Earlier this year, Country Life, Historic Houses and Neptune launched a competition to celebrate the best new kitchens in old spaces. Our recently completed kitchen fits this brief perfectly and we are thrilled to be shortlisted down to the last three.

When we moved to our Georgian house, despite the excitement of owning such a magnificent property, the house did not actually seem to lend itself to modern family living. We found we were spending all our time in a small, dark, slightly cramped kitchen and the better larger rooms with good proportions, natural light and orientation stayed empty for months on end. When we did try to use these rooms, it was a slightly forced affair involving lighting fires and generally making the rooms cosy, ready for some moment when we ought to be sitting, being ‘grown up’. But somehow we would find ourselves sucked back in the old kitchen where life was actually going on.

Such is modern life, someone comes over, you offer them a cup of tea and you find yourself in the kitchen. When you cook a meal it seems pointless scurrying over to the dining room to eat it. Like it or loath it, the kitchen is the center of modern life. But how do you adapt an old house which was designed in a time when kitchens were not the dominant room?

“What we need is an ‘all in one’ kitchen” my daughter helpfully suggested.

To which my wife responded “If we had any guts we would just move the kitchen into the best room in the house”.

Initially it seemed iconoclastic to put a modern kitchen into a beautiful Georgian room, particularly in a house previously owned by Raymond Erith R.A. no less. His dining room, as my mother remembers it, was filled with antiques and a huge oil painting of Rome’s Via Panisperna dominating the end wall.

There was also the no less daunting technical issue of making this room function as a kitchen. It seemed an impossible task involving moving services and disturbing historic fabric. Initially tentative enquiries made it seem impossible. Boilers needed to be moved, pipe runs would need to be installed and it seemed too much of an effort.

But continuing as we were was no longer a possibility, the idea had taken hold and we could not stop querying and questioning ways we could make it happen. Eventually we found a helpful builder who pointed out that it would be possible to run the services externally and underground alleviating the need to disturb the original Georgian building materials.

The ‘kitchen in one’ is a relatively new architectural concept, Vitruvius can’t help you and neither can Palladio. When I put some images of this kitchen on instagram, a friend commented “Looking frighteningly Scandi-modern for a Terry kitchen”, and some readers of this blog may find the style of this room surprising with my taste for classicism. But I cannot take all the credit, initially I have to admit my wife’s modernist taste won the day but I got really into it, sourcing lights from the Conran Shop, cabinets from Heal’s and designing some modernist shelving and cupboards of my own.

Ironically this change, which appears dramatic has had hardly any effect on the historic fabric of the house. What it has done is dramatically change the way we use it. We now spend all our time in the principal room, albeit in a much more relaxed manner than how the original owners would have used it. By moving everything – including the kitchen sink – we have created a room that is truly ‘in sync’ with how we live.

Francis Terry

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