Building a new Kitchen, the old kitchen was to sum it up in one word, Cactus! Unfortunately it was in serious need of major repair and as the van had been neglected for so long it was in fact irreparable. As mentioned many times Henk and Pien wishes are to be able to have a van that is safe and useful and it is something that we take into account with everything that we do and the physical abilities they both have. Pien can prattle on for hours about all her “improvisations” she had to do and how difficult it was to achieve the most basic of things as things had been broken, uncared for and improperly used. Having their wishes in the forefront of your minds it was exceptionally clear that with the existing kitchen fit out achieving these wishes was impossible.
We have already mentioned that if Henk and Pien attempted any sort of trip it was at some risk, the van was a death trap, an accident waiting to happen.
In short because of the lack of care and basic routine maintenance the van had to be gutted. A tiny bit of TLC will go a very long way people, once you get into a good routine you will find that it’s a basic and it will save you thousands in the long term!! It was pretty sad pulling this kitchen out, it was not all that old and had not really been used all that much. Essentially the van had only done one 8.5 month trip and a handful of short trips. The little use it had is certainly not the level of use that anyone would expect to be faced with needing a total rebuild. We don’t know anyone that can be so wealthy as to readily neglect things and replace them time and time again. You service your cars regularly (at least you should!) and a looked after car will love you in the long run and neglected car will cost you thousands time and time again. It’s simple really, love will conquer all!!
The ideas behind rebuilding the new kitchen involved factoring in a multitude of things, we had to make sure that 100% of the space was usable. Traditional kitchens have kickers and a lot of void areas. All this is wasted space, with a tiny van you just cannot afford to lose space. A fact that Henk and Pien know all too well a fact we ourselves know exceptionally well to! We too are seasoned caravan users and have used a few Motor homes over the years so it’s now a matter of “how”
We enlisted the help of a good friend George Sarigianoglou the owner operator of Custom European Cabinets http://www.customeuropeancabinets.com.au/ We call this George “Little George” we call him this because our closest neighbour is also a George. Our neighbour is bigger than “Little George” so we call him “Big George”, not very original but it works for us. Big George has also helped a hell of a lot on this van and you will see his work too, so hopefully we don’t confuse you.
It was many months from when Little George first looked at the project at hand to when work actually began. It was very much different to what he would have normally done, in fact he didn’t know what or how to do this, it was set to be a real challenge so we waited till George’s planned time off to tackle this. Little George does household kitchens and an amazing job he does too!! We have been very lucky to go to “Little George’s” dad’s factory where he works out of and we have seen many of the wonderful kitchens he has built. “Little George” has a lot of pride in his work, he takes no short cuts and does not scrimp on quality!! Needless to say we are very confident in him and what he could do based on what we had been told and what we had seen. As a team we drew up plans, we spent some time explaining what we wanted and showing George how to build it, after all we have a great example with our caravan!!!!. We had to show things like not putting in kickers and overheads as well as no framing, all these things are traditional ways to build a standard kitchen and not a motor home kitchen. In fact this was the part that took the most time, showing him how to make what we wanted and reminding him to factor in Whelan the Wrecker and The Destroyer! We needed to make not only sure it was Henk and Pien proof, it also had to cater to their needs physically. Needless to say it took some time to figure out what and how he was going to do this, like we said he had never done this type of kitchen before so it was something new and a wonderful challenge. Bill and I love challenges, it makes you think outside the box, it also gives you more experience too. We had another company to lined up to do this job, the same company that did our own kitchen, but when we saw how excited George was to tackle this we could not refuse.
There were a lot of issues with the old kitchen, Henk was telling us how he would jam a broom under the cupboard door to hold it open when he was looking inside it. Imagine the injury if the broom handle slipped, either Henk or Pien or anyone nearby would have been seriously bopped on their heads! So for that reason we wanted to make sure than when they opened cupboards they would stay open. George uses Blum Hinges and Stays they are very expensive and last well, though you do not need to use this type of fit out, there are plenty of other brands on the market that will suffice.
