Rewriting history: see inside the once-derelict space that has been lovingly restored

Designers transformed a time-worn shell with an elegant and sympathetic kitchen design

On discovering what would be their future home, Yvonne and Stuart Denyer were confronted with a property that needed a lot of restoration. ‘We bought the house about 10 years ago,’ explains Yvonne. ‘It was completely derelict and used to be a nursing home in a former life.’

Real life home: Rewriting history
HIGHLY DECORATED Homeowners Yvonne and Stuart specified decorative Shaker-style cabinetry with ornate cornicing to complement the room’s spectacular Victorian coving

However, it didn’t take much imagination to envision what could become of the space. Although in need of repair, its lofty proportions and original features made sufficient impression for the couple to take up the task of bringing this Victorian villa in Hove back to life.

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Real life home: Rewriting history
TALL ORDER To fit the proportions of the high-ceilinged rooms, tall cabinetry was required. It also allows plenty of space for appliances

After renovating the kitchen once, some five or six years later they decided to re-design the space, now better aware of its limitations having lived with it and with the addition of daughter Taryn, now nine, in tow.

Real life home: Rewriting history
HIDDEN ASSETS Countertop appliances are tucked away in a small pantry, which has the same Cimstone worktop to ensure that it’s durable against coffee spills

‘We came to the conclusion that we could better it by reconfiguring the layout of the kitchen,’ says Yvonne. ‘We decided to flip the rooms by putting the kitchen where the dining room once was, while also opening up the space to the hallway beyond.’

Real life home: Rewriting history
BESPOKE PROFILE The bespoke in-frame Shaker-style kitchen, created by Forest Designs Bespoke, features an inner moulding and bead detail

However, the couple struggled when it came to finding a kitchen designer who shared their vision for the space. ‘We started to work with a few designers, but with every drawing that came back, we didn’t feel anyone was really getting what we wanted.’

Many were reluctant to block up an original door from the kitchen. It was interior designer Lee Shingles of Isola Designs who answered the call with the layout that now works so well for the couple in their new space.

Real life home: Rewriting history
CONVENIENCE STORE The handsome in-frame cabinetry offers plenty of helpful storage solutions

When it came to the style of the kitchen, however, there was no question that they would keep to a more traditional style to honour the Victorian property and the beautifully ornate coving that they painstakingly restored during the renovation.

Real life home: Rewriting history
KEEP IT CLASSIC A flush Barazza gas hob enhances the more traditional feel of the kitchen

‘We were always going to go for a Shaker style,’ says Yvonne, ‘but decided on something more decorative with nice cornicing that would complement the coving.’

Real life home: Rewriting history
FLIP SIDE The kitchen and dining room were swapped in the re-design, ensuring Yvonne, Stuart and Taryn can make the most of the light from the bay window when socialising at the island

With the room’s deceptively high ceilings requiring taller-than-average cabinetry, it’s a space that now fully caters to their storage needs and permits the odd useful luxury. ‘We decided to put in two dishwashers. They make a huge difference when you’re hosting a dinner party.’

Real life home: Rewriting history
IN FULL VIEW Glass-fronted doors put kitchenware on open display

Their kitchen is now a place to which the family actively gravitates. There’s no better evidence of the couple’s love for the space than the fact that it’s totally changed their outlook on cooking, as Yvonne confirms. ‘The kitchen has completely re-invigorated our love of food. We love spending time in here cooking and socialising.’

Project profile 

Q&A with Lee Shingles, Founder, Isola Designs 

What was the brief for the project? The space didn’t flow from the front door to the kitchen as it should in a house of this calibre, while the kitchen felt small and dark in relation to the light-filled, bay-window dining area, which was where the new kitchen is now.  It had to be a fabulous entertaining kitchen as the clients love cooking and entertaining. They also wanted to make the space, including the kitchen, ‘luminous’. And no grey!

How did you make the most of the space? My principal aim from the outset was to move the whole kitchen to the dining area and block up the two doors to allow a large L-shape design for the kitchen. After continually examining the floor plan, it was the only way to create more space and meet the brief.  This meant moving the gas and plumping from one side of the house to the other, freeing up the main wall to allow the original kitchen to open up and adding full-height, room-dividing doors to create the flow and connect the space from the hall. The doors also flood the hall with natural light. 

What was the space’s biggest challenge? While the footprint is large, a significant amount of the walls is taken up by windows or doors and a chimney, so trying to squeeze everything in was a challenge. The appliance wish list was quite comprehensive – full-height fridge, full-height freezer, full-height wine fridge, two ovens, two dishwashers, large sinks, large hob and a double larder! 

How did you pick the cabinetry to complement the space? The cabinetry is in-frame with an inner moulding to a Shaker-style door and bead detail to the frame. It was important not to try to compete with the architectural detailing in the room, but to also add enough detail to complement it.  

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Photos by Nick Smith.