Upgrading the kitchen of a 16th century house in Canterbury took a daring mix of classical sensitivity and forward-thinking innovation in order to give a new heart to the home
When a move from London back to the country was on the cards for Melissa and partner Jo, they didn’t dare hope that the former manor house in Melissa’s hometown could be within their sights. ‘My mum told me it was for sale and we should take a look. I remember my parents going to parties there when I was a youngster. Well when we looked, of course we fell in love with the place,’ says Melissa. However, not only did the couple take a gamble on a larger, older house with a Grade II listing, they also trusted that they could make a welcoming gathering place in the original, 16th century heart of their new home. ‘This was quite a long room, with light coming in from only one end, so the area where the table is now felt like a dark cave. The old kitchen units wrapped around the window, cutting out about a third of the light, and the French doors were obscured by several wardrobe-type cupboards along the wall.’
The essence of their brief was ‘find us more light’, and so imperative was this that Melissa and Jo added ‘even if it’s at the expense of function’. Happily, the design enables light to stretch all the way into the room, thanks to the huge island that provides the storage that would otherwise be necessarily housed in light-blocking wall units. As an adjunct to the massive workspace provided by the island, the old chimney breast, which the pair had initially felt pressure to fill with an Aga (‘because that’s what you do when you live in the country’), now houses a deep, walk-in where Melissa keeps all of her baking essentials. This new workspace contributes to a design that delivers airiness and functionality for keen cooks to work together.
To make the space evocative of Melissa and Jo’s family – Poppy, 14, Oscar, 17, Alfie the black Golden Doodle, cats Vito and Sybil, eight chickens and 60,000 newly rehomed bees – Melissa added her own talents to the mix. ‘Where the previous sink unit had covered the bottom of the window, there was no architrave there, so I built that myself to fit in with the style of the house. There isn’t a single right angle in this kitchen (which was a bit of a nightmare for designer and fitter Vivienne and Nick), so the fact that my architrave is a bit wonky seems appropriate. I also made the curtain, sourced and fitted the Mexican tiles around the sink, and hung some fish chocolate moulds we found in a market in Montbazillac. I wanted the children to have some workspace at our huge table. The lights above are on a track, so move to where you need task lighting. They were a steal from Dunelm Mill, because I love a bargain.’
On how she feels about the finished article, Melissa enthuses: ‘The kitchen is just transformed. Our big, oak table seats 12, and actually I can’t wait to drag in some benches from the garden, and have everyone around it at Christmas this year.’
Kitchen prices start from £15,000 at Kitchen Co-ordination
Photos by Paul Craig
Article by: Kate Rowe