Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The heart of my home

Ever since I started planning for my renovation, I realised that my kitchen is the Heart of my home.

Although the kitchen occupies a space that is less than ten percentage of the whole house, I spent the most time planning for it. Other than the two bathrooms which are giving me headaches because of the poor layout, the bedrooms and living areas don't really need my full attention. Thanks to the 'standard' layout of our flat, there is nothing much one can play around when it comes to designing the bedrooms and living room. The beds have got 'designated' areas...the wardrobes got to be at that corner, unless you want to hack away walls and combine two bedrooms into one. My living room is worst...mine is a square...there really isn't much choice after considering human traffic and our life style...the tv has to be against that particular wall, the sofa set will naturally be placed around it. I only have to agonise over the selection of floor tiles and the choice of colour for the walls.

In contrast, my small kitchen, with a size of around 100 sq ft needs careful planning and attention to details. There are so many decisions I have to make...from selecting the wall tiles, floor tiles...to deciding on the material for the kitchen counter top, the type of stove, sink, oven; down to dish racks and even the tap for the sink! The 'right' decisions has to be made as once the things are fixed up, it is not easy to make changes.

I was a little surprised when my renovation contractor handed me this 3D drawing so that I could visualise how my 'new' kitchen will look like. First of all, he is not an interior designer, I have engaged him because of his many years of experience as a contractor. With our simple layout, we don't really need an interior designer, and also, I am very much a DIY person, I like to do things the way I want it ;)

I am also surprised how well he has captured what I had in mind...I would say his 3D drawing (likely done up by his staff, as I really doubt he knows how to use any electronic devices except his mobile phone) is close to 80% of what I had envisioned. What amazes me is that, he doesn't carry a notebook (be it paper or electronic) to jot down whatever details that I have told him, yet he is able to remember every single item...he has to run several projects at a time and not forgetting he owns the firm. I wonder how he manages his schedule...he doesn't rely on a blackberry or an iphone (he told me he junk it after 3 days because the battery doesn't last long enough for his usage), neither does he carry a traditional diary or planner. He records everything in his brain. I really wonder what he puts inside his business suitcase which he carries along when he meets potential clients?!

I have been asking my contractor when I could get the detailed drawings of the kitchen cabinets, he told me they could only provide it after taking the exact measurement, ie when the floor and wall tiles are up. So, instead of waiting for his drawings, I did up my own.

I used to have a U-shape kitchen layout with the sink at the side. I didn't like the awkward position of the sink, so my kitchen will be a L-shape. There is space for a tiny island, but I didn't want anything 'fixed' or 'cast in stone'. I rather place a small dining table in the middle of the kitchen...which can double up as breakfast counter or a workplace for me to knead bread dough.

My ceiling height is higher than usual...it is almost 10ft or 3m high. As such I am doing away with the top cabinets this time so that it goes with my 'design principle'...easy maintenance and less things to clean. I am also spared the agony of deciding whether my kitchen will be an open concept design...the layout of my house just doesn't allow it.

After converting my existing store room to a walk-in-wardrobe, I need to look for alternative storage space. With the benefit of a high ceiling, I am able to build a tall cabinet tower at the side of the kitchen. I already told the contractor that I wanted to have more drawer units, and he has kindly agreed without charging me extra. I guess I should be happy with 4 drawer units compared to just 1 previously. The drawers will come in different heights to provide greater storage flexibility. I have also requested for more shelving as my previous kitchen cabinets only have got 1 layer of shelf.

If you have noticed, unlike most common practice, I will be installing stainless legs for my kitchen cabinets instead of letting them sit on concrete base. This is slightly against my design 'principle' as this means I have to take extra effort to clean and mop under the cabinets. Personally, I think this is a small price to pay in the longer term. The main reason that prompted me to renovate my whole house was that my old kitchen cabinets were growing mould! Especially those areas near the sink and floor trap. My old cabinets were sitting on concrete base, and due to humidity, condensation occurs underneath the sink area, creating a very conducive environment for mould to prosper over time. So, I rather spent some extra effort to clean the place than to worry over that I am storing my kitchen utensils inside 'incubators' for mould and fungus.

