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  • Writer's pictureStjohn Axbey

CASE STUDY: The Isle Of Wight Kitchen

"...there's always some design concept quietly simmering away in the dusty corners of my otherwise empty head... mostly."

The wonders of modern communication are amazing aren't they? If you have an interweb then you’ll know how handy it can be to communicate with people across the globe when using social media platforms such as Facetube, and er..... Instabook.

As it turns out, it (the interweb) also happens to be extremely handy in lending a helping – um – hand, with the designing of interiors on the opposite side of the world as well. Such was the case for a kitchen design that I created in a home located on the very picturesque Isle of Wight, located off the southern coast of England.

This blog article looks at the metamorphosis of this remote kitchen design and its eventual inception right in the middle of the UK's Covid 19 pandemic lockdown.

I guess it is fair to say that as an Interior Designer I am never really quite on holiday... I never totally relax... there's always some design concept quietly simmering away in the dusty corners of my otherwise empty head... mostly.

Or I may see some inspiring piece of design that I have to take note of, catalogue, photograph and store for future reference.

It is also true that even when I am on holidays and/or I'm invited into peoples homes, there is an unease, an awkwardness, a feeling that I've inadvertently become the unassuming judge in an interior design television show, and that I'm about to cast a scrupulous eye over the homeowners interior design prowess, then proceed to completely berate their efforts whilst pulling an unpleasant face.

Rest assured that I do not cast judgmental eyes over anyone's home, unless they ask me to, in which case I will be as diplomatic as I possibly can regardless of the catastrophe that may be presented to me.... I digress ... because when I was on holidays in the UK in mid 2019 I could not help myself but offer to assist in the design of kitchen that I was quite sure could be done just a little bit better.



"Its size made it impossible to use for storing anything larger than a pack of sausages or a pint of milk..."

Location: Cowes, Isle of Wight, July 2019

The existing kitchen really was a relic of the 90's: lots of lime washed pink wood, failing door hinges, worn appliances, and - as seems to be the case with many older kitchens - a distinct lack of usable bench space and storage. It really was time for a something shiny, new - and perhaps more importantly - something practical.

It's timber, it's pink... it has to go... the Wheaten Terrier can stay though!!

There were a few problem areas to that needed to be addressed: firstly there was the rather ugly exposed combination boiler that couldn't be relocated and desperately needed to be disguised.

Ugly ugly ugly!!

Secondly there was the nature of the room itself with no less than 3 door ways; One leading to the laundry, garage (and the fridge), one set of French doors to the back patio and garden, and one for egress to the hallway. None of these doors could me moved or changed without adding substantial cost to the renovation, so they had to remain in place.

Maintaining the thoroughfare in this kitchen was paramount

Then there was the problem of the fridge - or lack there of it. The existing fridge/freezer was a fully integrated bar affair located adjacent to the existing cooktop. Its size made it impossible to use for storing anything larger than a pack of sausages or a pint of milk which meant locating a secondary fridge/freezer in the adjacent garage.... not very convenient at all. A new fridge/freezer had to be located in the kitchen itself.

Finally the client wanted to retain an eating area for breakfast and casual dining. The current position of the circular table was very awkward, being squeezed into the far corner of the room between the french doors and the only source of heating. The positioning of this table also made it very difficult for more than two people to comfortable sit at without having to drag the whole thing out from the wall: this area clearly needed a more practical solution.

The underutilised wall and the awkward location of the breakfast table

On my return to Australia in early August 2019 I got straight to work on the design concept.



"The fancy pants rangehood was also an unfortunate financial casualty...."

In an effort to keep costs down I decided to start off by mimicking what a previous kitchen designer had come up with. To that end all white goods and services were to stay in their current location with just a few changes including a new range instead of seperate oven and cooktop, plus the inclusion of an integrated fridge/freezer.

The large breakfast table, initially was to be replaced with a small square table suitable for two people.

A small return end adjacent to the sink provided just that little bit more bench space without compromising the flow of the room, and as always I took the wall cupboards to full ceiling height to maximize storage space. This small detail not only visually increases the height of the standard 2.4m ceiling but also removes the need for cleaning above the cupboards.

