Open plan kitchen diner with island unit and window seat 4

Before and after: Bright, open-plan kitchen diner with window seat

Even though Julie and Paul Baird’s new country home was only 12 years old when they bought it, the interior hadn’t been touched in years, so it was looking more than a little tired and in need of general redecoration. ‘It had plenty of space downstairs, but the kitchen was badly planned,’ says Julie, ‘and because the dining room was separate, it felt disjointed and out of proportion for the size of the property.’

The couple commissioned an architect to draw up plans to reconfigure the ground floor. ‘We considered a number of options, but in the end we knocked through the wall between the two rooms and closed up the entrance to the kitchen,’ explains Julie. ‘It’s given the space an open-plan feel and is flooded with light.’

Open plan kitchen diner with island unit and window seat 1

Photo: Fraser Marr

The dividing wall was load-bearing, so they had to have a steel RSJ fitted to support the upper storey. The original idea was to hide this in the floor of the above bedroom to give the impression that the kitchen-diner was one big, open space, but this was unrealisable. ‘It would have cost a lot more money and all the floorboards upstairs would have had to come up,’ Julie explains. ‘Looking back, I’m glad we decided to do it this way. While being open plan, it has also created two distinct rooms, which fits better with the furniture.’

Julie admits that work on the kitchen took longer than anticipated, but this was mainly due to her wanting to get the look and feel exactly right. ‘My father is an antiques dealer, so I was brought up surrounded by interesting and beautiful things,’ she says. ‘While the house is modern, I wanted to give it character by mixing in some vintage and retro pieces.’

Open plan kitchen diner with island unit and window seat 3

Photo: Fraser Marr

When it came to the design, the couple felt that the original horseshoe layout made the room feel narrow and dated. Changing the cabinetry to an L-shaped configuration gave them more space, and choosing only base units has created a more uncluttered feel. Julie was also really keen to have a large island unit in the centre, which gives the zone more focus.

Advised by her carpenter Julian Coy, she opted for Shaker-style units teamed with tongue-and-groove worksurfaces made from salvaged wood. ‘To make sure I had enough storage space, Julian made a matching larder unit and handy shelves,’ she says, ‘which I put up either side of the hob using refurbished, industrial brackets.’ A reclaimed wooden floor was laid throughout the space for continuity.

Open plan kitchen diner with island unit and window seat 2

Photo: Fraser Marr

When it came to decorating the dining area, the couple decided to continue the vintage feel with Victorian-inspired wallpaper – this adds a touch of understated formality. ‘I love transforming objects that were once beautiful into something useful, such as the mirror made from old window frames,’ Julie admits.

Interior designer Samantha Kruck of Jakins Interiors suggested building a window seat into the bay in the dining room, as the space was too small to fit a sofa. ‘Worn decadence was the look I was going for, and Samantha knew instantly what I meant,’ says Julie. I have a penchant for antique fabrics and lace, and the window seat is a fine spot to showcase my finds.

Open plan kitchen diner with island unit and window seat before 4

The kitchen before

‘I made some cushion covers for the seat, picking out a pale yellow colour, which helped to define the whole scheme,’ she explains. And, fortunately, while looking through her collection of vintage items, Julie found a number of French linen sheets that were large enough to make into curtains for the dining room.

Julie now has the kitchen-diner she was hoping for. ‘I can’t believe I’ve got exactly what I wanted,’ she enthuses. ‘It’s a contemporary space that’s been adapted by introducing classic French style with a few industrial and traditional antiques – it’s gorgeous.’