Who can resist the charm of the country kitchen? This is a style that is all about warmth, welcome and good old-fashioned comfort – where the kitchen really is the heart of the home, wherever that home might be. Small or spacious, the country kitchen is always friendly, cosy and hospitable, as well as being practical and charmingly pretty.
Today’s country kitchen has its roots in the food storage, preparation and cooking areas of the great English houses. Open shelves and a larder cupboard, a dresser on which to display crockery, hanging racks and hooks for pots, pans and utensils, a trestle or refectory table, a deep ceramic sink and a traditional range cooker: none of these has changed much in centuries.
Blending old and new
To create a functional modern kitchen while retaining these traditional values simply means finding a way to disguise modern time-saving gadgets, either behind doors or in a separate, adjoining room. And while some might argue that a true country kitchen consists of a collection of free-standing cupboards in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles, it is perfectly possible to create a country look using fitted units, as long as you ensure that they’re not overly unified.
Buying a new country-style kitchen can be as inexpensive – or as pricey – as you wish, but it does help if you ensure that what you’re buying is well-made and durable. It is easily possible to buy just a few, high-quality cupboards and make up the rest of your storage space with open shelves, racks and rails, and pieces such as a dresser, table or sideboard picked up at auction. Older items will have that knocked-about look that prevents a new kitchen from feeling overly slick and modern.
Buying for keeps
Fitting a country kitchen is definitely a safe bet in terms of investing in your property, says Simon Buhl Davis, head of Savills Interiors. ‘A hand-built wooden Shaker kitchen will have enduring appeal and stand the test of time,’ he says. ‘With the current economic situation people need all the comforting they can get, something warm and cosy, that Shaker ethic: simplicity, utility and quality. It’s a much safer option than putting in a modern kitchen that’s hot now, but that will look out of date in five years. If you are going to spend £20,000 on a kitchen, it’s always best to choose something that will last.’
KITCHENS UP TO £20,000
Milton – Second Nature
Second Nature’s ‘Milton Sage’ kitchen features a traditional in-frame design and comes in a delicate sage green – ideal for combining with natural materials such as slate, timber, wicker, pewter and granite. This modern-rustic look is tied together with a cool stone floor.
Kitchens start at £15,000.
Shaker – Harvey Jones
Harvey Jones makes kitchens to order, using premium materials and traditional joinery techniques. The clean lines and classical proportions of this kitchen (which is painted in Dulux ‘Chiffon White 4’) are influenced by early 19th-century Shaker furniture.
Harvey Jones kitchens start from £17,000.
Vermont Freestanding – Fired Earth
So many of us adore the soft whites and creams associated with Scandinavian style. The Vermont kitchen has distressed woods of the French country look as well as sophisticated tailoring of US coastal homes to create their most accessible kitchen to date.
Fired Earth are currently offering 15% off when you spend £1,500.
Vaulted Kitchen – George Robinson Kitchens
A key design feature to this kitchen is the vaulted ceiling with exposed green oak beams. This design creates a look very similar to a barn conversion. The choice of cabinetry gives the kitchen a classic look and sheer quantity of draws and cabinets, provide plentiful storage.
THE INGREDIENTS OF THE COUNTRY KITCHEN
A solid-wood kitchen, either left natural or painted a subtle, pale colour, is key to the country kitchen look. Doors should be Shaker-style – tongue-and-groove or simply panelled – and be fitted with wooden or ceramic knobs, or cup-shaped handles. Wall units could feature some glazing, or be replaced by open shelves for an informal effect. If you can find space for a dresser and/or larder, so much the better, while an enamelled range cooker makes the perfect centrepiece. Add a ceramic butler’s sink, beamed ceiling, stone-flagged floor, butcher’s block, hanging rack for pans and utensils, and a farmhouse dining table. Then go to town with accessories – cake stands, mixing bowls, tea cosies and egg cups, wicker baskets, enamelware and wirework and crockery in pretty colours and patterns.
KITCHENS OVER £20,000
Ash Kitchen – Jasper & Co
Despite being fitted in an east London apartment, this white-painted solid ash kitchen has the light, informal look of a country kitchen. It was built by skilled craftsmen using traditional techniques. Clever features include folding doors to hide a washing machine and tumble drier.
An average Jasper & Co kitchen starts at £20,000.
Long House – Plain English
Plain English’s ‘Long House’ kitchen draws its inspiration from a tradition of honest, utilitarian English joinery that dates back to the 18th century. Drawers sit on top of one another, without a dividing rail – a woodworking technique that requires skill and precision.
Prices start from £20,000; the average cost is £30,000.
Milan – Mark Wilkinson
A kitchen that portrays pure style without clutter, the Milan kitchen has hand-stitched leather handles and soft curved lines that create fluid elegance. The Milan kitchen represents all that the city has to offer, promise and excitement.
A Mark Wilkinson kitchen starts from £35,000.
New Brasserie – Smallbone
The latest collection from Smallbone embraces the kitchen as a social hub as well as a functional space. Taking inspiration from the relaxed setting of the brasserie, the kitchen is characterised by horizontal slats of oak, scaffolding planks and an oversized dresser. To finish it off, New Brasserie is available in any paint colour or can be hand painted by their skilled decorative artists.
Kitchens from Smallbone of Devizes start at £35,000.
Original Freestanding Kitchen – Chalon
This ‘Original Freestanding’ kitchen is made from Quebec yellow pine, in a style that emulates the classic elegance of English 18th and 19th-century furniture. It has been hand-finished using a unique, distressed paint technique, designed to look as if each piece had naturally aged.
Chalon kitchens cost from £30,000.
Painted kitchen – Newcastle Furniture Co
This kitchen, with its beamed ceiling, Aga and stone floor, is painted in sage and cream and features worktops in maple and green slate. Handmade in mature, seasoned hardwoods, it uses modern and traditional joinery techniques.
Kitchens start at around £28,750.
H&A’s Kitchen directory
0845 712 5207; aga-web.co.uk
01458 254600; chalon.com
01282 813235; esse.com/cookers
01453 890018; everhot.co.uk
0845 366 0400; firedearth.com
George Robinson Kitchens
01736 367369; georgerobinsonkitchens.co.uk
0800 389 7365; harveyjones.com
Jasper & Co
0844 858 4084; jasperco.co.uk
John Lewis of Hungerford
0700 278 4726; john-lewis.co.uk/
01380 850007; mwf.com
0800 413413; moben.co.uk
The Newcastle Furniture Company
0191 261 8900; newcastlefurniture.com
01449 774028; plainenglishdesign.co.uk
08457 626147; rayburn-web.co.uk
01325 505555; sncollection.co.uk
0207 589 5998; smallbone.co.uk
Feature Katherine Sorrel