We needed to make this kitchen functional, it had to be strong, it had to be simple and basic to use. It’s been very tiring hearing all the whining about a door that might take ½ a second longer to open than what it did before!! There were a lot of things that we had to ensure not just for the longevity, and our own peace and quiet !
We had to make sure that it was suitable for a motor home and the type of van that the Rhombus is, a Mazda E1600 with a larger engine popped in it. The use of light weight materials is imperative as is making sure of strength and then also ensuring that it is well within what the Rhombus’s capabilities. Based on all the things we have factored in this fit out it should last exceptionally well, we have erred on the side over overkill to be doubly sure. Our only concern now is if Henk persists in ignoring the good sound advice us and so many have given him and takes the van on rough roads and dismisses all other warnings. Doing this will ruin the van, for a second time, you can’t do the same thing twice and expect different end results. We are not miracle workers and as with anything if you treat it improperly you will break it, this is the same with the van and its new fit out.
When we researched the materials for the walls and the flooring we wanted to keep with a streamlined theme, this keeps the van looking uncluttered and fresh. The more things that go in or on walls the more it will close in, thus a cluttered van that would lack appeal and space and risking overloading it too!. This was a major issue with the old layout, it was very much cluttered, and it was also very stale and somewhat dated. It may to alleged look “cosy” we anticipate that people were just being polite as it really looked and smelled pretty bad! Just go back to how mouldy it was and how bad mould permeates things!!
The kitchen also had to have some mod cons, whilst keeping things very basic, simple to use, and energy efficient. Another one of Henk and Pien’s wishes was that we install a pump system so that they did not have to prime water, basically they wanted running water. They also wanted to have the use of their microwave and a stove and sink and to have better storage space and yet still keep to a similar layout to what they had.
We found a stove/sink combo with a flick tap, as it was an all in one, it could also be also used as bench space as it has a cover. We have seen a number of this type of stove in motor homes so we know it will last and it is simple to use. This combination also took up far less space than the previous system and was by far more practical. This will give back vital bench space that is always a welcome thing when wanting to prepare anything. We also ensured that we stayed with a product that was well used in motor homes/caravans so that it could easily be replaced.
The old fridge was irreparable, we had to find a new fridge! The new fridge it was agreed needed to have more space than the old. It was common practice for Henk and Pien to put grocery items that really should have been in the fridge under the bed, or out in the open. It was also common for food to be refrozen many times too due to the issues with the old fridge. Both things are very unsafe practices and will result in food poisoning! They will both boast they have “Cast Iron Tummies” but fail to acknowledge that they could very easily poison someone else! Unfortunately we have been many times on the receiving end of a crook tummy due to food being poorly handled and we have suffered with a bout of the runs, Merlot too!!!! So based on our own experience we know that a good stable, reliable fridge is needed. No one can control poor food handling practices of others, but at the very least excuses are eliminated when you have proper storage facilities.
The new fridge also had to be 3 way, gas, 12volt and 240volt. While Bill was removing the old fridge he noticed that Henk had improperly connected the gas piping, this resulted in serious gas leak this could have very well been a disaster in the making. What exceptional luck and good fortune Henk and Pien have had!!! The gas leak has been repaired, it was discovered that the connection was actually done wrong to begin with. Things such as this are best left to those that know or at the very least don’t ignore the good sound advice or get a qualified person to do the job. Best pay a few dollars to get the job done properly, exploding your motor home or caravan could very well be a deadly experience! There is no point using the old “I didn’t know” line when gas safety is constantly in the media.
