Trying to make renovations count

It’s January in Sydney and it’s boiling outside today so a good day to update my first post for the year.

2013 was huge for us here at serendipity2000 and I hope to recap on some of the activities that we’ve been up to. The first one is a quick look at our kitchen renovation which seemed to take an inordinate amount of time. But now it’s done we’re getting back on with things and enjoying the new space, that is until our builder returns later this month to start some new work in other parts of the house.

So how did it all begin….

Not that long ago, when we had a house full of young adults, it seemed that every time there was more than one of us in the kitchen we would somehow always end up in the same little corner, competing for the sink, cutlery drawer, toaster, kettle or whatever it was we needed. While it was annoying it wasn’t impossible to work around and sure the kitchen was dated but that wasn’t enough of a reason for us to consider renovating, so life continued on in that very busy corner of the kitchen.

IMG_8550Tassie Oak kitchen circa 1980

About a year ago when the thirty year old appliances started becoming more and more unreliable and breaking down, we decided it was time to bite the bullet. It was an opportunity to finally make those long-needed changes and we started looking at ways to improve the space without changing too much of the original layout and at the same time incorporate permaculture design principles related to efficiencies of location.

As our original kitchen had survived thirty plus years of family life without too much worry, we felt strongly about replacing it with quality fittings that would survive another thirty years being guided by the principles of sustainability wherever feasible.

In the beginning a major roadblock was the thought of throwing out all the beautiful timber that lay beneath the yellowing cupboard doors and kitchen panelling, so rather than simply throw them away we had to come up with another way of using them.

Around the same time we happened to visit my neighbour Vicki, and there we found the solution: we would have the kitchen doors removed, reshaped and restored and returned to the kitchen which would mark the beginning of their next thirty year journey.

With our young builder son Luke away on his own journey up the coast, we now had the task of finding someone else to help us with the job. Enter our kitchen guy Kyle…

Now Kyle was doing fabulous work at very good prices, was patient and had great ideas but unfortunately not an ounce of sustainable blood in his body! Strangely, this made him a perfect fit for the job as it would allow him to add a new avenue of work to his portfolio.

Our early meetings were interesting, lots of head scratching and chin rubbing as we worked through our ideas to repurpose the kitchen cupboards. Initially he couldn’t understand why anyone would want to pay the same or if not more money  to revamp crusty old cupboards. Why not just throw the old ones away and be done with it. It was absolutely wonderful that he didn’t get it because before too long he did and soon presented us with a plan which from here on in was referred to as our ‘kitchen makeover’.

While it sounded more like a reality show theme, what followed was a transformation of our ordinary kitchen into an extraordinary space full of interesting elements, including our beloved timber cupboards. We’d done it; another non-believer had been converted!



Repurposed doors sanded and converted into drawer fronts

The old cupboards came up beautifully allowing the soft natural colours of timber to show through once again and to give the kitchen a modern two tone feel, we chose to have the timber overheads painted a soft white with leftovers stored for a future project.

We got rid of the breakfast bar and replaced it with a central island which now features a magnificent slab of salvaged bunya pine. We re-used other materials including some of the old shells and replaced those beyond recovery with a low VOC option and compromised on a small number of polytec doors and a solid stone benchtop. The new design incorporated significant new storage space to cater for our new passions of bulk purchasing plus drying and preserving excess produce.


Salvaged timber slab

We didn’t move the appliances or plumbing too far from their original locations and went with quality appliances some of which were floor stock which came with considerable savings. We went with deep sinks made from recycled stainless steel and replaced our pet hair magnet carpet with certified Spotted Gum flooring.



Overhead cupboards, our old timber doors painted soft white

Rather than using polyurethane we chose a natural tung oil citrus mix for the wooden floor and benchtop and initially questioned our decision to use oil on the floor, but after a month or so the surface settled down and the floor has come up beautifully. It has the benefit that if the surface is scratched or damaged, there’s no need to sand the whole floor and do it again, just another simple coat of oil over the top of the damaged areas and with two dogs who both only know two speeds; flat out or stop this was a wise sustainable decision.

IMG_0419Natural tung oil and citrus floor stain



Overall we’ve recreated a beautiful but understated functional kitchen with many sustainable features and a design we hope will withstand the rigours of another thirty years.


Revamped doors and new hutch


Updated pantry


The final product

12 responses to “Trying to make renovations count

  1. Greetings I am so thrilled I found your blog page, I really found you by accident, while I was searching on Yahoo for something else, Regardless I am here now and would just like to say kudos for a marvelous
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  2. You have made a lovely area within your home

  3. Hi, I love how your renovated your kitchen. I would like to reuse our own tas oak kitchen cupboard fronts and would like to know how you treated them to remove the yellow tone make the natural tone come back out?
    Thank you,

    • Kathl, because of all the grooves in the timber I had it professionally done. They door were sanded with a heavy duty belt sander then professionally spray painted with a low voc clear polyurethane and some were painted with a contrasting two pac poly coating which makes them look like most of the popular kitchen cupboards. They looked sensational. Regards

  4. Have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog page while thinking about what to do with our outdated looking tasmanian oak kitchen cabinets. Similar to Kyle, I was initially inclined to throw everything out and start over but seeing what you have done to create a beautiful and inviting kitchen has inspired me to try and keep the original tassie oak. Can you please explain in more detail the process you took to restore the timber cabinets (incl whether you applied any varnish/stain or the like), as well what paint you used for the soft white top cabinets? I love the finished product and how the timber no longer looks yellow – which mine currently does! Very clever the way you converted some timber doors to drawer fronts too. Looking forward to reading some of your other posts.

  5. Giovana Correia

    Frankly, I loved the old kitcken look. The light brown made it seem so earthy and homey. However, I also love the new look. It’s so contemporary. I think that repurposing and reusing some of the old elements was the best way to go!

    • It was a big decision for me. I love timber and was at odds with painting some of the pieces. But I have to say the overall finish was really stunning and repurposing that fine solid timber felt right. That beautiful handmade kitchen is still where it belongs. I’d do the same again in a flash.

  6. Diane Spartels

    You are a godsend in the making, have scoured the web trying to work out how to save our existing solid timber kitchen whilst lightening (very dark room) the space and of course bringing it into this decade. AND YOU HAVE DONE IT!! Please how do I get more detailed info … like who do I take my doors too (joiner, paint shop?) did you replace existing cupboard with drawers? (know you did the drawer fronts … ) . Winniekoko2016

    • Hi Diane. Thanks for your comment. It’s been ages since I’ve been on my blog but thought it was worth getting in touch. I employed a kitchen builder who took the cupboard doors and panels to his workshop where he used an industrial belt sander to strip off the old polyurethane. They were then taken to s panel shop where they applied what us called a two pack coating. Spray painters have all the gear to do this sort of work and make light work of a big job like this. The new polyurethane is satin as is the white colour which was Dulux Pebble Bay. The island bench is a solid piece of bunya pine I believe. Good luck with your renos. It will be worth it!

      • P.S. Yes we replaced most of the cupboards with drawers (much better) and the kitchen builder reconfigured the fronts using whatever he could from the panels and cupboard doors. The white overhead cupboards are the original tassie oak cupboards sprayed in pebble bay.

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