Renovation 101: A New Kitchen Reno. in a Pandemic

I need to attend a daily meeting for addicts. While I enjoy a glass or two of wine, this is not my demon. Instead I can be seen marauding around homewares stores, devouring every episode of Grand Designs and I have a cushion collection large enough to decorate Versailles. I need the help of Renovators Anonymous!

Clear evidence of my addiction can be seen in the grand plan to demolish my old kitchen and create a new sparkling white beauty in it’s place…in the middle of a pandemic and in Victoria (which is Australia’s Capital city for Covid Lock down for a whopping 15 weeks!) Oh and there’s a tight budget for this reno, expanding dreams, a timber shortage and a 10 week wait for any tradie to show up to finish the job! But I’m a RENOVATION ADDICT. So onward and upward. No obstacle will stop me having a new kitchen NOW!

We started in October 2020. Yes THAT year and soon we were masked and dealing with lockdowns, outbreaks and general gloom. Trying to coordinate 7 different trades- joinery & building, plasterer, tiler, electrician, plumber, stonemason and ME (painter) under such circumstances was just nuts so my lovely builder and I designed the kitchen, agreed a plan for the new year and agreed the budget. Then we had a Christmas break with the delusion that the new year would bring calm normality and tradies would be knocking at the door lined up with my project plan and eager to deliver MY new kitchen…mmmmm

There was not a skerrick of nostalgia for the old blue 1970’s kitchen that I had tolerated since I bought this house in September 2020….the appliances were old..only 2 hotplates worked, the oven was moody and the dishwasher ate, chipped and spewed out pieces of glassware. The doorway to the laundry was narrow and the washing machine had been levered through the window when I moved in. The laundry also gave off a not so discreet odour- some days damp and mould and others more dead rat.

But it’s holiday season in Oz at Christmas time and the world did not return to work until February. That’s right, our Covid normal holiday may have been in the kids paddling pool in the backyard but we were on Holiday! 

Early February my building team arrived at 6.30am one sticky, hot morning and by 7.05am the old kitchen and laundry had been torn from its ballast and hurled into the driveway. The rubbish tip was its next resting place. Progress!!

The 1970’s Kitchen Monster says farewell

Suddenly a larger more interesting space revealed itself and a galley kitchen was no more. But this reno. addict could see potential. ” Hey Mark, can you widen the doorway into the Laundry? ” ” Sure no probs.” One hour later there’s now a flow and connection between these 2 spaces. Then we notice the rot in the laundry floor and with one tap a large hole reveals itself…no rats but lots of grime and rot.

” Hey Mark.. can you replace the floor?”   ” Sure, no probs…”

The team works until 9pm that day and by the end of Day 1 I have new joinery but no working appliances. The next scheduled work day is the  end of the following week. I buy a microwave and eat out, buy bamboo throw away plates and “glasses.” It’s like a student share house all over again……. The cat looks disdainful when I serve up Whiskas on a paper plate!

What I have a lot of is dust! No benchtops, no appliances but the hint of what will be. My idea was to move the whole kitchen into the living room/ dining area and connect the 2 spaces with a large square island bench. I wanted simple white country joinery, pared back and appealing to most people as I expect to sell the house within 3-5  years. The old wooden dark floors need to be tiled in the kitchen and laundry as 3 types of floor covering revealed themselves once the new kitchen was built.

The next Friday 6 tradies arrived onsite. They scuttled past each other as plumbers/ builders and then electricians arrived. The testosterone was palpable! In the speed of light the love of my life- my big stove-  was unpacked and asserted itself front and centre in the new Kitch.

” Look at me!” it boomed. Black, shiny and magnificent. Suddenly the kitchen became a place where the family would gather, pots of food would be bubbling, meals shared, grand-kids would scream around the corridors, the cat would take flight and this is why we build kitchens -as the focus point of food, family, friends, love and times shared.

Pantry cupboard, frontload, washer/dryer, inset steel sink…… now for the plasterwork, painting and tiling

When the stone benchtops arrived I let out a sigh. Yes.. they worked. Shiny, soft grey, marbelled, the finishing touch. All memories of an excruciating bill from the stone mason drifted into insignificance. My fingers reached out to dial Renovators Anonymous but for yet another day I simply indulged my wanton passion for things renovation.

Benchtop beauty

So apart from plastering, painting, wall and floor tiling the job is done!

There’s just one post – script. Today the builder arrived to do a quick job of levelling the floor in the laundry. I was writing and ignored him most of the time. I expected wood, nails..that kind of thing… ” See ya ” said Mark. ” I’ll let you know when the tiler will be herethe floor should be right in a day or two”

“Sure no probs. Have a good week.” I called after him as he flew on to the next job. After a while I went out into the kitchen. There was a pool of self – settling concrete strategically placed between me and the food cupboard! Now I may need to lose those Covid Kilos but this is ridiculous. I remember Mark saying it will be good to walk on in a day or two….But………?!  The cat looked at me mournfully as I explained that her food was in the pantry cupboard and I looked at her mournfully when I realised my salty treats and wine were also in this cupboard!  At times like this I reach out to friends who variously suggested I pole-vault to the pantry cupboard while another said pole- dancing might be more successful!

The concrete pool between me and the food cupboard!

To be continued!!!! Don’t hold your breath! Will the tiler ever arrive? What will the subway tiles look like? And what about those huge grey stone floor tiles? Will the custom made cornices ever arrive? Will the cat ever get fed? Stay tuned for the next vaguely interesting episode……..Oh and can anyone please send me the number for Renovators Anonymous?!


Words and Images by Nora Vitins


24 March 2021 | Life-Style


    1. Looking beyond budget Julia!…But very happy…..Thanks for the comment…what about an article about the manor house where you are on the board..or your wonderful farmhouse??? Oh that would be wonderful!

    1. Yes’s the heart of a home and I can’t wait to cook up a storm for the grandkids at Easter – even without tiles!

  1. Loved reading about the transformation of your kitchen/laundry can hardly wait to see finished Reno…l too love watching all the home Reno’s but they are finished within the hour 😂

    1. Thanks Linda… Finish!….Oh yes I’m over it! It now looks like a mid – May finish!! I hope you’re loving your new home and cant wait to catch up….

    1. Thanks Adrienne..I just found some extra floor tiles at Bunnings…this made my day as they were old stock! Happy Travels while I rejoice over lumps of clay!

    1. Hi Anna..lovely to hear from an extraordinary cook! Please share some of your amazing recipes!!!!! Yes the new kitchen is nearly finished..only tiling next week.. then the entertaining begins! The Stove is magnificent…big, bold and fabulous! Many thanks x

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