The previous van set up only had one gas cylinder so there really was only about 8 days of gas, bear in mind there was also the above-mentioned leak! A second cylinder has now been installed so now they “should” have a good 4 weeks of gas to run the fridge and cook properly. Another thing that we have found surprising when we have been on our travels is we have seen people have their fridges on battery power. Often the battery does not have the capacity to run the fridge adequately so we see people resorting to using generators for hours on end or they start up their car. We have even watched people chase the sun with a solar panel! We do not understand why people don’t use gas, we have been told in the past that its “too expensive”. It’s seems strange to us cos we would think that the cost of running a generator for 4 hours a day would cost more than using gas. We understand that while using a generator you can use other things but if you ran the fridge on gas you could still use these things. Well dependant on having the right inverter and battery system. We endeavour to make sure we elaborate more on the how’s and why’s of the power set up for the Rhombus in this blog. We have begun in the section “Powering the Rhombus”
We have by far not made a luxury kitchen ,we have made a much safer, simpler to use kitchen and if anything we have bettered the old design by un-cluttering things thus making things much more accessible. We truly believe that the colours and materials used in the kitchen make it not only beautiful modern and stylish, but a place that Henk and Pien are going to feel right at home with.
5 days to a new kitchen!
Day One (24/2/2010)
The Kitchen Arrives…
- The first day though we had a wonderful new kitchen on our lawn, nothing really got done!! The boys got side tracked working on the bed!!
They did however get the walls in place in the latter parts of the day!! PROGRESS!!
Day 2 (26/2/2010)
Today the overhead cupboards went in the basic layout of the kitchen was just put in place but not fixed in place and the boys cut the front part of the bed cover out
Day 3 (1/3/10)
Cupboard doors are put on, some of the door handles and Bill affixes all the lights and exhaust..
From the 1/3/10 – the 12/3/10
No Little George over this time so no progress with the kitchen. but Bill has gotten all the electrical work done for the battery system, he has put in the radio and finished doing the cut outs for the radio and created the stays for the bed and put them in place
Day 4 12/3/10
Today the boys put the shelves in the overhead compartment, put the overhead cupboard in (over the bed end) put the bench top in, cut it out and laid the stove in place, finished putting the drawers in place. Then the rest of the afternoon was spent deciding how to make the drop down table and how to create the strength for the grab rail. Look at the page “Toilet, Table and Grab Rail.
Day 5 the last day (18/3/10)
Yet again nothing was done for a few days as we were waiting on the arrival of the drop down table hinges, George told us that it was impossible to create the drop down table and grab rail. Being that we own a caravan and have seen many Motorhomes, adding in Bill’s experience we were very confident that this was far from “Impossible”. We had a bit of a search on our hands to find the brackets that we needed because we were not sure where to get them. Luckily the Caravan superstore on the Hume Highway had just what we needed, well we figured it out after looking in a few Winnebago’s!! LOL
So today the drop down table, grab rail and a hidey box for loo paper went in. Bill had sourced a very strong bracket and cut out some of the wall panel, welded it in placed and the hidey box hid all of this. This was to create the strength for the grab rail, the strength that was allegedly impossible but was in fact a very simple task. This was perhaps one of the most vital things so that it is safe for Henk and Pien to get in and out of the van. Bill did an amazing job to hide it all and George did an amazing job cutting out the pieces to suit! These boys really worked well over the 5 days and they created an amazing kitchen, they should be proud! This like we explained was not the normal household kitchen fit out, this is an older van and it’s not quite square, this did prove some challenges and hurdles but the boys got there! It just required a bit of thinking out of the box, or thinking as a Rhombus!!!
We went away for a weekend to test the van out and see how things went, well we have had to make some adjustments but that is the point of testing things out, to find where you need to tweak things to make them better. So we have added rubber dots to all the doors so they don’t rattle so much when driving and wear the doors by the vibrations. We removed the 90 degree hinges out of the cupboard door under the sink and put in a 180 degree one in. The logic behind this is as everything we have done in the van has been about “How will Henk and Pien be able to use, do, find and so on. So as also mentioned many time is Henk and Pien are older and their health is not always the best and sometimes they can be a bit wobbly as they walk. If Henk or Pien was at all a bit wobbly with this door they might push against it and break it off it’s hinges, adding the wider opening gives more flex so that this does not happen. Secondly having it so much more open makes it so much easier to get things in and out of.
We added more bed struts as once the bedding was on the bed (blankets, pillows etc.) the extra bit of weight was a little much so it was not lifting as easy so better struts have gone in.