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A family from the Midlands saved more than £30,000 on building fees with a clever room swap tip, turning a ‘too big’ living room into their dream kitchen.
Laura Crombie (opens in new tab) and her husband Rian, who live in a village in Worcestershire with their toddler, Sophie, 3, were planning to add a kitchen extension to their new house but were put off by the costs. And now they’re sharing their tips on changing rooms to inspire others to do the same.
‘Our old kitchen was quite small and separate from the rest of the house, which was a nightmare with a toddler – she’d be climbing the walls in another room while I was cooking and I couldn’t see what she was up to,’ explains Laura.
‘We got a couple of quotes for an extension but we couldn’t afford £30,000 of building work, as well as a new kitchen, flooring and all the finishing touches we wanted.’
Instead, Laura, a homes journalist, printed off a few floorplans for the house and started drawing out alternative layouts.
‘The old living room was way too big for us,’ she says. ‘Our furniture only filled a third of it and I couldn’t see how we’d ever use the space effectively.’
The couple, who renovated their first house at 25, realised there was plenty of room to fit in a kitchen and dining area, and that the old dining room next door could become an open-plan sitting area. The original kitchen would become a snug living room.
‘As soon as she showed me the plans I knew it was perfect,’ adds Rian. ‘We wanted to save as much money as we could so we started researching what we could do ourselves.’
The couple completely stripped out the rooms, including steaming 1960s wallpaper from all of the surfaces, ripping up the pink carpet, removing the fireplace and sanding the walls.
Rian, who is currently on furlough from his job as a pilot, used YouTube to teach himself how to do the plumbing for the kitchen and reposition all of the radiators. ‘It was tough at times but luckily the only thing we disagreed on was whether to keep the 1960s arch between the two rooms,’ he says. ‘I wanted to get rid of it but I actually really like it now...not that I’d admit I was wrong!’
A builder, who is a family friend, changed the window openings, added a side door and moved the entrance to the room so that you can see out to the garden as soon as you walk into the house.
‘We know our limits and have got the whole house to renovate, so we paid for a kitchen fitter and somebody to install the flooring for us,’ adds Laura. ‘It’s satisfying doing DIY but sometimes you have to know when to call in the professionals.’
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Dream open plan kitchen
The family moved into the house during lockdown, so used a free Zoom consultation with Magnet to help design their dream kitchen. ‘We knew we wanted a modern take on traditional style, so blue and grey Shaker units with white quartz worktops were the winning formula,’ adds Laura.
They opted for a U-shaped kitchen idea with an island that doubles as a breakfast bar, and chose an AEG double oven, induction hob and built-in fridge, freezer and dishwasher to finish the space. ‘I was almost scared to use the kitchen for the first time as I didn’t want to make a mess,' laughs Laura.
Herringbone luxury vinyl flooring from Karndean and marble hexagon tiles from Topps Tiles were the perfect finishing touches to the space – our how to grout tiles guide has all the advice you need if you are tiling your own splashback. The velvet sofas are from Swyft (opens in new tab) and the black glass storage cabinet from JYSK (opens in new tab).
‘When I look back now I can’t believe this use to be a living room,’ adds Laura. ‘It’s such a sociable space for the whole family to enjoy now – and I can even see when Sophie is climbing the walls!’
Tips for remodelling
Changing rooms, not to mention a kitchen is a daunting job. If you're considering trying this hack yourself here are few of Laura's top tips:
- Think about your windows and doors first as you want to make sure the space has enough natural light and flows well
- Then consider whether you need to change your lighting. We’ve layered spotlights, pendants, wall lights and lamps, with both dimmer and traditional switches, so that we can create different moods. Use a qualified electrician for this
- You’ll probably need to relocate radiators, which is only a job that competent DIY-ers should tackle. Call in a plumber if you’re not sure
- Don’t scrimp on things you’ll use every day. For me, the floor, appliances and worktops needed to be the best quality we could afford
Have you been inspired to reimagine your home?
Rebecca Knight has been the Deputy Editor on the Ideal Home Website since 2022. She graduated with a Masters degree in magazine journalism from City, University of London in 2018, before starting her journalism career as a staff writer on women's weekly magazines. She fell into the world of homes and interiors after joining the Ideal Home website team in 2019 as a Digital Writer. In 2020 she moved into position of Homes News Editor working across Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, Gardeningetc and Ideal Home covering everything from the latest viral cleaning hack to the next big interior trend.
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