Article by: Lara Sargent
The super modern, stripped-back kitchen might look beautiful in the brochures — and if you’re disciplined enough to keep an all-white room spick-and-span, it can look fabulous in real life too. But if you crave something a little kinder to the chaos of daily life, you probably already have a soft spot for the quintessentially English country kitchen.
The relaxed livability of the painted cupboards, wooden countertops and stone slabs so familiar to this style exudes an irresistible warmth and charm, but there’s room for gentle updates, too.
So harness the rustic look and make it work for the 21st-century home with these 10 country kitchen must-haves.
1. Big ceramic sink. A staple ingredient for every English country kitchen is a big, beautiful ceramic sink. Be it a Belfast, butler or farmhouse, these robust, practical workhorses are perfect for washing sizable pots, pans and trays, as well as scrubbing your veggies.
The large, double-bowl design in this clean-lined kitchen demonstrates how this classic fixture can look fresh and up-to-date in a more modern rustic setting.
2. Freestanding furniture. Who can resist the charms of this delightful and inviting space, with its mishmash of freestanding furniture, quirky industrial lighting and rows of gleaming copper pots and pans (stalwarts of the country style)?
Add the slouchy leather armchair, and this is where you’ll find me all day long — whether whipping up a light lunch or sitting back with a good book.
3. Paneled walls. There’s a simple beauty to tongue and groove boards. Perhaps it’s because this classic cladding style conjures up a whimsical, bygone era when life was lived at a gentler pace.
Whatever its appeal, tongue and groove paneling makes for the easiest-on-the-eye wall treatment in a classic country kitchen and, when paired with a pegged shelf painted to blend in, transforms into a practical feature to boot.
4. Island style. This great hunk of an island unit is the star player in this country kitchen, which, you might not be surprised to learn, belongs to a professional cook. It has all the ingredients of a kitchen that’s ready for whipping up a culinary masterpiece, from the custom unit crafted of solid English oak that’s a table, workstation and storage unit to the beautiful beast of a copper range cooker and velvety-smooth Italian black basalt surfaces. This is a marriage of kitchen eye candy and function at its very best.
5. Heritage appliance. It is perhaps the classic Aga range cooker that epitomizes the quintessential English country kitchen so succinctly.
This British-made heritage appliance has armies of fans but has moved with the times, too, and these days comes in a vast lineup of enameled shades to suit all kitchens — from glossy black and cream to pretty rose, pistachio and lemon. There are also compact models, electric versions and even Agas that can be controlled by an app, so you get the perfect blend of modern technology and traditional cooking techniques rolled into one great-looking appliance.
6. Weathered finishes. I’ll never get bored of weathered materials and rustic finishes in the kitchen, which is lucky, as both are staples of the classic country look.
The patina of a well-worn wooden table has an irresistible mix of character and beauty that simply gets better with age and regular use (and let’s face it, we can’t say that about many things in life).
Seek out old scrubbed oak tables and a mix-and-match array of chairs (painted, distressed, bare or even metal), and dive into salvage yards for vintage floorboards, stone tiles and old sinks and fixtures for a look that has all the flair and personality of a country space.
7. Shaker style. A simple Shaker-style kitchen is a thing of beauty and should stand the test of time. This relaxed and refined style is perfect for the country kitchen, particularly when the cabinets are painted in a palette of chalky vintage hues (from dove gray to oatmeal and buttermilk) and finished with pewter knobs or handles.
Beautiful, handcrafted versions of Shaker cabinets have a robust, in-frame construction, meaning the door is set within a frame. Or seek out purse-friendlier, ready-made alternatives that have a Shaker-style door attached directly to the cabinet box.
8. Mix and match. There is something incredibly charming about the unfitted kitchen. Historically, country kitchens were made up of separate pieces of furniture, such as a washstand, linen press, chunky range cooker and pantry cupboard.
Putting together a complete kitchen of freestanding pieces can be tricky and generally needs a big space. But you can still create the same custom, laid-back ambiance by punctuating a built-in design with a stand-alone hutch painted in a contrasting color.
9. Open and closed storage. You’ll never find everything hidden behind closed doors in a country kitchen so, for someone like me — not the world’s tidiest person — mixing cupboards with open shelving is the ideal compromise.
Of course, we all need ample cupboard space for storing food and equipment, but equally, the country kitchen loves to show and display its wares, be they rows of shiny pans, stacks of pure white crockery or vases ready to be filled with flowers from the garden.
10. Stone floor. A textural feast of weathered stone pavers is the finishing touch to the rustic-look kitchen. Because the cupboards are pale and neutral, the designer of this kitchen could afford to go all-out on a patchwork of bronze, sea green and charcoal stone tiles for a statement floor with durability and design clout in one.
For an added touch of luxury, install underfloor heating so your tootsies are warm all year round.