Keeping the country style in the kitchen

DESPITE a design world frenzied by terraces of blocky base units, pumping with colour and sharply edged in flashes of streamlined steel, the classic country-themed kitchen still retains its hold on our hearts.

With Christmas rudely approaching, nostalgia written large lends itself beautifully to the scents, sights, colour and atmosphere of the season. So — what makes a kitchen a traditional choice?

What elements should you include if you’re tearing out cabinetry completely, re-facing units or are lucky enough to be enjoying an entirely new room in the coming months?

Appropriate renovations can benefit from the Home Renovation Incentive Scheme, but keep in mind there is a limit on the tax-credits awarded for the kitchen itself.

Key Elements

Interpret don’t curate. We’re not building a museum set for Mrs. Bridges to whip up a meat pie for the Bellamy family. Contain stark modern convenience in a cloak of woody furnishings, organic materials, enamelware, shelves of collectables and vintage forms.

Modern larder cabinets, for example, with their haughty high profile and gently moulded pediments, can hide a fridge/freezer or be tailored with a movable feast of interior dry-good fittings.

That old wardrobe or 19th century linen cabinet might be quaint for large pots and pans but don’t let nostalgia cripple practicality. Legged pieces can be trimmed out with recessed kick-boards to prevent grime scooting under cabinets.

Most country kitchens on offer are actually modern in all but the facings. Adding free-standing furniture and accessories, you can break it down to real individuality that’s as pastoral as you like.

Textiles

The soft visual addition of practical textiles is vital to a classic kitchen. Linen and cotton wash well and melt to a butter softness even as prints fade.

Layer on some cushions, upholster a window seat, include tea cosies, kitchen towels and at least a cotton-style blind if you don’t have windows that allow for the invasion of a curtain.

Retro prints including the work of Irish designer, Jennifer Slattery and English maker Betty Boyns, are ideal for freshening up blank, hard surfaces. Rugged oil cloth is laughingly cheap and raises a sentimental smile. Buy at around €7 per metre to dress up a kitchen table

Floored for choice

Flooring choices might start high with slate, terracotta and stone, but there are charming cheats for every budget. Wood flooring is obviously not ideal for spills, but its laminate equivalent with a good rating for slops, sloughs and scuffs, can be undetectable to almost all, with a stable engineered sub-core. Engineered wood can ape a hard floor and carry under-floor heating. Don’t discount linoleum (a naturally derived material available as Marmoleum from Frobo.ie) and vinyl. Its forgiving bounce will save infant foreheads and dropped chinaware. The other way to go is a ceramic wood plank- tough as your old country boots, and with several ‘planks’ to the tile uncomplicated to lay.

Home on the range

With its formidable size, six to eight rings, turkey swallowing ovens and clunk-click 90-120cm chassis, it’s easy to get excited about a new cooker for a rusticated kitchen.

We may be channelling the cast iron stove which sat in the inglenook, but today’s offerings are really gigantic rangy cookers — dual fuel, electric, gas and even induction models.

If the cooker is tied (as mine is) to heating water or the entire house, ensure the thermostats for both roles are neatly separated and that the performance and quality of cooker and heating boiler are judged on their own merits.

Examine the latest detailing such as door-mounted roasting trays and the option of a rotisserie. Even Aga has succumbed to the need for quick reaction times as, even aided by an element, the top plate takes 11 minutes to get up to boiling temperatures. It now offers an electric or gas Companion, to nestle by its iconic beast. Otherwise go for the Total Control model and give up the comfort of radiant background heat storage for the look at least. Condensing the size of a range to 60cm, is, to my eye, something of a shrivelled statement.

Country Show

Displaying the honest, the useful and the regularly-used object is common in a traditional kitchens. Because the materials chosen tend to be close to nature, plain, muted in colour and robust — they won’t annoy in the same way a searing coloured piece of blow-away plastic gee-gaw will, if put resolutely on a hook over the cooking area or placed near to hand on a shelf.

Dressers are interpreted in many kitchen designs in the form of display storage over a long run of counter. Glaze the shelving if you’re concerned about dust, but think about a collection of plates, dishes and glasses, neatly returned to their place as a living display.

Cast iron cookware, enamel bins, classic pieces of kitchen gadgetry, and Irish pottery are expensive additions, but gorgeous enough to enjoy when out off duty.

Dings and darts of domestic fortune sit easily in the gentle light of a country kitchen. Further relaxing the mood at the bosom of the house, add a nice squashy old armchair, wreathed in a throw and low companion table, where you can flop and pour out a cup of tea if room allows.


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