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Kitchen Tour: Out With the New, in With the Old in This Victorian Home

This lovingly crafted kitchen has it all – space, attention to detail and timeless style

Houzz Contributor. I’m a London-based journalist with years of experience writing… More

Think of a typical kitchen, and the word ‘retreat’ might not immediately spring to mind. But this serene, spacious room in London’s Greenwich is exactly that, combining timeless style with utilitarian chic.

When designers Plain English were first brought on board, the room was unrecognisable from the space you can see here. We tend to talk in terms of ‘modernising’ rooms, but here the brief was about taking the ultra-modern elements out and replacing them with a more crafted, period feel.

The owners had been living here for a while and were ready for a “rejig”, remembers Emma Clarke, senior designer with Plain English. “The room was already quite open-plan, but the kitchen was glossy and contemporary, with a huge extractor system and shelving hanging from the ceiling over the island. The living space was in the middle, with a table at the end that they never used.” In all, it took more than six months to completely reconfigure the layout and install the kitchen.

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Kitchen at a Glance
Who lives here A professional couple in their 30s, with two young sons
Location Greenwich, southeast London
Dimensions The kitchen area is approx 6.9m x 6.2m; part of a Victorian terrace with 6 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms
Designer Emma Clarke at Plain English

Photos by Alexis Hamilton

“The brief was for a more laid-back, family-friendly space,” says designer Emma Clarke.

She describes the finished look as “relaxed classic”, adding, “While the joinery is traditional, the colour, materials and styling give it a twist. Having the walls in the same dark paint makes a bold statement. The clients have accessorised with vintage and contemporary furniture, which looks great.”

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The yellow chair has a retro feel and adds colour and warmth to all the grey.

Chair, Anthropologie.

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There’s an unshowy Shaker sensibility to the cabinetry, slotting in with a movement towards artisan furnishings that evoke a sense of history.

Check out 10 more Shaker-inspired kitchens on Houzz

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This is a huge open-plan room that stretches across the whole house, so there was quite a lot for both the owners and designers to get their heads around when it came to planning the layout.

“The owners were quite specific about the size and type of appliances they wanted, so these had to be factored in,” says Clarke. “We wanted to have one straight run with a large island, and for the kitchen to be at this end of the room. But planning the proximity of the dining table, and trying to get a bench seat in, was difficult to work out at first.

“The owners also knew they didn’t want the cooker on the island [because of the extractor fan’s position], which meant the sink had to be there.”

Blush pink Grasshopper floor lamp, Gubi at Skandium.

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Clever use of colour plays a key part in the room, with soothing grey featuring strongly. “All the paints are are from Plain English’s own range, exclusive to our clients,” says Clarke.

The wall and main run of cabinets is painted in Draughty Passage, with a colour-matched glass splashback. The darker colour on the island is Inky Nib, and adds an imposing, grounding presence to the room.

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The generously sized island is a place to relax and have a cup of tea and a biscuit – a separate area, in oiled European oak, demarcates the breakfast bar from the worktop.

“It was important someone could perch at the end of the island having a coffee or wine while chatting,” says Clarke.

The tall, built-in cupboards look as if they’ve always been there. They’ve been painted the same soft grey as the cabinets and walls.

Industrial leather bar stools in Brown, Rockett St George.

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Thoughtful design touches add to the heritage feel, including the polished brass taps with their subtle golden sheen. “These are very popular at the moment,” says Clarke.

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In the same vein, industrial metal pendants are a classic way to define the island.

Old Factory Vintage pendants, Industville.

See 10 kitchens with modern country appeal

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A key part of the original brief was the walk-in pantry. This provides a stylish home for jams, spices, pickles and tins. Painted, glass-panelled doors and screens lend something of a National Trust air. “It isn’t huge compared to some pantries, but it provides lots of food storage,” says Clarke.

The second door opens onto a hallway and stairs, which lead up to the next floor.

“The cabinet next to the pantry was added after the kitchen was built; it’s for coats and hides utility meters,” adds the designer.

Check out more traditional kitchen ideas in the Houzz photo stream

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The dining area features a lovely, simple bench, again painted a calming grey. It contains storage space and has lift-up lids.

“The owners had the leather cushion made after seeing a similar one in our showroom. I added armrests to the bench ends to finish it off, and so the cushions don’t slip off,” explains Clarke.

A wall of family photos helps to define this as a place for Sunday lunches and relaxed suppers.

Fayland table, David Chipperfield for E15 at Viaduct. Black chair, Ikea. Bench, Plain English.

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The wall cupboards are Plain English’s Spitalfields design, featuring Folgate doors (with a quadrant bead), quirk beading on the drawers and reproduction Georgian brass ironmongery. “The handles are unlacquered and are taken from original casts, so the shapes are more elegant than more modern handles,” says Clarke.

The worktops are sandblasted Carrara marble and antique Belgian fossil stone.

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Metro tiles look just right in here, offering that crucial blend of modern and vintage style.

“All the pull-outs and drawers are solid oak with dovetail joints and they have waxed wooden runners for ease of use,” says Clarke.

“The cupboard above the worktop hides a tap supplying boiling and chilled filtered drinking water. All the mugs and tea things are in here, too.”

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With a growing family, the couple wanted the room to be a ‘hub’ to hang out in, with a huge island and breakfast bar, as well as breakout seating areas.

“The owners are not huge cooks, especially during the week,” says Clarke. “But when the kitchen was designed, the children were four and 18 months old, and it was the room their parents would be in with them most of the time. So it needed plenty of space, including for visiting friends and family.

“It also needed the potential to change as the family grew. For example, there may need to be a homework area in the future, and the boys can hang around in here with friends when they’re older,” says Clarke.

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The owners went for a large island unit featuring a mixture of cabinets and drawers. “This raised island incorporates all the storage that’s needed, and the legs mean it feels more like a moveable piece of furniture,” Clarke explains.

Large floor tiles add a calming neutral base. “This floor was actually already down and replacing it would have been a bit of an upheaval!” says Clarke. “It was cleaned, which made it a lot lighter, and I think it makes a nice neutral backdrop.”

There’s another break-out seating area under the window, where the family can enjoy the light and the view.

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At the far end of the kitchen-diner is a cosy seating area. A sofa in duck-egg blue adds a soothing counterpoint to all the grey. The owners decided to add a brick-rimmed fireplace opposite the dining table for a cosy feel.

Features such as the soft grey walls, tiled floor and midcentury-style furniture help to maintain a unifying ‘flow’ between the room’s different zones.

Grey This dining chairs by Stefan Diez for E15 at Viaduct. Sofa, West Elm.

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The large black range cooker is by French brand Lacanche and is a chunky 1405mm wide.

“The owners wanted a ceramic induction hob, but also a gas ring. With these cookers, you can configure your preferred set-up on top,” says Clarke.

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On sunny days, the light filters in through the generous-sized windows, create an uplifting atmosphere. This room also has amazing views across the city to Canary Wharf.

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The taps feature traditional crossheads, and the brass colour adds warmth and a vintage feel.

Are you a fan of traditional kitchens? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.
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