Simple and honest design in the gentlest of colours is the hallmark of this country kitchen. And just wait until you see the bespoke bar area...
Two years ago, the owners began renovating their dream home in a picturesque Norfolk village. Built in the 1600s and then extended during the Victorian era, their thatched house was once a pub, before being reinvented as The Old Vicarage, as it is still known today. On the Victorian side is the kitchen, which the couple have recently expanded, adding a large orangery that leads out to the pretty garden.
For kitchen designer Naked Kitchens, a Norfolk local, the challenge was to create the right flow, given structural quirks and the couple’s desire for a very large central island with generous overhang. ‘We wanted one where you could sit as comfortably as you would at the table,’ says Lara, ‘not just a place to perch.’ The flexible approach of Naked Kitchens was one reason the couple were impressed by the company. ‘It is a truly bespoke service,’ says Lara. ‘Everything was meticulously designed to tiny tolerances. They made us feel that nothing was too much effort, coming back to re-measure many times to accommodate changes required by the listed-buildings officer.’
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The colours of the East Anglian coast provided inspiration for the refurbishment. ‘We love to walk the dogs and go sailing there,’ says the owner. ‘There is always a new shade or detail in the landscape. We realised that there in front of us, among the salt marshes, heaths and heather, were the perfect colours for our home.’
In the kitchen, these subtle, peaty tones create a welcoming space. ‘Overall, it’s restrained and traditional in style – a classic Shaker design,’ the owner adds. ‘But with the island painted in Mole’s Breath and an Aga in Pewter, there is a wonderful earthiness.’
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All the drawers have heavy-duty runners – ‘strong enough to take any number of Le Creuset pans,’ says designer Jayne. Pegs keep bowls and plates in place, and can be moved to accommodate a differently sized dinner service.
The oak stools from Naked Kitchens’ sister company Norfolk Oak were made in Ohio by one of Jane and Jamie’s Amish colleagues. ‘In darker spaces, use colours on the main features and paler tones on the worktops and cabinetry, to create a lighter, less hemmed-in effect.’
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This mini bar area allows an evening drink to be made without cook and bartender getting under each other’s feet. ‘My husband will make us a G&T on a summer evening, while I prepare dinner,’ says the owner. Having the small sink right next to the drinks cupboard is an added convenience, and the Carrara worksurface doesn’t stain, despite its light colouring.
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The main kitchen doesn’t have much natural light – in fact, two unusually narrow windows, which are listed features, are the only source. Yet the room does not feel dark. One reason is the antique mirrored splashback behind the Aga. ‘It draws light into the room, and reflects the garden,’ says the owner. ‘ Our lives play out around the Aga – we lean on it to chat, the dogs sleep by it, and when I am cooking, I see the garden in all its seasons.’
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Working around the original features of a period home often brings challenges. Here a break-fronted design fills the gap between the Aga and the chimney breast it sits against, providing handy utensil drawers and slide-out oak trays to boot. A slimmer cupboard to the left is stepped back, to optimise space next to the doorway. ‘Small design details can make a big difference to how it feels to use the kitchen every day,’ says Jayne.
The orangery extension houses a new dining area. However, the large central island is also a very social space. It has seating on two side and is the main food prep area, with the Aga and American-style fridge-freezer close to hand.
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More than most, the couple’s kitchen lives up to the Shaker label. The solid-oak cabinetry came directly from sawmills in Ohio. The mills are owned by generations of Amish people, a religious community similar to the Shakers, which Naked Kitchens’ design directors Jayne and Jamie Everett visit regularly. ‘Jayne has told me about the warm welcome they receive, including joining family meals,’ says the owner. ‘It’s lovely to think this kitchen has that connection and that it helps to support their community.’