I love the idea of a city kitchen-cum-brasserie influence. Over a decade ago, I was having afternoon tea at Sketch, an amazing restaurant meets gallery in London that has rooms of art-inspired interiors, and got hooked on this incredible floor design of interlocking marble. I have an obsession with intriguing tiling but this took it to a whole new level. I thought to myself if i ever got a chance to do my own kitchen that’s what I want.
Years later we bought our Georgian house in Bath where the kitchen had been moved upstairs to the ground floor in the 1970’s. Traditionally the kitchen would be a floor below that for the staff to work in and the ground floor of a Georgian home is meant to be the showstopper welcome for greeting guests so I took this as my sign to make it seriously amazing. We saw the potential of redesigning the kitchen to allow for more light and of course to include the floor of my dreams.
We actually held the first Always Sunday supper clubs pre-renovation and nobody can believe I convinced professional chefs to cook in my dilapidated 70’s kitchen. Sometimes you just need to taste the sour before you experience the sweet though. And living with it for that time made me aware of how I wanted the kitchen to work for us in the future.
The floor itself is made from marble tiles individually set into place in alternating lines. The installation was extremely tedious and the tradesmen were not convinced it would look right even as they were doing it. But then on the last day of completion they actually came to me and apologised for doubting my vision! They said in their years of work they felt this was the best thing they had ever created, and for me that was a huge compliment.
We chose the floor and the marble countertops in the kitchen to absorb the bulk of the budget. The rest of the kitchen is designed with quality but ultimately it's changeable if it needs to be, from the cabinetry to the handles. The floor won’t ever be changed by us and neither will the layout of the kitchen, to me this is the signal that we budgeted correctly.
I do believe in choosing a strong cabinet carcass but don’t just buy a kitchen on the high street for the name. I’ve never looked at a kitchen and thought 'I know where that’s from!'
Buy a kitchen that you know will serve you, and your space, really well. If you’re choosing to work with a designer, find that special someone who will listen to your crazy requests and offer multiple solutions to tricky spaces. And always, always think about the flow of your space; how you move from one spot to the other, where it feels right for the dishes to live (are they close to the oven for plating up or near the dishwasher?), how you like to cook (spreading out ingredients or tucked into a tidy corner), and even where the kids may want to sit while you cook. The kitchen is such a collaborative space, it takes a lot of work to make it feel authentic to you.
The final touch for me was our dining table. French farmhouse wooden tables have always had a soft spot in my heart because they have years of history ingrained in the wood but I wanted something that told our family’s story. I spent much of my childhood visiting my Great Grandmother Ruth and my Great Aunt Dorris, often by myself, having breakfast with them around the table. I know i’ve been subconsciously influenced by these times; my great grandmother had this incredibly strong sense of style when it came to colour and a passion for bamboo and antique Asian pieces. In the tumble of family life, it was cherished time to share a meal around her brass table.
I dragged that table from Northern Michigan to Miami (where I lived before Bath) and then finally to my home here. I swore when I renovated the kitchen I would find a way to make that table new to us, to revel in the memories I had with those who are no longer here and to create memories with those that are. That brass tabletop is an heirloom passed down from the women in my family and will continue to be an heirloom for our daughters. We’re not precious about it; it’s as messy we are, the marks and dents are the stories that have evolved just like us.
Our house renovation took over 19 months and almost a year of that was the kitchen from demolition to completion. We had plenty of delays from fabricators, management issues of the construction crew and then lockdown looming. We just about finished before lockdown actually began but it was super tight and there was so much work that happened in such a short space of time. I’ll never take it for granted though, I’ve been given the opportunity to design my ideal kitchen and that’s a dream come true.