Open plan kitchen - new build in Cashmere and Walnut

Can you talk us through the process of your new build?

We weren’t originally planning to self build. We’d bought a house right next to the river Severn and just 72 days after we moved in there were torrential rains and the river burst its banks. It was the flood of February 2014 and 1.5 metres of water destroyed our home and everything in it. Because we hadn’t been living in the house for long, we hadn’t built any emotional ties to the house or had chance to put our stamp on anything, but it was still devastating. We had to move out and we lived in rented for 6 months. Fortunately the time flew by with sorting things out and in January 2016 we started to build the new house. Looking back now it feels like something really good that came from something pretty awful.

Were there any restrictions in what type of house you could build?

The exterior of the house had to fit in with architectural style of neighbouring cottages and we were restricted on height due to the eyeline of the nearby road bridge. So although the outside of the house looks quite traditional, we decided that contemporary open plan would be a great way to make best use of the space under the eaves. Internally it’s upside down so that the kitchen, living and dining areas make the most of the views of the river. Ironically, the same river that destroyed our old house looks really quite nice when it floods and it makes the lane so peaceful.

How did you discover Bower Willis Designs?

Angela and I have been friends for years so as soon as we decided to build the house I knew that I wanted them to do the kitchen for us. She knows me so well and both her and Jeremy have such an understanding of what a kitchen should be to a home.

Did you have a clear idea of how you wanted the new kitchen to look?

With the open plan room design, I wanted a kitchen that didn’t look like a kitchen. Angela and Jeremy asked me questions about what I wanted the kitchen to do and how I wanted it to look, and then because they know me as well as they do, they created the design. We opted for a handleless design and made everything as streamlined as possible. They did a superb job of making a kitchen that doesn’t look utilitarian. Unbelievably, we’ve had guests come over who didn’t realise it was a kitchen. In terms of colours, I’d requested walnut unit doors and told Angela the colour of the windows in the house. We ended up creating the colour palette for the whole house including internal doors and the flooring around the kitchen design.

There are lots of seating areas in the room, can you talk us through how you use them?

The little table in the window is perhaps my favourite; I love to sit here with my morning coffee and read the newspaper looking out to the garden and over the river. The breakfast counter is used by my husband and son to eat before they go to work, or when people come over for dinner and watch me cook. We also have the dining table for family meals and entertaining. It is nice to have different areas to sit and cosy little nooks.

Do you like to cook?

Yes, very much so. I cook all sorts from Thai to traditional…I think I’ve got as many herbs and spices as the supermarkets. The ovens get used twice a day with a proper breakfast and an evening meal. I suppose I’m quite traditional when it comes to food. I’d never cooked with a steam oven before and was astounded by the various options and how much better they are. You can bake a sponge and it’s perfect, the symmetry, the texture. There are different settings, for example, pizzas, which cook from underneath. Fish with steam. Crunchy crackling. The variations are brilliant. I now cook everything slowly and it retains the flavour. And I love the warming drawer, particularly with my son who tends to eat at a different time. The convenience is fantastic because sometimes you simply cannot microwave something because it’ll ruin. It’s become normal now but would I be without them? No.

So you’re enjoying the kitchen tech?

Yes, for sure. The BORA hob is fantastic, probably the best hob I’ve ever used. Boiling water is practically instant, it’s super. Timing wise, the BORA hobs were comparatively new to the market when we were designing the kitchen and I would say it’s the best appliance in the kitchen - and that’s with a lot of other clever tech. It’s the simplicity of the extraction. The highest setting can easily handle some serious extraction and the normal setting for everyday use seems much quieter than a hood extractor. You can cook anything on it and the smell immediately disappears. It’s so important in open plan spaces where you don’t want cooking smells to cling to your soft furnishings. It protects your living environment. And because there’s no overhead extractor unit, the hob sits really well on the island and doesn’t draw attention to itself. Ideal because I wanted a kitchen that didn’t look like a kitchen. It’s all very good.

What are you most impressed by in the kitchen?

I can’t fault my kitchen and the amount of storage space is incredible. Because it doesn’t look like a kitchen, it’s not obvious where everything is. Angela and Jeremy suggested racks in the cupboards either side of the oven that I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen but they’re brilliant, there’s no wasted space and I’ve got so much space to put everything. You wouldn’t believe how much storage there is, far more than I’ve ever had before; under the island, either side of the ovens, along the wall. I fill every space that there is.

Were there any surprises when you were planning the layout of the home?

The pantry! It was originally going to be part of the kitchen design but we found a way of building it into the space under the eaves so that it was separate and accessed from the side. I think I only asked for a pantry because other kitchens I’ve had didn’t give me enough storage room, but that isn’t the case here. In fact, the only change we made to Angela’s original kitchen design was to remove a row of eye level units that would’ve run along the wall above the sink and coffee machine. Because there was already so much storage, I didn’t need the extra cupboards.

At the end of the day we all have a kitchen and we all know how to use a kitchen, but Angela and Jeremy give you an idea or a way of doing something that seems obvious when they say it because it’s so intuitive and logical.

What are your lasting impressions of the project?

I think the beauty of doing a new build is getting the house that you really want. I’d never been in a situation to buy a new kitchen before so having it designed totally for me was wonderful. It was so important to get the kitchen right and then everything was built around it. I don’t think I could go back to having a normal kitchen. You get used to the technology and it’s changed me and the way I cook. Even if you’re not particularly a good cook, these ovens will enhance your cooking - I’d say they make me appear to be a far better cook!

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