A home is all about being surrounded by personal meaningful objects and a kitchen is no exception. Kitchens are no longer a place for just preparing food Carl and Emma’s plan was to create a heart to their home that would revolve around a busy kitchen dining space. With children and wanting to regularly work from home and with so much going on their kitchen would need to incorporate dining, entertaining, cooking, living and study or home working space. In this article we will give you practical tips and advice and reveal the cost of custom making a Belfast sink unit and cupboards using reclaimed materials.
We liked the idea of repurposing a long low level vintage cupboard and mounting an antique Belfast sink we had bought several months earlier into the unit, but the space we had was irregular in shape and placing a rectangular cupboard just would not have worked. We love free standing kitchens but sometimes it’s just not possible to have everything moveable and kitchen sink cabinets and storage units are probably one thing that couldn’t be moved nor would most advocates of free-standing kitchen units want them to be portable.
We wanted the sink unit and work surfaces to look out onto the garden through the large astragal window and we did not want the unit to protrude too far into the kitchen as that would reduce kitchen space and mean having to stand further back from the window to see out.
So our challenge was to hand-make something to fit the space, that would be unique, eclectic and work with the rest of the kitchen. We worked with local joiner Chris Laws from Claws Joinery in Kingskettle, Fife to design a Belfast sink unit with kitchen work surfaces and lower storage. Chris had built a similar unit in another Scaramanga vintage kitchen several years earlier, as well as having antique Indian door frames and other architectural salvage pieces for us. Chris also has extensive experience in working on older building restoration and maintenance projects.
The cupboards below the sink was custom made by Chris, using two single shuttered window frames on either side of a wide red double window frame.
The sink was to sit flush with the worktop, but be visible from the front. We wanted a small space on either side for food preparation and plates and this size was dictated by the irregular space in the window recess. The differences in the height of the reclaimed widow frames allowed Chris to use teak off-cuts to make extra thick rimmed square storage spaces.
Basically the cupboards were made from MDF and then the shutters placed in front to provide the door fronts. We left the window frames as we found them: in their original salvaged condition with irregular edges, surfaces and paint finish.
We were planning to use brightly painted antique armoires as kitchen storage cupboards around the kitchen, but we did not want to carry the same style across and use them for the sink cabinets. Nor did we want to make new cupboards with new doors. However, Scaramanga had several repurposed antique wooden window mirror frames that had broken mirrors and a teak top.
The overall plan was to make regular kitchen storage cupboards that would have an antique front and top.
Carl managed to salvage a 3m long length of solid teak from a school in Cumbria several months earlier and it seemed like an ideal kitchen worktop surface. An early job was to sand down the school lab worktop to reveal the wonderful golden teak grain.
Plan, plan and plan – draw scale diagrams and then mark out the position of the sink and lower cupboards as well as other storage units, tables, chairs and fridge and other large electrical appliances on the floor with masking tape. then ask yourself is it too big or too small for its intended use. Our storage unit had to store all the usual ‘under sink stuff’: washing up liquid, sponges and tea towels, then rolls of foil, cling film and then an areas for the children’s packed lunch boxes and bottles.
Experiment – do not simply design and build a kitchen sink unit, try it out and experiment with elements of it until you are happy. That’s simpler said than done if you are using a plumber and joiner, who will probably be on a schedule of works to complete your kitchen for you. We had two days in which to finalise the configuration of the lower units and tried out 6 different styles, sizes and shapes of reclaimed window frames befiore we settled for the finals ones.
Go prepared – when searching for parts and materials for the kitchen sink unit go shopping with a checklist and dimensions of the spaces in the kitchen. This will mean you can take advantage of any sales or if you have stumbled upon a second hand piece of furniture and are not sure whether it will fit in the alcove in your lounge. Have photos on your phone of all aspects of the space. This will avoid expensive mistakes!
Go local – I am sure may have your favourite shop to purchase interior items but widen your search and consider auction rooms, charity shops, household recycling centres, builder’s yards and skips (take care and ask permission before getting into a skip). Independent stores have a extensive of local knowledge of local sources and contacts. Speak to the owner, maybe they could source something for you.
Try eclectic styling – In its simplest an eclectic style is a look that is a creative mix of contrasting elements. So it means unique and individual rather than complying with any particular style. It’s a style that is currently on trend whether in high street stores to hip restaurants and bars and airport lounges. In a world of mass production we crave unique and individual living spaces. However, the trick it to get it harmonious.
Use experts – if you budget allows use recommended local trades people. Ask for written quotes and a schedule of works and references. Speak to the people they have done recent work for and if possible see the work they have done. If you are using reclaimed materials and / or architectural salvage ask them if they have experience of working with these materials and with walls and floors that are not level and slope!
Belfast sink: £65 Holyrood Architectural
Teak school worktop: £100 Scaramanga
2 x antique window frames: £300 Scaramanga
1 x double window frame: £200 Scaramanga
Antique taps: £165 eBay
Internal cabinet materials: £50
Joiner’s costs: £150
TOTAL – £1,030