Top of the line design
For a kitchen designer, every project presents specific challenges and rewards. A successful design will perfectly fulfil the client’s requirements, whilst balancing practicality and aesthetics. We asked several of the area’s leading kitchen designers to talk us through the process of creating one of their favourite kitchen designs…
Designer and Director, Thomas & Thomas
01235 851144 / OX11 0ND / thomasthomas.net
“The client’s brief for this kitchen was to create a large family kitchen and dining area for everyday use that was harmonious with the soft, light and airy atmosphere of the house by Anderson Orr Architects. We were also asked to provide a means of shielding the kitchen from view of the living and dining space when entertaining.
“We found the solution to this request through the introduction of a large, sliding, partially-glazed door. This provided the client with the best of both worlds. When open, the kitchen, living and dining areas bled into one another, allowing maximum distribution of light and emphasising the spaciousness of the house. When closed, a beautiful, intimate dining area is created, also providing privacy to the kitchen. We designed and constructed the sliding door so that it could be pulled across into the central island and could be hidden away in a wall pocket when not in use. The opening in the island into which the door slides houses a large chopping board when the door is in the open position.
“A light and spacious feel to the whole room was realised by using pale and mid-range greys together with a light honed granite. The perimeter furniture is painted in Farrow & Ball’s Pavilion Gray and the island in Down Pipe. The worktop in Honed Bethel White Granite is complemented by the White ceramic cabinet knobs. A White AGA and AGA fridge freezer provides the final touch to the cool aesthetic. Solid European oak in a natural oiled finish gives a contrasting splash of warmth to the informal seating area on the island and the mantle shelf.
“Although the client’s brief presented ample challenge, this family kitchen fulfils the requirements exactly, giving an open family space, a place for the children to eat and do homework plus being transformable into separated food preparation and dining areas for entertaining.
Designer, Hutchinson Furniture & Interiors
01608 684455 / CV36 5JL / hutchinsonfurniture.co.uk
“Kitchen trends in the UK have changed dramatically in the last two years. Clients are no longer looking for a ‘Shaker’ country style kitchen but are instead leaning towards cleaner, modern styles with flat panels, incorporating simple or no handles and utilising finger pulls or push-to-open mechanisms.
“Based in Cheltenham, our client was keen to create a truly unique kitchen that would contrast with and complement their beautiful Georgian townhouse.
“Marine grade birch ply took centre stage in this kitchen: our client was attracted to this due to the laminating effect around the edge of the ply. When sanded and lacquered, the edge of the board can be a very interesting feature. This type of material would normally be found in carcase construction with a decorative veneer applied; it is very rare for its birch face to be sanded, lacquered and exposed as feature. We treated the ply the same way we would a decorative solid veneered board, and hand-selected the grain patterns so that the grain would match and align around the kitchen.
“The large central island is the main focal point in the room. Our client wanted strong lines throughout which we achieved by sandwiching two pieces of the birch ply together with a piece of American black walnut in the middle that subtly highlights the laminated layers of the material. The drawers have ‘tip-on’ runners which are push-to-open but also soft close, eliminating the need for handles or anything that might take away from the unique grain patterns in the drawer fronts. On the island, we made a feature of the solid oak dovetailed drawers by exposing them and having the dovetail joint on the face. The whole island is held up by a central plinth which cannot be seen from most angles in the room. An LED light strip creates the illusion that the island is floating.
“A solid granite worktop with a brushed copper splash back is used alongside a solid English character oak worktop on the central island. These materials beautifully complement the plywood units and oak top on the island, reflecting light and adding a warm glow to the room.”
esigner and Director, Steven Booker Kitchens and Furniture
01608 674324 / CV36 5NQ / stevenbooker.co.uk
“This project was to build a kitchen for the show house at Johnson & Johnson’s most recent development at Chadshunt, near Gaydon. Inside was a large, open-plan kitchen/dining/living area. My brief was to create a kitchen that made the best use of this large, sociable interior, yet fitted with the modern rustic feel outside.
