Creating a kitchen-diner

Knocking down the wall between the kitchen and dining room created the bright and sociable open-plan space that Julie and Paul Baird craved

TODO alt text

Even though our house was only 12 years old when we bought it, it hadn’t been touched since it was built, so the interior was looking a little dated and in need of general redecoration,’ explains Julie. ‘There was plenty of space downstairs, but the kitchen was badly planned and, along with the separate dining room, it felt disjointed and out of proportion to the size of the house.’

Julie and Paul were both set on living in their chosen village location, but had originally wanted to buy an older period property. Having found that character properties of the size they were looking for were hard to come by, they compromised by choosing a modern house that still meant they could enjoy the benefits of living in the pretty countryside setting. In August 2011, they moved in, knowing that one of the first projects would be to open up the kitchen and dining room.

Fact file

  • The owners: Julie Baird, a management consultant, and her husband Paul, who works in IT, live here with their daughter Emily, eight.
  • The property: A five-bedroom, modern detached house
  • The location: Great Gransden, Cambridgeshire
  • What they spent: The couple’s kitchen project cost around £35,000

kitchen window seat

The layout

When it came to the kitchen design, the couple felt that the original U-shaped layout made the room feel narrow and dated. Changing the layout to an L-shape gave them more space and meant Julie could have a big island unit in the centre, giving the room focus and providing a place to congregate around. The couple also decided against wall units to give the room a more open, less structured feel.

‘I originally wanted freestanding units, but this meant that I couldn’t have a long run of work surface,’ explains Julie. ‘I asked Julian Coy, an amazing local carpenter, for advice, and he suggested using classic Shaker-style units, which we teamed with tongue-and-groove doors and work surfaces made from reclaimed wood. To make sure I had enough storage space, he also made a matching larder unit, as well as shelves to go with the reclaimed industrial brackets I found on a website specialising in refurbished industrial furniture and accessories.’

Interior design

Reclaimed wood floorboards were laid throughout the space, and, when it came to decorating the dining area, the couple wanted to carry through the vintage feel with wallpaper to add a touch of understated formality. ‘I love sourcing beautiful old objects that we can put back into use, such as the mirror made from reclaimed window frames,’ says Julie.

Being new to the village, Julie didn’t have many local contacts, but some friends recommended that she got in touch with Samantha Kruck, a local interior designer who went round to see her. ‘The dining room had a small bay window, and it was Samantha’s idea to transform it into a big comfy window seat,’ recalls Julie. ‘I described the overall look that I wanted to create as “worn decadence”, and Samantha knew instantly what I meant. I have a penchant for antique fabrics and lace, and the new window seat was the perfect spot to showcase some of my finds.’

Samantha looked through Julie’s collection of vintage fabrics and found some old French linen sheets that were large enough to turn into curtains for the bay window, plus there were some antique cushion covers that would also suit the scheme.

‘I suggested we pick up one of the colours from the cushions and run it through the scheme,’ says Samantha. ‘Adding cushions in a pale straw yellow provided another dimension and helped define the whole look.’

Once the work eventually started, it only took a couple of months to complete, and the project was finished in September 2012. ‘The final result is exactly what I was looking for,’ says Julie. ‘I have given a modern space a new identity by adapting classic French style with a few industrial and traditional antiques.

The costs

Cabinetry/window seat£13,800
Building work£12,500
Soft furnishings£1,600
Work surfaces£1,500