‘ Wooden worktops made all the difference’
Not only the countertops were made of oak, but some of the drawer fronts too. It adds a lovely contrast to the white MDF drawer fronts and doors used elsewhere.
Werner and Tanja Schneeberger are no strangers to makeover projects – seven years ago, the couple renovated an entire house in the UK! While Werner takes care of the demolishing and construction, Tanja does the sanding, painting, fetching and carrying.
In 2014 they returned to South Africa and when they bought their home here – another renovator’s dream – they compromised: Werner would revamp the kitchen but the rest of the house would be done by a contractor, Darling Homes.
“Our previous project was fun and exciting and it taught us a lot, but since then we’ve had kids and this time round we had to consider how long it would take and what our discomfort levels would be,” explains Tanja.
The contractor helped them install the new window frames and extractor fan in the kitchen, but the rest was Werner’s handiwork: he made the countertops, the cabinets by the coffee station, the splashback and the kickplates, all from oak.
“He also made the drawers with white MDF and installed them. It was three months of very hard work, but well worth it!” says Tanja proudly.
Werner, who’s an engineer, has always been interested in carpentry and furniture design. His brother, Heinrich, owns a company, Hands on Homes, that builds cabinets and does maintenance, and he offered to install the new carcasses.
At first, they considered installing Caesarstone countertops, but that would have been too expensive, says Tanja. So they decided on wooden work surfaces that Werner could make himself. They chose oak – not only because it’s a hard wood but because it’s also affordable and readily available. For extra durability the tops were treated with three coats of Woodoc 30.
The kitchen suits their style, which Tanja describes as “simple with a definite leaning towards the Scandinavian way of doing things”. For this look the combination of white panels with oak tops is perfect. >>
with Tanja and Werner
Where did you get your inspiration? Our palette (shades of white and grey with simple furniture in beech, ash and oak) makes our home light and creates a peaceful atmosphere. The kitchen is an extension of this. Your kitchen has a Scandinavian feel thanks to its clean lines. Was this intentional and is it relevant in a South African climate? It wasn’t intentional but simplicity and functionality are very important to us. Remember, Mediterranean architecture – think of Greece – relies very heavily on white, which works well in South Africa. In terms of functionality, how did you plan your layout? We started with the triangle principle for efficiency: most tasks revolve around the refrigerator, sink and stove, which should be positioned close together. We also took into account how much space would be needed for pots, pans and groceries, so drawers and shelves were a priority. We thought carefully about how to make the best use of the space: where the spice drawer should be; where the compost bin should be located; how we would socialise around the stove; and where we would make coffee and pour drinks. Are wooden slabs durable and how did you treat yours? Yes, oak is waterresistant and very hard, so it’s also relatively heat- and impact-resistant. We varnished the wood with three coats of Woodoc 30, a sealant for outdoor use. So far, it’s worn very well; any careless knife marks can easily be sanded if necessary. There are many other types of wood that would work just as well, such as teak, beech or even walnut if your budget allows. Any cost-cutting tips? Get quotes, draw up a budget and stick to it – otherwise things can quickly get out of hand. Where shouldn’t one cut costs? You won’t save money by using less expensive contractors who end up not knowing what they’re doing.