Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Thursday 17 December 2020

While we’re on the subject of creativity…

Aren’t we always? 

We’ve been thinking about having a new kitchen ever since we moved into the house, which is twenty years ago. The house has evolved, and ten years ago, we bought the house next door, so more evolution happened. I don’t know about people who only live in their homes, but, because we work in ours, too, change is sometimes necessary to accommodate the work, and, of course, all that creativity! The house is a creative project, all of its own, though, and we love that. 

We don’t change things much. When a room has reached the optimal combination of functional and attractive, things only change in small ways. Some rooms have changed use over the years, so needed to be redecorated. The Dort loves to decorate, so her original bedroom was re-jigged every eighteen months or so. Then she elected to move rooms, then she took over the two top rooms in the house, so those rooms have seen several incarnations. 

Our drawing room has not changed. I decorated when we moved in, and when we decided it needed freshening up, we scoured the paint charts, and then painted it the same colour that it had been painted the first time. The room needs to be sunshine yellow… It spoke to us. Other things have evolved, like a good broom… I’ve had this broom thirty years; it’s had four new heads and three new handles, but it’s been a good broom. 

We have never emptied the drawing room and started from scratch. We’ve added things and taken things away… That’s how we like to live. Sometimes, we replace furniture, but we prefer to move it to other rooms, or repurpose it when we can. And, if all else fails, we give it away. Waste-not-want-not. 

Our kitchen is right at the heart of the house, with doors leading to the drawing room and the conservatory, stairs down to my studio, and up to the first floor. With four doors and a window, it’s a tricky space to organise a kitchen in. 

When we moved in, way back in 2000, I did a rudimentary revamp, and I don’t know how long the original kitchen had been in, but it could, easily be twenty-five or thirty years old. I’ve painted it a couple of times, including the drawer-fronts and doors. We’ve had a new cooker and sink, but the kitchen really needs doing, and we know how we want to do it. 

We’ve been talking about a new kitchen for almost as long as we’ve lived in the house, and, in the end, it’s the logistics that are putting us off. Ripping out a kitchen is bloody hard, bloody dirty work. I know, because I’ve done it before. There is no way around the kitchen. We cannot isolate it, and shut it down while the work is done… And SO much works needs to be done. 

The other problem is kitchens… We’ve had people come and look at the space, and they’ve provided designs that are just WRONG! We need a proper, working kitchen, not a fancy showpiece that will ‘add value to the house’. 

We’ve been in any number of kitchen showrooms, and they don’t provide us anything that we want. Try buying a pair of kitchen taps that turn… It’s virtually impossible. There are endless versions of mixers and spouts with spray attachments and levers, but a pair of old-fashioned kitchen taps, the kind that were used for a century, or more, simply do not exist in modern forms. 

There was one infamous occasion in a rather smart showroom. First, I asked the ballpark cost of a kitchen, giving the dimensions of the room, which isn’t big. I knew, right then, that I wasn’t going to pay £30K for a kitchen. 

Nevertheless, we walked around the showroom. I opened a drawer. Then I closed it… It didn’t close. It stopped short, and then sighed back into place. I couldn’t believe it. I looked at the salesman. “Soft-close,” he said. “They’re brilliant.” My reaction was that when I want to slam a drawer, I damned well want to hear it slam. 

I’m not an angry person. I don’t stomp and shout and throw things around, but there is that moment when I’ve spent ten minutes rootling around in the bits drawer, totally unable to find the thing I was pretty sure was in there, when I close it harder than I need to, mild frustration adding weight to my hand. You can’t do that with a soft-close drawer. 

The salesman wanted to show us all the fancy gadgets: machines appearing on hydraulic platforms out of cupboards. He didn’t appreciate me laughing. Another poor designer didn’t understand that we want the kitchen cupboards to extend all the way up to the lowish ceiling rather than have a four or six inch grease trap on top of the cupboards, that I would never get on the step-stool to clean. He also didn’t understand that we didn’t want six or eight inch kkckboards, because they just represent lost storage space, to us.

Kitchens are expensive, and designers aren’t the people who use them, so, when we do sort the kitchen out, we’ll employ a joiner/carpenter, who can give us exactly what we need. And, not for nothing, it’ll work out massively cheaper than any of the quotes we’ve had, even from all those lovely budget stores on all those out-of-town industrial estates. 

There’s no shame in buying budget. Not for nothing, ‘bespoke’ kitchens still use standard sized units for cupboards and cabinets, so they might hike up the budget, but they don’t offer more alternatives than anywhere else. 

It’s probably just as well that we don’t intend ever to move, because our idea of a fabulous kitchen, apparently isn’t most people’s idea of a fabulous kitchen. We need good storage for ingredients and cookware, and a couple of good knives, to cook, and that’s about all. Other people’s essentials are our redundancies. On the other hand, I know people with expensive kitchens that, no doubt do add value to their homes in terms of resale price, who think that cooking is taking a pre-prepared meal out of the freezer and putting it in the oven. 

Right now, we have a good, working kitchen, and we
Not our kitchen... Never our kitchen!

don’t plan to give that up for all the bells and whistles on the market. We will have a new kitchen some time in the next couple of years, but it will have to be as functional as our current kitchen. It’s going to be fun trawling for the stuff we want and need, and it’s going to be fun working with a joiner to get our perfect kitchen. It will take thought and creativity, and lots of decisions about colour, texture and materials. Our creativity will be well-used, and even stretched in accomplishing this feat, and it will be worth it. 

Meanwhile, there’s work to be done on the attic… Again.

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