How Downton Abbey spawned Britain’s emerging kitchen trend

It may be gone from our screens, but Giles Kime believes that the hugely-successful Downton Abbey has left a lasting mark on British homes

Few film locations have inspired greater kitchen envy than Something’s Gotta Give, the 2003 romantic comedy starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton set in a beach house in the Hamptons. The combination of infinite amounts of storage and an island large enough to be a tax haven did as much to sell the attractions of the capacious, beautifully made kitchen as Mad Men did for low-level sofas and drinks trolleys.

But for many people it was Downton Abbey that inspired much deeper kitchen envy, a fact that had less to do with the small army of domestic staff and more to do with the Byzantine warren of secondary rooms — sculleries, pantries, laundries — not to mention a full-size office for Carson.

A sequence of rooms dedicated to different domestic activities is a far cry from the multi-functional room in which most people cook and entertain in the 21st century, but for those with the space, there are signs that the tide is turning. First came the utility room, the powerhouse of the modern home that accommodates everything from washing machines and fridges to butlers’ sinks and dog baskets.

The logical extension of this idea is the addition of a subsidiary kitchen that accommodates unglamorous chores such as washing pots, filling dishwashers and making up baby milk as well as alleviating the kitchen from the burden of appliances.

Perhaps the greatest testament to the benefits of this arrangement is a two-day photo shoot I arranged last summer in the kitchen of a house in Worcestershire. Tucked away at the back was a secondary kitchen with a bank of appliances and infinite amounts of storage.

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Despite the presence of enough people to field a rugby team—including a photographer, videographer, make-up artist and assistants—the long-suffering homeowner managed to carry on family life with her two small children and a husband who had been temporarily laid low.

The fact that she barely turned a hair is, no doubt, thanks to her second kitchen. As she looks forward to Christmas, she can be confident in the knowledge that even the most riotous family party would fail to disturb the serenity of her sublime entertaining and cooking space.

Giles Kime