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Real home: An extension that strikes the right balance between form & function

Clean lines, glass surfaces and walnut cabinetry turn this kitchen into an airy and welcoming space
   EKBB Magazine  |  written on: 16-04-2022 16:00pm

"When people visit the house, they often say it’s like a Tardis,” laughs Vanessa Walter, who lives in this Bristol property with her husband Frank and their two young children. “They come in and find this incredible space at the back.”

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Quick View

- Owners/residents: Vanessa Walter, her husband Frank and their two children
- Designer: Richard Keyes, head of design at Hobsons Choice

- Style: Contemporary
- Kitchen feature: Engineered walnut is the hero material in this kitchen, bringing warmth to the space via the tall cabinetry and island bar. The sleek wood contrasts with Silestone quartz worktops and ceramic tiled flooring with underfloor heating, in a natural white finish

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It’s not surprising to hear of the awe the space inspires. Its mixture of polished glass walls and engineered walnut cabinetry is an exercise in how to blend contemporary design without compromising the period character of the four-storey building. Vanessa says it’s completely transformed the way the family uses their home. “It’s not an exaggeration to say the new kitchen has changed our lives. We live in here, entertain in here a lot and the children play in here – despite the fact we have a playroom underneath the kitchen!” she continues.

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Vanessa and Frank knew the project was going to be an ambitious one, so they enlisted the help of architect firm Paul Archer Design, a company specialising in old to new. “The old kitchen was just a little space at the back which would originally have been the drawing room,” explains Vanessa. “It was quite small compared to the size of the house.” And so, a major conversion began. The back of the house was completely removed in order to build an entirely new space. With such an investment the couple knew the kitchen they put in the room would have to live up to the space surrounding it.

“We’d fallen in love with the engineered walnut of the bulthaup kitchen when we saw it in a showroom in Germany,” says Vanessa. “We looked at other options but decided that if we were going to be creating this space we needed to put the most fabulous kitchen in there.” Designer Richard Keyes of UK company Hobsons Choice joined the project after Vanessa and Frank made the decision to go with a bulthaup system.

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“Our brief was quite straightforward. We’re both keen cooks and wanted to be able to operate in the kitchen at the same time,” explains Vanessa. “With two young children we knew we also needed space to gather. Plus, we like everything to be neat and tidy, so storage was really important.” The outcome is a contemporary space filled with light which still retains the warmth of a traditional period kitchen. The engineered walnut cabinets contrast with the gloss finish on the bar island countertop and the polished glass, bringing effortless style to the new space and breathing a new lease of life into the Victorian building. Meanwhile a chance encounter with celebrity chef Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir Aux Quat Saison persuaded the couple to invest in a bank of top-spec ovens from Gaggenau.

With a four-year build schedule – including a period of two years when the family had to move out of the home – this was no small project. So, was it all worth it? “We’re planning to live with this for a long time and there’s no question in our mind that it’s our dream kitchen,” says Vanessa.

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Q & A – Richard Keyes, head of design at Hobsons Choice

- What was your initial brief?
We were tasked with developing a design that would offer plenty of storage, working as a social space for a busy family, yet provide a simple, beautiful and elegant kitchen in which to live and work. The configuration of the property effectively pre-determined the location of the kitchen. In this instance, our task was to ensure we fully met our client’s requirements without resulting in a kitchen which overpowered the space as a whole. In short, we had to strike the right balance between form and function.

- What features of the kitchen are you most proud of as the designer?
The kitchen has been designed as a space which seeks to promote social interaction between family and friends – to that end, the hob and main preparation space for the cooking process has been located on the island. By doing so, the owners spend the majority of their time facing out into the house, promoting an immediate visual connection to the dining table, as well as a secondary (direct) connection to the living area and out to the garden. The island also has a bar seating area in walnut. In everyday use, this becomes a wonderfully informal space for the children and friends to sit at and chat. It also works nicely as a staging area for the summertime when dining in the garden.

- What were some of the challenges you faced when designing the space?
It was important for me to reference the dynamic architectural space. While it sounds obvious, it’s key that every kitchen we design feels immediately as if it was made for the space it occupies. That can be more challenging when you’re working with a space like this. We also had to pay a great deal of attention to circulation space, both in the kitchen and around the dining table. It was important to ensure the kitchen didn’t dominate at the expense of the rest of the space.

Credit: Darren Chung (Images), Molly Forbes (Words)
Published: As featured in EKBB Magazine, Issue 253

Also read:
5 stunning kitchen extensions that make a statement

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   EKBB Magazine
The UK's No.1 kitchen, bathroom and bedroom magazine dedicated to real-life luxury homes and turning your design dreams into reality.

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