Although I do not know much about interior design, I have read about the kitchen work triangle ever since I got the keys to my house many years ago. I am glad that my new kitchen design is able to adhere to the work triangle even with the new location of the fridge. I have made the right decision to reposition the entrance of the guest bathroom and the store room. With the corner all sealed up, I am able to place the fridge in that location and free up the ex-fridge space to make way for the build-in oven and more kitchen cabinets. And it just happens that the new position for the fridge is between the stove/sink and the kitchen entrance. This allows other family members to access the fridge without 'interfering' the work triangle when someone is cooking.  I will probably have to look for a small side table to be placed at the side of the fridge to help ease in unloading groceries.

The main fault of my kitchen layout is that it doesn't adhere to good feng shui principle :( The stove is opposite the kitchen entrance...a no no for someone to cook with his/her back facing the entrance. Besides feng shui, it is for obvious safety reasons too. One way to overcome this is to place a mirror above the stove to allow the cook to know whenever someone enters the kitchen. Even though by placing a mirror above the stove will also serve to magnify wealth, I doubt I will ever install one! Not everyone looks like a domestic goddess in the kitchen and I certainly can do without a mirror when I am going about preparing dinners! I guess I should be fine with this layout since I am already used to getting startled whenever my kids stealth into the kitchen while I was cooking (^^')

See, I am not kidding, there is so many things to consider when planning a kitchen. Now that the kitchen wall and floor tiles are almost done up, the next daunting task for me is to select the laminates for the cabinets and the colour of the kitchen counter top.

Thanks to all readers for sharing your experience with your ovens and taking time to participate in the poll. Here's the result of the poll:

Bosch HBN331E2J 81 votes (46%)
Brandt FE811XS1 47 votes (27%)
Ariston FZ61.1IX 45 votes (26%)

I have finally decided that I will be getting Bosch HBN331E2J after hearing good reviews about it. Besides, it has emerged as a clear winner in the poll, with 81 votes out of 173. It is a close fight between Brandt and Ariston though, with Brandt leading by two votes. I am sure they are all good basic ovens to begin with.

I promise I will do a review of the Bosch oven when I get back to my baking routine. In the mean time, I will love to hear your comments on my kitchen layout/design, I welcome any suggestions to make my kitchen a functional one so that it can really serve its purpose as the heart of my home :)


j3ss kitch3n said...

i really love this layout!! simple and beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Dearest HHB, WoW!that's a beautiful kitchen!when i did my kitchen 7 years ago, i didn't do much baking therefore the design was not very functional-like there was not much space for manual kneading of bread doughs and rolling cinnamon bread and puff pastry dough.Arghh!i'm so glad you can design your kitchen as you want now.Bravo!

Small Small Baker said...

Great design! I like anything simple. Your kitchen looks quite big to me. Mine is small and has the layout that is a sure-no for fengshui cos the fridge is opposite the stove and the sink is just beside the stove. When will your renovation be over? I hoping for a cup of tea at your new home. Haha!

Agnes CF Lee said...

is your washing sink double or single? Double or larger sink would be more practical.

busygran said...

I like the layout of the kitchen. Seems like everything is in place. You certainly have a fantastic contractor. Good and honest ones are hard to come by. You're lucky your kitchen hasn't got unnecessary corners like mine. Wonder when the time comes when I do renovate my place, could I get your contractor to do?

Sonia ~ Nasi Lemak Lover said...

I read an article about feng shui in kitchen layout, it is not advise to place hob "fire" and sink "water" in the same row, maybe you should consider to switch the hob near to oven area..Even you switch the hob, it still work as triangle !! for your thought..

Ms Pink Piglet said...

Good luck on the reno job... looks fab..
I will do mine soon, and finally get my new oven in place.

Mj said...

Wow, i m v impressed by what u r doing for yr home renovation! I get the impression that u r handling it mostly on yr own, yr hubby must b out of town?! I knw i wld never b able to pull off something like this on my own ;-) one comment: i wld use granite for the kitchen counter top, thou it may not b as nice looking and fashionable as corian top (not sure if i got the spelling right) cos it is more lasting. Looking forward to more updates on e progress of yr renovation!

Aunty Liew said...

what about an island in the middle,so that you
could handle your baking chores on it.I see there are space in the middle of your kitchen.

experimentalcook said...

