For a truly bespoke kitchen in every sense of the word, how about designing, sourcing and fitting your own? That’s what writer and local resident, Rachael Tilling, decided to do when renovating a 19th Century cottage in Alderley Edge.
She opens the doors on her new kitchen, which she designed completly from scratch, and gives you direct access to her contacts book should you be brave enough to give it a go yourself.
“We are undertaking a whole-house renovation of an old cottage which originates from 1820. It’s a huge task as we’re taking every room back to brick, and transforming the entire house and gardens. I’m interested in natural, sustainable products made to a high standard and with real craftsmanship. I want to achieve a characterful but modern, luxury interior throughout the house that’s suitable for a busy family with two energetic young boys.
“Ultimately I needed a kitchen that would stand the test of time, that was easy to maintain and would take a few knocks here and there. I also wanted to be able to update it in the future with a repaint. It had to be well-designed, well made and built of robust hardwood timber, but I wanted it to be refined and contemporary in style, not traditional and fussy like some timber kitchens.
“I knew of three potential suppliers, Neptune, Devol and Plain English, which all offer beautiful, bespoke kitchens with a contemporary twist. After some further research, including a visit to their London showroom, I couldn’t get Plain English kitchens out of my mind. They build high-end kitchens that are uniquely styled – i’ve never come across anything quite like them, the craftsmanship is incredible. However, things took a bit of a turn when I discovered a little known secret…they have a sister brand.
“At their sister brand, British Standard, you can buy a standard range of ready-primed timber units that use the same high-quality materials and fine craftsmanship as Plain English but without the bespoke design, delivery, fitting, painting etc. They arrive as solid built units, there’s no self assembly element to them. It really got me interested as I like a challenge. A quick trip down to their showrooms in Hoxton, London, and I was sold. The showroom and website is full of gallery images of cool hipster and retro-looking kitchens, but you can style and finish them anyway you like.
“So impressed was HRH Prince Charles with the quality and craftsmanship of these cabinets, he collaborated with the owners on an eco house project at the Ideal Home Show for his Prince’s Foundation for Building Community. I can understand why he singled out this company above others – and if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.
“I was excited about creating a high-quality kitchen of my own design. I’ve done a few room renovations before, although never from bare brick. The new kitchen was created out of two barely useable rooms (neither a kitchen originally) but I have some amazing contacts who helped me to pull it all together.
“After the major structural work was complete – knocking the two rooms together and bringing in the services – it was fairly straightforward. It took six weeks from laying the floor to installing the kitchen and I love what we’ve achieved. It’s now a fabulously light and roomy family kitchen/diner. It’s great to cook and entertain in and takes minimum looking after – it’s now a fun, sociable and inviting space. We’re still furnishing it but we’re 75 per cent of the way there. We have yet to agree on items like barstools, dining table and chairs. I’ve ordered some floating oak shelves for the back wall and some lovely local art work.
“It’s now a very practical family kitchen as well as looking great. The Quartz worktops, which I’ve also used for the backsplash, are super stylish and resilient to spills and stains. The limed-oak timber floor is also pretty forgiving too – as long as you wipe up any liquid spills quickly. All the units have soft close doors and drawers which helps to protect the joints from over rigorous use. Little things, like the pull-down sprayer tap and under-mounted sink, make a big difference to the usability of the space.
“I opted for a pyrolytic range oven with induction hob and it’s fantastic. The hob cooks like gas but because the hob top only transfers heat directly to the pans, you can make use of any other hob space as extra useable surface, as it’s all cool. Induction heat is perfectly safe for little fingers too, those ones that sneak up behind you when you’re not looking! I sourced eco-friendly appliances too, with low noise output. They were a bit more expensive but well worth it. The extractor hood, dishwasher and fridge-freezer are barely audible so conversations can carry on as normal whilst cooking/tidying up.
“I didn’t want high wall units along the back, just open shelves, so I had clever storage systems put into most of the cupboards and drawers so that we use all the space effectively. It includes a refuse system which is brilliant for managing the recycling. While it’s not an enormous kitchen in cabinet count, it probably has more useable and accessible space than many larger kitchens.
“There have been a couple of compromises along the way. The main one being we couldn’t achieve a freestanding island unit as I’d originally wanted because the kick boards are an integral part of the units. Also, I was advised against choosing a very dark blue paint for the island (you would need the units sprayed rather than hand-painted to achieve a great result on a dark colour). I ended up with a lighter, brighter blue/green, which has worked out well – it’s warm and fun, perfect for a family and complements the grey colour of the tall units and drawers along the back wall.
“Overall it was a very positive experience and probably saved us quite a few quid too, which can be used elsewhere on this major ongoing renovation. The kitchen is a work of art and I have every respect for the skilled craftsmen and women who have made our kitchen cabinets using authentic methods and quality renewable materials, which should last a lifetime – I absolutely love them.
“My advice to anyone who wants to give this a go, use recommended professionals who are specialists in their areas of expertise. Although I knew what I wanted, I still used a professional interior designer to layout my kitchen plan, to ensure my measurements and sizes were correct and to provide clear direction for the builders and other suppliers.
“I would also say, spend some quality time reviewing your colour palette. You need to see your unit colour/s in-situ, painted up onto some particle board or MDF. Live with the colours for a few days, move them around your room and see how you feel. Above all, have fun and enjoy the experience of having ultimate control over the space you live in.”
To download Rachael’s kitchen contacts book, click here.
Also, check out this project on Houzz, where you can ask Rachael and the Luxury Cheshire team any questions about the project.