Why the classic kitchen look will always trump the latest trends

Kitchens inspired by the past are the ones which will stand the test of time, says Amelia Thorpe.

Some of us have flirted with the idea of clean-lined Minimalism in the kitchen, but it can be too clinical for some tastes and incongruous in a period context. For both these reasons, it’s hard to beat the reassuring look and feel of classic framed cabinetry that has its roots in the traditionally made ‘below stairs’ kitchens of grand country houses or the reassuring honesty of Shaker-style joinery.

It’s a style that shuns fashion in favour of balanced proportions, enduring construction and simplicity of design, the kind of look that embraces wear and tear and creates a relaxed ‘fit’ for country houses.

“Classic furniture, such as dressers and cooks’ tables, creates an ‘unfitted’ look that, in an old house, seems as if it’s always been there”

Handmade and bespoke, classic cabinetry can be designed and crafted to fit seamlessly with a kitchen space and work in harmony with its architectural elements, which is an attraction if a room has sloping ceilings, uneven walls, low windows, a vast chimney breast or awkward proportions.

One-off custom-made pieces can be shaped and fitted to transform an awkward nook into a desirable feature, such as a glazed cupboard for glassware, a plate rack for antique platters or a walk-in larder cupboard if space permits.

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Classic furniture, such as dressers and cooks’ tables, creates an ‘unfitted’ look that, in an old house, seems as if it’s always been there.

“A fresh coat of paint and new handles will create a ready update, whenever you wish”

Painted cabinetry is a versatile way to add individuality, offering a softer, less-perfect look than polished lacquers. Shades of grey lend a neutral feel and broken whites and stone colours are light and easy to live with. Darker colours can look striking, perhaps teamed with brass hinges and handles for warmth.

Try combining two colours: a darker contrast on the island produces definition and enhances its role as the focal point of a scheme. True to the timeless credentials of painted cabinetry, a fresh coat and new handles will create a ready update, whenever you wish.

Timeless choice



A series of ‘unfitted’ furniture elements in this Artichoke kitchen re-creates the atmosphere of grand country-house kitchens of days gone by. Robust construction ensures the pieces are capable of standing up to the rigours of modern family life. Kitchen prices start at £100,000.

Focal point

Humphrey Munson

Humphrey Munson

In this Humphrey Munson desgn a classic overmantel frames the Aga, set within the original chimney breast, and conceals an integrated extractor. Nickleby cabinetry, painted in Farthing, is combined with a traditional English prep table and finished with a pippy-oak worktop. Kitchens cost from £40,000.

 Traditional craft

Officine Gullo

Officine Gullo

Handmade in Florence, a city long known for its artisanal metalworking tradition, kitchens by Officine Gullo are tailormade to individual requirements. This coffee-brown stainless- steel design features burnished, hammered-brass framing, a wall-mounted copper back panel and a steel island with a timber chopping board. Kitchens from £130,000

Calm combination

Tom Howley

Tom Howley

An island painted in a warm shade of grey adds definition to this soft-white kitchen and polished chrome handles and slender quartz worktops strike a modern note. Tom Howley’s Hartford kitchen, painted in Marjoram and Orchid, from £25,000.

Island life

Neptune / Emma Simms Hilditch

Neptune / Emma Simms Hilditch

This bespoke super-size island is designed to suit the period style and grand scale of the room and to create a sociable cooking ‘theatre’. Suffolk kitchen from £12,000, Neptune, shown here in a bespoke design by Sims Hilditch.

Perfectly plain

A classic Plain English kitchen design.

The prep table in this Plain English design adds to its ‘unfitted’ and unfussy look. Wall cabinetry can be made to suit the shape of any room. Kitchens from £25,000.