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Kitchen Tour: Fresh White and Wow Details in a Northern Irish Kitchen

This bright, contemporary kitchen looks simple, but it’s packed with painstakingly designed details and smart ideas

Houzz UK Contributor. I have been an interiors journalist since 1995, writing several… More

Although relatively new, the kitchen in this detached home in Northern Ireland wasn’t ticking many design boxes. The units were dark and their tops were clearly visible from the mezzanine level above, the finish was poor and some details had been badly thought through. “The owners just wanted to put their stamp on this place and make it their home,” says Darren Morgan, who redesigned the space.

His brief was to create a light, fresh, contemporary kitchen, with a few fabulous details bringing some ‘wow factor’, too. “In a nutshell, the idea was to make a kitchen that’s like a swan gliding across water,” he says. “It looks simple, but there’s a lot more going on beneath in terms of detail.”

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Kitchen at a Glance
Who lives here A family of four
Location Armagh, Northern Ireland
Kitchen size Approx 8m x 5m; part of a detached home built around five years ago
Kitchen designer Darren Morgan of Designer Kitchen by Morgan

“I’ve worked with the owner before and know she likes contemporary design,” says Darren Morgan. “She wanted something simple, light, airy and fresh. She also wanted as big an island as possible, because sociability was key, and then I simply had to remedy the design problems of the original kitchen.”

To accommodate the new design, the entire space was overhauled. The fireplace was ripped out, the flooring replaced with oak boards and the existing spiral staircase up to the mezzanine was refurbed. Morgan also installed a library area up there.

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One of the key bugbears with the original kitchen was that the top of the units were visible from the mezzanine. “The solution was to build a bulkhead off the mezzanine that closes off the units and allows the architecture to hug the kitchen,” says Morgan.

He also fitted lighting in here, including functional lighting for working in the kitchen and ambient uplighters that wash up the walls for when the space isn’t in use, but still visible.

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The junction between the new bulkhead and the mezzanine creates a natural break between the entrance door and the kitchen.

The owner wanted to keep the Neff ovens that were already here, as they’d hardly been used. To house them, Morgan created a run of tall units, which also includes a larder.

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Another element of the brief was to transform the main door into the kitchen, which looked bland and unimpressive. “We suggested a pivot door,” says Morgan, but the owner initially discounted the idea, as it would prove too hard to install. Typically, much of the mechanism of a pivot door is built into the floor, often to a depth of 15cm, but with the underfloor heating already installed, this was not possible. However, Morgan was undeterred.

“I said, I’m going to build that, and just design it as an entire unit, like a kitchen unit or standalone piece of furniture,” he says. He created a framework for the door, which helped to dissolve some of the awkward wall angles. “I then sourced a pivot mechanism from the Netherlands that is concealed in the door, so you only need an 8mm protrusion into the floor.”

System4 pivot door mechanism, FritsJurgens.

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The pivot door is made from solid ash, with a solid ash frame around it, which was designed to absorb the angular nature of the surrounding architecture. “It all has a tongue-and-groove finish that runs from the door to the frame and is all in line,” says Morgan. “It all had to be millimetre perfect.”

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The pivot door is balanced by a matching solid ash barn door on the opposite side of the room. The fridge-freezer is fitted neatly into the wall here. “Behind that was an angled cubbyhole, so it was tricky to fit in,” says Morgan. “The space was dead tight and we had to fit it all perfectly to within a couple of millimetres.”

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To the left of the barn door, more pale ash features on the roller shutter door of the appliance garage, further helping the space to feel beautifully balanced.

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The owner wanted the island to be as big as possible. It’s 3200mm x 1200mm, designed around a jumbo slab of Silestone. The kitchen side of the island contains a great deal of storage and supports the light design of the front.

“We chamfered the front of the Silestone so it looks paper-thin,” says Morgan. “It seems as if it’s floating; like it doesn’t actually touch the island. The functional side does a lot of the support work.” LED lighting concealed inside gives the front a glowing, ethereal feel at night.

Industrial pendant lights, Nostralux, available through LionsHome.

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Creating an open, uncluttered look was a key element of the brief. “In an open-plan space, the kitchen can be on standby or in use,” says Morgan. “When not in use, its functionality should be subdued, so the island, for example, becomes a piece of furniture you can hover around.”

Form bar stools, Normann Copenhagen.

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Although at first glance this is simply a contemporary white kitchen, Morgan’s design is rammed with brilliant details. It took around three weeks to install. “You measure so many times and do all the CAD drawings, but until that point when it arrives, you don’t know how it will fit for certain,” he says.

There was just 6mm of space for fitting the pivot door. “It was a nail-biting moment putting that in,” he laughs. “All the shadowlines had to be perfect, too. These details matter. You may not notice them when they’re right, but you do if they’re wrong!”

Adaptable table, Muuto. Drop chairs by Arne Jacobsen, Fritz Hansen.

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Morgan designed recessed grip handles in ash for the cabinets and drawers. “I wanted to create some quirkiness and a wee bit of finesse in here,” he says. “Some handles stop short, some drop, some turn up. I love this kind of detailing.” The doors are painted in a satin lacquer finish.

Doors painted in Loft White, Little Greene.

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Morgan suggested an innovative extractor system for the island, which sits between the hobs and draws fumes down into a trough. “We were the first people in Ireland to install one of these, so fitting it was a baptism of fire!” he says. “It’s great and is not in your face, helping the space to feel less functional and the island to look more like a piece of furniture.”

Abajo extractor and hobs, Gutmann.

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The fireplace was originally centred, and had lots of railing and guards around it. “It was quite fussy,” says Morgan. The owner installed a new design, with the fire visible from both sides, and positioned it to one side.

“The whole space is quite clean and airy, but there’s actually quite an eclectic mix of elements in it,” adds Morgan. “You have the fire, then there’s walnut flooring in the living space, and a bit of exposed brickwork, so there’s a loft vibe going on, too.”

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“There are lots of different components to this kitchen,” says Morgan. “The recessed grip handles, the doors, which were all individually designed, the front of the island, which seems to defy gravity, and its worktop, which looks like a piece of paper. All those wee things come together, all millimetre perfect. I got a few grey hairs working them all in, but you can’t beat the feeling of satisfaction at the end!”

What do you like about this light, open kitchen? Share your ideas in the Comments below.
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