A future proof family kitchen for a Sussex cottage conversion

We speak to Openhaus kitchen designer Jon Hunt to hear all the details behind his latest kitchen renovation, including a structural pillar and storage solutions

Kitchen extension for a Victorian Sussex lodge

When you love your home and don’t want to move, but it’s no longer quite right for your lifestyle, what do you do?

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Oak veneer neo kitchen renovation

The answer, say Ali and Paul Cunningham, is to re-think the layout and extend – and they’ve done this not just once, but twice.

Modern kitchen extension with central island and breakfast bar
Photo styling by Portia Lubbock, photography by Paul Craig

The project in a nutshell:

The property: An extended Victorian lodge in Sussex

Who lives here: Ali and Paul Cunningham and their two sons, Sam and Tom

The designer: Jon Hunt, designer at Openhaus Kitchen

Budget: Openhaus Kitchens start at £25,000

Kitchen extension with an undermount sink
Photo styling by Portia Lubbock, photography by Paul Craig

“When we moved in as a couple 23 years ago, it was a perfectly-sized three-bedroom cottage,” explains Ali of their early Victorian lodge in Sussex. “Then our sons were born, so we knocked down a leaking lean-to conservatory and replaced it with a playroom and extended to add a kitchen, further bedroom and bathroom to create more space.

“Now, we’ve extended again to replace the old drawing room with a larger, open-plan kitchen-dining living space that much better suits the way we like to live as a family now,” he adds.

In the process, they have converted the former kitchen into a family TV snug and made the old dining room into Ali’s study. Ali volunteers locally and Paul is a solicitor, while their sons, Sam, 21, and Tom, 18, are students, so life is busy.

Deep blue kitchen renovation with triple oven and wood accents
Photo styling by Portia Lubbock, photography by Paul Craig

“We wanted to create a room where everyone could be together, but not on top of each other,” explains Ali, who says that friends are frequent visitors, while both her brothers and their families will join in the festivities at Christmas. “Everyone can get together in this room – there’s plenty of space,” she says.

Light and bright kitchen extension with central island
Photo styling by Portia Lubbock, photography by Paul Craig

After researching a number of potential kitchen suppliers, Ali and Paul settled on a local Sussex company, OpenHaus, after admiring its showroom and the friendly approach of the staff.

Kitchen extension with handleless outframe cabinetry
Photo styling by Portia Lubbock, photography by Paul Craig

“My previous kitchen had felt cluttered, so this time I wanted clean lines, plenty of storage and work surface space, and easy maintenance – no nooks and crannies for dirt to hide,” she says, “I love blue and white as a fresh, crisp combination, and I felt it would work beautifully in this space.”

No more extensions or modifications in the house then? “It’s a very comfortable space, and I think we’ve future proofed it,” laughs Ali, “we both feel we’ve got it right this time.”

We speak to designer Jon Hunt about all the ins and outs of the process.

What was the key challenge?

It was important to create a well-balanced layout in a large space, and to resolve what some may see as a problem – the structural pillar in the centre of the room. We designed a large island which not only embraces the pillar so that is no longer an obstacle, but also provides plenty of work surface, the cooking zone, drawers for storage, a built under fridge and freezer, and a breakfast bar.

Kitchen extension for family of four
Photo styling by Portia Lubbock, photography by Paul Craig

Can you tell us about the colours and materials?

The furniture is finished in a velvety-matt lacquer in a deep blue, which contrasts with slender, 20mm white worktops and white-painted walls. The worktops are made from Dekton, which is an ultra-compact porcelain surface material which is very robust and highly stain, scratch and heat resistant, ideal in a busy kitchen. Ali and Paul chose a solid oak handmade breakfast bar and oak cladding for the structural pillar, and limestone flooring, which all add natural warmth to the scheme.

How did you design the extraction?

Powerful, quiet extraction is especially important in an open-plan room like this one. This model is unobtrusive, almost ‘disappearing’ into the ceiling, with its ducting hidden above.

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Kitchen extension with lots of natural light
Photo styling by Portia Lubbock, photography by Paul Craig

How did you plan the tall units?

There are two large banks of tall units, one to house the ovens and fridge, the other the walk-in larder. Both are recessed into the walls to minimise their bulk and create a streamlined finish in keeping with the clean, unfussy design of the room.