Narrow kitchen transformed into a cosy space

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After contending with an ugly, impractical kitchen for 11 years, the Krieks took inspiration from the Danish concept of hygge and transformed it into a warm, cosy space in which simplicity has special meaning.

Photos Elza Cooper Styling Amanda van Wyngaardt


Cobus and Maritza Kriek with their three sons Micha (17), Joël (14) and Benyamin (9)

WHERE Potchefstroom


"We knew we were going to redo the kitchen one day,” says Cobus Kriek, a chemistry professor at North-West University. “But there were other more urgent matters that needed to be addressed first – such as creating an entertainment area on the veranda and enlarging the main bedroom.


“But soon, the kitchen started to bother us more and more. We use it a lot as we try to live as healthily as possible – we make a lot of green juices and fruit smoothies and also grind GMO-free maize for porridge.” In the meantime, the Krieks’ lives took a detour in Denmark. “From August 2012 to March 2013, I did research at the Danish Technical University. While there, we learned about the hygge lifestyle which, among other things, is about making the ordinary more special.”

Years later, the family adopted this ethos in their kitchen and today their long, narrow space is not only beautiful and comfortable, but also warm and cosy – the epitome of hygge.


The Danish concept of hygge (pronounced hue-guh) is described as a feeling of cosiness, warmth, happiness, contentment, security, comfort and simplicity.

Danes created hygge not only to survive their cold, dark and monotonous winters, but also to enjoy their summers more. It’s about celebrating the small things in life: wearing your hyggebusker (long, loose, comfy pants) in winter or enjoying a picnic in the park in summer. It’s about acknowledging a moment, like lighting candles at dinner, buying flowers for your home or making tea in a pretty teapot.

Meik Wiking, head of the Institut for Lykkeforskning (The Happiness Research Institute) in Copenhagen and author of The little book of hygge: Danish secrets for happy living, says hygge is the pursuit of everyday, ordinary happiness–a hug without the physical touch.


Maritza chose the palette for the kitchen. The use of white, black and grey in combination with the light streaming in through the windows is simple and striking.

A kitchen that works

At the beginning of 2019, the family decided the time was ripe for the renovation. “By then we had a clear picture of what we wanted our kitchen to look like,” says Cobus.

“Although it’s situated right next to the living room, it was always completely cut off from it. We wanted to create unity between the two rooms without breaking through, because that would have wasted space.” A wall of windows between the two was the ideal solution.

This meant that the gas stove and kitchen cabinets that stood against this wall had to be moved; old-fashioned wall tiles and melamine worktops had to come out; and the old white washing machine, dishwasher, refrigerator and microwave had to make way for brand-new grey appliances.

Since Cobus, Maritza, Micha and Benyamin love coffee, a new coffee machine was also on their list of must-haves. Cobus did thorough research and eventually invested in an Italian espresso machine and coffee grinder.

During the seven-month-long renovation, the family made do with a two-plate gas stove and old microwave in the dining room. “Such a long time without a proper kitchen isn’t easy,” Cobus admits. “Maritza even went to do our laundry at friends.” 

He says the renovation took so long because some of the service providers strung them along. “Two different people we asked for quotes didn’t bother to respond,” says Cobus. “They came to take measurements but we never heard from them again. They also refused to use the old Oregon pine I had because they were afraid it had nails in it that would damage their saws. They were insistent on buying costly new wood. I ended up doing a major part of the woodwork myself and only had the kitchen cabinets made and installed.”

Other delays, though, resulted in a good outcome. Cobus says the unusual splashback panel above the stove caused quite a few headaches. “Maritza found a picture of copper spoons laden with saffron and we had it printed on Perspex at Hope vol Hoop. I stuck the first version on the wall with silicone, but it came loose after a day. Hope vol Hoop made us another one at half the price. But then something went wrong with the printing, so the picture was grainy. They redid it for free. Then one of the corners on the third version broke off when it was transported from Cape Town. This was also repaired free of charge. I must say that their service was outstanding.

“Once we were done, it was quite strange to have a fully-operational kitchen again but we love it. It really works for us.”

With the clever use of a wall of windows, the narrow kitchen became part of the living room next to it. “It helped to create a sense of cohesion between the two spaces,” says Cobus. Solid wood from Country Woods

Cobus made all the open cupboards and wooden shelves. “To create an open feel in the narrow kitchen, the upper cabinets on the walls had to go,” he says. “They made it feel cramped and we bumped our heads on them. They were also made of chipboard, and the drawers and runners no longer functioned properly.” New shelves were made from solid wood that Cobus had fitted on top of the melamine surfaces. The open cupboard under the worktop is made of old Oregon pine.

The Krieks bought the gas stove years ago, but it was standing against the living room wall and had to be moved when they put in the windows. “The position against the outer wall is better as it’s closer to the gas cylinder outside,” says Cobus. “We chose a black sink, tap and microwave oven to complement the grey of the fridge, washing machine and dishwasher.” Built-in cupboards by PJ’s Carpentry & Construction; clock from @home

Total R106 245

Construction and electrical work 36 800

Quartz slabs 28 087

Cabinets and drawers 24 700

Sink and tap 5 758

Splashback panel 3 400

Paint and varnish 2 800

Steel brackets for open shelves 2 150

Oregon pine 1 800

Glass 75

We love the fact that we can be together now, even though we are in two different rooms. – Cobus


• Be willing to wait for the things you really want; don’t take shortcuts to save time.

• Stick to your guns: don’t let anyone tell you that what you have in mind won’t work.

• When the time comes, you’ll know what to do. We took our time when designing our kitchen; we knew exactly what we wanted and stuck to our dream.

• The balance between minimalism, space, cosiness and flow is important.

• Even if your kitchen is in an old house, there is always a clever way to make it part of an open-plan space.

• Question everything a supplier offers you. In the end, you pay for what you get – and poor quality can cost you more.

Cobus searched far and wide for suitable shelf brackets. “The ugly standard brackets just wouldn’t work for the hygge feel,” he explains. “I designed these minimalist steel brackets in collaboration with the team at the university’s workshop, who then made them for me.” Countertops from Stone Dynamics

Cobus placed the Perspex picture for the splashback panel between 4mm glass in front and 8mm Supawood at the back, and used two stainless-steel clamps to attach it to the wall.

Sink and tap from House Shop


@home 0860 834 834

Country Woods 011 444 6705

Hope vol Hoop 083 703 5512

House Shop 082 885 2953

PJ’s Carpentry & Construction 083 256 4647

Stone Dynamics 018 293 2854

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April 2023

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