Tuesday, 23 September 2014


Let's backtrack a bit. When we moved into the flat, most things were in order, except for the kitchen which was, in all honesty, a bit of a dog's breakfast. It looked like this :-

The cooker was spanking new, but the good news ended there. The only work surface was an orange picnic table that required me to bend almost double. I improvised by balancing a chopping board on the sink as a workaround. And then there was the mustard-yellow fridge. It wasn't nice to look at, and its best days were clearly behind it as it no longer kept anything cooler than lukewarm. The landlord, fortunately, agreed to replace it.

It left the kitchen looking like this :-

Better, yes. Not so much of a preponderance of yellow. It still left me with nowhere to work, and the nearest thing to a kitchen cabinet was a cardboard box of pans under the sink.

So we ordered a budget set of cabinets from IKEA in Padova. Caroline spent pretty much the entire summer working on this : what was affordable, how much space it would leave us and - crucially - how to get it home. Because if you order stuff for delivery to Venice, they will hit you with a delivery charge of at least 198 euros. However, if you order your parts in discrete packages of thirty kilos or less, you just pay a courier charge of 10 euros each. A logistical nightmare and a mathematical problem of Hawking-like proportions; but nevertheless she worked it out.  The courier was sympathetic, although after the penultimate delivery a note of desperation entered his voice as he asked me if there were many more to come.

Flat packs then. Older readers will remember the time when you bought flat-pack furniture with MFI. Everything fitted together with screws, dowels and glue. You swore at the doors when they refused to fit, and six months later everything started to come apart anyway. But IKEA stuff is a bit different. There's a bit of weight and solidity to it. And, in the case of a kitchen, you can't just fit it together with an Allen key. Proper DIY, and proper tools are needed.

Still, I'm a bit of a whizz at flat-packs. I can put together a Billy bookcase in twenty minutes, so this held no fear for me. Until I looked at the instructions and came across the dispiriting first sentence First ensure your wall is straight.

A cursory check revealed that the wall was not straight. I have no idea how you go about straightening a wall. It would therefore have to remain defiantly un-straight.

Putting the cabinets together was straightforward enough although, interestingly, you still need to give the doors a good swear to get them on. 

The next step was to hang them on the (un-straight) wall. Not so easy as it involved drilling through tiles into masonry. A friend lent me a drill - not a hammer drill, not a masonry drill, but better than nothing. It worked up to a point. All tiles remained uncracked, but it took approximately 30 minutes per hole. Ten holes were needed. It was a long day...

That just left the work surface. Now, if you want a made-to-measure surface, they have to order one in from abroad. Leading to a delivery cost of another 198 euros. No. We weren't going to do that. We'd order the standard size one, and I'd cut it to size. I'd no real idea how to go about this, but I figured I could just take it along to Ratti or somewhere and ask them to do it. 

And then it arrived. Two metres in length, two centimetres thick, and thirty kilos in weight. It nearly killed me just getting it up the stairs. No way in hell was I going to be able to transport it across town. And cutting it with a handsaw would be physically impossible. It needed a power saw

Fortunately our neighbour lent me a jig saw. Two centimetres was pretty much at the limit of its tolerance but, after nearly ninety minutes I emerged triumphant. The kitchen stank of burning wood and sawdust, which had settled over every last surface in the flat. The blade of the saw was almost worn smooth. The thought of the amount of clearing up involved could have reduced me to tears. It would have to wait until the next day. Right now, Strong Drink in Copious Quantities was called for.

Still it's done now :-

Not quite perfect perhaps but any imperfections, I thought, could be blamed on The Wall That Is Not Straight.  There's still the question of what to do with the sink - a chipped and battered old thing that badly needs replacing - but in the meantime, we have a perfectly functioning kitchen with a splendid new work surface.

The only question now is - how do we keep the cat off it??


  1. 10 house points to Gryffindor! Well done Philip. Now that lovely glow of having done a job well. Looks great. Andrew H. (still can't comment as my name)

  2. Oh, well done! What an intense labour of, um, love. The kitchen looks so much better. And Mimi has given it her paw of approval, it seems.

    Is that a pair of budgie smugglers on the fridge? What's the story, are you yearning for Australia or something?

  3. I wondered if anyone would spot the pants! They're by Scottish artist Sarah Barnes :-


    - she did a series using the medium of papier-mache underpants to illustrate classic rock album covers. The one we got is the Sex Pistols' "Never Mind the Bollocks", here retitled as "Never Mind the Pants".

  4. A very professional job.
    A new career path beckons?

    1. Oh I don't know. When I was vacuuming away the sawdust, I started to wish that I was back in front of a class of shouty teenagers again!

  5. Love the kitchen Phil and Caroline. Great job!


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