Best room in the house: a workshop turned kitchen with glorious sea views

It took a bit of persuasion, but Janette Pittock finally achieved her dream of turning her husband’s workshop into a statement family kitchen

Until June last year, every time Janette Pittock stepped into the garage of her family’s home near Colchester in Essex, she felt a sense of frustration.

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The room where her engineer husband Duncan worked on his classic traction engines was a 16th-century timber-frame barn with stunning views of the countryside and the sea beyond. With a pair of barn doors that opened the space up to the garden, it was clearly the best room in the house and it would, Janette knew, make a great kitchen.

A new veranda was added to the 16th-century barn so that the family can enjoy cooking and eating outside all year round

‘We were in our twenties when we bought the cottage and the barn,’ she explains, ‘and they were in a state of collapse after the great storm of 1987. We did them up, but it took ten years of me moaning at Duncan before he agreed we could move the kitchen into the barn.’

The solid oak refectory table on the left, which seats 14, was a chance buy at a sale of fixtures and fittings from the couple’s son’s old school, while many of the chairs were bought on eBay

Having identified Davonport’s Shaker-style Tillingham as the design of her dreams, Janette invited Richard Davonport to help them transform the barn.

Project profile 

Q&A with Richard Davonport, Director of Davonport

How did you decide on the layout?

Our greatest challenge was working out where the kitchen was going to go and that all depended on how we adjusted the internal structure of the barn.

Janette and Duncan wanted to make the most of the sea view at the gable end and, in the end, it all worked out very naturally.

While Duncan worked with the carpenter to glaze the gable wall, we carefully sealed one of the two large barn doors that were set into the side walls, creating a blank L-shape in one corner where the barn joins the main house to locate the kitchen. 

How did you adapt the kitchen design to work in the space?

We scaled the Tillingham to fit both the corner and the height of the room, and replaced the other large barn door with a glazed bi-fold so that when you stand behind the island, you have a 180-degree view through the bi-fold and the gable wall to the garden and the sea.

Finally, to draw the eye and encourage the family into the main house, we used the old timber door from the gable wall as the door into the snug, adding another talking point to the scheme.

What are you particularly pleased with?

The kitchen has completely changed the room and it still gives me a buzz – the proportions of the island, the mantel and the dresser are all exactly right for this particular space.

Instead of using a mathematical equation, we used 3D renders of the room to help us decide by how much we needed to increase the height of each element so that the kitchen wouldn’t look squat beneath the 4.5m-high ceiling.

Janette had her old Aga re-enamelled in navy to co-ordinate with the blue, grey, brass, stone and wood palette for a classic finish

‘By fully glazing the gable wall, we could enjoy the views from our bedroom as well as in the kitchen,’ she says. And in place of the concrete floor, Janette sourced stone flags at a local reclamation yard. ‘I love the look, but if we were to spill anything, the stone would stain so we take care not to.’

Daughter Faith, an interior architect, designed a bespoke lighting scheme for the room, supplementing the pendant lights with an impressive array of dimmers, shadow gap and spotlights hidden behind the dropped ceiling

Meanwhile a carpenter worked on the gable end, Richard tailored the Tillingham to fit Janette and Duncan’s brief.

‘My old Aga had to be at the heart of the design, and I also wanted a coffee machine and a plate drawer,’ says Janette. ‘Duncan and our interior architect daughter Faith suggested putting sockets inside the chopping block unit.

The plate drawer was high on Janette’s list of must-haves for her new kitchen

‘Faith also helped us to choose the colour and material palettes, as well as designing the lighting scheme. If it had been left to me, I’d have simply installed loads of spotlights.’


Although problems with the argon glass for the gable wall meant the project ran over both time and budget, the combination of family and kitchen designer worked well, says Janette.

‘We managed everything ourselves. The delays and living on site were awful, especially over Christmas, but this is our forever home, so we didn’t skimp and everything looks so beautiful now. It was all worth it.’

As well as storing dry goods, the statement pantry can be used as a glamorous breakfast bar, complete with toaster and phone-charging point


Design Davonport. Kitchens start from £40,000.

Appliances: Integrated Dynamic Cooling refrigerator, ref K37222 iD, £1,299; PureLine Microwave Combination oven, from £1,749 for H 7140 BM Compact microwave combination oven; ContorLine warming drawer, from £320 for EGW 6210 10cm crockery warming drawer; built-in Bean-to-Cup coffee machine in Clean Steel, from £1,096 for CVA 6401 built-in coffee machine, all Miele, all supplied by Davonport. Flex-induction Domino touch-control hob, £729 for iQ700 Flex induction cooktop 30 cm EX375FXB1E, Siemens. Undercounter wine cabinet, Caple. Pro3 Fusion Boiling water tap in stainless steel, £1,150, Quooker. 

Fixtures and furnishings: Bespoke Tillingham beaded frame cabinetry with internal oak drawers painted in Davonport’s own low-emission, environmentally friendly, scratch-resistant and durable paint. For similar colours, try Pointing and Hague Blue, £27 for 75cl, Estate Eggshell, both Farrow & Ball. Burnished brass knob and cup handles, White Fantasy Granite worksurface and splashback, and circular chopping block unit in pollarded burr oak, all Davonport. Reclaimed stone flags, Paul Burrows Reclamation. Glass pendant lights, for similar, try Croft Collection Selsey Glass Ceiling Light, £115 each, John Lewis. Tractor bar stools, No. 24, £85 each, Ford Barns. Bi-fold doors, from £4,128, Softview. Oak frame, from £35,000, Topworks Bespoke Joinery. Walls painted in Ammonite and Manor House Grey paint, £47.94 for 2.5l, Estate Emiulsion, both Farrow & Ball. 

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Photos by Darren Chung