Your planning is very impressive indeed. I couldn't had done half as well as you. I like your consideration to put the fridge out of the work triangle. Now thinking about it, I should have done that too ...
I am waiting eagerly for your oven review. Had a mini oven fire earlier and now, my oven is a little unpredictable :-(

Charmaine said...

Hi! I have living in my present apartment for about 20 years. There is a need to renovate but I am put off by the amount of things I have to throw, where to store those things I want to keep and where to find a place to stay while my apartment is being renovated. Can you share with me your experience? Also, if possible, can you recommend me your contractor?

Mr and Mrs. Bee said...

Hello, your drawings are detailed and impressive. I doubt i can do something like you. My new flat will be ready for collection end Jan next year, maybe i can start to think about the design like what you have done. Can you please share the contact for the contractor? Thank you

Anonymous said...


Sorry to get back to a little late.. I did indeed get my oven from GAB and saved quite a bit! I'm using Bosch too.. :)


sherlyn said...

The 3D drawing shows a very nice kitchen .. I wished mine is a L too. However, mine is just an I, so very limited space and table top space. I only have 2 sections which one is taken up by the table top oven. Got chance you come my house visit :)

Swee San said...

Hi, You can ask your contractor to provide plinth for the bottom (between floor and base units). the cabinets can sit on stainless steel legs and the plinth is actually an aluminium plank that locks up to the 2 front legs and covers up the gap. that way you don't have to bend so much to clean underneath the cabinets.

Not having any wall units ?

And as what sonia has mentioned in regards of feng shui, if there is sufficient space, you can consider moving the hob nearer to the oven. Hehe I probably have to much comments. My full time job involves alot of kitchen plannings and designs..
Good luck!

MamaFaMi said...

If only that kitchen is mine!!!!

Elin Chia said...

My dream kitchen !!!! Perfect layout :) HHB..you are so blessed :) Looking forward to all your future posts . I am sure you can't wait to work in it :)))

Happy Homebaker said...

SSB, sure! 到时你可别放我飞机 hor ;)

Agnes, thanks for the advice, will discuss with my contractor. I am thinking of a large single sink, due to space constraint, if I go for double bowls, the bowls maybe too small.

busygran, will share with you my experience with the contractor when it is your turn to your reno :)

Sonia, I have thought of placing the stove at the side where the oven is, but I am worried that the tall cabinets will get dirty easily because of the grease. Also, I am not a good cook, I need the sink close to the stove so that I can do the washing and still keep an eye on the heat lor.

Ms Pink Piglet, congrats on your new oven! Have fun planning for your reno :)

Happy Homebaker said...

MJ, yes, I am doing it alone...my husband is on long term overseas assignment. I have got no one to blame if anything goes wrong :'(

I have considered granite as it is really much more durable. But I will be getting Corian top instead. Even though it scratches easily, and won't be able to withstand hot pots and pans, I like the one piece sink that comes with it. If I were to install granite top, I will probably have to use a stainless steel sink...something which I don't want... my old SS sink condenses easily causing the sink support (used to be concrete) area to grow mould easily :( I don't want to repeat the same mistake again.

Wai Kitt, I will place a small dining table, didn't quite like the idea of a 'fixed' island...I prefer something more flexible.

experimentalcook, oh dear, your oven caught fire?

Charmaine, I don't have much personal belongings to begin with, and had thrown away 90% of my furniture. I am staying with my sibling for the time being.

Mr and Mrs Bee, I don't think I will recommend my contractor for the time being as my reno is not completed. If you are still interested you may check with me again end of the year.

Thanks Ching! I just ordered the Bosch oven and a Fujioh hob from GAB.

Swee San, thanks for your kind advice :) I will discuss with my contractor about the plinth. As for the stove, I prefer it to be nearer to the sink, so that I can wash as I cook, and there will be less chance to burn my food ;p

Little Inbox said...

Wow, that piece of design is so impressive.
I just got my kitchen renovated last Feb. Originally the hob and sink were side by side. Then, I got the sink shifted in the renovation. And the hob, the sink and the fridge are able form an triangle.

Unknown said...

Very beautiful kitchen, the design is simple but nice ^_^

Paula said...

what a delicious blog! here is so many uncanny inspirations!

have a nice time,

Jasmine said...

