The owner of this Plain English kitchen until recently lived a stone’s throw away, in a farmhouse in rural Suffolk, England, that had been in her husband’s family for nearly a century. Newly widowed and with three children who would soon all be away at university, she decided to downsize without having to uproot: she’s in the process of selling her house to a young family, and has moved with her youngest daughter into new quarters converted from a series of interlocking barns and sheds.
She hired architect Mark Trebilcock to design the conversion, and was able to tick off the first of many decisions on her list by turning to Plain English for the kitchen, which we’re spotlighting here. The Plain English workshop is only 10 miles away, on an old Georgian estate, and had supplied the farmhouse’s upgraded kitchen 10 years earlier. Plain English senior designer Sarah Picton made site visits early on and at key stages all along the way. Trebilcock is also nearby—he left a big practice in London to semi-retire in Suffolk and had converted his own barn into a bright, airy living space for his mother-in-law. Seeing this project, the owner knew she had found a simpatico designer: it was important to her to preserve the integrity of the existing structures—she remembers milking cows feeding in the shed that’s now the kitchen—but in lieu of barnyard quaint had in mind a sunny, sustainable, modern-rustic household hub. Come see.
Above: The kitchen is housed in a century-old shed that was only a third enclosed—the sliding glass doors were inserted in the formerly open section. The room is approximately 430 square feet with a 14-foot-tall peaked ceiling paneled in birch plywood with exposed piping. The rafters are original–a look Trebilcock continued by framing the windows in old wood.
The owner had loved the gray and white palette in her previous kitchen, but says that here, in such a big space, she worried it would translate as chilly. On a visit to the Plain English showroom, she saw cabinets painted in a powdery hint of pink, one of the company’s proprietary shades known as Mash, and that became the first of a few daring paint choices.
Above: An adjoining vestibule links the kitchen to the 300-year-old main barn that houses the sitting room and bedrooms. The limed-oak wide floorboards—sourced affordably from a local warehouse store after first-choice Dinesen proved too pricy—have under-floor heating. The white walls are lime plaster.
Above: The tongue-and-groove paneled back wall and door opens to a pantry that’s still a work in progress. The paneled wall and the island are painted Farrow & Ball’s Sulking Room Pink—”shades of calamine are admittedly not what one expects in a kitchen,” the owner tells us, “and I’m not particularly a pink girl, but it warms the space and I love it.” It was Picton who suggested adding some greenery by painting the Plain English stools in the company’s eye-catching Pretty Pickle.
The island is a Plain English classic, the Osea design, which here incorporates “oak fruit trays,” drawers for storing produce spaced for ventilation and so the contents are visible. The main fridge is in the pantry and there are also fridge drawers—Fisher & Paykel CoolDrawers—concealed behind what look like three drawers at the end of the sink counter
Above: The kitchen cabinets are made of poplar with oak veneered interiors and solid oak dovetailed drawers. The counters are blue-black Belgian fossil stone with an “antique sawn” finish: “it looks like unpolished granite,” says the owner, “but if you look closely, there’s a lot more going on.” It’s susceptible to markings, she adds, “but I didn’t want pristine. It’s got life in it already and might as well have rings and scratches. It’s like a wooden floor—it looks better when walked on.”
One of the owner’s favorite features of her kitchen are its two sinks: the main one is the Kohler Iron Tones Smart Divide Sink —with a low divide “so you can fit large oven trays and Aga pans,” says Picton—and a Barber Wilson bridge mixer tap in satin nickel. The island is fitted with a Franke Ariane stainless steel prep sink and Barber Wilsons Bibcock Taps in satin nickel.
Above: The owner loved her Aga cooker at the farmhouse and introduced Aga’s latest classic model here, with three electric ovens. Next to it, there’s also a Fisher & Paykel induction cooktop for overflow pots and the tea kettle. (In their old kitchen, they had an induction cooktop for use in the summer, when it was too hot to keep the Aga on. The new Aga switches on and off, but the family find the extra cooktop useful.)
Admiring the vintage enamel bread bin? You can find something like it on Etsy, and Labour & Wait sells a new version in brown.
Above: The Fisher & Paykel induction cooktop is big enough for two pans. The Aga has an internal vent for the ovens—the pipe goes to an external wall in the pantry—and there’s a small extractor over the paneling. The owner says she also opens the sliding doors as needed. As for the lack of backsplash, she tells us, “the paint surface is washable and the Aga lids protect the space behind them. The width of the work surface allows the induction hob to sit away from the wall, so not too much splashing to deal with.”
Above: The island has an oak counter that serves as work surface and nice place to sit. (There’s also a big kitchen table at this end of the room.) The hanging lights are by Muuto and the industrial wall lights are vintage: found individually with matching enamel shades.
The room overlooks “the old concrete courtyard where the cattle were brought in.” The owner is in the process of planning a kitchen and cutting garden and planting a small orchard.
Above: A good view of the oak produce drawers. The outside brick is original: “we tried to disturb as little as possible and kept all the crooked walls,” says the owner.
Above: A ground source heat pump—”one of the green energies the government is encouraging”—and a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system enable the converted structure to operate efficiently. There’s also a rain collection tank that will be used for watering the garden.
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