“It was a challenge because there was little wall space for wall units or a hob and extractor, due to the number of windows and glass walls. The solution was to make the island become the focal point to the kitchen. We housed the hob and a hidden extractor fan centrally to the island. Either side of this were storage drawers and units, integrated bins, tray spaces – and everything you’d expect from a kitchen. The benefit of this almost unique design layout means that you face the dining and living area while you cook. The dining table side of the island unit functions as a sideboard, with glazed doors to display dinner ware, and drawers for cutlery and tableware.
“Another challenge was that Ivor Johnson wanted to integrate two large fridge freezers, but these would have been difficult to house without being imposing in the room. My solution was to push these appliances into the utility space with the doors facing the kitchen to make them accessible. We then painted the fronts to match the wall so that they are almost invisible.
“Instead of putting a solid door on to the attached utility area, I felt it would be nice to run the worktop through into the utility and designed a glazed door and panel instead, so that the 10.5 metre run of worktops can be seen all the way through. Colours were chosen to work seamlessly throughout the building. I had the brass handles cast locally from an original Georgian design and we added tourmaline to give the handles a warm, bronzed look.
“For the worktops, we wanted an alternative to granite. I had recently come across a company in Chipping Norton called Stone & Wood Tiles. They specialise in tiles and other products made from porcelain that replicate natural surfaces such as wood, stone, marble and concrete. The realistic appearance of these tiles needs to be seen to be believed. A technique has been developed to manufacture the porcelain into large slabs so that it can be used for worktops. We went for an option that looks exactly like marble (Calacatta Oro). The benefit of this new product is that it doesn’t stain or discolour and is easy to maintain and clean – an ideal surface for modern living.”
Designer and Director, Auspicious Furniture
01453 833713 / GL6 0DU / auspiciousfurniture.co.uk
“The kitchen in this country cottage started off as two rooms. By combining the two spaces, a larger space was configured to allow for easy cooking, something the client enjoys doing.
“The original design was a classic shaker kitchen but this design changed organically as new ideas were implemented. Our client expressed an interest in introducing a mix of painted and character timber, so I presented a few options, with the client deciding upon an example of some beautiful burr elm veneer. We wanted an uninterrupted visual run of the grain of this veneer so we kept the cabinetry flat fronted with the doors push-to-open.
“Behind each door we integrated the washing machine, recycle bin, cutlery drawer and cupboards for plates and cups. We had a few options of where to place the dishwasher: the client decided to put it at the end of the elm run due to the dining table being at the far end of the room. After meals, the kids can load it up and when it has finished its cycle all the items can be rehoused in the units with ease.
“In the original design, a chunky, painted, framed island was going to house a range cooker. However, while the building work was taking place in the kitchen, a supportive buttress had to be installed, which in turn presented us with a mid-design change on the island. With a natural supportive area now created, we could move the island against the wall to create a designated area for food preparation and cooking. A wych elm top was chosen to enhance and balance with the elm on the other side of the kitchen.
“Along the back wall we introduced a very large storage unit which did not impose into the main kitchen. An area within this was made to house cleaning products such as the hoover, iron and ironing board. The middle door is a larder whilst the right hand houses an Aladdin’s cave of glass pots and foods. There was an old north facing front door which had been closed off for years so we were able to use the porch and the new larder as a natural cool storage space. Brushed stainless steel was chosen for the sink run which includes an integrated sink and small basin, as it is very practical to keep clean and provides a contemporary feeling to the kitchen.
“LED light was used in all the cupboards and open shelving to give subtle light when needed, and to show off the burr elm in all its beauty.”
Designer, Parlour Farm
01285 885336 / GL7 1YT / parlourfarm.com
“The clients had an original design for their kitchen project, however, due to changes in the architectural requirements for their large extension, the design needed to be
re-assessed. “They had an existing AGA which was located in a chimney opening within the original kitchen space, ‘tucked’ into the side of the room. As well as the AGA, the extension was designed with a very tall pitched roof and glazed end wall looking out over the grounds and land behind the property.
