The Building Work

The Original Kitchen

What you will notice about a 1930’s house is that they traditionally have the tiniest galley kitchen. Our kitchen was cramped with two people in it, but I suppose it was only built with on person in mind (thanks sexist 1930’s). It was seriously tiny. In fact, Nick was able to spread his arms out and touch it from wall to wall. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to remove the wall between the kitchen and the dining room. We also decided that we wanted to remove the door way into the kitchen too. This would give us an open plan layout that would give us more space while we saved for an extension.

Wall Removal

Once we exchanged contracts, we asked our estate agent if we could bring our builder in to take measurements and they kindly gave us the keys. We also used this opportunity to have the builder’s engineer to come in so he could make calculations. The wall between the kitchen and the dining room is a load bearing wall, therefore, it needs to be supported with an RSJ (look at me using terminology!). Our RSJ sits between both walls and it about 4 meters long. At the same time, we also had the fireplace in the dining room opened up to, eventually, contain the cooker. This also needed an RSJ to support the chimney breast. A lot of house renovators remove the chimney breast entirely, which enables more space in your kitchen. So if you’re short on space, it be something worth considering. We, however, loved the idea of keeping it and we think that it adds more character.

The wall coming down is not for that fainthearted! It was messy. Also, as soon as I saw it, I had a mini panic attack for a minute! Nick kept worrying about the ceiling collapsing (we had one night of the ceilings being supported by acrow props before the RSJ was installed). For some horrible reason down here in South Wales, back in the day, they mixed the plaster with coal ash so everything (and I mean everything) was covered in black dust!


The RSJ was set into both walls into a block of concrete. Because we had managed to get the builder and engineer in before we got the keys, the calculations had been completed and the steel had been ordered. Therefore, the builder was able to start this 10 days after we got the keys. This was music to our ears as it meant we were on track for our 6 week move in date. At the same time, we opened up the chimney breast and also secured the RSJs. We were quite lucky as the previous owners had installed a back boiler in here (that’s not the lucky part), which meant there was already a gas connection where we would need it for our cooker. Things were actually going to plan!

The Chimney Breast

The chimney breast being opened up

This is something we are asked about often. I love that we’ve kept it as it’s become a real feature in our kitchen. A lot of the original brick work had been removed decades before when the back boiler was inserted, so I didn’t feel guilty widening it. We’ve tried to plan ahead for the extractor fan of the cooker and we deliberately placed the RSJs so there was a gap to be able to fit the ducting through. At this point, we also opened a hole on the side so that we can either have the ducting going through the side of the chimney breast and out the back wall. Or we can go up the chimney. Either way, we think it’s important to plan ahead for several options, if you can.

Don’t Forget to Have Fun

A silly picture of me and Nick with fake eyelashes and dog ears

This is the part of the renovation that really takes its toll. It’s dark, it’s messy and it’s grim! My biggest advice with the building work is to keep that end goal in your mind. I remember thinking, ‘this place will never ever be clean’. ‘It’s going to be like this for at least a decade’. But actually, I don’t know how, but we did clean it. We did manage to get it to look good. And, we did try to have fun as well – otherwise, it’s just depressing!

Lastly, if you’re reading this and you’re in the middle of your renovation. Just remember that it has to get worse before it gets better so below is our before and after picture!

What to Do While Waiting on the Keys

If you put an offer in on a house and it is accepted, you just want to begin planning immediately. You’ve got mood boards, saved folders on Pinterest and you might even pick up some samples from your local DIY store. It’s easy to get carried away and you hear stories about house sales falling through all of the time. Therefore, you need to be careful about what you buy and what you plan.

The original house
This is the estate agent’s photo

We were in quite a good/unique position as our house was a probate sale and we were first time buyers. So therefore, the only way that our sale would fall through was if we pulled out. It did, however, mean that we had absolutely no information on the house. Therefore, we opted for a full Building Survey and guess what, the list was long! That didn’t stop us though, nor did it come as a surprise, – we knew the house would need a lot of work.

The Planning

We knew that we would have to move into our renovation house pretty quickly. There was no way that we would be able to rent, pay a mortgage and renovate a house. So we gave ourselves the goal of getting the big messy stuff down within 6 weeks (one electrician we told this to, laughed in our faces but the joke was on him because we did it! We also didn’t hire him).

Estate Agent’s photo

Firstly, we knew that we would have to get a full rewire completed on the house and that would involve actually knowing where all the new plug sockets would go. We had a fairly good idea where they would go throughout the house, but the big problem was the kitchen. We knew we would be ripping out the kitchen and knocking down the partition wall between the original galley kitchen and the dining room, but where would all the electrics go? This lead to our first plan – to sort the kitchen plans.

The Kitchen Plans

We had a number of kitchen plans before deciding on our current layout. It’s something we are asked quite frequently -. How did we come up with the layout? How did we know it would work? When did we know we had the right plan? Etc. My best advice is really play around with the space. It’s great that you can download software from this type of thing and plan straight from home. Alternatively, if you don’t feel IT/home design confident, you can book an appointment and go into a store. All the places we looked at plan free of charge. You can find a link to the IKEA planning platform below. Even if you don’t get an Ikea kitchen, it’s worth playing around with it from the comfort of your sofa!

We wanted to maximise as much space as possible, as we knew it would be a while before we would be able to get an extension. Therefore we knew we wanted to remove the door entrance into the original kitchen. I’ve seen a lot of homes that brick this doorway up and then they can utilise this space. It’s a great idea if you can afford an extension straight away. By opening this space, we knew that we would have to move the kitchen to where the old dining room was. This is where the fun really began!

This was our first kitchen design; ironically our kitchen ended up nothing like this. I loved the idea of having the sink under the window – it feels like the natural place to put it. We were 100% set on having the cooker in the old chimney breast and actually, this is something that stayed the same in all of our plans.

The problem with this plan is that it would limit our extension plans in the future so as much as we loved it, we decided it wasn’t for us. Looking back on it, I think it would also be too much. It’s quite an imposing kitchen for the space and what we ended up going with feels a lot more minimalist.

Our Final Kitchen Plans

Our Final Kitchen Plan

Our final kitchen plan worked best for us. When we decide to extend eventually, we won’t have to change a thing. It also utilises the space that’s currently there. Overall, it’s a really good size and most importantly, we knew exactly where all of electrical sockets would need to be for the rewire. When we told people we were planning our kitchen before having the keys, we were met with some negative comments. Some people thought we were jumping the gun and we were planning too far ahead. But we knew, to get the work done quickly, we had to be organised. Without this key organisation, then we wouldn’t have been able to move in within 6 weeks. We also didn’t buy our kitchen until we had exchanged contracts and got the keys, just in case that very unlikely scenario of the sale falling through happened.

The biggest piece of advice I can give is plan ahead as much as possible. It will help you in the long term.