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When old meets new: A lesson in timeless kitchen design

Kitchen design can feel challenging at the best of times. How do you plan adequate storage, practical living spaces and ergonomic working areas while still meeting your aesthetic goals? It really is the ultimate juggling act and one in which an expert eye can be invaluable.

In the case of Roselind Wilson Design’s kitchen scheme for their client’s grand property in Belsize Park, the key challenge lay in how to create a clean, contemporary look against a backdrop of ornate ceilings and intricate period detailing.

“We wanted to celebrate the scale and proportions of this magnificent, high-ceilinged space, while still achieving the contemporary, sophisticated style our clients love,” says Roselind Wilson, Owner and Creative Director of Roselind Wilson Design.

“The choice of materials was absolutely crucial here in order to achieve the perfect relationship between the contemporary finishes and the period details. And, of course, we needed to approach the layout with infinite precision in order to maximise the space and create distinct zones for dining, cooking and socialising.”

Room to breathe 

The starting point for this project was to create a large kitchen in what had formerly been a grand reception room. The existing period features had to be taken into consideration, but a key part of the brief was to create a room that felt like a living space rather than simply a kitchen. Roselind Wilson and her team designed a sophisticated, welcoming space that would become the heart of this large, elegant home.

“To ensure the room would feel sociable rather than ‘kitcheny’, we limited tall cabinetry to just one wall while keeping all the other units at a low level,” explains Roselind. “The idea was to create blocks of freestanding furniture rather than fitted joinery in order to retain a ‘living room’ feel to the space. The tall units were given a moody, gentleman’s club vibe with a dark brown oak veneer, while a graphite laminate finish was chosen for the island and sink units.
“The dramatic fireplace also adds to the sense of this room being a living space rather than ‘just’ a kitchen. The bespoke, honed Nero Marquina marble surround we designed adds drama to the space and chimes with the marble table top.”

Old meets new 

It’s always a pleasure to be presented with high ceilings and period features, but with this particular project the challenge came with how to bring contemporary styling into this impressive space. The answer lay in adopting a sensitive approach which recognised the room’s history while creating striking contrasts.

“We worked closely with English Heritage on how best to retain and restore the room’s beautiful period details which included ornate coving and an original ceiling rose,” says Roselind. “Once this was achieved, we added sleek cabinetry from Kitchen Architecture’s Bulthaup B3 range to create a striking contrast with the period features.

“The island unit with its matt graphite finish was large enough to contain two Gaggenau gas hobs as well as a pair of downdraft extractors, and the crisp Carrara marble on the sink run, splashback and dining table provides welcome contrast. We also specified several different textures across the space such as bronze, blackened steel and oak to create depth and to achieve a clean, sophisticated look.”

Take a seat

With a beautiful, large bay window at one end of the room, banquette seating felt like the natural choice here and it became the starting point for the layout of the room. The design then works back from here towards the entrance, keeping the island and sink run at a low level.

“Creating the bespoke, curved bench allowed us to bring pattern and fabric into the mix,” says Roselind. “The strong, black-and-white stripes provide the perfect contrast to the Carrara marble topped table and classic wishbone chairs.” Other seating in this room is provided via low profile oak bar stools which can easily be tucked under the breakfast bar when not in use.

Let there be light 

“Choosing the right lighting is always important, but for this scheme it was absolutely essential to get it spot on because of the very high ceilings and dramatic period detailing,” says Roselind. “The large ceiling rose called for an equally imposing light so we decided that CTO Lighting’s Array pendant would create the perfect balance.” Its bronze and satin brass metalwork aligns with details on the cabinetry below, and the black cotton shades reference the feature wall and striped banquette. The shades are also lined with a gold finish that creates a lovely warm glow across the island and breakfast bar.

With such high ceilings, the task lighting had to be powerful and fully directional so that light could be targeted on the working areas around the sink and the island. Roselind’s design team also selected recessed spotlights for general lighting which are dimmable and controlled by an integrated lighting system. The graphite bare bulb hooked wall light positioned next to the banquette provides an extra visual touch.

So how does the client feel about their new kitchen? “They were so delighted with the end result!” says Roselind. “The look and feel of the room conveys the impression of a stately home while still retaining the edgy yet sophisticated style of this young, dynamic couple.”

3 Top tips for tackling kitchen design 

1) Consider how you will use the space
“It’s really important to think about how you’re going to use your kitchen before you start planning your design,” says Roselind Wilson. “Is cooking your main focus? If so, you need to make sure you have adequate task areas and carefully sited appliances. Are you big entertainers? Then you may want to think about installing a sociable island around which you and your friends can gather for a glass of fizz!”

2) Do your research and seek expert advice
“Your new kitchen is likely to be one of the biggest investments you make in your home so it’s crucial to do as much research as possible to ensure you make the right choices,” says Roselind. “However, with so many options available it can feel like a bit of a minefield, which is one of the reasons why our clients come to us for help. As interior design experts, it’s our job to keep up with the latest advances in materials, technology and lighting to help you make the right choices for your specific needs. Not only can we help you create a stunning kitchen which performs brilliantly, we can also help you avoid making costly mistakes.”

3) Try to think holistically
“When planning the look and feel of your kitchen, try to view it holistically in terms of how the design will fit in within the context of the home as a whole,” says Roselind. “As the kitchen is often the core socialising space, there needs to be a sense of flow and connection between this room and the rest of your home. For our Belsize Park project, we were careful to ensure that the finishes and textures in the kitchen flowed organically throughout the entire apartment.” Subtle links were created such as the use of blackened steel doors for the kitchen, master dressing room and shower to integrate the design aesthetic throughout the property.

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