Moving a Kitchen in a Listed Building

Moving a kitchen in a listed building is a common requirement among many new country and listed house owners, and it’s becoming increasingly popular as family lifestyles continue to become less formal.

The first question we ask is ‘What’s wrong with the kitchen where it is?’ (although we can almost always predict the answer).  In the larger country house it was typical for kitchens to be located by the original architect as far away from the family quarters as possible, thus eliminating noise, cooking smells and reducing risk of a fires (most likely to start in the kitchen), spreading to the family part of the house.

In addition to locating the kitchen as far away as possible, it was also often placed on the north side of the house, principally to stop direct sunlight spoiling food in the pantry and also to take advantage of the prevailing south westerly winds which would push chimney smoke caused by the kitchen fires away from the main house and gardens.

So, pre 1900, country house kitchens were sited at the extremities of a building on its north side, while today we want our kitchens at the centre of our homes, usually facing south.


When to Seek Advice?

If you want to move a kitchen in a listed building you’re going to have to seek Listed Building Consent from your local planners, sometimes with the involvement of Historic England (it used to be English Heritage and we explore the difference between the two organisations in this earlier article.)   This exercise will need an architect or heritage architect familiar with your local planners.  However, it is well worth seeking advice from a specialist bespoke kitchen designer in parallel with these conversations to ensure the space being allocated by the architect is optimal, appropriate and will meet you and your family’s needs.  Ideally this should happen well before the planning application is submitted.  Not doing so could mean the proposed architecture limits how the kitchen is laid out, with subsequent planning applications needed for changes to improve the space.

What are the Issues of Moving a Kitchen in a Listed Building?

There are four key issues to be aware of.

Firstly, in a big family house, the original kitchen is likely to have been supported by a series of ancillary rooms, such as a scullery, larder or butler’s pantry.  The issue many clients face when moving a kitchen from its original location, say to a living room or dining room, is there will usually need to be provision within the new location for these supporting functions.  We will often achieve this by breaking the new space up using joinery or architecture, but this can often be challenging in a room such as dining room which often have very high ceilings and can be festooned with elaborate fibrous plaster mouldings.

The second issue to consider is lack of useable wall space.  In a back of house kitchen, the original architect will often have designed the windows above head height as per the image above, providing ample wall space against which to place ovens and dressers.  In a dining room or living room there are often impressive windows, French doors or grand fireplaces, limiting the available wall space against which kitchen furniture can be placed.  Bear this in mind when considering which room to move your kitchen in to.

The third issue is focussed on aesthetics.  Kitchen furniture moved into a dining room or living room without a sensitive design approach can often look incongruous.  To overcome this we will often develop a fictitious story which illustrates how the space was evolved.  This will help tie a design brief together.  For example, we were recently asked to design a kitchen into one of the principle living spaces in a Chateau in Burgundy, France.  Rather than just take the room we were given to design a kitchen into it, we developed the following narrative with the client.

Before being a kitchen, the room was used by the previous owner as a collector’s library in which she stored curiosities from her travels around the world.  

Creating such a narrative will provide focus to Artichoke’s creative team, so instead of a designing a kitchen plonked into what was an old Salon, the room becomes a grand albeit slightly eccentric library repurposed as a kitchen, which is a much more exciting and beguiling option!

To successfully move this kitchen into what was once a reception room required clever manipulation of interior archiecture by the Artichoke team.


Finally it is worth considering your access into the kitchen from your daily entry point into the house (usually nearest the car) and whether moving the kitchen to the new space will make this access more cumbersome.  Dragging the family shopping through the centre of the house is as fun as it sounds!

Next Steps

Each house is different, so there are many other factors that can sometimes raise their heads. If you are considering moving a kitchen in a listed building we’d be happy to talk through the options with you.
Email with any questions or call is on 01934 745270.


The Difference Between English Heritage & Historic England

Recently, there has been some confusion about the difference between English Heritage and Historic England, and in particular which organisation is now responsible for overseeing amendments to listed houses.

Until lately, English Heritage was the name of the body responsible for looking after England’s historic monuments and listed buildings.  Their responsibilities stretched from looking after national public monuments such as Stonehenge, to works on private listed houses. In 2015 it was decided these two quite distinct responsibilities should be separated.

The body now responsible for England’s listed houses and buildings (and also the Heritage at Risk register) is called Historic England.  They are a public body funded by the Government, and their role is principally to manage the National Heritage List for England, which is a database of England’s designated heritage assets (such as listed houses, churches, scheduled monuments and battlefields).   Therefore, anyone who owns a listed property, including many of our clients here at Artichoke, will be dealing with Historic England on matters concerning alterations to their listed property.

English Heritage, the body that used to deal with homeowner, is now a charity completely separate from the listed buildings process.  Their role is now to care for hundreds of historic ‘public’ sites across the country, such as Hadrian’s Wall, Dover Castle, Osborne House and Audley End House (below)


audley end house


How does each grade of listing affect your project?

Listed private houses are essentially those considered worthy of protection owing to their architectural or historic interest, with listings separated into Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II.  Regardless of the grade a house is listed at, Historic England has extra control over what changes can be made to its interior and exterior.  In general, each listing covers the whole building as well as any attached structures, additions or fixtures and in many cases land or buildings which come within the surrounding land or curtilage of the building (such as barns, outbuildings etc).

As can be the case with VAT and listed houses, there is little consistency between planning districts and planning officers.  Some Conservation Officers can be relaxed, while others are very particular about what would appear to be the smallest detail.

If you are using a local architect, it is often worth discussing your appointed planning office, as working with the right Conservation Officer for your project can really make a difference.

For more information on the range of project management services we offer, from design, installation and finish, please click here.  As ever, do call us if you’d like to discuss this particular matter further +44 (0)1934 745270


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