This exceptional house once belonged to a member of Queen Victoria’s household. It has now been painstakingly restored by its current owner who approached us to reconfigure the kitchen and pantry spaces which were a muddle of small rooms unsuitable for everyday dining and hosting informal supper parties. As often happens, our reach then spread to other areas of the house.
In this case, we were also invited to design and make furniture for a guest kitchen, bedroom wardrobes and a bookshelf and bench seat set within a turret. Our work in this stunning house is not yet done. We are currently designing a billiard room and a kitchen for the cottage.
Our designs are often inspired by fine, antique joinery found in grand period houses.
In this project, the client had seen an image of a bench seat which she loved. It was first assumed to be from Castle Drogo, but turned out to be closer to home; it was discovered by chance in Tyntesfield Abbey by our Project Director on a family outing.
The turret seating, just off the main sitting room, is intended as a quiet place to play cards or chess. It is made of French oak and hand finished to replicate the look and feel of decades of sunlight and use.
Lift-up seats allow for storage and house radiators to offer warmth and comfort. The aged brass metal work grilles are bespoke.
Having seen the quality of the finishing on the bench, the client extended our brief to include the design of curved bookshelves on the floor above.
The shelves, which line the narrow staircase leading from the master bedroom to a private roof terrace, were originally commissioned to another maker. However, our client felt their rare collection of first edition books deserved shelving of a more distinguished character.
The long and welcoming room is flooded with natural light from floor to ceiling windows. The client wanted an understated kitchen designed using natural materials, sustainably sourced, that would wear with age and settle over time. They did not want a kitchen that felt like a modern insertion and yet it had to suit the needs of a contemporary family.
The work surfaces are all native hardwood at the client’s request, but well-sealed and protected. We also designed a sacrificial frame around the sink which can be replaced if the wood becomes damaged over time. The trench heater under the island is designed to deliver the right heat output for the room which has limited wall space.
While a room layout had already been planned by the architect, we suggested an alternative during our first visit which we sketched out on the wall of the old kitchen. The room was eventually built to this new shape, and involved, amongst other things, moving the staircase to allow a more logical flow and designing a limestone over-mantel to create a focal point to make it feel as if the range cooker had always been there.
Originally the over-mantel was to be in over painted stone to make it appear it had been there for many years. However, the client fell in love the stone in its natural state, so we left it as it was to be over-painted by a future generation.
Soapstone was specified for the main sink – carved out of a single block. It was also used for shelves. It is a beautiful, hard wearing material. We designed in a curtain under the sink to add a feminine touch and to soften the slab of soapstone.
The client’s love of colour allowed for some bold choices which have a dramatic effect in bringing warmth and originality to the kitchen and were chosen in consultation with the interior decorator Max Rollitt. We designed the beautiful terracotta painted cook’s table to deliver richness and a subtle sparkle – appropriately glossy to be in keeping with the period and providing a lovely contrast to the pale painted walls. In hand finishing the cook’s table, we replicated the feel of many layers of oil-based paint accumulated over time. Aged sycamore was used for the cook’s tabletop – the rest are oak.
The fridge is housed in a cabinet which we set back into the wall so as not to be too imposing in the room. The glazed oak dresser has restoration glass and displays a fine collection of crockery.
We designed the whole room – including the tea towel rail. Located between the kitchen and the dining room, this space is multipurpose; useful as a scullery and pantry and for additional workspace when entertaining with an extra dishwasher and lots of storage. Historically, Russian deal would have been the timber used for painted furniture such as this. As it is no longer available we use Siberian larch, its nearest equivalent. The work surfaces are sycamore.
The stunning hand painted wallpaper is by Allyson McDermott and replicates William Morris’ pomegranate wallpaper. The curved shelves are shaped around an internal turret. The drawers are lined in silver cloth to reduce tarnishing.
The evocative kitchenette in the basement supports the guest apartment and is designed to be redolent of pantries in a Victorian country house. We decided to introduce shelves instead of cupboards to make the space less utilitarian.
We designed and made the pretty cabinets which discretely house the dishwasher and fridge. Again, the cabinets are made of Siberian larch, this time painted in Farrow and Ball Wet Sand.
The jib doors are designed to be discrete and flush with the walls papered with Robert Kime wallpaper. The interiors are made of cedar of Lebanon to deter moths. The doors have a timber frame surround which can be removed if necessary, to be repapered in the future.
The joy of this project was working with a client who had a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve – to invisibly restore a handsome stone-built house that had fallen into disrepair after decades of neglect.
Working hand in hand with her and her team, we were able to bring the house back to life – bringing atmosphere and authenticity with joinery and cabinetry that is as appropriate to the house as it is useful to a modern family. Read more about this phenomenal project in World of Interiors.