Hi HHB, I'm also doing whole house reno as well which will start next week. Initially, I wanted to tear down all kitchen cabinets and build a set that I wanted. However, after seeing the photo of your "war zone kitchen" after hacking, it scared me off! Haha! I decided not to do such big project. I'll do up just the sink area as the sink counter top is spoilt. You are lucky to have a place to shift out during the reno work. I can't. Hubby and I still have to stay put. I also dunno how I'm gonna put up with all the dust. =(

I also like the 1 piece counter top that comes with a sink. Very neat look. However, I was told that in the event the sink should crack and need to be changed, it would mean I have to change the entire stretch of counter top. So after much thinking, I decided to go for solid counter surface with separate sink.

It's so exciting to have a brand new home, isn't it? I'm looking forward to mine too at the end of the year. =)


Aimei said...

Like you, as I'm beginning to research on ideas for my house, i've tild my hubby right from the beginning that the kitchen is the most important. I might need to seek your advice again if i have any doubts. :P

By the way, beautiful kitchen you have! It's sp spacious. My kitchen is so so small.

MIssy said...


This post is so timely. I will be shifting house and will be doing a kitchen which will be the heart of my home as wel. I will do a built in oven and will do it well too right to the details! just like u.. will keep tuning in to your post :)

AverageGuy said...

Your new kitchen is beautiful and very well designed. You mentioned using legs on the cabinets and the hassle of cleaning under them. As a cabinet maker I have a possible solution. If you have the contractor make toe-kicks that clip on to the legs(removable for occasionally cleaning under the cabinets) you can have the finished look of typical cabinets, while being able to access the area under them. The options are having clips on the backs of the boards that attach to the legs, or connecting the toe-kick with a hinge to the underside of the cabinet. I prefer the clips because it is easier to clean under the cabinets, the hinged ones limit the available space to get a broom or mop under there. If you are interested in more information on them, feel free to contact me. I will provide you with a few website references. If you ask your contractor, I am sure he will know immediately what you are talking about. They are typically used in commercial cabinetry where they have the same issues as you have had with moisture under the cabinets.

AverageGuy said...

Another possible solution to your movable island is this type. http://paparacai.com/product/Catskill_Craftsmen_Titan_Class_with_5_Drawers_Kitchen_Island

It has a butcher block top with a fold down section that can be used like a breakfast bar for the children. The island can be rolled out of the way when not used, possibly to the wall next to the refrigerator. I am not sure what the availability of these are in your area, but the basic idea can be used regardless of the actual island chosen.

Ronni said...

Wow I've learned so much from this blog and readers' comments! Thanks HHB for sharing and all the readers for the comments. Never knew planning for kitchen had so many areas to think of. I am impressed with all of you... and amazed by my ignorance.

Peggy said...

I love the simple and elegant design of your kitchen! Can't wait to see the finished product!

Anonymous said...

Hi,have you ever did churros before? Any good recipe to share on churros?

KWF said...

HHB, can I join you and SSB for a cup of tea? :) Your kitchen drawings look great. They're making me very excited to see the end product. I really, really regret not having a built-in oven when I did my reno 2 years ago. :( Well, have to wait for another 10 years, maybe. Do you happen to know whether there is any way I can get a built in oven without hacking my existing cabinets? Am hoping it can be done so that I can change it later.

Happy Homebaker said...

Jasmine, good luck to your kitchen make over :)
Do remember to cover all your furniture, you can get those huge plastic sheet from hardward stores, just tell them those used by painters to cover floor. It is around $2 size is about 9x11 ft.

KWF, I am not really sure how it can be done. But first, you need to find a suitable place for your oven, as there must be a power socket nearby for it. The size of a basic oven is around 600x600x600mm. Do you have space for it? If not, maybe you can get those oven that can comes with a stand. I read somewhere that Ariston has 'stand alone' oven which doesn't need to be built into the cabinet.

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

HHB, I can't wait to see your new kitchen! The graphic representation is very promising! You won't be having a hob over your stove?

Happy Homebaker said...

Shirley, yes no hob...I have been cooking without a hob all the while, my hob broke down 12 yrs ago ;p

thecoffeesnob said...

Hi HHB. Wow- what an exciting but tedious project you have going on! The nice kitchen layout looks great. I love the minimialistic look and rustic stainless stain feel.

