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Kitchen revamp: Adding light and space in an old mining cottage

Architect's clinic

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A kitchen extension to a 100-year-old mining cottage in need of light and space

A kitchen extension to a 100-year-old mining cottage in need of light and space

A kitchen extension to a 100-year-old mining cottage in need of light and space

A kitchen extension to a 100-year-old mining cottage in need of light and space

A kitchen extension to a 100-year-old mining cottage in need of light and space

A kitchen extension to a 100-year-old mining cottage in need of light and space

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A kitchen extension to a 100-year-old mining cottage in need of light and space

Q I desperately need to remodel my kitchen to let natural light through. The house is a 100-year-old mining cottage with thick walls. The kitchen was added on later. It's L-shaped, and wraps around a corner of the original house, with doors at either end - one end leads through from the main hallway, and from there out to the courtyard garden beyond. The other door is at the short leg of the 'L' and leads through to the dining room. I don't need most of the cupboards as there are only two adults in the house. But it's not working for us - for example, we've lived here for 14 years and never used our separate dining room, so we could extend into that. I will be replacing all appliances and was thinking of a pantry in small cupboard on one wall.

A The photos of your home with the glimpses of the courtyard beyond the kitchen bounded by the old stone wall suggest it's a beautiful space with loads of potential. I've looked to see what you might change to improve the kitchen as it stands without major alterations - focusing on better use of storage, adding more light, and improving your view.

First off, I don't think you need to extend.

As you note, it's just you and your hubby in the house. Making your kitchen bigger by extending into the unused dining room is probably not the right solution for that under-used space.

Perhaps look at the dining-room in conjunction with the other rooms in the 'main' or original house - see what functions are provided within them, what functions are maybe a little under-served. A possible alternative use for this space may then suggest itself

Next, I think you should look at your kitchen as a blank space - imagine pulling out the kitchen, the units, the sink, everything in its entirety and considering how you'd re-arrange it if you were starting from scratch.

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Gareth’s plan for a reimagined space

Gareth’s plan for a reimagined space

Gareth’s plan for a reimagined space

The first thing I would suggest is to look at slightly re-aligning the position of the French doors out to the courtyard, as it seems they are slightly off the axis of the primary route through the main house. Shifting the doors slightly to the left will improve your view from the main house, and improve the connection between the house and the garden.

However, it will mean moving your washing machine and tumble-dryer, which are housed in two floor-to-ceiling units in your kitchen, but that may be no bad thing! The space this creates will be quite shallow, and would (I think) work well for a built-in dresser / book-case and could possibly house a relocated radiator too.

The exterior rear wall of the kitchen which houses the window has the potential to overlook the courtyard to a greater extent than it currently does, which should really be availed of, if at all possible.

You note that you don't need most of the presses you currently have, so I would propose removing any wall presses from this wall completely.

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A similar kitchen project completed in Dublin

A similar kitchen project completed in Dublin

A similar kitchen project completed in Dublin

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This will do two things - it will visually reduce the clutter of the kitchen, opening up the space as much as possible, and it will allow a larger window to be installed on this facade, improving the visual connection to the courtyard beyond.

You currently have a skylight, which aligns with an internal window that brings borrowed light into a room behind the kitchen in the original cottage.

I think aligning the new window opening with the skylight and the internal window (and possibly adding a second skylight) will improve the light both to the kitchen, and the room beyond, and to the sense of space in the kitchen.

Consider setting the sill height of the new window at the level of the kitchen counter so the counter simply extends into the window space - this will help provide additional light and space.

Freeing up this long wall of the kitchen would then mean the adjoining wall could be a bank of full-height units, housing (from left to right), the fridge freezer, the oven(s), the washing machine and the tumble-dryer, interspersed with other storage units - larders, general storage, etc - housing items such as the coffee-machine, the toaster, the kettle, all of which, contained within a larder unit, will allow the counter to remain as uncluttered as possible.

So essentially your kitchen units would be simplified to run almost entirely along two walls - one completely full height, the other counter height only. Simplifying the arrangement like this and minimising associated details and junctions will help create a sense of space and relaxation.

I think you should also take the opportunity to review the materials that are used in the kitchen - the current floor, wall tiles and kitchen are a little dark, so you might consider using lighter shades, and possibly reducing the amount of tiling, to correspondingly reduce what could otherwise appear a little cluttered.

If you are considering changes to your home, work with a registered architect. Find one on riai.ie, the registration body for architects in Ireland.

Gareth Brennan is a partner in Brennan Furlong Architects & Urban Planners; brennanfurlong.ie


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