/freezer from England when I first moved).
Yes luckily our first house had a kitchen too, which did facilitate the move. Since the french system makes all schools teach the syllabus identically in order to facilitate people moving about, you’d think that that would translate to the most used room in any house. But I’ve heard that kitchens are so subject to individual taste that most get ripped out fairly quickly anyway. Happy New Year!
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Brilliant! It now looks like a perfect-to-use kitchen, that you can really enjoy … congratulations.
We had a very similar problem here with the tiny kitchen corner (filled with hideous fake brown wood formica cupboards) in a larger room. I can only assume that the “bonne” titted around in the unpleasant kitchen corner while she cooked their meal and then marched across to the larger area with its large table … she would have been unseen (moreorless) by the diners. In the end, I had to wait for R to go back to Tuscany for a bit and then with a French friend we were able to work swiftly to make the kitchen I had wanted. Much, much better! 🙂
There really is nothing better than a functioning kitchen. Somehow it makes the whole process of cooking a pleasure. I feel for anyone trying to cook in a tiny corner. So much nicer to be able to spread out and not try to find the ingredients under all the peelings and discarded wrappers!
I’m very late reading this, but wow was it worth the wait, I love the colour, the sink and the wooden worktops, it really does all look fabulous. xxx
Thank you Susan. I am so happy to be in a nice space. It makes the whole process of cooking so much more pleasant. Even better now that the field mice can’t get into the cupboards by the old holes during the winter. Not one mouse has peered out from my muesli this year…..so far!