Looking for a dream kitchen? Follow this couple’s tips for a perfect makeover

Careful planning stood this couple in good stead when they looked to renovate their three-bed Malahide home

We all have our idea of what the perfect kitchen might look like, but we don’t all get to create exactly what we want. Gareth Bennett and his partner Laura have done just that however, in the house they bought two years ago in Malahide, Co Dublin.

The couple had been renting in the area and were actually looking to buy elsewhere when, by chance, they decided to look at a three-bedroom home, which had recently come on to the market. Immediately, they decided to stop their house hunt and put the wheels in motion to acquire the property.

Built for the rental market in 2006, it was just what the couple were looking for as they wanted somewhere “without too much character”, so they could put their own stamp on it and even add on rooms to create a bigger living space.

“Two years ago we had lost out on a few house bids in the Castleknock area, when this house in Malahide came on the market,” says Gareth. “We decided to have a look at it and as we wanted to buy somewhere to do up, this one was perfect so we bought it”.


The couple soon turned their minds to a renovation, and the first thing they decided to do was to square off the back of the house, as there was originally a lean-to there.

“It was badly designed, so we needed to open up the space to make it a bit more useable, and we wanted to let in more light — so doing that (making plans for this area) is what got us going.

They then gutted the kitchen, adding a whole new design and sliding doors, and basically redid the whole back of the house.

Gareth, who works as an electrician and was able to take on all of the wiring work himself, says making all the big decisions in advance was one of the most important factors of the build.

“We designed everything before we started the job,” he says. “We knew we wanted dark kitchen units and light coloured tiles, so we choose the colour scheme before the work began, and I think this really saves time because once the building work has begun, making the decision could be pressured — like when the plastering has been done and you need to get the place painted before the kitchen goes in and if you haven’t made the decision already, then you’ve only got a small amount of time to choose paint colours and you might not really like it.

“So we did all this in advance and even had a 3D model of it so we could see what we liked the most and what would work best — this was great as we knew what it would look like before it was done. Then, as my sister had her kitchen designed by Kube, we said we would go and have a look at what they could offer us.”

The kitchen company came up with the plan for the couple before they had even started on the extension.

“So again, we knew what we would be doing, what the measurements were and everything else we were getting into, before the job even began.”

The couple, who share their new home with their dog, Ted, aren’t entirely sure how much they spent on renovating and extending the property, but estimate it to be more than €100,000. This figure includes the downstairs extension, toilet, utility, kitchen and office.

The upstairs has yet to be tackled, but Gareth says they are taking things slowly as they want to make sure they get everything right. This policy seems to have worked as so far as they haven’t had many hiccups along the way, apart from “a couple of issues with steel which almost didn’t fit”. And they are delighted with the transformation to date.

“If you have a good builder, they will work with you [so everything goes to plan],” he says. “I am very hands-on and was doing all the wiring anyway, so I was on site if anything happened. We are really happy with the job and it has definitely made the house look completely different and really modernised it from a standard design. Initially, there was nothing really fantastic about the house, so we opened up the hallway to the kitchen with a really nice black Crittal door which brings all the light through the hall and into the kitchen.”

The couple went for a high-end spec, with a smart lighting system in the kitchen and the garden, smart roller blinds over the door, which they can set to open and close at sunrise and sunset, a voice or tablet-controlled music system, and an oven which also has a smart system.

It has also been designed to bring the outside in.

“The kitchen doors open on to the garden, so in the summertime it really brings the outdoors in, which is lovely,” says Gareth.

The kitchen was not the only renovation.

“The study [office] downstairs was originally a third bedroom, but we have no need for that as there’s only the two of us and the dog, and the two bedrooms upstairs have en suites, so it’s enough for now. But planning [a request] has gone in for a dormer at the back and we’re currently discussing that with the architect.”

The Dublin man says that although the back of the house is finished, the project is still ongoing, but they are thrilled with what has been done so far and would advise anyone else who is embarking on a renovation project, to try to plan the structure, layout and colours before starting on any work, as this will make all the difference.

“My advice to others who are renovating would be to have the design and kitchen picked out in advance as well as the design of furniture, windows and doors, so when the builder comes to do it, you’re showing him what you want,” he says. “This means that as he is building, he can facilitate exactly what you want put in, so it saves time and it saves you being under pressure. I think this makes the final product look a bit better.

Gareth and Laura are “so happy with what has been done so far” and say that the refurbishment has made the house really nice to come home to, particularly in the winter.

“Now there is a lot of light and when the sun rises in the morning, the kitchen is filled with light and the Crittal doors looking out into the garden offer a lovely view,” says Gareth. “Our breakfast bar seats four people and is really great — it gets used morning, afternoon and evening as it is a really nice place to sit. Our friends love what we have done as well and it’s great having people over as we have a lot of space for everyone now.”

Arlene Harris

Arlene Harris

Arlene Harris is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in health, lifestyle, parenting, travel and human interest stories