Moving a kitchen in a listed building

The things to look out for when moving the heart of the home in a period house

May 1, 2024

The urge to move a kitchen

Moving a kitchen in a listed building is a common aspiration for many owners. Here we outline some of the key considerations and some important pieces of advice for all those facing the dilemma of a beautiful house with a configuration of rooms that don’t quite meet the needs of modern family life.

Why move the kitchen at all?

In the larger country house it was typical for kitchens to be located as far away from the family quarters as possible, thus eliminating noise, cooking smells and reducing risk of fire from the family part of the house.

In addition they were also often placed on the north side of the house, principally to stop direct sunlight from 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.

A cozy, vintage kitchen with warm lighting featuring a large wooden table filled with pots and utensils, a rustic stove, cabinets, and hanging copper pans.

Plate 1: Traditionally, kitchens were sited on the north side away from the main house

When to seek advice

For Grade 1 and 2 listed properties in the UK you may need to apply for Listed Building Consent from your local planners and this can also sometimes require the involvement of Historic England.  You will need advice from an architect familiar with listed buildings and local planners. It is also highly advisable to consult interior architectural joinery designers well-versed in moving kitchens in listed buildings. This ensures optimal space planning to meet you and your family’s needs. This work is best done well in advance of planning applications to confirm the proposed architectural details of how the kitchen is laid out and to prevent subsequent planning applications needing to be submitted.

A cozy kitchen with yellow cabinetry, patterned ceramic tiles, dark countertops, and shelves filled with dishes and plants, showing a warm and traditional design aesthetic.

Plate 2: a Yellow House Keepers kitchen design in a listed building

The 4 things you should know

1) 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 to a living room or dining room, is the need for a new location for these supporting functions. We often achieve this by breaking up the new space using joinery or architecture, but this can be challenging in rooms such as dining rooms which may have high ceilings and elaborate fibrous plaster mouldings.

2) The second issue is a lack of usable wall space. In a back of house kitchen, the original architect will have designed the windows above head height providing ample wall space for 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 for furniture. Bear this in mind when considering which room to move your kitchen into.

3) When exploring Grade 1 or 2 listed kitchen ideas and inspiration you’ll quickly discover that kitchen furniture moved into a dining or living room can often look incongruous. To overcome this Artichoke often develop a story which explains how the space might have evolved. This helps tie a design brief together. This could be changing a library for storing curiosities to display cupboards for use as kitchen storage. The important element is imagining how the room can evolve that inspires a design brief as opposed to a purely functional change.

4) Finally access points  into the kitchen from your daily entry point into the house are critical (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 often exactly as fun as it sounds…

A rustic kitchen with a wooden cooks table, stone flooring, and star-patterned drapes. a wooden cabinet and hanging glass pendant lights add to the room’s vintage charm.

Plate 3: Clever manipulation of interior architecture by the Artichoke team

Next steps

Typically clients discover Artichoke in their search for an elegant, beautifully made kitchen and having found us, decide to use us in other areas of their home. This is because many of the principles that apply for kitchens apply elsewhere too and these houses require the highest levels of craft aligned with measured and experienced understanding of the interior architecture and design.