“These two main features needed to be taken into account when planning the design. The main battle that I had to address as a designer was to take the original design the clients had agreed and turn it on its head to make it work within the room. The original plan had kept the AGA in the original position which, in a room of that size, meant you lost the impact of the cooker. This is such a shame when you have something as lovely as an AGA. I knew the clients had agreed that this would be the most acceptable option for them initially but I did push for them to consider moving it to the centre of the back wall instead, building a feature faux chimney as a surround using a distressed oak beam to link the feature with the extension supports. As you may see in the photo, the dimensions of the room are large, however, it is a very long room so keeping the larger design features at either end of the room has helped to balance the space, grounding the design and keeping the room level.
“Moving the AGA then freed up the existing chimney opening which needed to work in the room without ending up as an empty fireplace. I therefore worked this space to create a bi-fold built-in larder space with internal drawers, walnut worktop and shelving with spice racks down both sides of the opening. A lighting system was fitted with a sensor switch internally allowing light when the doors are opened.
“The main work space within the kitchen is centred around the island with seating to the far end and preparation work space to the other. The worktop chosen was our Full Stave American Walnut timber which ages to a rich chocolate brown colour once oiled. The grain is very linear, working well with the length of the island and offers a warmth and richness in the open space. This has been complimented by using Farrow & Ball’s Elephant’s Breath on the furniture which is a grey/putty colour with undertones of mauve.
“I favour adding wood highlights into my designs, whether it is a large feature island with breakfast bar or more subtle open shelves and chopping blocks. The timber, combined with the painted bespoke furniture and options of granite/quartz sets up a basis for different textures within the kitchen as well as enabling you as a designer to define ‘zones’.
“More and more of my designs are working around zoning the kitchen with prep space, food storage, cooking/hot area and cleaning/wet area. This concept is not new within design circles but has definitely taken more of a forefront in recent years, doing away with the old ‘magic triangle’ layout.”
Designer and Director, Sustainable Kitchens
0117 961 6471 / BS15 1JZ / sustainablekitchens.co.uk
“Our favourite kitchens tend to be the ones with the most character. This 19th century stone cottage is nestled in a beautiful corner of Somerset. It was nothing short of picturesque so when I was asked to design a new kitchen in this heritage home, I was thrilled. I enjoy working in historic homes because of the character that comes with the building. It’s especially fun when you combine a historic home with a quirky design aesthetic, as we did in this case.
“The residents, Jo and Dave with their two children, had some really unique ideas that they wanted to implement and relied on me to take the concept and turn it into reality. One of the most interesting features was an alcove dresser Jo coined ‘the bonkers cabinet’. It was designed with her love of arts and crafts in mind. It was completely bespoke and was made to fit an assortment of her arts and crafts materials.
“Other unique features included filling the chimney breast with a set of oak fabric drawers to provide extra storage space. The island was unusual in that it was single width only but its real purpose was as a space where the family could come and work together. The range cooker is a stand out within the kitchen with its Ferrari yellow paint. It was such a great addition to the quirkiness of the rest of the kitchen. If you look closely, you can see that the stainless steel splash back is actually in the shape of France, a homage to Jo and Dave’s favourite holiday destination.
“The workshops and cabinets were made from solid oak, ensuring they are durable for a busy family kitchen, and are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Stone Blue. The great thing about Farrow & Ball paint, which we use in all of our kitchens, is that it is water-based and eco-friendly, making it safe for children. The ‘bonkers cabinet’ used bits of reclaimed ash, yew, beech and walnut to add extra interest to the piece. We sourced these from a company called Interesting Timbers.
“This kitchen was truly inspirational for us as it showed how you can mix heritage with contemporary by being bold with colour choices and adding features that are meaningful to the client.”