If you are designing a new kitchen for a period home – perhaps a Georgian or Victorian property – it is important to complement the property's architectural style. However, this rarely calls for an authentic recreation of the original design.
Once a purely practical space associated with hard work, today's kitchen is now a sociable, multifunctional room that serves as the hub of family life. And, as the role of the kitchen has changed throughout time, so has the way it looks and functions.
Reflecting your home's era in the kitchen's design might mean choosing cabinetry featuring decorative detailing. Equally, it could involve a complete contrast using minimalist modern units that nod to the period through elements such as kitchen wall colours and proportion.
It's the details that matter most, so include key pieces inspired by the past such as a butler or Belfast sink, a pantry, and open shelving displaying wares that give an insight into the kitchen's functional purpose. Such attention to detail can also elevate the look of a budget kitchen.
Georgian inspired kitchens
The Georgian period (1714-1830) covers the reign of four King Georges, including the later Regency period of George IV as Prince of Wales. Since it encompasses more than a century, it is impossible to define a single design style for furniture of the era. However, today’s interpretation within kitchens is easily recognisable, not to mention incredibly popular.
Pitched somewhere between the austere simplicity of a flat-framed Shaker-style kitchen door, and the more ornately decorated Victorian style (see below), Georgian kitchens are characterised by having a very strong classic look that can be made grander with impressive panelled mantels and imposing full-height larders, or kept simpler for a cottage or farmhouse kitchen.
‘A generous Georgian mantel shelf over your range cooker or hob can be used to display attractive pieces of crockery or other kitchen ornaments,’ suggests Robert Lawrence, marketing manager for Moores Furniture Group.
Georgian kitchen details
- Raised and fielded panel doors, often with bolection (projecting) moulding
- Drawers edged with cock-bead or pencil moulding for delicate detail
- Painted finishes – often greys and blues
- Grand mantelpieces with raised and fielded panels and solid corbels
- Granite or marble worktops
- Butler’s sinks and bridge taps
- Bronze drop handles, cup handles and knobs
Victorian style kitchens
Again, the Victorian period embraced many furniture styles during the Queen’s long reign (1837-1901). But there are two main approaches that couldn’t be more different.
On the one hand, there’s a utilitarian interpretation based on the butler’s pantry or scullery that was the true working kitchen in Victorian homes. The focus is on a range cooker with freestanding furniture, open dressers and a large, well-worn table taking centre stage.
More often, the kitchen cabinet design we associate with the Victorian era today is styled on the upstairs parlour or dining rooms, although you will often see elements of the ‘below stairs’ kitchen – for example, a butler’s sink, glass-fronted dresser and range cooker – incorporated.
On the other hand, you will find Victorian kitchens where flourishes are deemed as important as functionality. Grander Victorian-inspired designs have higher levels of decoration than Georgian styles, with elaborate scrolls and corbels, dentil moulding and carved pilasters all frequent features.
Traditionally, kitchens with Cathedral arch doors and barley twist pilasters (influenced by the Gothic revival period) came under Victorian classification, but they have been toned down somewhat in recent years, while wicker baskets and open wine racks remain strong.
Victorian kitchen details
- A large cook’s table or island unit
- Freestanding furniture such as a glassware/crockery dresser
- Ornate cornicing, twisted pilasters and Cathedral arch doors
- Pulley clothes dryer above a range cooker
- Scullery style wet area with butler’s sink
- Copper items such as jelly moulds and kettles
- Cream or white painted cabinetry mixed with oak or teak worktops
- Dentil moulding and intricately carved corbels
Additional words by Melanie Griffiths