Good luck with the rest of the renovation!

Administrator said...

hi there,

I chanced upon your blog a couple of weeks ago and it is indeed a great blog on food. I am not much of a cook nor a baker but I have started to like baking recently and hence the great idea to renovate my kitchen too. One thing led to another, it turned out to be a major renovation. Kicthen and bathrooms are gone now....gosh...you can imagine the mess and dust as we are still living in it but thankfully the renovation is way ahead of schedule and hopefully it can be done by 25 Dec.

I love your baking ideas and have been trying your recipes. Thanks for sharing.



Beatrice said...

Hi, i just found ur blog and saw ur kitchen design.
I ever read somewhere,
the sink and the hob should not in same line/parallel. I have forgotten why exactly. Its ab "Feng Shui" (in chinese) for home. u can read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feng_shui

cheers :D

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Beatrice, thanks for the info! Yes, I am aware of this. However, due to space constraints, I have no choice. Anyway, I just read from a magazine that as long as the distance between the sink and stove is at least 30cm, it is ok :)

Reira said...


Congratulation on your new house!!!

It is amazing that he actually passed you a 3D pic of your kitchen!! How I wish my kitchen is as big as yours! Mine is so small as my store room eats into 1/4 space of my kitchen.

About FengShui, the FengShui master who I engaged, told us that as long as it is 10cm apart. haha. Maybe it is due to our space constraint. However, I completely changed the layout and did not follow my FSM. which kind of defeat the purpose of engaging FSM.

However, it is still worth it as after moving in, our luck/finance improves dramatically

lynn said...

I am curious how your kitchen look finally. Please post a photo up so that I can dream from it.:)

Z said...


I'll be getting my house soon. Would you recommend your contractor? Tks!

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Z, I won't be recommending my contractor. Although his price was reasonable, his service was also very prompt and was able to provide solutions, his team of workers is not that skillful, especially the carpentry work. You may not be able to accept the quality of the workmanship.

Eddel29 said...

nice layout. simple yet so lovely. space is great.

Jhybe said...


I chanced on your amazing blog while researching for a good mid range oven to buy. Just wondering how you are finding your bosch oven, and if you've posted a review on it somewhere (that i've missed?)? Wld be great to hear your thoughts!
I'm new to baking and after using a microwave convection oven which just kept blistering my pastries and undercooking the bottom of my cookies, have decided to invest in an 'actual' oven, but i'm getting overwhelmed by the different makes and models. Think i've shortlisted to electrolux eob305x and bosch hbn5310e, but now the model you chose is looking very attarctive. Not sure if it is sold in malaysia though, wld need to check. Thanks heaps!


Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Jhybe, have not done an actual review yet as I have not tested it with bread. Here's my review based on what I have baked so far:

My previous oven is a small 20-litre tabletop tefal...there is only top heat, no other function. My review here is based on using it as a point of reference. The Bosch oven has got more functions (compared to my old tabletop)...I tried baking cookies on two trays, using the 3D hot air function they were browned evenly...at least I dont have to turn the tray around half way into baking. I made two pizzas on separate racks, both browned/cooked at the same time too (even the one at the bottom was evenly cooked as I used the drip tray as a baking tray. The drip tray is of black, non stick enamel material, so cookies and pizza base are browned as fast as those on the top tray ). The oven temperature is quite stable...unlike my previous one...which could drop by 20degC after I put in the cake. My chiffon cakes turn out fine...the heating is quite even. I tried roasting a chicken, it takes about 50mins to get nicely browned, whereas my previous one could take 1.5hrs. But, it was a tedious job trying to clean the oven after roasting as you need to clean the oil stains at the side walls, since it doesnt come with self cleaning function. Do note that my Bosch oven is the cheapest, most basic range. Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...


Can i ask where did you bought your oven? I'm currently looking for an oven and a kitchenaid mixer for my new kitchen and need recommendation on places to shop for oven. Any advise?


Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Lynn, I bought my Bosch oven from a neighbourhood electrical shop, shop name: Goh Ah Bee. u can google for the tel no and address. Just need to give them a call to check the price and if you are interested you can place order over the phone. The price is much cheaper.

Elis Layla said...

wow ! Really lovely design. thanks for share.