Years ago, I found myself at an Estate Sale in a very fine old Georgetown home here in the nation’s capital. As I walked through the rooms, each one more grand than the last, I happened upon what was a relatively small kitchen; quite lovely, but as simple as the rest of the house was grand – the European way, where loveliness must always eventually be met with practicality. Needless to say, for all the beauty the rest of the home exhibited, the loveliness of that little utilitarian kitchen stayed with me and, in part, inspired the kitchen here at Tallwood, which had to be completely gutted first thing. Nestled among more formal rooms, we designed our beloved English kitchen to be a sort of sanctuary from the hustle and bustle, capturing the upstairs-downstairs aesthetic of one of Europe’s most intriguing bygone eras.
Truly, one of the most beautiful things about old houses is that there’s a feeling of discovery as you walk from room to room. This is, in part, because floor plans of the period were not open. With this in mind, we opted NOT to open the kitchen to the rest of the house, as is so often done. We LOVE that, though small in scale, the kitchen and mudroom feel like a separate wing of the house that can be closed off as needed. Very English, indeed!
Shop the Room
All in the Details
One of the loveliest aspects of European kitchens is that they tend to feel a bit more like rooms than kitchens. To that end, and because the Viking range of my dreams was to be a sort of centerpiece, we designed a lovely mantle surround for the BEST hood and opted for inset drawers in lieu of cabinetry. Drawers allow for additional hardware, which can make for a beautiful statement, hinting at furniture pieces rather than kitchen cabinetry. Having said that, it can be difficult to source simple European drop-pulls here in the U.S., and those we selected are no longer in production. We came very close to sourcing secondhand via eBay and would suggest that, if you’re in the market, you either ask your designer to do the legwork or consider an authentic, secondhand option.
The creamy color of the cabinetry is a custom selection our cabinet maker had on hand and a nearly perfectly match to the Farrow & Ball White Tie Paint Colour we wished to use on the walls. The counters are a honed Carrara marble, the sink is from the Kohler Iron Tones collection, and the gooseneck bridge faucet is a Perrin & Rowe for Rohl dream, featuring polished nickel.
Vintage Wallpaper & Painted Floors
The painted checkerboard wood floor is what I once read Suzanne Rheinstein refer to as, “a happy accident.” Antique hardwood boards were originally selected, but fell through at the last minute. New subfloor had been put down in preparation, so I asked my husband what he would think if my mother and I *tried* our hands at painting a checkerboard pattern, something I would never have attempted: 1. On perfectly good hardwoods; 2. Without my mother, who is skilled in all things, lol. Worst case, I figured we would eventually be able to put down the antique hardwoods of my dreams, and that this plan could serve as a temporary solution.
After a bit of research we stumbled onto a basic tutorial via This Old House, and the rest, as they say, is history. Truly, this last minute change in course MADE our kitchen, adding a classic European element that paired perfectly with the vintage hunt country wallpaper we were able to save through the renovation.