16th Century Farmhouse | Surrey Hills

Family kitchen

This charming farmhouse, nestled in an idyllic rural setting, provided a perfect location for our clients to bring up their young family. However, as is often the case, the way the house had developed over the years meant that the kitchen was small and remote.

As a listed building, there were limited options to connect the kitchen with the dining and living space. The clients’ brief was therefore to convert an ancient barn adjacent to the main house, to give their family a spacious kitchen, dining, and living area.

Planning space and architecture in barn conversions

Originally an agricultural building, the long barn has a timber structure raised off the ground by a stone plinth and foundation wall. Typical to this area of the southern Home Counties, the timber structure is closed by weatherboarding and painted black. Adapting a very old barn into a domestic space is not straightforward and required expert intervention to maintain the heritage of the building whilst achieving modern building regulations.

Our early surveys revealed that the height of the foundation wall needed painstaking planning and coordination with the builders to plot new window and door apertures so our furniture could sit squarely into a building that was fundamentally not square. Our challenge was to accommodate the uneven frame and find solutions to resolve the changes in floor level between the original house, the barn, and the gardens on either side.

Technical and functional aspects of kitchen design

The striking feature of the barn is the oak roof structure with its complex struts and trusses. Though beautiful they were ergonomically troublesome in planning the kitchen – as a barn it did not matter where these braces were located – not so in a domestic space. We had to make sure they were incorporated seamlessly into the kitchen design without becoming an obstacle.

The long, relatively narrow shape of the room dictated a galley kitchen design which can be a very efficient way of organising the space. Furnished on one side, a galley route provides a practical run between the washing up area and the electric AGA. The kitchen island provides additional work surface and storage as well as an electric oven. Generous refrigeration and larder space is located opposite the sink – convenient for unloading the shopping.

Materials and features as design elements

There is no doubt that the exposed rafters are the hero of this rustic oak kitchen, bringing warmth and atmosphere to the space. But we had to design furniture to complement the exposed structure rather than compete with it. We chose oak for the cabinetry, with a subtle antiqued colour wash that emphasises the natural honeyed tones of the beams above.

Seating was created beyond the dining area, and, at the client’s request, we added a chimney and open fire. We raised the level of the fireplace so that it could be seen from the other end of the room, with timber stored below. To make the chimney-piece feel consistent with the rest of the stonework we specified whitewashed reclaimed bricks.

Introducing modern extraction without interfering with the lines of the beams was a conundrum resolved by using reclaimed rafters to create a chimney gather that looks like part of the original structure. We dressed the area with handmade Moroccan tiles for practicality and visual interest.

The Artichoke effect

The whole idea for this project was to create a large, peaceful family space to cook, eat and relax in. The barn, set perpendicular to the house, was an imaginative choice, and with our help has become the heart of the busy household.

Period and listed buildings are one of our particular specialisms. We incorporated a truly bespoke kitchen design that added a natural flow and rhythm to how the house is used which enhances the way the family wanted to live whilst enhancing the character of the building.