It was the end of October, and an icy wind was sauntering brazenly through the 5cm gaps around the door and window frames. A thick layer of dust and small stones covered the rough-finished concrete floor and a cheap stainless steel sink hunkered in a rickety plywood worktop. We’d just moved into our dream home and I was preparing party food for Caspar and 20 of his friends surrounded by breeze-blocked walls and removals boxes. This was not exactly how I’d planned it.

Keep Calm and Find the Chopping Board

Keep Calm and Find the Chopping Board

There were positives: our shiny new stove and extractor fan were settled regally in the chimney space, we had a fridge which produced ice cubes from a dispenser (no, the irony is not lost on me) and a boiling water tap arched with surreal modernism from the jagged surface of the island unit. All our pans, plates and glassware were stowed safely in my carefully imagined Ikea units. I was operational. Just not smug.

Spool forward to Christmas Day and we were cosily, brightly splinter- and dust-free, with smooth edges and warm floors. Insulation, plaster, paint, corian, walnut, glass and chrome had all happened, and our kitchen was the welcoming hub of the home. I still wasn’t smug; just relieved and rather drained.

So what did we do? We doubled the size of the kitchen to incorporate a space for eating and hanging out, by building a one-storey extension out into the garden. It was the one bit of proper, serious structural work in our renovation project. This left the original kitchen space free to fill with useful cupboards and drawers, a wealth of storage. And the eating and sitting area overlooks the garden through glazed bi-fold doors.

Now, I love the price and practicality of an Ikea kitchen. We have long espoused the use of wide, easy-to-peruse drawers, which trump the dingy cupboard arrangement in any contest. Even our corner cupboards have the nifty wire pull-out shelves which house all the lumpy bake-, tupper- and picnic-ware. ‘Ware’ cupboards, as it were. We decided on a black-brown wood finish for the drawers and under-worktop cupboards, then a gloss white for the bank of larder doors and for the wall cabinets.

A glimpse of the capacious dark wood drawers

A glimpse of the capacious dark wood drawers

Predictably, our gleaming larders also have drawers in, a mixture of wire trays and solid-bottomed. I have sectioned and categorised my ingredients with obsessive verve, gleefully stocking up on, respectively, interesting jars, spices, tins, nuts and seeds/dried fruits, cereals, pastas and grains….

You see the light streaming in at the corner of the picture? This is an incredibly cute mini-bay window with a generously deep sill which I use to house various flora and (fake) fauna.

Still healthy-ish - my doomed houseplant collection

Still healthy-ish – my doomed houseplant collection

It’s not the camera exposure, those leaves are a little yellow. Nurturing plant life is rather low on my list of priorities, so only the brave tend to survive.

It’s getting late. I’ll be back soon, though, with Part Two. Next time I’ll tell you about the worktop and my splash(back) of colour, and give you the lowdown on just how finicky a newly laid wood floor can be.