The kitchen was worn and beaten. At first glance, it looked beyond help. It wore every single one of its 24 years—and not well. If it had been a dog, I would have gently been suggesting it be put to sleep.
The client herself knew it was in a bad way. A fresh coat of paint would be only part of the restoration job. She pointed out that the doors and drawers needed to be realigned. They also needed new hinges and handles. She asked whether I could recommend someone to do that. I suggested Roger Harty, a kitchen designer and maker with whom I have a long-standing working relationship. Roger got the job.
The kitchen before
When I spoke with him about the kitchen, I got a bit of a surprise. He told me it was made of wych elm that had come from Fota. I was amazed that he’d know such a detail. Turns out, he had made the kitchen 24 years earlier, while working for another company.
The client was keen for me to start as soon as possible. Her daughter was getting married and she wanted it done in good time for the big day. I told her I wouldn’t be available until after the wedding. She was disappointed and asked whether I knew anyone else who could do the work to my standard. I genuinely didn’t, so she decided to wait for me. While she was keen to have it done quickly, she was even keener to have it done properly.
The week before I was due to start, I rang to double-check everything was ready for me. Another surprise. The client was having second thoughts about having the work done at all. It would completely change the kitchen she had lived with and loved for 24 years. She needed reassurance. That’s understandable. Fortunately, an interior designer was overseeing the project and she was able to put the client’s mind at ease.
There is more to painting an existing kitchen than just putting on a fresh colour. Far, far more. For a start, the entire kitchen frame and all of the doors and drawers needed to be deep cleaned. You can imagine the build up of grease after almost a quarter of a century of use. This isn’t glamorous work, but it is essential. After removing all the handles and hinges, I got to work.
The frame I cleaned in situ, using special cleaning chemicals to make it pristine. I had to do this over and over before it was completely clean. I also filled in any imperfections (chips, dents, scratches) and sanded everything down to a smooth, perfect surface before applying the paint.
I took the doors back to my studio to work on them there. They almost broke my heart. Each door had a narrow, rectangular groove cut into it as a design feature. Each one was a perfect grease trap. Getting the grease out of the grooves was a nightmare—but out it came, nevertheless.
The paint colours were Cornforth White and Railings by Farrow and Ball, but made up in a different brand of paint. The end result looked fabulous. So much so that a friend of the client complimented her on her brand-new kitchen. The friend couldn’t believe it when they were told it was the same 24-year-old kitchen as before.
Most pleasing of all for me was the client’s reaction. She’d been prepared to wait longer than she wanted to and had had big doubts at one point about the whole project. But when she saw the final result, she was overjoyed. That kind of reaction means the world to me.
The kitchen after
“I was very nervous about painting our 24-year-old elm kitchen. However, one month on, I am delighted with the results. It is a total transformation. People cannot believe it’s the same kitchen. It is sleek, modern and hardwearing.
“It was a pleasure to work with Lee. I found him to be prompt in providing a quote and reliable. He kept to his work schedule and completion date, which he outlined clearly from the beginning. He was very informative and outlined the process in detail at very stage. He even called a month after the job to see how I was getting on.
“I would have no hesitation in recommending Lee. He is a skilled craftsman who takes pride in his work.”
—Siobhan, Youghal, Co. Cork, Ireland