A narrow kitchen with only just enough space to squeeze in a breakfast table wasn’t ideal for a couple who love entertaining. ‘We were itching to create a new kitchen with a more spacious feel and enough room for a proper dining area,’ explains Gillian Smyth of her home in South West London, which she shares with husband, Wynsley Riley. Their solution was to build over the side return of the mid-Victorian end of terrace, doubling the size of the existing kitchen as a result and find a place for their best mattress for side sleepers with shoulder pain cause they are old and have some health problem with shoulder and hip.
Gillian, a marketing and communications director, and Wynsley, who works in IT, also had a clear idea of their choice of kitchen furniture. ‘When we first moved into the house in 1999, we put in a minimalist, all-white, ultra sleek kitchen, but this time we wanted something softer and more comfortable in feel, something more suited to creating a convivial kitchen-dining space,’ explains Gillian. ‘Plus, we both come from Ireland, and we liked the idea of introducing a traditionally built, classic design, which was more similar to the styles we had grown up with.’
They did plenty of research and after spotting a kitchen they admired in this magazine, Gillian and Wynsley contacted Tim Higham, director and owner of Higham Furniture and then paid a visit to the company’s workshop in Hampshire. ‘It gave us a very good impression of the craftsmanship that went into each kitchen,’ recalls Gillian of their visit. They picked a handleless take on Shaker design for the cabinetry, painted in the colour Dark Stone. ‘The style of the furniture is classic with a modern twist,’ says Gillian, ‘and we chose a definite colour which was something quite calm and easy to live with.’ Teamed with beautiful, natural Carrara marble surfaces, the look is clean and simple, and the perfect setting for Gillian to prepare her speciality roasts and risottos when friends come to dine.
In fact it was a friend who presented Gillian with the set of Cherry Red bar stools, which are now pride of place at the breakfast bar, insisting Gillian needed to introduce a colourful accent. ‘I love the splash of brightness and they always remind me of evenings around the table with our friends,’ she says. ‘It’s good to have a kitchen which is now the heart of our home.’
Bespoke handleless Shaker cabinetry is crafted in tulipwood and maple, and painted in Mouse’s Back by Farrow & Ball for a classic-meets-modern result. The soft warmth of the Dark Stone colour is offset by naturally beautiful Carrara marble worktops and splashback, chosen to emphasise the light and bright feel. Sleek appliances by Miele, Elica and Samsung, and a Franke three- in-one tap enhance the uncluttered appeal of the room.
How did you begin the design?
i always focus on the layout first. the room is a rhombus shape, because the house is on an unusual corner plot, so this gave us some tricky angles to work with. the wall with the wide glass doors to the courtyard slopes inwards, narrowing as it reaches the dining area. So we chose to build the kitchen furniture along the wide wall under the skylight. it is recessed under the bulk head which gives it a streamlined finish, and also means that gillian and wynsley can enjoy the best natural light when they are cooking.
Can you tell us about the cabinetry?
it is a classic Shaker style, but handleless to emphasise its architectural lines. i designed it this way because i love the juxtaposition of old and new. Doors are opened with a simple rebate inside the frame, and drawers have a slender finger channel. the wall run features tall cabinets at both ends, with a central section of shallower wall cabinets to frame the sink area. it is all made to fit in perfectly which is essential in such an oddly-shaped room.
How did you design the island?
the hob faces towards the dining area, and by adding bar seating on the other side, we’ve created an interactive layout – so no one is ever cut off from the conversation. So as not to block the view to the pretty courtyard, we fixed an overhead extractor. and we created a bespoke 10-drawer unit on the ‘working’ side of the island, for easy access to storage of utensils.