The initial design renders - a little lacklustre in think...

However, this concept really didn't float my boat so I suggested something a little bit more flamboyant....

  • Gone was the small breakfast table and that unused wall became a display cabinets with extra bench space and drawers underneath.

  • The small return adjacent to the sink was extended and became a breakfast/casual eating bench with enough room - at a squeeze for 4 people.

  • The microwave oven was moved from the bench top and was to be given its own cupboard.

  • A floor to ceiling pantry was to be added to the far corner of the room adjacent to the laundry door.

  • A more fancy range hood enclosure was to be incorporated for visual effect.

  • I thought a dash of colour to liven things up a bit might be in order as well.

This is what I came up with.......

In green with white wall cupboards...

In dark grey with white cupboards.....

Or in safe beige.... with white cupboards instead?

Unfortunately this didn't go down well with the accounting department, so with a budget that didn't quite match the design it was decided to pare things back a bit and simplify accordingly.

Reluctantly, it was decided to reduce the wall cupboard height to a standard 750mm unit, thus removing the bulkhead and cornices treatment above.

The fancy pants rangehood was also an unfortunate financial casualty and was replaced instead by a simple cupboard that concealed the built in extractor hood.

And that is really about all that was changed, so with the final renders in hand it was now over to my client who took all of the final design to her chosen manufacturer, Howdens Joinery, who finalised the materials, price and installation.

The finalised concept... well, almost!



"What I particularly love about the English kitchen is its predilection for integrated appliances."

The only problem with being on the opposite side of the globe is that I couldn't just pop over to make sure everything was going ok. Plus work started on the project in mid January 2020 - right in the middle of the UK's winter Covid lockdown. So travel for me was completely out of the question.

Progress pictures with all base and wall carcasses are in place.

There were a few delays in completion due to Covid restrictions, but miraculously by the end of February 2020 the kitchen was complete and the results, I think, speak for themselves.

The new kitchen is light, bright and airy with so much more useable bench space, and thanks to the removal of the circular dining table the under utilised wall is now adorned with yet more cupboard space, attractive illuminated display cabinets and even more bench space.

Dining has been moved to the centrally located curved return bench with ample space for two people. This area also serves as a convenient wine glass stand for those impromptu kitchen parties.

The wide and curved central bench is perfect for those impromptu kitchen parties

The original separate oven and cooktop have been reunited in the form of a commodious double oven and six burner range by Leisure.

A large pull out pantry is conveniently located to left hand side of the range for storage and quick and easy access of all cooking ingredients and essentials.

Large, well organised drawers now provide ample storage and easy access for all cooking utensils, pots, pans, dishes, cups and cutlery. All this additional, well planned storage also means that the bench tops are now free of fuss and clutter.

Organised drawer spaces make for easy retrieval of utensils, pots and pans.

What I particularly love about the English kitchen is its predilection for integrated appliances, and it seems that we are only just catching on to the idea in this country.

The Fridge/Freezer has now found its way into the kitchen - gone are the jaunts to the garage to retrieve the milk - and yet once the door is closed the only giveaway that an appliance is there is the ventilation grille in the kick plate.

The dishwasher is also similarly concealed and I'm happy to say so is that ugly combination boiler, which is now housed in wall cabinetry which connects seamlessly with a corner wall unit and a specially built compartment for the elevated - off the bench - and easy to reach microwave oven.

I simply love integrated appliances

Because of budgetary constraints quartz benchtops were not an option, however, the White Mirror Chip laminate benches do look fantastic... so difficult to tell the difference.

The former dining space is now occupied by Illuminated display cabinets and additional bench space.

All in all I think you will agree that the new kitchen is a major improvement on the old one: there's more bench space, all essential appliances are in the same room and I also believe that there is now a very happy client enjoying their new space!

Someone else enjoying the space is the very gorgeous 'Poppy' who posed beautifully for this final shot.

Are you in a quandary with your kitchen design? Then please give me a call - regardless of where you are in the world - I may just be able to lend a hand.

Thank you very much for reading


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